Washington D.C , Dec 01 : Transgenders, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, and nonbinary students feel that they face more mental health disparities or problems as compared to their peers, reveals a recent study.

The study published in 'American Journal of Preventive Medicine' found that gender minority students, whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned them at birth, are between two and four times more likely to experience mental health problems than the rest of their peers.

"There has never been a more important time for colleges and universities to take action to protect and support trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary students on campus," said study lead author Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a Boston University School of Public Health assistant professor of health law, policy and management.Researchers looked at the rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-injury, and suicide thoughts in a sample of over 1,200 gender minority students from 71 colleges and universities.

About 78 per cent of the gender minority students included in the study met the criteria for one or more mental health problems, with nearly 60 per cent of gender minority students screening positive for clinically significant depression, compared to 28 per cent of cisgender students, whose sex assigned at birth aligns with their current gender identity.

Those findings stemmed from an analysis of two waves of data collected between fall 2015 and spring 2017 through the Healthy Minds Study.

It used clinically validated methods of screening for symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health concerns and conducted a survey including space for participants to fill in their assigned gender at birth as well as their current gender identity, which allowed the researchers to filter their analysis and focus on the collective mental health of gender minority students.

"Reports that more than 40 per cent of transgender people have attempted suicide in their lifetimes suggested, to me, that there is a large and disproportionate burden of disease among [people in the gender minority that public health research can contribute to addressing," said Julia Raifman, study co-author.

It also highlighted the fact that college dropout rates are higher among transgender students, and that they experience near-constant discrimination and harassment.

Bathrooms and housing are some of the most stressful areas on college campuses for transgender students, with research showing that transgender college students are at significantly higher risk for suicide and attempted suicide when denied access to gender-appropriate bathrooms and housing on college campuses.

"Mental health outcomes, as well as negative educational outcomes like dropping out, are preventable. The most effective way to prevent them would be, through policy changes. Inclusive policies are necessary to advance equity. And that's what I really want these data to speak to," suggested Lipson.

Following Injustice Watch reporting last month about more than two dozen state correctional employees who participated in conversations that mocked or disclosed personal information about transgender inmates in private Facebook groups, the Illinois Department of Corrections announced a revised social media policy for its roughly 12,000 employees that goes into effect over the weekend.

The newly revised social media policy specifically bars employees from sharing confidential information about prisoners or other staff, including details about current or past investigations and criminal or civil proceedings involving the department. The policy also prohibits any content that is vulgar, obscene, threatening, discriminatory, or disparaging based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The nonprofit news outlet Injustice Watch provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News.

The department quietly rolled out a new social media policy on Nov. 1, but revised it this month to specifically prohibit disparaging individuals based on their gender identity.

New employees will be taught the policy prior to beginning their service, and all staffers will undergo training on the policy on an annual basis, the policy states.

In the two private Facebook groups, posts written by low-level officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and other correctional staffers degraded transgender women, outed other LGBTQ prisoners, alleged sexual acts and disclosed information about medical treatments prisoners received.

The policy also prohibits employees from sharing a wide range of information related to their employment with the department on social media, including their rank, title or position, department seals, logos, uniforms, and name tags, without express permission from the director.

All of the corrections officers named in Injustice Watch’s reporting had publicly identified themselves on social media as corrections staffers, had posted about their specific roles or had photos of themselves in uniform online.

In an emailed statement, prison director Rob Jeffreys said that the department does not tolerate the use of disparaging language in person or online, and that the department created a policy that “ensures all staff members have clear guidance on how to demonstrate the highest levels of integrity, professionalism, and ethical conduct while engaging on these platforms.”

Before the October reporting was published, Injustice Watch provided the Illinois Department of Corrections with images of comments made by nine of the employees whose posts would be highlighted in the article. According to corrections spokeswoman Lindsey Hess, each of those nine officers are either in the process of having an employee review hearing, or have already had such a hearing.

Earlier this month, in keeping with a prior offer, Injustice Watch sat down with corrections officials and provided full threads of materials from the two Facebook groups, including information about an additional set of Facebook users who presented themselves as department staffers but whose identities could not be confirmed. Hess said this week that the department is in the process of verifying whether any of those officers are department employees.

Prior to the new social media policy, department employees were required to abide by the department’s standards of conduct that barred on or off duty behavior that could reflect poorly on the department. The department also had in place rules that prohibited employees from disclosing information related to offender’s records.

The new policy warns that employees should have no expectation of privacy when using social media.

 

The nonprofit news outlet Injustice Watch provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News.

The “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense is when people accused of assault or murder say they acted in a state of temporary insanity, either because they learned of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or in reponse to a sexual advance.

The legal strategy has been deployed in dozens of cases across the country to sway a jury or lessen a defendant’s charges. That includes in New Jersey, where Francisco Gonzalez Fuentes’ boyfriend Pedro Garcia and another man murdered him after Fuentes outed Garcia at a party. Garcia, who was convicted of the gruesome 2011 murder in Bergen County, claimed he was “provoked” when Fuentes tried to sexually assault him.

Under fire from the LGBT Bar Association and other organizations nationwide, who say it implies that the lives of gay and transgenger people are worth less than others, the defense has been curtailed in eight states.

A bill approved unanimously by the state Assembly on Monday would make New Jersey the ninth. The measure, which still must clear the Senate and be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, would bar the defense in murder cases.

“No one should ever be excused from murder because their victim is gay or transgender,” Christian Fuscarino, executive director for Garden State Equality, said in a statement. “New Jersey must send an unequivocal message that we fully value the lives and dignity of LGBTQ people.”

Activists say now is a critical time for the legislation to move forward. At least 22 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed in the United States this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

In New Jersey, reported hate crimes have increased in each of the past three years. Though Gallup estimates that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people make up only 4.5% of the U.S. population, LGBT people make up about 16% of federally-reported hate crime victims, according to the FBI.

Activists also want to build on recent policy gains in New Jersey. After a first-of-its-kind statewide task force on transgender equality released a list of recommendations last week, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal promptly issued a new directive governing police interactions with transgender individuals.

The directive instructs police not to stop people over their gender identity, to address individuals using their chosen names and pronouns, and to perform “any actions that turn on gender” in line with the person’s gender identity, among other provisions.

Grewal also announced an anti-discrimination public awareness campaign and a new Juvenile Justice Commission policy on dealing with LGBT children.

The “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense is not always successful, and according to The New York Times, it has been used less frequently over time as attitudes toward gay and transgender people have shifted.

It was unsuccessfully used on appeal in the Bergen County murder case.

But the defense is not dead. According to the LGBT Bar Association, it was most recently used in April 2018 to try to reduce a murder charge to a lesser crime.

Jon Oliveira of Garden State Equality said it’s not enough for judges to instruct juries not to engage in bias if they hear a “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense.

“Even if that were dismissed by a judge, as human beings we understand that once that argument has been presented there’s an implicit bias that has definitely affected the jury,” he said.

California was the first state to curtail the legal strategy, in 2014. Since then, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nevada, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii and New York have passed similar laws.

Minorities make up the majority of the latest group of U.S. college students to be named Rhodes Scholars, and the class includes the first transgender woman selected for the prestigious program.

The Rhodes Trust announced the 32 selections late Saturday after two days of discussions over 236 applicants from 90 different colleges and universities across the country.

Along with University of Tennessee graduate Hera Jay Brown, who is the first transgender woman in the program, this year’s class also includes two non-binary scholars.

“As our rights and experiences as women are under threat, this moment has given me pause to reflect on what an honor it is to pave this path,” Brown posted on Twitter after the announcement.

There are students from universities well known for their academics, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Duke University. The list also includes the first Rhodes Scholar from the University of Connecticut.

The 32 people chosen will start at least two years of all-expenses paid study next fall at Oxford University in England along with students from over 60 countries.

The studies undertaken by the scholars include research into the escape from danger reflex in zebrafish to better understand how the human brain deals with stress and how to make computer vision more humanlike.

The research also includes studies into human behavior, including the prevalence of sex work among refugees, the impact of nuclear testing on the American Southwest, how to use online cryptocurrency to improve conditions in the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp and defending the rights of migrants to the United States.

Winners of the scholarships include Daine A. Van de Wall, who is a brigade commander at the United States Military Academy, which is the highest-ranking cadet position at West Point.

Other scholars selected this year include students who were homeschooled before their university studies and some who are the first people in their families to go to college.

Arielle Hudson is a second-generation student at the University of Mississippi who remembered visiting campus with her mother, who holds two degrees from the school. She always thought she would go to college out of state until she received a full scholarship through a Mississippi teaching program.

“When I received the scholarship, I started to think about how I would make a difference here,” Hudson told the university in a statement.

Now her work will come full circle. Hudson plans to seek master’s degrees in comparative social policy and comparative international education, then come back to Mississippi’s poor Delta region to teach for five years to fulfill her scholarship requirement.

Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 in the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British businessman and Oxford alum who was a prime minister of the Cape Colony in present-day South Africa.

The recipients are chosen not just for academic skill, but for their leadership and a willingness to do good for the world.

Previous Rhodes Scholars include U.S. President Bill Clinton, astronomer Edwin Hubble, singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and author Naomi Wolf. Among 2020 Democrats running for president, Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg both studied at Oxford under the scholarship program.

The goals are big for an all-transgender hockey team known as Team Trans.

Comprised of more than a dozen players from Canada and the United States, it's believed to be the first ice hockey team made entirely of transgender men, transgender women, and gender non-conforming athletes.

Honorary co-captain Harrison Browne says hitting the ice for the first time with the squad earlier this month was "life-changing," and he hopes it can be an inspiration to athletes of all stripes who may struggle to find a safe space to be themselves.

"A lot of kids feel like they don't have a place in sport because sport in the past and in history has been so binary -- it's always broken into men's and women's sides," says the Oakville, Ont.-born Browne, whose professional career included championship wins with the female Metropolitan Riveters and the Buffalo Beauts in the U.S.

"There hasn't been ... a team that has basically said, 'We support you, we are here for you.' I think this is the first time it's really ever been seen in hockey."

That remarkable first game took place at a tournament in Cambridge, Mass., called the Friendship Series. They faced off against the Boston Pride, an LGBTQ+ hockey organization that hosted the scrimmage, even paying for the ice time and ordering the team's pink-and-blue jerseys, says an appreciative Kat Ferguson, a forward who made the trip from Ottawa.

The players themselves connected through social media and began laying the groundwork for a possible gathering some eight months ago, adds Ferguson, among about four Canadians on the team.

While most of the players hail from the U.S. northeast, Ferguson says they included players from the Midwest and one from California.

Some had decades of experience like Ferguson and Browne, others were more casual players who just played recreationally. One had just learned to skate.

But Ferguson, who identifies as non-binary and prefers the "they" and "them" pronouns, says they were united by shared life experiences little seen in hockey.

"There was no stress about locker room situations. We all have different scars and different life experiences and stuff like that. We're all kind of hiding things, usually in one way or another, when we play with our regular teams," says Ferguson, who added they've been embraced by both male and female hockey teams in Ottawa.

"It was like an instant family. It was really special... Honestly, by the end of the weekend we were all sobbing because it was over. It was really emotionally amazing."

The next goal is to make sure the games don't end there.

Ferguson, 41, says plans are to arrange another round in Madison, Wis., in the spring, and again in Toronto in a year.

While they acknowledge hockey is evolving to embrace a broad array of fans, Ferguson says Team Trans can help further promote education, awareness, and acceptance. The sports environment is still "very gendered," they say, and that has forced many trans players to abandon team sports.

"In pretty much everything, you have to pick a gender and for a lot of people ... they can't pick a gender (or) there are a lot of years where our bodies are different and our hormones are different," says Ferguson, who takes hormones to present as masculine.

Browne concurs, noting that even though his successful professional career included very supportive teammates, there were disconnects that grated.

"I was always called Brownie so I never really had to connect with my birth name but I was with female pronouns," says Browne, who came out in 2016 and prefers he/him.

"And with rosters and everything like that when you're announced on the ice you're announced by your first name so it was a constant reminder."

Co-captain and professional player Jessica Platt says Team Trans bonded immediately over such struggles. She, too, is considered a pioneer for coming out publicly in January 2018.

"For a lot of transgender people you can feel the hostility in the hockey atmosphere because it's still very much a male-dominated sport where anyone who's seen as different is typically made fun of or is an outcast," says the 30-year-old Platt, who plays with the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association in Kitchener, Ont. The group is largely comprised of members of the former Canadian Women's Hockey League.

"Only recently has women's hockey been getting a lot more media attention."

Browne, 26, agrees, saying what the sport needs are "options."

"I don't think that people should be necessarily put into so many different boxes and not be allowed to play," says Browne, who played in the National Women's Hockey League in the United States until retiring in 2018 to start his physical transition.

"If you want to play with other trans people then that (should be) there. Or if you want to play on an all-men's team, that's there for you. Or if you want to play on an all-women's team, that's there for you. If you want to play on a co-ed team, it's there for you."

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