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Bi, pan, queer people need the Equality Act’s protections

I’ve seen firsthand the injustices that bisexual people face

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(Photo by Peter Salanki; courtesy Flickr)

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering three cases that could decide whether LGBTQ+ people will continue to be protected from discrimination under federal civil rights laws. As we wait for the justices’ critical and historic decision — which will literally determine how LGBTQ+ people live our lives in our own country — we must remain stalwart in our commitment to passing crucial legislation that finally clearly and fully protects from discrimination bisexual people, and those who identify as pansexual, sexually fluid or queer.

People are often surprised to learn that bisexual people make up the single largest—and fastest-growing—group within the LGBTQ+ community. However, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute and the HRC Foundation’s research, about 50% of people who identify as either gay, lesbian or bisexual, identify as bisexual. Data compiled by the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey suggests that the number of openly bisexual Americans has tripled over the past decade.

The Supreme Court’s decision in these cases could effectively decide whether to solidify or take away non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people under federal civil rights laws, which prohibit sex discrimination in contexts ranging from employment to housing, healthcare and education.

The workplace—the location of discrimination in the three cases being considered at the Supreme Court—can be an especially difficult and distressing terrain for bisexual employees. And yet, many conversations regarding these cases—and workplace discrimination in general – have erased the bisexual community. HRC Foundation data shows that 37% of LGBTQ workers have heard bisexual-specific jokes in the workplace. A 2016 study by Prudential found that bisexual women make nearly $10,000 less on average than their lesbian peers, and nearly $16,000 less than the average straight woman. A person’s sexual orientation should never be a barrier to achieving their professional or educational goals, raising a family or simply living their life in the public square without risk of discrimination.

Regardless of how the Supreme Court decides, the Senate must join the House in acting immediately to pass the Equality Act to explicitly codify protections for the LGBTQ+ community and address the significant gaps in federal civil rights laws for everyone. The bipartisan legislation has growing, unprecedented support, including from nearly 70% of Americans, hundreds of members of Congress, more than 250 major businesses, more than 500 social justice, religious, medical and child welfare organizations and more than 60 national trade associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable.

This legislation would have a widespread and positive impact on the bisexual community. Currently, 50% of LGBTQ Americans live in the 29 states that still lack explicit statewide non-discrimination protections, leaving them at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of who they are or who they love. This means, without the Equality Act, it is possible that a man living with his wife could be kicked out of his apartment if his landlord finds out he once dated a man. A bisexual woman could be fired from her job simply because of her sexual orientation. A pansexual person could be denied access to an LGBTQ-focused education or job training program because they are not seen as being gay “enough”— or too gay.

For me, enshrining the protections of the Equality Act is deeply personal. I’ve identified as bisexual for 43 years, and I have spent my career advocating for marginalized communities. My wife and I are about to celebrate our 23rd anniversary. I’ve seen firsthand the injustices that bisexual people and other LGBTQ+ people face because we lack explicit legal protections under the law. I know my visibility as an openly bisexual woman matters when we talk about this legislation because our community faces unique challenges that can be all too easily dismissed or ignored.

No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or whom they love. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to uphold this area of law to ensure protections for LGBTQ+ people in many important areas of life. But, regardless of this outcome, passage of the Equality Act is a critical step toward ensuring that bisexual, pansexual, sexually fluid, and queer people, alongside the full LGBTQ+ community, realize the promise of equal opportunity for all.

 

Robyn Ochs is a longtime LGBTQ rights advocate and editor of Bi Women Quarterly.

Commentary

Underfunded, undermined & unabashedly victorious in Brazil

Country’s LGBTQ politicians are bringing diversity to democracy

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Erika Hilton (Photo courtesy of Erika Hilton's Twitter page)

SÃO PAULO — Imagine a group of 18 winners where you’ll find only one white man. The recent election in Brazil not only brought back former President Lula, but also doubled the numbers of out LGBT+ representatives in both the national and state legislatures. Out of these 18 elected officials; 16 are women, 14 are black and five are trans. There is only one white man in the group.

Women, LGBT+ and Black people have always showcased political leadership in their communities. But the path to occupy a space in Brazilian institutional politics is often violent and expensive. In recent years, many organized social movements have directed their efforts to set the agenda for public debate into the intersectional realm and support community leaders. In a poll VoteLGBT conducted in 2017 during the São Paulo Pride parade, the biggest in the world, only 45 percent of Pride participants surveyed thought that identity matters when choosing a candidate. In 2022, 85 percent believed so.

Despite the many obstacles and violence they face, Brazilian LGBT+ leaders are gaining political power, often being the most voted individuals in their states or cities. Many trans women who won big in their cities in 2020 advanced to higher positions in 2022. Four LGBT+ people (all women) were elected to congress: Three of them Black and two of them trans, a major breakthrough for LGBT+ political participation.

In Brazil, campaigns are publicly funded. Taxpayers’ money goes to parties’ leadership who can pretty much do whatever they want with it. There are rules made to fight the underrepresentation of women and Black population, but they are often corrupted by fraud.

Party leaders are often older rich white cis men who focus their efforts and financial support to old allies. LGBT+ politicians receive an average of 6 percent of the legal limit for what parties can provide to a single candidate. When interviewing 30 of those who ran in 2020, we came across three trans women who didn’t have enough to eat during their campaigns and still won their seats. Our vote is the cheapest in the election market.

Once elected, LGBT+ officials often face discrimination from their peers in the chambers, many times from their own parties. In a poll we did in 2021 we found that more than half of LGBT party members reported facing discrimination. And those who decided to report it found that there’s no accountability for LGBTphobia inside the parties.

Not to mention the constant death threats that (especially) Black and (especially) trans women face when elected or running for office. City Counselor Benny Brioly, who is Black and trans, had to flee the country in 2020 after public security forces refused to offer her protection, which was her legal right. In 2022 she kept getting death threats from a congressman, from his official Cabinet’s email. Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert, the first trans women elected for congress in 2022, had to conduct campaign activities with armed security and bulletproof vests.

It seems like the world is looking for the tools we are developing to fight extremism and LGBTphobia. International organizations have long supported many of those initiatives. The partnership and support from organizations like the National Democratic Institute and the LGBT Victory Institute have been fundamental to promote a comprehensive approach to such a complex issue.

VoteLGBT’s innovative research strategies have a political and historical importance due to the lack of official data about the LGBT+ population in Brazil. Research has been fundamental for us, not only to give visibility to our issues and set the agenda for public debate, but also to better strategize where to allocate resources. Since 2021 we have been investigating the parties, conducting in-depth interviews with candidates and LGBT caucus. We’ve produced a list of 327 out LGBT candidates in the 2022 election cycle with their racial and LGBT+ identity self declared. That had never been done before.

We’ve offered direct support through organizing a series of webinars, creating downloadable toolkits, conducting pressure campaigns on parties, lobbying the Supreme Electoral Court for them to produce official data on our leadership, creating a gallery with over 300 LGBT+ candidates and their priorities, and offering confidential psychological support, especially after such a violent campaign.

It would be dishonest, though, to claim any part of such astounding victories. Each of those candidates struggled to run their underfinanced and understaffed campaign, and still created strategies to reach and amplify their audience brilliantly. Also, we are not the only ones on the task. There are other organizations who are great examples and partners.

Brazil’s recent election results show us that an intersectional approach to the issue of political representation is not only possible, but potent. LGBT+ candidates earned over 3.5 million votes. Of those votes, a third went to trans women. Seven in 10 went to a Black candidate. Brazilian voters are showing us what kind of democracy they are willing to fight for. Without diversity there is no democracy.

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Viewpoint

When will LGBTQ people be safe in America?

We endure. We must. Yes, we are still afraid. But we reach for each other and embrace inspiration where we can find it

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The Sea to Sea flag section displayed in Orlando after Pulse in 2016 hanging at City Hall in Colorado Springs 2022 (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Pulse. Club Q. Everyday life for drag queens, trans and non-binary folk. When, oh, when will LGBTQ people be safe in America? When will we get to be full human beings free to create, develop and explore our authentic selves without always having to worry about making some straight person uncomfortable?

I am tired of having my life defined by other people’s prejudices. But I’m mindful, too, that I must always be on guard since — as we learned again with the mass shooting at Club Q last weekend in Colorado Springs — straight fear is fatal.

Why are straight people either unable or blindly refuse to see LGBTQs as real people. We are, collectively, like the Black people Ralph Ellison wrote about in The Invisible Man: “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

But they do see us when we celebrate, protest or die en masse. And then we are dubbed a “community,” as if we all know each other and think alike. The late singer, writer and AIDS activist Michael Callen used to say: “the gay community is a useful fiction,” because it enabled us to organize and try to get resources we needed.

That local organizing for civil rights and later to combat AIDS gave rise to the political Religious Right through Rev. Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant and the right-wing “think tanks” that considered us a convenient scapegoat and fundraising convenience, leading to the cruelty of the Reagan years and anti-gay Republican populist Patrick Buchanan — who paved the way for Donald Trump.

Buchanan’s dark, divisive “culture war” speech at the 1992 convention gave permission to the nation’s bigots to disregard the traditional boundaries of good taste and civility and take off and discard the old KKK sheets and hoods in the name of “free speech” and saving America for straight white men.

“The agenda that Clinton & Clinton would impose on America – abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units – that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America needs. It is not the kind of change America wants. And it is not the kind of change we can abide in a nation that we still call God’s country,” Buchanan said. “My friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe, and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.”

Yes, in 1991/92, Bill and Hillary Clinton were on our side: they promised to stop the massive dying and end the AIDS crisis. So yes, the “gay community” raised more than $2 million of identifiable “gay money” and created the first gay voting bloc for dark horse presidential candidate Bill Clinton. But behind the scenes, our gays at the Democratic convention had to threaten a walkout on live TV if Clinton didn’t deign to utter the words “gay and lesbian” in his acceptance speech.

I thought about this a lot as this year’s midterms approached. Since 1992, the Democratic Party has done specific outreach to the LGBTQ “community” for fundraising, engagement and get out the vote efforts. But with so much on the line – with democracy on the line – the Democrats were nowhere to be seen this year – ironically, even though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was headed by a gay guy who wound up losing his own seat.

No one was stepping up to educate our people about the issues, the candidates and why this election was so important. So my Millennial ally friend Max Huskins and I used our own money and time to produce the YouTube Race to the Midterms series, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Blade.

When I approached my potential guests, I noted how afraid so many of us were of going to a voting site and being humiliated or beaten up for being or being perceived as LGBTQ. I don’t know if my guests really understood the fear we face walking out the door each day. Perhaps that’s a lot clearer today.

And with proudly gay Jared Polis serving as Colorado governor since 2019 — it is easy to forget that Colorado Springs has been a Mecca, a haven for anti-LGBTQ Evangelical Christians since the late 1980s, with more than 100 evangelical groups headquartered there. Focus on the Family is so large, sending out 4 million pieces of mail every month, it has its own zip code, according to a 2013 NPR report.

Last Sunday, Polis called the attack on Club Q an “act of evil.”

“This was just a place of safety for people,” Polis told CNN. “It was a place where people could, in a conservative community, often get the acceptance that too many of them might not have had it at home or in their other circles and to see this occur is really just put us all in a state of shock here in Colorado and across the country.”

Across the country, indeed. And in every drag bar or club, LGBTQ people and allies are bravely refusing to back down, despite knowing there are lone gun domestic terrorists out to kill us in the name of Trump or God.

We endure. We must. Yes, we are still afraid. But we reach for each other and embrace inspiration where we can find it – such as in Jennifer Hudson’s version of Sam Cooke’s amazing 1963 song “A Change is Gonna Come.”

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Karen Ocamb is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

Ocamb started in LGBTQ media in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ data collection during the COVID pandemic.

Since leaving the LA Blade Ocamb joined Public Justice in March of 2021 to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her two rescue dogs.

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Commentary

Thank you Madam Speaker: Karen Ocamb reflects on Nancy Pelosi

Whether comforting a friend with AIDS or pointing a powerful finger at Trump, Pelosi exemplifies the humble nobility of servant leadership

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Nancy Pelosi argues with former President Trump during a tense meeting of officials in the cabinet room of the White House (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Thank you, Speaker Nancy Pelosi! Let me add my gratitude to the praise that’s poured in since Pelosi announced she would stay in Congress but was not seeking re-election as Speaker to make way for a younger generation.

In typical Trumpian fashion, CA GOP colleague Kevin McCarthy rudely absented himself as commentator after commentator – including some Republicans – called Nancy Pelosi the best Speaker in American history as she gave her “future plans” speech from the Floor of the House of Representatives.

Some commentators applauded how many extraordinary pieces of legislation she got passed – key among them ObamaCare, about which Pelosi repeatedly said: “Because of the Affordable Care Act – and I hope that every woman in America understands this – being a woman is no longer a preexisting medical condition. As a mother of five children, four daughters and one son, I’m very excited about this.”

Thanks to one of those daughters, Alexandra Pelosi, who caught her mother’s brave, caring and powerful reactions during the Jan. 6th insurrection when domestic terrorists where hunting her down, the world got to watch America’s top Congressional leadership demur to the woman who is third in line of succession as she essentially served as Acting President of the United States and helped effectuate the Constitutional transition of power from Trump to Joe Biden.

I’d met and photographed Nancy Pelosi very briefly over the years when she came to Los Angeles for an event I was covering. But after the #ResistMarch in 2018, it occurred to me that so many of the young people raising their fists in exuberant agreement with her remarks probably had no idea who she really was. I got in touch with her terrific out deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill and asked for an interview. We were slated for 15-20 minutes but she wanted to go longer.

It was May 2018. We talked about Donald Trump and his threat to democracy; the looming midterm elections; how Republicans brand her as being from San Francisco – a “coded” gay slur; the Equality Act; and her Catholicism in the context of a Church that worked hard to oppose Prop 8, calls homosexuality “intrinsically evil,” and excluded her from taking Communion in SF because of her views on abortion.

“As a Catholic, I was raised to respect every person. We’re all God’s children. In my family, there was never any question about that,” Pelosi told me. “In Baltimore, we did have a growing LGBT community—we didn’t call it that then but it was part of our lives and it was not any question that we would be any more respectful of one person than another. It wasn’t even an issue with me and I didn’t ever even describe it or associate it with Catholicism because Catholicism taught me something different. It didn’t teach me discrimination. It taught me respect. And so it prepared me very well, my Catholicism, for being a representative in San Francisco.”

“There’s no question the Catholic Church in California was a participant in Prop 8 in a negative way,” Pelosi said. “We were on the other side of that. But to me—it was their problem. It wasn’t anything that was any moral imperative to me for me to follow the Church in enshrining discrimination in the law in California.”

Ironically, in San Francisco, the Church “was more sympathetic to people when they had HIV/AIDS because they needed help then they were to people who weren’t infected. It was the strangest, strangest thing,” Pelosi said.

AIDS was – and is – deeply personal to the Speaker of the House.

“Some people criticized me for talking about AIDS on my first day in Congress (in 1987) and I realized that it was not just about getting funding for AIDS research and prevention and care but it was about ending discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS,” Pelosi told me.

More from the my cover story:

Pelosi responds viscerally when asked about losing friends. “Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. A little flower girl in my wedding. My dear, dear friends in the community in San Francisco. We were going to two funerals a day. I was visiting people in the hospital all the time and quite frankly, when I say losing people,” Pelosi says, “I lost friends because I just walked away from them because they were not treating people with HIV and AIDS with respect. They would say to me, ‘I don’t know why you hire that caterer – don’t you know that everybody there has HIV?’ And I’d say, ‘Don’t bother to come to my house anymore if that’s your attitude.’ It just changed my whole view of them.”…

“I’ll never stop missing some of my dearest dear friends from then,” she says. “Of course, we went from funerals to people saying help me make out my will because this is going to end soon, to those very same people looking for a job and then wanting to get married. So, everything has improved but I would never have thought 30 years ago when I started all this in Congress that we still wouldn’t have a cure for AIDS. We’ve improved the quality of life, we’ve sustained life. Everything is better but it’s not over, not finished.”

Whether comforting a friend with AIDS or pointing a powerful accusing finger at Trump, Nancy Pelosi exemplifies the humble nobility of servant leadership with a touch of classy swagger.

Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for representing so many of us who still haven’t found our power

Read the entire story here:

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Karen Ocamb is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

Ocamb started in LGBTQ media in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ data collection during the COVID pandemic.

Since leaving the LA Blade Ocamb joined Public Justice in March of 2021 to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her two rescue dogs.

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Viewpoint

Never Again

The law is so broad and vague that it would affect transgender people and businesses that don’t normally host drag events

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Texas Trans youth activists & supporters in front of the Texas Capitol protesting anti-Trans legislation (Photo Credit: ACLU of Texas)

By Eric Tannehill | FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – On Tuesday November 15th, Texas Representative Jared Patterson introduced House Bill (HB) 643 which would classify any business that hosts a drag show under the state’s statutory definition of “sexually oriented businesses.” The current legal definition of “sexually oriented business” is any venue where two or more people perform nude and alcohol is allowed. 

Patterson’s bill would change this definition to include anyplace where a “performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.” The bill would also add a five-dollar cover charge to all venues where drag is allowed.

This would functionally ban drag acts in Texas, since there is little overlap in clientele between strip clubs and gay bars. Nor would venues that host drag events add a $5 cover charge when there isn’t a drag event happening. 

However, the law is so broad and vague that it would affect transgender people and businesses that don’t normally host drag events. Under this law if a transgender person does any sort of performance at any location where alcohol is allowed, it will fall afoul of the law. Here are just a few of the sorts of things that would be illegal under this proposed law:

  • A transgender soldier from Fort Bliss singing the National Anthem before a basketball game at the University of Texas El Paso
  • A bring-your-own-beer performance of Twelfth Night at a Shakespeare in the Park festival
  • A screening of the 1959 movie “Some Like it Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon at an Alamo Draft House movie theater
  • A transgender person singing Karaoke after work with friends
  • A performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Beethoven’s 9th Symphony where drinks are served at intermission, and the third-cellist happens to be transgender
  • Any performance by the band “Against Me!” (with lead singer Laura Jane Grace) or gender non-conforming artist Harry Styles in the state of Texas at a venue where alcohol is allowed
  • A local theater performance of the 1938 play “Our Town”, where one of the extras in the graveyard scene is transgender.

The definition of performance is so broad that it could technically be anything where people watch a transgender person do anything: if two people holding a beer watched Laura Jane Grace play solitaire in her street clothes it would qualify as a drag event under this law.

According to Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard law school, the purpose of this law isn’t to get a lot of convictions, but to have “a chilling effect on the LGBT community”. It would make businesses of all types unable or unwilling to host drag shows, as well as make others reluctant to let transgender people use the facilities, such as a karaoke bar refusing to let anyone who looks gender non-conforming in any way into the facility. 

The other side of it is to make transgender people afraid to participate in public activities. For example, would a hypothetical trans person risk violating the law to continue performing for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra? Would the orchestra let them continue to perform? Would the trans person who is an extra in a community theater project risk being charged with a crime to just silently stand on-stage for half an hour?

The law’s being broad and overly vague is a feature, not a bug. It is part of the goal of making life for transgender people so difficult and unpleasant that they will leave. This was the initial goal in Germany, where Jews were both encouraged and allowed to leave in the early days of the Third Reich. Hundreds of thousands sold their possessions and fled between 1933 and 1939. One of the earliest things Germany did to “encourage” them to leave was a law passed in early 1934 that banned Jewish performers from appearing on stage or on-screen. It’s also worth noting that Texas has led the charge on banning transgender people from participating in athletics while insisting they can get their own leagues, (which Germany did with Jewish athletes prior to the 1936 Olympics).

It is uncertain if this bill will ever get a hearing, given it has no co-sponsors yet. Even if it does pass, not every law enforcement official, from police, to judges, to Attorney Generals will be willing to enforce it to its illogical conclusion (e.g. prosecuting the extra in “Our Town”). And if they do try to enforce it, there’s no guarantee that it will survive judicial scrutiny under the 1st and 14th Amendments. But it shows intent, and a way forward for other states looking to “encourage” transgender people to leave, thereby minimizing their population. Tennessee has introduced its own bill, which is also broad and vague enough to charge transgender people with felonies.

The fact that so many states are ready to go down this road, and what we know lies at the end of it, should be a giant red flag for anyone who means it when they say, “never again.”   

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Eric Tannehill is a twenty-something queer activist and university student.

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Observations on the Brazilian, U.S. elections

Polls in both countries proved inaccurate

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The U.S. midterms took place on Nov. 8. Brazil's elections took place last month. (Image by alexandrabykova/Bigstock)

BRASÍLIA, Brazil / STEVENSVILLE, Md. — I was sitting in my hotel room in Brasília, the Brazilian capital, at 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 when the polls closed. The area around my hotel was quiet as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal began to post the election results on their website. Brazilian television stations continued their live coverage of the election that largely focused on whether former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would defeat incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. I was nibbling on KIND Dark Chocolate Whole Grain Clusters that I had bought at Dulles two days earlier before I flew to Brazil and sipping a glass of Brahma beer that I had poured for myself while refreshing the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s website and listening to the reporters talk about the results. I was nervous because Bolsonaro was ahead. 

I left my room at around 7 p.m. to get some dinner at a nearby mall. I ordered sushi from a restaurant in the food court. Bolsonaro was still ahead of Da Silva when I returned to my room at around 7:45 p.m., but the margin between the two men had narrowed. Da Silva soon took the lead, but it soon became clear that he and Bolsonaro would face each other in a runoff because neither of them had received at least 50 percent of the vote.

Da Silva defeated Bolsonaro in the second round of the presidential election that took place on Oct. 30. The U.S. midterm elections took place nine days later.

Banners in support of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and members of his Workers’ Party in the lobby of a PT office in Brasília, Brazil, on Oct. 1, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Jair Bolsonaro supporters hold a banner near the Brazilian Congress in Brasília, Brazil, on Oct. 1, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

I arrived at Heather Mizeur’s election night party at the Kent Island Resort in Stevensville, Md., shortly before polls in Maryland closed at 8 p.m. Mizeur less than three hours later told her supporters that her bid to unseat Republican Congressman Andy Harris had come up short. The so-called red wave that so many pundits and polls predicted would elect Republicans across the country also failed to materialize.

Heather Mizeur speaks to supporters in Stevensville, Md., on Nov. 8, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Each country is different and the way they conduct their elections is difficult. I cannot, however, help but compare the Brazilian election and the U.S. midterms. Here are a few observations from a reporter who covered them both.

• Polls ahead of the first round of Brazil’s presidential election predicted Da Silva would defeat Bolsonaro in the first round. Polls and pundits ahead of the U.S. midterms, as previously noted, predicted Republicans would defeat Democrats across the country. Both scenarios did not happen.

• Bolsonaro ahead of Brazil’s presidential election sought to discredit the country’s electoral system. Bolsonaro did not concede to Da Silva after he lost. Former President Donald Trump continues to insist he won the 2020 presidential election. Trump also instigated the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection that took place as lawmakers were beginning to certify the Electoral College results.

• Cláudio Nascimento, president of Grupo Arco-Íris de Cidadania LGBT, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group in Rio de Janeiro, on Oct. 9 told me during an interview at his office that Bolsonaro would “destroy democracy”in Brazil if he were reelected. Mizeur in July described Harris as a “traitor to our nation” after the Jan. 6 committee disclosed he attended a meeting with Trump that focused on how he could remain in office after he lost to now President Joe Biden. 

• Voters in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte on Oct. 2 elected two Transgender women — Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert respectively — to the Brazilian Congress. Openly gay Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leite on Oct. 30 won re-election when he defeated former Bolsonaro Chief-of-Staff Onyx Lorenzoni in a runoff. LGBTQ Victory Fund President Annise Parker in a Nov. 10 statement noted 436 openly LGBTQ+ candidates across the country won their races. (One of them, openly gay New Hampshire Congressman Chris Pappas, who represents my mother, defeated Republican Karoline Leavitt in the state’s 1st Congressional District by a 54-46 percent margin.)

Brazil and the U.S. are different countries, but they both have democracies that must be defended. Brazilians and Americans did just that through their votes.

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Editor's Letter

Supporting the community, Transgender Awareness Week 2022

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings making sure their voices are heard & shared

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Underlying images of Trans activists Landon Richie and Rosalynn Montoya courtesy of Richie/Montoya

LOS ANGELES – Transgender Awareness Week, observed November 13 to November 19, is a one-week celebration leading up to the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), November 20, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence.

It must, however, represent more than just a journalistic or even an activist/advocacy organization’s effort to support and sustain the trans, queer, gender non-binary or gender non-conforming global community. This week needs to be so much more than perfunctory acknowledgement of this misaligned and persecuted segment of humanity.

This week, this publication and others in queer and mainstream media must tell the stories outlining the very humanity of trans people and urge others to celebrate the diversity and the impact of the significant contributions that trans people make for the betterment of all globally.

Trans people are human- period, or “full stop.” Look at the incredible contributions that trans people make to enhance the lives of humanity on this planet that we all share. Just a short list of a few examples:

Dr. Rachel Levine, Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service and the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Levin has spent her entire career as a physician focused on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ medicine.

Laverne Cox, actress, model, and LGBTQ+ equality rights activist. One of the most well-known trans actors and Black transgender celebrities, Cox has ‘kept it real’ as demonstrated by her words and public advocacy serving as a role model for youth.

Patricio Manuel, boxer and champion athlete. Manuel long struggled with his gender identity, rejecting the many ways society and his family forced him to live as a girl and in the end he overcame his gender dysphoria.

Elle Hearns, a transgender rights activist and the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Elle serves as a visible reminder of the power of advocacy at a grass-roots level.

Abel Liu, an accomplished student at the University of Virginia who is an Echols Scholar as well as a Truman Scholar. Abel is the first openly transgender and first Chinese-American student to be elected as Student Council president at a major institution of higher education.

Sarah McBride, Sarah was just reelected as Delaware’s Senator from the First State Senate District. She’s spent her life fighting for dignity, equality, and a level playing field for everyone as human beings.

These are just but a few limited choices of the literal tens of thousands of noteworthy Trans people whose lives and talents enrich this nation and globally making a difference every single day. Trans people are sheriffs, EMTs, firefighters, pilots, teachers, comedians; they are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, sons and daughters. Every single one a vital part of the whole.

Here on the staff of the Los Angeles Blade, journalist Dawn Ennis and LA Blade columnist and political analyst Brynn Tannehill lend their voices reporting and commenting on issues that impact all of us.

The bottom line is that without the contributions of transgender people, there would be a gap, a virtual emptiness in the rich diversity of humanity if you will. This week we need to celebrate, uplift, and yes, also mourn the lives of trans people lost to murder or suicide because of the promise that might have been.

We must fight against those who work to strip trans people of their dignity and their very right to exist. These last few years has seen a litany, a plethora of legislative efforts to erase trans rights from healthcare, sports, and even banning books that dare to mention trans people.

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings, making sure their voices are heard and shared. Trans rights ARE human rights.

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Troy Masters is publisher and Brody Levesque is editor of the Los Angeles Blade

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Commentary

Trans people: Let’s show this country who we are

“If you’re trans or nonbinary, we urge you to take the U.S. Trans Survey before it closes on its new deadline of December 5”

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Texas Trans activist & Gender Cool Project Leader Landon Richie in Chicago for Pride 2019 (Photo Credit: Landon Richie)

By Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen | WASHINGTON – We have a political climate that has exploded with anti-trans legislation, policy, and rhetoric. In the leadup to last week’s election, TV ads and political mailers spread lies about trans people, denigrating our community and stoking fear in people who simply don’t understand what it means to be trans.

Now, when there is a glaring spotlight on trans people in America, we have an opportunity to show the country who we are. Telling the truth about what it means to be trans, using real data, can counter the misinformation being spread about our community. It is important that we tell our own stories and that we are heard loud and clear.

Right now, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and partners are conducting the U.S. Trans Survey, the largest ever national survey of the lives and experiences of transgender people. Whether you’re trans, nonbinary, or otherwise not cisgender, the time is now to take the U.S. Trans Survey before it closes. The last survey was conducted in 2015, and a lot has changed since then.

Visit www.ustranssurvey.org to learn more and take the survey today!

Since 2015, many states have advanced policies that ban gender-affirming care or ban trans youth from playing sports. Others have made it easier to change the gender marker on our identification to match who we are. Violence against trans people has gone up over the past several years, and we know from the data that Black trans women face a disproportionate amount of that violence.

Next week, Trans Awareness Week, we honor the loved ones we’ve lost to violence and celebrate those who are still here. We speak up loudly about the disparities we face in hopes that others will see and understand. We lift up the voices of the most marginalized in our community, understanding that together, we will all rise.

Much of the political focus right now is on trans youth – their right to transition-related care, their right to play sports with their friends, and their right to use the restroom. Now, more than ever, it is important to hear from young people about their experiences. That’s why this time around, youth as young as 16 years old can take the survey and share their stories.

There is a concerted effort by certain politicians and political organizations to deny that trans people are real. There is a false narrative that trans youth are “too young” to know that they’re trans, that people who transition at a young age, whether socially or medically, later regret it. 

But we know from the data that this narrative is simply not true. A study came out in May this year revealing that for young people who socially transitioned, only two percent of them “detransitioned,” or went back to identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth. And another study published just last month found that at 98% of youth who were prescribed puberty blockers went on to be prescribed hormone replacement therapy after turning 18. Meaning, trans youth continued to be trans.

This is the importance of research. And we need this research to inform the decision makers, educators, elected officials, health care providers, and the general public about who we are and what we experience in life.

We know that trans people exist and that our lives and experiences are valid. By making this the largest trans survey in U.S. history, we can show that how strong, diverse, and how real of a community we have. And we aren’t just young people in New York and California; trans people from Wyoming to Alaska, from youth to elders; trans folks who are Indigenous, Black, Latine, white, multiracial. Every voice must be represented in the U.S. Trans Survey.

The survey in some places covers some heavy topics: mental health, experiences with religious institutions, and experiences with the police. But it also helps us reveal answers to questions like: Has having access to transition-related care improved your life? How has coming out as trans affected your mental health? Does your family accept who you are, and how does that impact you?

There are hundreds of questions in the survey to examine the details of our lives, so we recommend setting aside about an hour to take it. Tens of thousands of you already have, but we know our community is even larger. There is strength in numbers, and the more people who take the U.S. Trans Survey, the harder it is to deny that we exist and that we are real.

If you’re trans or nonbinary, I urge you to take the U.S. Trans Survey before it closes on its new deadline of December 5. Let’s show this country who we are. Let’s show them that we won’t go away.

Visit www.ustranssurvey.org to learn more and take the survey today.

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Courtesy of Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

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Commentary

New Public Justice President Tom Sobol is taking on Big Pharma

In March of 2023, he is going to trial before Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco in a case against a California based Big Pharma giant

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Tom Sobol (Photo Credit: Public Justice)

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – If there is a star of the 7,359-word, June 2004 Atlantic article “Greed on Trial” about the $1.3 billion Massachusetts Big Tobacco-fee trial, it’s attorney Tom Sobol.

“Both on and off the stand, the forty-six-year-old Sobol cuts a bold figure, closely resembling Bruce Springsteen before the Boss started showing his age,” contributor Alex Beam wrote in about the recently installed Board President of Public Justice, a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization. 

The intricate, complicated and fascinating story about the legal wrangling over attorneys fees following the landmark longshot 1998 victory over Big Tobacco posits Sobol as a hero, “the One Just Man in the eyes of the state’s lawyers” grounded in ethics, willing to publicly call out his former law firm, Brown Rudnick Berlack & Israels, over their corporate fee greed. Sobol, who “led all the private attorneys in the Massachusetts case,” actually asked the court to determine whether Brown Rudnick’s claim violated a rule of professional conduct that “bars a lawyer from charging or collecting a clearly excessive fee” after the $775 million arbitration award, Beam reported. 

“Here was the real problem looming for Brown Rudnick: in the bloodless world of corporate law, Sobol was an unabashed crusader who exuded passion for his adopted causes” through his work as a public-interest lawyer. 

Eighteen years later, Sobol is now a Partner & Executive Committee Member at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, the lead negotiator in court-approved settlements totaling more than $2 billion, with recent successes totaling $649.75 million in direct purchaser class settlements and named by LawDragon last February as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America

Sign outside of Gilead Headquarters in Foster City, California (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

For 25 years, much of Sobol’s practice has focused heavily on pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical pricing and pharmaceutical misbehavior. On March 23, 2023, he is going to trial before Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco in a case against Big Pharma giant Gilead, In re HIV Antitrust Litigation, which was initially brought by AIDS activist Peter Staley

“We allege that Gilead has been able to jump from one patented product to another patented product to another patented product by putting products together in [Pharma packaging] and thereby prevent less expensive, equally effective generic HIV drugs from being on the market in any meaningful way,” says Sobol. “And they’ve done that by, we allege, either paying off the competition by, for instance, befriending them, bringing them into a deal where they agree that they will not do licenses with anybody else, and therefore encourage that generic company to stand down on a patent challenge. Or they have done explicit agreements with some companies simply that they won’t release a generic drug if they do another business deal with them on a similar product.”

Staley was “one of the original lead plaintiffs who, among other things, was alleging at these agreements and seeking to essentially get injunctive relief against Gilead from continuing this kind of actions that delay generics. He has since had his claim dismissed out of the case for some technical standing reasons,” says Sobol, “but he still legitimately should be credited as being an originator of this case and fully behind this case.”

There is something metaphysically ironic having this Boss from Massachusetts suing a pharmaceutical company for putting corporate greed over the anguish of people with AIDS, so movingly described by New Jersey Boss Bruce Springsteen in “The Streets of Philadelphia:” “I was bruised and battered/I couldn’t tell what I felt/I was unrecognizable to myself/Saw my reflection in a window/And didn’t know my own face/Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away/On the streets of Philadelphia?” 

“My father instilled in me a belief that hard work is in and of itself something of tremendous high value. My mother taught me that there isn’t anybody who you can’t find value in,” says Thomas Matthew Sobol, born January 6, 1958, in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Sobol graduated from Clark University in Worcester in 1980 and from Boston University School of Law in 1983. He then worked for Allan Hale, chief judge of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, for a year before joining Brown, Rudnick, Freed, and Gesmer where he was chair of their pro bono program, on the hiring committee, and practiced criminal and white-collar defense and civil litigation, before departing in 2000.

At his core, Sobol draws from ethics and being tougher than the rest to fight injustice. 

“Earlier this year, the board of Public Justice voted approval of a strategic direction document. I see this strategic document as constitutional to this organization. And as president, it is my job to see that the board delivers on this promise,” Sobol said at the organization’s 40th Anniversary Gala last July. “At Public Justice, we see two interlocking problems that reinforce and perpetuate systems of oppression, exploitation, and inequality: predatory corporate power and ideologies of white supremacy. Together, these evils harm people and continue to warp and shape many of our laws and institutions. Some people deny that these systems ever existed or insist that they are historic relics. We believe that they are central drivers of injustice. To meet these challenges, what is Public Justice’s work? We are strategic and proactive. We are focused on changing inequitable institutions and systems, and we are driven through structured managed resource programs capable of delivering the change we seek to deliver the mission of Public Justice.”

And then there’s tilting at windmills — taking seemingly unwinnable cases without necessarily seeking a profit or even winning. “Look what Karla Gilbride (co-director of Public Justice’s Access to Justice project) achieved this year in her unanimous Supreme Court victory — that was tilting at a windmill. Who would’ve ever thought it would make sense to go to this Supreme Court on that [pro-employee] issue and have any level of success, right?” Sobol asks. “She and the rest of the team went for it and got it. Tilting at a windmill also means that you’re pointing True North — you have a true objective, a socially conscious objective, which Karla had. Over the years, I’ve tilted at my own windmills and I’ve lost more than I’ve won. But sometimes I’ve won.”

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Karen Ocamb is the Director of Media Relations. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

Ocamb started in LGBTQ media in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ data collection during the COVID pandemic.

Ocamb joined Public Justice in March 2021 to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues. She lives in West Hollywood, California with her rescue dog, Pepper.

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Editor's Letter

The Los Angeles Blade welcomes diversity reporter Simha Haddad

Haddad joins the Blade as a Diversity Reporter under the State of California Ethnic Media Outreach Grant for queer AAPI writers

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Courtesy of Simha Haddad

LOS ANGELES – The publisher, editor and staff of the Los Angeles Blade welcomes author and journalist, Simha Haddad, to the Blade as its new Diversity Reporter.

Haddad, an Out pansexual writer of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) heritage has deep roots in the LGBTQIA+ community. She currently writes for several blogs and publications and contributes to various podcasts, all centered around queer and feminist topics. She is also the author of a YA queer fiction novel called, Somewhere on This Rainbow.

Haddad joins the Blade staff as a Diversity Reporter under the State of California Ethnic Media Outreach Grant for queer AAPI writers. The grant supports public awareness of the efforts of the California state Stop the Hate Program administered by the Calif. Dept. of Social Services (CDSS), which provides support and services to victims and survivors of hate incidents and hate crimes and facilitates hate incidents or hate crime prevention measures.

Haddad’s reporting will include coverage of the following issues and areas:

  • LGBTQIA Arts and cultural work
  • LGBTQIA Youth development
  • LGBTQIA Senior safety programs,
  • Safety planning training; and cross-racial alliance work
  • Stories on outreach, activism, education and training
  • Coverage of restorative justice
  • Spotlights on local government and community non-profit Stop the Hate programming
  • History of the Asian community in Los Angeles and California
  • Politics
  • HIV/STD Prevention efforts, programs and activities

Haddad, under the guidance of the Blade’s editorial team, will research and write long-form articles on compelling stories centered around queer AAPI subjects. The goal of these articles is to culturally educate, increase exposure, and create empathy around queer AAPI struggles, including prejudice, disease, and hate crimes. 

Haddad will also be working closely with the Blade’s publisher to create diverse and inclusive events to continue to spread the message and accomplish the goal of the Stop the Hate Initiative. 

Once a week Haddad will be also produce a video roundup of each week’s top headlines to be shared on various social media pages and platforms. This roundup will include all news from the Blade and will help spread its outreach even further. 

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Author and journalist, Simha Haddad, links:

Website

Instagram

LinkedIn

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Troy Masters is the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade and Brody Levesque is editor.

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Commentary

LGBTQ+ youth are target of a massive fear-mongering campaign

Transgender kids existing isn’t a real problem — and certainly not one at the scale which the panic mongering suggests

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Los Angeles Blade graphic/LGBTQ+ student mural

By Editorial Staff | LINCOLN, Ne. – With the impending midterm elections, and a view toward 2024, transgender issues have received a lot of attention in campaigns and the media recently. Particularly at question is the treatment of minors with gender dysphoria and whether or not public schools should support transgender kids.

However, the numbers don’t make sense for how much space the issue is taking up in the national conversation. Transgender kids existing isn’t a real problem — and certainly not one at the scale which the panic mongering suggests. To be clear, we at Seeing Red Nebraska fully support trans-inclusive education and policies and reject fear-mongering moral panic attacks that harm children and public schools alike.

But considering the wide attention this issue is receiving in campaign events and the media, we wanted to look into how big of a “problem” transgender identity in schools really is (spoiler: it’s not). Instead, we need to use our precious time on what actually harms children. Both parties with their rich donors benefit from keeping us distracted from the actual, big issues that might unite us in pushing for real change for all. We spend our time discussing a right-wing manufactured panic campaign that allows the GOP to attack schools and teachers at the same time as spreading trans-hate.

If one listens to right-wing moral panic campaigns, they’d be under the impression that today’s schools are overrun by children identifying as a variety of people, including as not people at all. Please note that the “furry” panic by far-right extremists is a deliberate attempt to dehumanize trans people by equating trans identity with animals.

Further, equating a sexual kink community with trans identity serves to sexualize children’s identity and portray LGBTQ individuals as sexual deviants. (Adult) kinks are not an identity, and (gender) identity is not inherently sexual.

Yet, the (completely debunked) furry panic about litter boxes in schools functions neatly to malign the LGBTQ community in general, and transgender individuals in particular, as non-human sexual perverts that target children — a narrative with a long homophobic history which, in the US, dates back to the 1800s and is also strongly informed by German Nazi propaganda in the 20th Century. And where do most children congregate outside their parent’s direct supervision?

Of course, at (public) schools, which right-wing extremists can malign as corrupting our children — sexually as well as intellectually — with the convenient side effect of also making defunding and school privatization more palatable to the public.

Our writers at Seeing Red Nebraska were curious how prevalent gender transitions among minors in the US really are.

Reuters recently published this analysis of gender dysphoria and its corresponding treatments among minors nationwide. The study found rising numbers of both gender dysphoria diagnoses and treatments for it. However, to put the numbers into perspective, according to childstats.gov, 50.7 million kids aged 6-17 lived in the US in 2021, meaning that a grand total of 0.08% of all children nationwide received a gender dysphoria diagnosis that year.

Our writers immediately wondered if this rise is due to new generations of kids being comfortable playing with gender to see what fits (which is AWESOME) and expressing themselves in all kinds of ways using gender, sex, fashion, pronouns, and other identifying tools. Trans Actual UK similarly explains the seeming rise in gender dysphoria in young people by pointing out that, thankfully, there are increasing support systems available to trans youth. 

In other words, the rise in gender dysphoria diagnoses in minors can rationally be explained by increased societal awareness and acceptance of non-binary identities which allows kids to “come out of the closet” and explore their identity more freely. Further, kids with gender dysphoria now have increasing (yet still woefully inadequate due to various red tape obstacles) access to often life-saving medical intervention and social support including inclusiveness in schools.

Yet, how many minors with gender dysphoria diagnoses actually seek and receive medical treatment? According to the Reuters study, a mere 3.5% on average of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria (remember, this is 3.5% of the 0.08% of all children nationwide) in the US initiated the extremely maligned puberty blocker treatment — which is completely reversible. In 2021, the latest year for which data is available, this means that 1,390 minors NATIONWIDE started on puberty blockers.

Similarly, 4,231 minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria initiated hormone treatment in 2021 — again, this is nationwide. This constitutes an average of 11.25% over the five year course the study covers of those youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The discrepancy between the use of puberty blockers and hormone treatments is likely due to the limited applicability of puberty blockers (they only work for kids diagnosed and treated BEFORE the onset of puberty) and the fact that hormone therapy is often used IN ADDITION TO puberty blockers — meaning that many youth are counted BOTH in the hormone therapy graph and the puberty blocker graph.

As Reuters further notes, “[t]he ultimate step in gender-affirming medical treatment is surgery, which is uncommon in patients under age 18.” The Reuters analysis explains that many hospitals do not provide surgical intervention to minors at all, and consequently found records for only 56 genital surgeries on minors between 2019 and 2021. Unfortunately, their analysis is unclear about whether certain intersex conditions are included in this count. As to the more common “top surgery” (the surgical removal of breast tissue), the study found records for 776 mastectomies within the same time frame.

This constitutes 0.8% on average of minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria within the same timeframe (although medical treatment of gender dysphoria is a years-long process, so these individuals were likely diagnosed much earlier).

One caveat of the Reuters data is that it is based on insurance data, so that surgical procedures paid for out of pocket (or performed abroad) are not counted here. Also, the data provided is not clear on whether the count of “top surgery” includes treatment of gynecomastia (the growth of breast tissue in boys and men which can induce gender dysphoria in otherwise cis-gender males).

In general, the data suggests that surgical intervention in minors is extremely rare, and transgender individuals tend to wait until adulthood until seeking gender-affirming surgery — probably to no small degree also due to the prohibitive cost out-of-pocket, even if insurance covers a portion.

We’d like to note here that ANY medical treatment on minors for gender dysphoria requires parental consent, which sadly may be a significant barrier for at-risk transgender youth. This, of course, goes counter to the far-right extremist non-sensical claim that SCHOOLS push medical treatment on children.

Schools are obviously not medical facilities capable of either diagnosing nor offering treatment to medical conditions. And even if youth with gender dysphoria are lucky to have the support of their parents, the medical process of finding a trans-inclusive medical facility and appropriate psychologist can be daunting.

It’s incredible to see how very few children actually have these medical interventions compared to how much we hear about it from both the right and the left. Since trans kids are basically the entire conversation these days, we certainly assumed these numbers were a lot higher.

The larger point is that the numbers don’t make sense for how much space the issue is taking up. This isn’t a real problem and we need to use our precious time on what actually harms children.

For some more perspective on these numbers, the number one cause of death in children aged 0-18 is now firearms, with 3,219 children shot to death in 2020 alone (and many more injured).

Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen contributing to the moral panic propaganda.

Just over a week before an election that will determine student debt, abortion rights (and whether pregnant women are full people), whether we can slow the burning fire of the planet, and whether the United States of America will continue to stay a democracy, the trans issue takes up astronomically too much space in the national political conversation.

It is not that the issue is unimportant, or that it doesn’t involve a lot of distress to people, but right-wing extremists don’t want to do a single thing about that. Instead, they are going to zero in on a rare medical intervention that medical experts have decided is in the best interest of a vanishingly small percentage of children, diagnosed with a particular kind of distress, to turn trans-hate into a politically motivated moral panic issue, while major issues such as access to healthcare for EVERYONE, income inequality, and climate change apply to virtually everyone and even have indirect effects on social issues.

To some degree, liberals have contributed to this outsized attention to moral panic issues because the disproportionate nature of the debate favors the right — foregrounding and maligning a social issue affecting a minority community over the very same widespread material fairness issues that affect us all — bodily autonomy, the right to self-determination, and equitable access to medical treatment, after all, are not *just* trans issues.

Yet, here we are playing whack a mole with the litter box canard. To give the benefit of doubt, the majority of the general public wants kids to grow up unharmed and comfortable with their bodies and identity, feeling safe in their own skin.

However, extremists like to exploit that concept and turn it into something menacing instead of a healthy and normal human feeling of wanting kids to grow up confident in their bodies and their communities.

Since both political parties primarily serve the wealthy (and politicians usually are wealthy themselves now), it is necessary to find a “safe” social issue to fight over in order to differentiate themselves and to keep larger economic issues out of the discussion. 

Whatever minority group of people they choose to make their battleground, people who were almost certainly always having a rough time of it to start with suffer more when this happens. But while both parties benefit from keeping us distracted from the big issues that might unite us in pushing for real change, the GOP definitely chose this debate — it allows them to attack schools and teachers at the same time as causing panic around children. Win win for them, while trans kids — and all our kids — suffer as the collateral damage.

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The preceding commentary and news analysis was written and published by the Seeing Red Nebraska Editorial Board and is republished with permission.

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