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Little hope for Trans youth under siege by Republicans

Fear, anger, outrage, and exasperation are now the experiences daily for Trans Americans

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Landon Richie speaking at the Texas State Capitol Building during a rally for LGBTQ rights. (Photo Credit: Landon Richie via Facebook)

HOUSTON, TX. – The thousand-yard stare is rapidly afflicting many members of the Transgender community in the United States these days, especially Trans youth and their parents.

That phrase, often used to describe the blank, unfocused gaze of combatants who have become emotionally detached from the horrors around them, sadly fits most Trans people.

It is a war without bullets, bombs and artillery shells, but it is a war nonetheless being waged against a fractional percentage minority in America ironically by another minority, only one that is well funded and politically powerful backed by religious zealots and extremists.

Fear, anger, outrage, and exasperation are now the experiences daily for Trans Americans of every age as they confront what has been a virtual tsunami of legislative actions in twenty-five states specifically targeting their existence, as Republican lawmakers work to limit medical care, participation in sports, or limit their being able to self determine their own gender identity.

In a published commentary this week, an 18 year-old trans male from Virginia pointed out;

“A lot of anti- trans bills targeting people like me passed recently and more are being proposed. Republicans have decided that the most important thing to do in the middle of a pandemic is to take away life-saving treatment from children and ban them from playing sports,” Eric Tannehill said.

“This has been painful for me. It’s like watching a murder in slow motion. I see what they’re doing and recognize that it’s going to get people killed and there’s nothing I can do but just watch as they target kids like me with a smile on their face and a Bible in hand,” he added.

The soft voice on the phone is weary filled with mixed tones of anger and disgust but also apprehension. “There’s so many of these bills,” 18 year-old Landon Richie tells the Blade. Richie, a college freshman in the metropolitan Houston area has been invested in the fight for Trans rights in Texas since he first came out as an young child.

“I’ve been very lucky to have had my parents’ support especially with my medical care. I’m on hormones, I had ‘top’ surgery- but if they pass both House Bill 1399 and Senate Bill 1311 I have a younger sibling who identifies as non-binary and they would be blocked from receiving medical care,” he said. “We don’t know what we (as a family) are going to do- I mean there are other families who are talking about moving away. [from Texas]”

HB 1399 prohibit health care providers and physicians from performing gender confirmation surgery or prescribing, administering or supplying puberty blockers or hormone treatment to anyone under the age of 18.  SB1311 would revoke the medical license of health care providers and physicians who perform such procedures or prescribe such drugs or hormones to people younger than 18. 

As these bills work their way through the Texas statehouse, the ACLU reports that in 14 other states, lawmakers are also pushing laws that bans or severely restrictions on transition care for trans youth under 18.

The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law warns that 45,100 trans youth are at risk of loss of gender-affirming medical care.

Most of these bills propose to make it a crime or a cause for professional discipline for medical providers to deliver gender-affirming care to minors. Bills in Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas also include penalties for parents who encourage or facilitate minors’ access to gender-affirming medical care.

In three other states—Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina—school employees would be prohibited from withholding information about a child being transgender from that child’s parents, while a similar requirement proposed in North Carolina would apply to all state employees.

The bill passed in Arkansas, and bills under consideration in Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee, would allow individuals to file civil suits for damages against medical providers who violate these laws.

Bills in Arkansas and Montana provide mechanisms for the state Attorneys General to file suit against medical providers to enforce compliance. 

“I can’t see not being able to transition- I mean having to live with non-support?” Richie said. “I can tell you that if I had not had the support of my parents and well, if I hadn’t been able to transition- I may not even be here, nothing is more terrifying for a Trans kid than being out and not able to transition,” he added.

In the case of Texas, Richie says he is aggravated by the fact that lawmakers aren’t listening to experts, medical experts, counselors, and even trans youth who have been testifying in front of both Representatives and Senators in the various committees. “They don’t care, they listen to some bogus groups like the “American College of Pediatricians” which isn’t credible,” he angrily stated.

The ACP is a small group of physicians that left The American Academy of Pediatrics after the AAP released a 2002 policy statement explaining that gay parents pose no risk to adopted children. The Southern Poverty Law Center has repeatedly labeled the ACP as an anti-LGBT hate group that promotes false claims and misleading scientific reports.

“Texas will be uninhabitable for Trans kids if they pass all these bad bills,” he said.

Medical experts agree that should this legislative tsunami pass into law, the mental health toll of gender dysphoria and social marginalization will produce spikes in youth suicides and other psychological trauma. 

In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Marjan Linnell, a general pediatrician explained that puberty suppression treatment has been used for decades to prevent children from going through puberty too soon. Once those children reach an appropriate age, their treatment stops and natural puberty occurs. Linnell said the same is true for transgender children, for whom puberty can often exacerbate poor mental health.

“The point is to have a reversible treatment that can give them some time,” she said. “That not only helps to gain some time to make sure we’re making an appropriate and best practice medical decision for these kids and families, but we also know it can be incredibly important for preserving the mental health of our kids that are going through gender affirming care.”

In Orange County California, the mother of an 11 and a half year old trans daughter, who asked to not be identified, relayed in a phone call to the Blade that the impact on Trans youth even in affirming states like California is horrific.

“She asked me if she was going to be safe. Like most kids who follow the news she panicked- kids think globally she has friends in Texas, she thought ‘the government’ would take away her rights,” the mother said.

NBC’s Jo Yurcaba reported Monday that George and Emily Spurrier are leaving their home of 16 years in central Arkansas due to a new law that will ban the health care that they say their 17-year-old transgender son needs.

Emily Spurrier said when her son heard the news, he sat in her car and cried for an hour.

“It was just kind of a wave of emotions, thinking about moving and then him worrying about some friends that he has here in the Little Rock area,” she said. “And then just the thought that this is really the only place he ever remembers living.”

Richie tells the Blade that worst part of this entire mess is being targeted by Republicans for what he sees as an immutable part of his existence as a human being.

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Coronavirus

CDC eases indoor mask guidance for fully vaccinated people

L.A. won’t immediately follow CDC’s relaxed mask rules

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CDC Headquarters in Atlanta, GA (Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) issued new guidance Thursday that eases mask wearing indoors for fully vaccinated people in most instances except for extremely crowded circumstances.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated, the Associated Press reported.

“We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC.

President Joe Biden reflecting on the new CDC guidance that fully vaccinated people can go without masks said; “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day.” The President credited the full-court press by officials to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible in a short period of time as a contributing factor. Biden noted that as of Thursday, the U.S. has administered 250 million shots in 114 days.

He added, “The American people have never ever ever let their country down.”
Biden also stressed: “If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.” and then he also said if you see someone wearing a mask, “please treat them with kindness and respect.”

Walensky announced the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing, crediting the change to millions of Americans who are getting vaccinated. She added that the CDC changes reflected on the latest science about how well the vaccines are working preventing further spread of the cornavirus.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities -– large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

There are some caveats the Associated Press noted pointing out the CDC Director encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

Los Angeles County officials said Thursday the latest guidance from federal officials allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most places will not be effective in California immediately. The state and county will review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations in order to “make sensible adjustments to the orders that are currently in place,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s mask-wearing requirements at businesses – including restaurants and supermarkets – remain in effect, and it could be a week or more before substantive changes to mask-wearing orders are implemented locally.

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LA County to offer vaccinations for 12-15 year old kids Thursday

The American Academy of Pediatrics urged that kids 12 and older get the Pfizer vaccine

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LOS ANGELES – Starting on Thursday the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will begin offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a two-shot regimen at the vaccine sites run by L.A. County that offer the Pfizer vaccine, for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Pfizer’s vaccine has been used for months in people 16 and older, and earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration cleared its use for those as young as age 12.  The CDC advisory panel on Wednesday noted that it affirmed the recommendation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this week.

The Associated Press reported that the CDC until now has recommended not getting other vaccinations within two weeks of a COVID-19 shot, mostly as a precaution so that safety monitors could spot if any unexpected side effects cropped up.

But the CDC said Wednesday it is changing that advice because the COVID-19 vaccines have proved very safe — and that health workers can decide to give another needed vaccine at the same time for people of any age.

“The need for catch-up vaccination in coordination with COVID-19 vaccination is urgent as we plan for safe return to school,” CDC’s Dr. Kate Woodworth told the panel, citing millions of missed doses of vaccines against tetanus, whooping cough and other health threats.

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Wednesday also urged that kids 12 and older get the Pfizer vaccine — and agreed that it’s fine to give more than one vaccine at the same time, especially for kids who are behind on their regular vaccinations.

“With the CDC approval today, affirming the FDA recommendation, L.A. County will begin vaccinating youth 12 to 15 with the Pfizer vaccine tomorrow. We are grateful to the scientists, clinicians, and the young people who participated in clinical trials that helped the FDA and the CDC determine that these vaccines are safe and effective for this age group,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the most powerful tool available to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and prevent hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.  Increasing the number of people vaccinated speeds up our recovery journey and allows us to safely participate in the summer activities we all love and miss,” she added.

Anyone younger than 18 should be accompanied by a parent, guardian or responsible adult, and present photo identification and verification of age, county public health officials said. Parents or teens with questions about the vaccine should contact their healthcare provider or visit the Public Health website for more information on vaccine safety and efficacy.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s acting commissioner offered answers to questions regarding the vaccine shots for 12-15 year olds during a call with reporters:

ARE THE SHOTS THE SAME AS THOSE FOR ADULTS?

Yes. The dose and the schedule are the same; the two shots are given three weeks apart.

WHERE CAN KIDS GET THE SHOTS?

Pharmacies, state sites and other places that are already vaccinating people 16 and older with the Pfizer vaccine should be able to give the shots to all authorized ages in most cases.

WILL KIDS NEED A GUARDIAN?

Parental consent will be needed, but exactly how it’s obtained could vary.

HOW WAS THE VACCINE VETTED FOR KIDS?

Pfizer’s late-stage vaccine study tested the safety and efficacy of the shots in about 44,000 people 16 and older. The study then enlisted about 2,200 children ages 12 to 15 to check for any differences in how the shots performed in that age group.

“This is just extending it down from 16 and 17 year olds, and getting further information,” Woodcock said.

WHY ONLY THE PFIZER VACCINE?

Because only Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with its German partner BioNTech, has completed studies in younger teens. Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects, but regulators still need to review the results before it can be offered to younger people.

WHAT SIDE EFFECTS ARE EXPECTED?

Common side effects were similar to those experienced by adults, and included fatigue, headache, muscle pain and fever. Except for pain in the arm where the needle is injected, the effects were likelier after the second shot.

CAN KIDS GET OTHER ROUTINE VACCINATIONS AT THE SAME TIME?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s updating its guidance to say other routine vaccinations can be given at the same time as the COVID-19 shots. It previously advised against other vaccinations within a two-week window so it could monitor people for potential side effects.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said it agrees with the position.

WHEN WILL YOUNGER KIDS BE ELIGIBLE?

It’s unclear how long the ongoing trials or regulatory reviews will take. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, recently suggested it could happen this year.

“We think by the time we get to the end of this year we will have enough information to vaccinate children of any age,” he said.

WHY SHOULD KIDS GET VACCINATED?

Even though children are far less likely to get severely ill if infected, health officials note the risk isn’t zero.

Vaccinating children is also key to ending the pandemic, since children can get infected and spread the virus to others, even if they don’t get sick themselves.

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LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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