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Alleged Trans incident at upscale LA Spa may have been staged

The video quickly made the rounds in far right, and Trans-Exclusionary Feminist (TERF) sites and Anti-trans “feminist” websites.

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Screenshot via coverage from freelance news videographer Vishal P. Singh

By Robert Lansing | LOS ANGELES – On June 24th, Instagram user “cubaangel” posted a video of herself angrily confronting a staff member at the Wi Spa in Koreatown, accusing them of letting a disrobed transgender person into the women’s section of the business.

There is increasing doubt among law enforcement and staff at the Wi Spa whether there was ever was a transgender person there to begin with. Anonymous sources within the LAPD tell the Blade they have been unable to find any corroborating evidence that there was a transgender person present on that day.

Similarly, a source at the Spa told the Blade there’s no record of any of its usual transgender clients on its appointments guest list on the day in question. Treatment at the Spa is by appointment only, and most of its transgender clients are well known to the staff.

WI SPA LA ( Blade Photo by Troy Masters)

Several other factors cast doubt on the veracity of the claims in the video. Cubaangel’s Instagram account is almost exclusively Christian memes, which begs the question why she chose to go to a spa well known for being LGBTQ friendly. During Cubaangel’s video, no transgender person can be seen, and no other witnesses have come forward to confirm the allegations made. It’s also not the first time Wi Spa has been targeted for catering to transgender people. After the alleged, unconfirmed incident, Wi Spa was deluged with 1-star Yelp! and Trip Advisor reviews.

It also remains a possibility that there was a person, unknown to the Wi Spa staff, who pretended to be transgender to create an inciting incident. In 2015, anti-transgender activists in Washington State deliberately encouraged men to enter women’s facilities. One cisgender man entered a swimming pool changing area wearing only board shorts while claiming that he had a right to be there (he was removed from the premises without charges being filed).

The video quickly made the rounds in far right, and Trans-Exclusionary Feminist (TERF) sites. Anti-trans “feminist” websites like Mumsnet, Ovarit, and Spinster were sharing content by far right provocateurs known for disinformation, like Ian Miles Cheong, by June 27th.

Shortly thereafter, flyers for a protest on July 3rd began circulating in religious right, far right, and TERF social media circles, and were shared by Cubaangel on the 29th and users on Spinster. They discussed defending the alt-right troll website, Kiwifarms, which is known for targeting transgender women.

Prior to the protest, a Los Angeles trans woman was falsely accused by anti-trans feminists of being the alleged transgender person in the video. She received multiple death threats and harassment, including a picture of a masked man brandishing an assault weapon threatening to shoot her.

The anti-trans protest was a mix of religious fundamentalist street preachers, QAnon conspiracy theorists chanting “save our children,” and Proud Boys.  Black-bloc (like Antifa) and trans activists engaged in a counter protest at the same time, and violence erupted. Right wing personality Andy Ngo, who coordinates with far right groups when they’re looking to engage in violence on camera, was also there.

A right-wing protestor drew a gun on a person recording the event and told him it was “something to shoot you with.” A videographer wearing a vest marked “PRESS” was struck from behind by a right wing protester with a metal pipe. Another anti-trans protester stabbed two people: a pro-trans counter protester who was reportedly hospitalized by the wound, and a fellow anti-trans protesters while she was attempting to help him off the ground. The LAPD quickly declared the protest and counter-protest unlawful assemblies and dispersed them.

All of this fits into an emerging pattern of the alt-right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, violent far right groups like the Proud Boys, the religious right, and anti-trans “feminists” collaborating and coordinating as they share the same media streams. Rhetoric against transgender people in popular right-wing media like Fox News has grown both more frequent, and more extreme. In April, Tucker Carlson (who serves as a gateway to the far right) declared that transgender people are a threat to the “perpetuation of the species.”

Dr Joe Mulhall, head of research at the UK’s renowned anti-extremist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, discussed this trend in a recent interview. “We see more anti-trans content from within the far right than against any other minority today… [They] disproportionally talk about trans rights way more than Muslims now”. He sees transphobia as more accepted publicly than anti-Semitism. “Talking about Jews isn’t. It ostracizes you. But if you talk about trans issues it opens the doors to the mainstream. The far right are saying things they know will be echoed in the comment pages of the right-wing press.”

Flyers are circulating online advertising a second protest against Wi Spa on July 17th. LAPD sources says they are aware, and will be taking steps to avoid a repeat of July 3rd. However, as of publication, no warrants, indictment, or arrests have been made as a result of the violence.

Robert Lansing is a pseudonym for a long time investigative trans researcher and writer-journalist. Use of the pseudonym is to protect the writer from retribution and potential harm by right wing extremists.

Transgender

Transgender Awareness Week 2021 begins as community is under siege

This annual tradition leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance brings awareness to the continued struggle the Trans community faces

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Participants at the National Trans Visibility March in Orlando, Florida, October 2021— Photo by Dawn Ennis

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego LGBT Center kicked off Transgender Awareness Week 2021 on Saturday November 13, by raising the Transgender Pride Flag over Hillcrest, San Diego’s ‘gayborhood.’ Several community members, activists and representatives from the city and county’s elected officials were in attendance.

This has become an annual tradition leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, which brings awareness to the continued struggle the transgender community faces and gives trans folks an opportunity to speak with their unique voices.

Last month hundreds of Out transgender people and allies from across Florida and from as far away as Southern California gathered in Orlando Saturday to rally and to march, demanding justice, equality and acceptance. 

Chanting, “Trans Solidarity,” and “Hey Hey, Ho, Ho, Transphobia Has Got To Go!” participants in the 3rd annual National Trans Visibility March stepped off for their first march to be held outside Washington, D.C. This was also the first in-person parade since last year’s march was held mostly virtually, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There are so many of us who feel excluded from our cities and our communities,” said Ariel Savage of Riverside, Calif. 

Ebony Harper, the Executive Director of California TRANscends, a statewide initiative that promotes the health and wellness of transgender people throughout California with a focus on Black and Brown transgender communities spoke to the Blade Saturday afternoon addressing the needs of the Trans community;

While our community has some visibility in media, we still live under threats of violence and having our rights stripped from us. That’s our reality. This isn’t a narrative; these are facts!
This year alone, over 102 anti-trans bills have been introduced in 7 states. 47 to prevent trans kids from playing sports and the majority attacking how trans folks receive healthcare.

At least 45 transgender people were murdered this year, the majority Black and Latinx transgender women. I’m one of many Black trans women advocating for our community, but you as an ally can have a powerful impact; Spreading awareness, resisting “the status quo” for us, speaking-up, is harm prevention. That’s humanizing our experience. We are divinely human, just as you are divinely human. That’s what this week is about. It’s about our humanity.

I’ll be speaking at several Trans Day of Remembrance events here in Northern California and I will talk about how you, the ally, have contributed to what we have now, but we’re just getting started. Find you a Transgender Week of Awareness event this week and show our community that we are in this together,” Harper told the Blade.

With the news of the killing of Marquiisha Lawrence in Greenville, S.C. on November 4 the Human Rights Campaign has now officially recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people than any year prior.

At least 45 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed this year; HRC Foundation uses “at least” because too often these stories go unreported or misreported. Previously, the highest number of fatal deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people that HRC Foundation has tracked over a 12 month period was just last year in 2020, when at least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed.

“We are at a tragic and deeply upsetting moment: With the death of Marquiisha Lawrence, 2021 has become the deadliest year ever for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Each of these 45 names represents a whole person and a rich life torn from us by senseless violence, driven by bigotry and transphobia and stoked by people who hate and fear transgender people and the richness of their experience,” Joni Madison, interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, said.

“Dehumanizing rhetoric has real-life consequences for the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color but especially Black transgender women. As we have seen an unprecedented number of bills introduced in state legislatures attacking transgender youth and trans adults, the moment we are in is clear. They have attacked transgender people’s right to health care, right to exist in public, and right to live openly, with the ultimate goal of dehumanizing and erasing their lives and experiences,” she added.

In Tampa, Florida, another Trans woman of colour was found murdered further raising the number of Trans women who were killed this year.

“Prominent Republicans are holding up the authoritarian Hungarian state as the model for the US to follow, in great part because Hungary has ended all government recognition of trans people, and criminalized LGBT media content. We are running out of time to prevent the effective end of the trans community in America.”

Brynn Tannehill, Trans author, Los angeles blade columnist and activist.

“In the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers, including a record number of anti-transgender bills and fatal violence, the trans community remains resilient and vibrant. The strength displayed by transgender and nonbinary youth in response to these attacks has been remarkable and should serve as a call to action for us all,” said Carrie Davis Chief Community Officer for The Trevor Project. “Every person has a role to play in creating a safer world for young trans people. The Trevor Project recently released a study that found transgender and nonbinary young people who feel accepted by the people in their lives are less likely to attempt suicide. This week, and every week, let us make clear that transgender and nonbinary youth deserve love, respect, and to live their lives without fear of discrimination and violence.”

Relevant Research

New Study: Acceptance of Transgender and Nonbinary Youth from Adults and Peers Associated with Significantly Lower Rates of Attempting Suicide

  • Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported gender identity acceptance from at least one adult had 33% lower odds of reporting a past-year suicide attempt.
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported gender identity acceptance from at least one peer had 34% lower odds of reporting a past-year suicide attempt.

According to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health:

  • More than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year— and 1 in 5 attempted suicide.
  • 78% of trans youth stated that their mental health was “poor” most of the time or always during COVID-19.
  • However, the data also illuminate protective factors:
    • Transgender and nonbinary youth attempt suicide less when respect is given to their pronouns, when they are allowed to officially change their legal documents, and when they have access to spaces that affirm their gender identity. 
      • Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone with whom they lived.

Further, a peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience gender identity-based discrimination. 

Research Brief: Diversity of Nonbinary Youth

  • One in four LGBTQ youth (26%) in our sample of nearly 35,000 identified as nonbinary. An additional 20% reported that they are not sure or are questioning if they are nonbinary.
  • While nonbinary identities have often been grouped under the umbrella term of “transgender,” our data show that only 50% of youth who identified as nonbinary also identified as transgender.
  • The majority of nonbinary youth reported exclusively using pronouns outside of the gender binary, such as “they/them” (33%) or neopronouns (5%), such as “xe/xem.”
  • When asked about ways other people can make them feel happy or euphoric about their gender, nonbinary youth overwhelmingly responded: having people in their life use the correct name and pronouns to refer to them. Nonbinary youth who reported that “no one” respected their pronouns had more than 2.5x the rate of attempting suicide compared to those who reported that “all or most of the people” they know respected their pronouns.

Research Report: All Black Lives Matter: Mental Health of Black LGBTQ Youth

  • One in three Black LGBTQ youth identified as transgender or nonbinary
  • 44% of Black LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, including 59% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 25% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their gender identity
  • Black transgender and nonbinary youth reported twice the rate of police victimization (6%) compared to cisgender Black LGBQ youth (3%). Black LGBTQ youth who were involved with police victimization due to their LGBTQ identity reported rates of suicide attempts (32%) that were nearly double that of youth who were not (17%).
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Transgender

West Virginia Sheriff posts transphobic meme gets transphobic comments

Mellinger posted the horrific meme on June 29, 2021. It wasn’t made private until July, 11, so in the meantime, it did a lot of damage.

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Shoulder Patch of the Jackson County, W.Va. Sheriff's Department via Facebook

By Kelli Busey | RIPLEY, W Va. – Jackson County West Virginia Sheriff Ross Mellinger posted a transphobic meme mocking the first transgender Miss USA contestant and as expected received hundreds of transphobic comments and likes.

Shortly after Kataluna Enriquez won the Miss Nevada USA Pageant, Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger posted his thoughts on his personal Facebook page. Enriquez is the first transgender woman advancing to the Miss USA Pageant.

Mellinger made fun of her body and called being transgender “a craze.”

Jackson News Papers originally broke the story reported that Sheriff Ross Mellinger declined to comment.

Most of those who defend Mellinger said that it is his right to post memes on his public Facebook page. Those same people then proceed to disparage transgender people, a minority protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Ross Mellinger posted this horrific meme on June 29, 2021. It wasn’t made private until July, 11, so in the meantime, it did a lot of damage.

“So, I see the transgender craze has now invaded the Miss USA Competition…..”

His Facebook page now displays this notation on the post: “This Facebook post is no longer available. It may have been removed, or the privacy settings of the post may have changed.”

One Facebook user posted that in his defense, the Sheriff’s post wasn’t just about “hate”.

A leading Trans activist noted; “She was right, this isn’t just about hate. This is about firing a law enforcement official for refusing to acknowledge he was wrong for publicly inciting hatred against a minority.

Fun Facts:

Mellinger was elected to serve and protect all of the citizens, not just the ones he chooses to.

This is about an elected law enforcement official with a public Facebook page inviting people to mock a minority that their state just legislated against.

This about a white man who is afraid of a transgender Filipina-American woman of color.

This is about holding a law enforcement official to a higher standard.

This about holding him accountable if he refuses to do his duty.”

Planet Transgender took a screengrab of Sheriff Mellinger’s Facebook meme just in case he removed it or made it private without first issuing a public apology:

The meme Sheriff Ross Mellinger posted to Facebook. It remained there for 13 days. It has been either removed by Facebook or Mellinger has made his profile private to escape scrutiny.

Kelli Busey is the Managing Editor of Planet Transgender magazine.

The preceding article was originally published by Planet Transgender and is republished by permission.

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Trans woman Lehlogonolo Machaba makes it to top 30 Miss SA

The first transgender woman to officially enter the South African Beauty Pageant, has made the first cut

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Lehlogonolo Machaba via Instagram

By Kelli Busey | MAHIKENG, NW, South Africa – Lehlogonolo Machaba, The first transgender woman to officially enter the South African Beauty Pageant, has made the first cut joining 29 gorgeous women as a top 30 semi-finalist.

Lehlogonolo Machaba, the only contestant from the North West, wrote in an Instagram post “I am proud to announce that I have OFFICIALLY made it to the #Top30 of #MissSA2021 thanks to all of you. This journey has been nothing but a great one and all of you have made this worthwhile. I will continue to push for change and acceptance of everyone in the LGBTQI+ community and being the first EVER TransWoman in the competition I can declare that by the grace of God TOP 15 here we come. Look out for all the information regarding voting on my next posts and Instagram stories. @official_misssa ”

Editor’s note: If you are from South Africa you can vote, for a fee, as a fifth judge by clicking here.

Kelli Busey is the managing editor at Planet Transgender

The preceding article was originally published by Planet Transgender and is republished by permission.

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Transgender

Even before COVID, LGBTQ+ youth faced a high risk of homelessness

‘The pandemic only made things worse – A Trans woman shares her journey from homelessness to hope’

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A group of LGBTQ+ young people at the Casa Ruby homeless shelter are shown during a spring interview with the Urban Health Media Project (Photo Credit: Urban Health Media Project)

By Sarah Gandluri and Sydney Johnson | WASHINGTON – Squashed between friends on a plush couch at a shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ young people, Jada Doll talked about what happened after she began to express her identity as a transgender woman.

She moved in with her boyfriend when she was a senior in high school. But Doll – that’s the name she chose – said her family refused to let her back into their Manassas, Va. home when the couple broke up. The reason, said Doll: She had begun to identify as a female. She wound up in the nearby woods that became her home for almost three years.

“When it was raining,’’ the 22-year-old said in a recent interview, “I couldn’t feel my toes.”

 

Jada Doll is shown at the Casa Ruby shelter in DC this spring (Photo by Pooja Singh, Urban Health Media Project)

Before the pandemic, LGBTQ+ youth had a higher risk of homelessness and the health problems that come with it – from nagging toothaches to life-long trauma.

Then COVID-19 forced families to stay home together, exacerbating the domestic conflicts over gender and sexuality that have driven some young people into the street.

Casa Ruby, the shelter that Doll entered, reports a 60% increase in clients in the past year. The non-profit in the Dupont Circle neighborhood offers housing, preventative healthcare and social services to LGBTQ+ youth. 

Many of the new homeless had no choice. Violence against LGBTQ+ youth often ‘’starts at home,’’ said Keith Pollard, a case manager at Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL), a Washington non-profit that shelters about three dozen homeless LGBTQ+ youth. About 95 percent of SMYAL residents were thrown out because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Doll said she felt her family ganged up against her when she started to identify as a trans female. That, Pollard said, is a familiar story: “It starts with not being able to explore gender, with ‘Mom caught me with a skirt on’ or ‘Mom caught me with makeup on and put me out.’’’

‘They see you as a prostitute’

Being homeless can lead to a multitude of health and safety issues, but LGBTQ+ youth face unique, additional challenges.

Fear of violence looms over their heads, both on the street and in public shelters. Some shelters, Doll said, are “like jail. Other residents, she said, “can hurt us, and they don’t care if they hurt us.”

Sexual assault is an even larger worry. “They can also rape you in a shelter,’’ said another resident of Casa Ruby who calls herself Raven Queen.

Such fears are founded, according to Tearra Walker, who has lived in shelters and now helps find housing for the homeless. Some older shelter residents are sexual predators, she said, and young LGBTQ+ people “can get caught up in someone’s web.”  

The streets can be even worse. Doll said insults are hurled at LGBTQ+ youth — “They see you as a prostitute.’’ In fact, said SMYAL’s Pollard, many of these young people resort to ‘‘survival sex’’ to secure a place to sleep at night. 

“Once you’re out there on the street past four hours, you gonna be losing it,’’ said Nicholas Boyd, a Casa Ruby resident. “You gotta find someone to talk to, someone to socialize with, because the feeling of aloneness is scary.” 

Physical health suffers as well. Pollard said that when young people come in off the street, they’re often malnourished or underweight, because “they’re just eating anything they can get their hands on.’’ That, plus lack of sleep, can also lead to attention deficits, mood disorders or suppressed immunity to disease and infection. Many suffer from sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including HIV, he said.

For more than two years, Doll lived under a canopy of trees, protected from the elements only by flimsy tents. Hygiene and privacy were the first casualties; she recalled having to use a water bottle to shower “with everyone watching.” 

She ate “just about anything, like, raw stuff.” She neglected to brush her teeth. She suffered insomnia and panic attacks that continued even in the safe haven of Casa Ruby. 

Brian Klausner, medical director of community population health at WakeMed hospital in Raleigh, N.C., works with the chronically homeless through a partnership with a local federally-funded health care clinic. He said their average life expectancy is about 50 (compared to 79 years for all Americans). The homeless are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas — sexual abuse, incarcerated parents, drug use in the home — which increase the risk of health issues such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and suicide, said Klausner, a primary care physician. And homelessness itself exacts a cost.  

The pandemic has upped that cost. As a result of COVID restrictions, Pollard said, his organization saw an increase in drug and alcohol use as well as physical and verbal altercations: “A lot of folks were doing things that were risky, (like) going outside without a mask, interacting with large groups of people, because they could not take the isolation.’’

‘A lot to handle’

Olivia Rodriguez-Nunez said that when her older sister threatened to attack her because she’d begun to identify as a trans woman, their mother flew from Bolivia to Washington to intervene – on the side of the older sister, to “kick me out.’’ 

Rodriguez-Nunez’s sister, Mariela Demerick, said in a phone interview that she blames Olivia – who she calls “Mark” – for being abusive and three months behind on rent. Their mother flew up “to come set order to this home,” she said.

 

Olivia Rodriguez-Nunuez shown walking in front of her transitional DC home in April (Photo By Jojo Brew, Urban Health Media Project)

Demerick insisted that “it had nothing to do with his choice of sexuality,” but declined to call Olivia by her preferred name and pronouns and blamed hormones for making her sibling erratic. 

“I’ve chosen to remove Mark out of my life.” she said. 

Rodriguez-Nunez said she fled her family home in the Columbia Heights neighborhood because “having two people gang up on me, it was a lot to handle,’’ But she felt safe at Casa Ruby, which aims to be more than a shelter, but also a home where queer, transgender and gender non-conforming people can escape fear of discrimination, harassment and violence. Above all, places like Casa Ruby and SMYAL try to offer the one thing their young clients often lack: consistency.

Oliva Rodriguez-Nunez is shown with her dog in a picture from her youth (Photo Courtesy of Olivia Rodriguez-Nunez)

Doll is now living in a transitional apartment provided by SYMAL, while Rodriguez-Nunez was referred to a transitional group home run by the Wanda Alston Foundation. 

“Our folks have had a lot of people give up on them,’’ Pollard said. “Parents or guardians give up on them because they don’t agree with their sexuality or gender identity and kick them out.’’ Teachers,foster parents or group homes also give up on kids, sometimes, he said, “just because they’re troubled.’’

“Here at Casa Ruby, it is very welcoming,’’ said Raven Queen. “Everyone can live their own life. They can be who they want.”

Sarah Gandluri and Sydney Johnson are high school students at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School and The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in Baltimore. They were participants in Urban Health Media Project’s workshop, “Home Sick: How Where We Live Impacts Health” in Spring of 2021. UHMP student reporters Anthony Green, Malaya Mason, Noah Pangaribuan and Diamond LaPrince contributed to this story.

The preceding story was previously published at The Washington Blade and is republished here by permission.

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60 minutes airs story on Trans healthcare, raises concern for advocates

We were concerned that the groups that oppose transgender people might try to weaponize our story and use it against transgender people

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CBS News 60 minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl (Screenshot via CBS News 60 minutes)

NEW YORK – CBS News 60 minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl reported on the health care challenges facing the transgender community this week, although a portion of her reporting also covered those individuals who have detransitioned, a subject that has been politicized by anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and others opposed to Trans rights.

In a piece including the accompanying video report published by CBS News Sunday on 60 Minutes Overtime, Stahl related that she cannot remember another story she has worked on at 60 Minutes where comments and criticisms began surfacing from advocates before the piece aired. 

“We were concerned that the groups that oppose transgender people might try to weaponize our story and use it against transgender people,” she said. “Some of the activists who reached out to us told us they were worried about it too. Our story was really about health care. And we wanted to keep it focused on health care and not make it a political story.”

CBS News 60 Minutes, broadcast segment May 23, 2021

Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), told Stahl he was concerned that reporting on those who choose to detransition could be “taken out of context [and] could further victimize and marginalize” the transgender community.

“Bringing a story to light about detransitioning without talking about the vast majority of people who positively transition, would cause concern because it sends a message,” David said. “We need to also elevate the positive stories of people who successfully transition.”

Dr. Lee Savio Beers, a pediatrician, professor, and the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Stahl it’s vital to “help dispel the myths about what gender-affirming care is and isn’t.”

“I also think it’s really important, no matter how we do it, and in whatever setting, to make sure that we send a message to transgender youth and gender-diverse youth and their families that they matter, that their experiences matter, that we care about them and we want them to get the best medical care, we want them to get the best education, we want them to get the best support from their families and their communities,” Beers said during the interview.” And I think that has to be our north star.”

CBS 60 minutes broadcast segment via CBS News website here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/transgender-health-care-60-minutes-2021-05-23/

CBS News 60 Minutes Overtime with further discussion and context here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-transgender-health-care-issues-2021-05-23/

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‘Every girl deserves to shine,’ a Dad’s affirmation for his trans-daughter

I would like to imagine a world where kids can wear whatever they want irrespective of their anatomy

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Jamie and Ruby Alexander (Photo courtesy of the Alexander family)

TORONTO – The bond between a father and his daughter through the eons of time oft times has lent itself to a simple phrase, ‘Daddy’s little girl.’ As a father celebrates every milestone, from scrapped knees and the childhood joys of discovery in the world around her to walking her down the aisle and watching her get married- to greeting his first grandchild, that bond is unshakeable.

However, for the LGBTQ+ community, especially the Trans community more often than not the example of that kind of a bond is fleeting at best and fiction at worst. But then too not necessarily in a broad stroke way as exemplified by a Dad from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Meet Jamie Alexander, the proud father of a 12 year old trans girl who alongside his daughter Ruby has created a business that not only caters to other Trans kids like her, but embraces them in a unique and affirming way.

The Alexanders launched RUBIES, in part to a family trip to the Central American. Alexander became concerned over the issue of what should Ruby wear to the beach in a country that may not be ready for a girl like her. Then in a larger sense, what of the thousands of other Trans girls? From that sense of practicality an idea was born and an online enterprise was launched.

On the company’s website it reads, “The question practically answered itself: form-fitting clothing for trans girls. Each pair of RUBIES bikini bottoms and underwear features a soft compression that provides worry-free comfort and helps keep everything in place. It’s designed for the beach, the gym, the pool, or the dance lessons – without the slightest compromise in style.”

Alexander wrote about their journey together in 2019 in an essay (below) condensed and edited for clarity;

Ruby’s relationship with girls clothing and shoes as she navigated her gender identity may have started as early as three years old.  I had exposed her to a music video of a silhouetted Beyoncé no-no-no-ing while expounding the virtues of being a single lady.  Ruby would dance around in my wife Ange’s black patent leather pumps busting out PG-13 moves.  

A few months prior I had listened to a podcast on This American life or some such show about a father who discovers his boy was exhibiting gender fluid behaviour (a term I would not learn until later).  He discussed his eventual acceptance starting with the purchase of a pink bike complete with silver streamers.  When I heard this at the time I frankly was thanking the stars that Ruby was obsessed with fire trucks and cars.  I figured dancing in mommy’s shoes was something any little kid might want to do.

When she was five her princess obsession kicked off into high gear spurred on by Princess Fiona from the fractured fairytale Shrek.  The release of Tangled solidified my role as prince in her hourly staging of Disney’s take on Rapunzel.  Ruby’s head was always wrapped up in multiple bedsheets knotted together and dangled down a flight of stairs to aid her rescue.  That performance ran every day for a solid year.  After that Ruby would star in and direct plays with her friends. She defied gravity as Elphaba in Wicked and sung a heart wrenching rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Mis, unknowingly singing the definitely not-so-appropriate-for-a-7-yr-old song about how her childhood was robbed by a man.

From early on Ruby would only wear tank tops and held disdain for shirts that would cover her shoulders.  I traveled a lot for work at this time and it took me a while to realize that the souvenir t-shirts I would bring home would lay dormant in her drawers.  One time I opened her room and she was hacking away at the sleeves of one of my latest gifts with a pair of scissors.  From then on we would snip off those unnecessary bits of fabric to suit her style.

Ruby was accepted at an arts school that every spring selects thirty girls and thirty boys out of five hundred kids who sing, dance and act their way through a series of auditions that pay much more attention to passion than aptitude.  Ruby had the former in spades and to our surprise was accepted to the school.  

I had to call the principal and explain that they may for the first year have a gender imbalance at the school now that one of their prospective male students was going to start school as a girl.  As if it was destiny that year in a bureaucratic error they had accepted thirty-one boys and twenty-nine girls. The principal was overjoyed that this bungle could be reversed. (As an aside, Principal Lucas was one of the most supportive and influential figures in Ruby’s school life).

Ruby like most other tween girls her age has taken a liking to makeup and hair care (she had already started pilfering Ange’s blush when she was six!). Unlike some more responsible parents, we are quite liberal in our parenting when it comes to makeup and have few rules except not to use Mommy’s more expensive products!  Despite the fact that her makeup is now flawless, since you know, eleven year old girls need to use concealer, there were at least a few days where Ruby unwittingly showed up at school in clown face. 

With the whirlwind of activities at school and after school such as swimming, gymnastics and dance came the necessity to buy swimwear, leggings and leotards causing no end to anxiety about how Ruby can safely wear form fitting clothing.  For a while it was board shorts for swimming and the beach and gymnastics in frumpy sweatpants.

After a while we both started to feel more comfortable among friends and family with her wearing clothing that any other kids of her age might wear, like two piece bikinis and tight leggings.  On one occasion after a trip to the beach while camping I was told by friends who came along with their kids that Ruby is wink wink nudge nudge “quite confident”. 

This is all coming from very supportive peeps that, including myself are not accustomed to seeing the male form in women’s clothing.  Not too long ago my parents, also incredibly supportive people, contacted me to awkwardly ask if I knew what Ruby had been wearing at my sister’s pool.  I asked them what they were worried about because Ruby sure as hell didn’t seem to be bothered. I jokingly thought that perhaps there were transphobic people hiding out in the trees near my sister’s quite private swimming pool.  

A few months ago, Ruby and I went on a sixteen day trip to Panama, every day of which we were experiencing new adventures together.  There were many chances to go swimming and we decided together that for safety Ruby would continue wearing her board shorts.

I feel bad for being reluctant to let my daughter wear what she wanted from when she started begging me to dress as a princess for Halloween.  Ultimately, we were and continue to be worried about her safety, and being a responsible parent is about making difficult decisions.  Perhaps if Ange and I were steeped in the LGBTQ community it would come more natural, but this is all fairly new to us.  

While we have gone to a number of pride marches over the years we have now transitioned from spectators to participants. The last two trans marches have had great turnouts and we all can bask in the open affirmation of Ruby’s identity.  Last June with an ever expanding number of marchers, spanning at least three city blocks, it was the first year when the streets were lined with allies showing their support after some unfortunate events at a march in a less accommodating city the week prior. This was a truly moving experience for the whole family and Ruby was glowing for days afterwards.

I would like to imagine a world where kids can wear whatever they want irrespective of their anatomy.   I am certain in another generation this will be the case, at least in the progressive cities of North America. In the meantime we can find ways to help our kids express themselves safely.

The Blade spoke to Alexander Monday about the company and he expressed his determination to manufacture a clothing line that would lift up and ensure greater body positivity for transgender children. But he also expressed his and Ruby’s determination to make a difference for the Trans kids that needed to be uplifted and have their gender identity validated.

Alexander pointed out that is an important and nuanced matter, especially clothing with the right coverage ensures more than just comfort and support—it can provide physical safety, too. Transgender youths are subject to bullying and violence at much higher rates than cisgender youths, a reality he and his wife Angela were acutely aware of. Their concern spurred a thorough online search for bottoms with better compression.

Alexander had done his research and found that even with the tens of thousands of Trans kids just in the United States and his native Canada, there were few options for clothing that would be gender affirming for those young people.

“All the products were for trans adults then sized down. There were no brands that spoke to trans kids, who are the same as other kids and just want something that resonates with them,” he said.

In a July 2020 blog post at Shopify where RUBIES is based as a retailer, writer Roxanne Voidonicolas noted;

In October of 2019, Alexander left his role as Chief Technology Officer at a software company he’d founded to start a new business: RUBIES. His mission was to create form-fitting bikini bottoms for transgender girls and non-binary kids under the age of 14. More importantly, he wanted to build a brand that uplifted trans kids.

“There’s a big political focus in the transgender community, which I’m grateful for. But, I didn’t want to go that route with RUBIES,” he said. “I wanted to focus on celebrating trans kids. Because that’s what they are: they’re just kids. And we should celebrate them the way we celebrate all other kids.”

Though wholly new to apparel and fashion, Jamie was no stranger to entrepreneurship, having previously built three successful businesses. He poured himself into the inclusive fashion industry and joined the Fashion Zone at Ryerson, (In Toronto) which helps aspiring entrepreneurs start apparel businesses. The Fashion Zone provides budding entrepreneurs with access to equipment, workshops, and industry advisors and professionals. 

It was there that he met a local garment engineer, Olena Vivcharyuk. Alexander’s vision resonated with Olena, and she helped design and sew the first bikini bottom prototype for RUBIES. 

With her help, Alexander produced 25 bikini bottom prototypes, and was ready to start testing them. He knew from his former roles that it was integral to get as much feedback as possible, as early as possible.

As a member of various groups on Facebook for parents with transgender children, Alexander knew how close-knit the community was and quickly realized parents would be open to their kids trying out the bottoms. In exchange for their time and feedback, RUBIES offered them free bikini bottoms by mail.

What Alexander didn’t expect was just how much enthusiasm he’d encounter. “I was overwhelmed with the positive responses. But, the first set of bottoms were completely wrong by a full size. Every single prototype. It was a mess,” he said, laughing. But that didn’t deter him. 

Ten iterations later, Alexander was ready to launch the Ruby Shaping Bikini Bottom product.  Within two months, RUBIES had shipped over 250 pairs.

These days as summer approaches and people are finally able to escape the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic and travel to the beaches, pools, and lakes or just playing in their own backyards, Trans kids will be able to feel free to be themselves and have some much needed body positivity.

The Blade asked Ruby how she felt about being able to provide a gender affirming swim-wear line to young trans girls and others? She told the Blade she feels proud to be part of company that is changing people’s lives Her message for young Trans people, “To be yourself. Only you get to decide who you want to be.” 

Finally, she says that she wants to let other trans and non binary kids know that there are so many others in the world just like them and that they are not alone. 

For more information about the Alexander’s company you can head here:

Website– http://rubyshines.com/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rubiesdad/

Application for donated bottoms – https://rubyshines.com/pages/free-swimwear-for-families-in-need

GoFundMe Campaign – https://www.gofundme.com/f/nz7aec-help-me-send-form-fitting-swimwear-to-trans-girls

Ruby and Jamie Alexander’s interview on CBC discussing the mission of RUBIES last year:

 

 

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