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Real victims in “Libs of TikTok” are the teachers & LGBTQ people harassed

Right-wing media melt down after Washington Post report on Chaya Raichik, person behind the influential anti-LGBTQ Libs of Tik Tok account

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Brennan Suen & Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – The Washington Post confirmed that Chaya Raichik is behind formerly anonymous ‘Libs of TikTok.’ The influential anti-LGBTQ account has has been trademarked as a “news reporter service” by a Republican operative, although the Washington Post notes that “Raichik has claimed to run the account alone.”

The account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

While the right has misleadingly decried the reporting on Raichik by Washington Post columnist Taylor Lorenz, who heavily cited Media Matters, as “doxxing” and harassment, her Libs of TikTok account has revealed the names and locations of teachers, LGBTQ people, and others on the left, and promoted a dangerous lie about “grooming” that has resulted in harassment, threats, and lost livelihoods for private individuals.

“Libs of TikTok is basically acting as a wire service for the broader right-wing media ecosystem,” said Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, the progressive media watchdog group. “It’s been shaping public policy in a real way, and affecting teachers’ ability to feel safe in their classrooms.”

The account has been promoted by podcast host Joe Rogan, it’s been featured in the New York Post, the Federalist, the Post Millennial and a slew of other right-wing news sites. Meghan McCain has retweeted it. The online influencer Glenn Greenwald has amplified it to his 1.8 million Twitter followers while calling himself the account’s “Godfather.” Last Thursday, the woman behind the account appeared anonymously on Tucker Carlson’s show to complain about being temporarily suspended for violating Twitter’s community guidelines. Fox News often creates news packages around the content that Libs of TikTok has surfaced.

Raichik is not alone in pushing this targeted smear campaign against teachers, LGBTQ people, and those who support them, including companies like Disney. These harmful narratives have been lifted up by others like Chris Rufo, the right-wing operative behind the notorious campaign against supposed “critical race theory” in public schools, Christina Pushaw, the press secretary to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who repeatedly interacted with the account while pushing the “grooming” narrative to justify Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, and Fox News, which has used increasingly violent rhetoric to leverage parents’ fears for their children into a political strategy that puts LGBTQ people at risk.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson has twice called on viewers to beat up teachers for what he called “pushing sex values on your third grader” and committing “sexual abuse against my kindergartener.” The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said that “pedophilia is around the corner” with the “intentional and overt confusion and sexualization of our children in the classroom.” Appearing on Infowars’ The Alex Jones Show, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) suggested that vigilante violence was an appropriate response to the existence of trans camp counselors. All of this has created a dangerous national environment for LGBTQ people at the same time Raichik’s account has recklessly targeted individuals on social media.

“Libs of TikTok” has explicitly targeted teachers and LGBTQ people for harassment

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.s. 

On April 10, Raichik posted a Twitter thread that shared a trans TikTok creator’s video and tagged the school they work in. Libs of TikTok celebrated after that school was forced to block the account and some of its followers, restrict comments, and more, with Raichik writing, “They aren’t coping well with all the attention.” 

On April 11, she praised an Oklahoma middle school for firing a teacher “after complaints of grooming and this tiktok + others containing questionable content were brought to the principal’s attention.” A follow-up post included the teacher’s name and post on a local Facebook group “supporting our LGBTQA+ kids.” 

And on April 12, Raichik tagged another school district for featuring a “drag teacher” performance, calling it “sickening.” In a follow-up tweet, the account noted that the school had restricted comments after Libs of TikTok told its large following to “imagine if they focused on teaching math, science, and history instead of drag.”

An April 14 Media Matters review found that Libs of TikTok has misgendered at least 14 individuals in 15 of its tweets so far this year, receiving more than 113,000 total engagements for content in seeming violation of Twitter’s terms of service. Media Matters’ Sophie Lawton explained that the account has regularly targeted individuals:

The account also posts targeted attacks on transgender and gender-nonconforming social media users. This harassment includes claims that adults who teach children about LGBTQ identities are “abusive” and claims that being gender-nonconforming or an ally is a “mental illness,” at least one of which has been removed from Twitter for breaking terms of service. Libs of TikTok has also advocated for all openly LGBTQ teachers to be fired and called on its followers to contact schools that are allowing “boys in the girls bathrooms” and “boys and girls sharing bedrooms on field trips” to express their hostility towards pro-LGBTQ rules.

Raichik’s account was also part of a broader right-wing harassment campaign last July against two trans parents of a newborn, instructing its followers to call child protective services on them and directing them to one parent’s Instagram page. The couple faced widespread harassment online, and one of the parents had to make their social media profile private due to threats of violence.

LGBTQ people and teachers now face vicious, targeted harassment as “groomer” slander takes off

The real-world consequences of the lie that LGBTQ people are “grooming” children for sexual activity – a dangerous slander that has been championed by Libs of TikTok and its right-wing media allies – have already been extraordinarily troubling.

On April 1, NBC News reported on LGBTQ teachers – frequent targets of Libs of TikTok – in Florida who have quit the profession due to harassment and larger fears around state-enforced censorship and erasure of LGBTQ identities in schools. It cited one teacher who was targeted by parents for simply acknowledging his marriage:

Last month, a group of parents in Orlando, Florida, demanded “consequences” against sixth grade science teacher Robert Thollander. His crime? Thollander acknowledged his marriage at school.

“He married a man. This alone is not an issue. Sharing the details … with all his 6th grade students is the issue,” the parents wrote in a letter sent to their children’s school board, which was shared with NBC News. “It was not appropriate. Many of these students felt very uncomfortable with the conversations and shared this with their families.

And on April 19, NBC News reported on a spike in online harassment against LGBTQ people, particularly pedophile and “grooming” accusations:

The most prominent slurs center on accusations that LGBTQ people and their allies are pedophiles, using the word “grooming,” which the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children defines as when “someone builds a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.”

The term has been weaponized online, and it now appears almost constantly on many social media platforms. Data from the social media platform Reddit analyzed by Jeremy Blackburn, an assistant professor of computer science at Binghamton University in New York who studies online extremism, found about a 100 percent increase since the beginning of the year in discussion of “grooming” in conjunction with various LGBTQ slurs starting in early March and accelerating in mid-to-late March.

Media Matters has reported a similar trend on Facebook, where hundreds of posts from right-leaning pages use “grooming”-related language:

On March 4, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw described the new “Don’t Say Gay” legislation as “an Anti-Grooming Bill” — pushing an old but persistent myth that LGBTQ people put children in danger. 

Right-leaning pages on Facebook, particularly those for right-wing media outlets and personalities, quickly took to Pushaw’s messaging. In fact, there are over 250 posts from right-leaning pages since March 1 that include “groomer” language or call the legislation the “Anti-Groomer Bill,” earning over 360,000 interactions.

This online campaign to smear LGBTQ people already appears to be inspiring harassment in the real world. On April 15, The Washington Post reported the viral story about how two dads, one of whom is “a substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District,” were harassed on an Amtrak train in California and called “pedophiles” as their children cried:

“All of a sudden, there was a man standing right next to me talking to my son,” [Robbie] Pierce said. “The very first thing he said is, ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman.’ ”

Pierce was stunned, he said, as the unidentified man proceeded to shout homophobic attacks, accusing the couple of stealing their children and calling them “pedophiles” and “rapists.” As his kids began to cry, Pierce said he grabbed them and moved them to another car while his husband, Neal Broverman, shouted the harasser away.

Trans people are at particularly high risk of harassment from these narratives. On April 11, NBC4 Washington reported on a trans woman who was harassed on the Metro in Washington, D.C., and accused of “grooming children for sexual abuse”:

Saoirse Gowan captured how a ride to meet friends turned into a nightmare in a video now seen more than a half-million times on Twitter. It has also made her a target of threats. 

Gowan, who is transgender, said the man accused her of grooming children for sexual abuse in an obscenity-filled tirade, which he appeared to be livestreaming. 

She noted that the same phrasing is currently used in bitter national debate over how U.S. public schools address gender identity.   

“I couldn’t get off the train even though I felt terrified for my life because this guy was yelling at me that I’m a child groomer, that I’m only on the train dressed as who I am because I want to hurt children,” Gowan said.

In Minneapolis, The Independent recently reported that a trans woman was shoved into the road and called a “groomer”:

“I’ve been transitioning for about eight or nine years now, and I have been assaulted and harassed by people on the street before. I have never been accused of sexually predatory behaviour,” says Aurora, a 34-year-old transgender woman studying to be a nurse in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She asked for her surname not to be used because she fears for her safety.

“That’s pretty devastating, because you worry when that’s happening that strangers are going to join in,” she says. “It feels like I am put into a position where I need to defend myself from allegations of such grossness, such evil behaviour, while also trying to defend a part of my identity that is innate and unchangeable.”

Aurora is one of three LGBT+ people who told The Independent that they had been harassed or attacked in public over the past two weeks by strangers who accused them, with no provocation or evidence, of “grooming” children or being a “groomer.”

The right’s phony concern over harassment exposes their hypocrisy

Right-wing media’s faux outrage over Lorenz revealing the person behind Libs of TikTok has spread rapidly, with many conservative figures dubiously accusing her of harassment for reporting on Raichik’s influential anti-LGBTQ account. But these defenses ignore that the entire point of the Libs of TikTok account is to target individual people on social media, creating an environment of hatred against LGBTQ people that puts them in danger – of violence, harassment, job loss, and loss of safety at work – and demands that they hide who they are in society if they want to live in peace.

As one Twitter user noted, when Lorenz’s “critics make this conversation about doxxing, they’re failing to apply the same standard to Raichik” for “creating targets in a violent culture war against LGBTQ people.”

By the right’s expansive interpretation of “doxxing” being used to criticize Lorenz’s report about an influential social media account, Raichik herself has essentially doxxed numerous social media users, teachers, and school, leading to an avalanche of harassment against them.

Oklahoma English teacher Tyler Wrynn told Lorenz that he saw himself “as the type of teacher to stand up for marginalized voices” when he posted a video telling LGBTQ youth rejected by their parents that he was “proud of them.” Last week, Libs of TikTok posted the video, where it was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Facing a barrage of public hate that included a GOP Senate candidate calling him a predator, Wrynn was let go from his position – a development which Raichik publicly celebrated.

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Ari Drennen is the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, where she has worked since January 2022. She has a bachelors degree in political science and economics from Middlebury College. Previously she worked at the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters

Brennan Suen is the LGBTQ program director at Media Matters, where he has worked since July 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, and he formerly interned at the Human Rights Campaign and SKDKnickerbocker.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Research/Study

Over 90,000 satisfied responses in trans survey

Narratives of trans regret have been prevalent in anti-trans media. A recent survey of trans people shows most are satisfied with transition

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Los Angeles Blade file graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – The early results of the 2022 U.S. Transgender Survey are in, and they are stunning: For transgender individuals who have transitioned and are living as another gender, only 3% report lower satisfaction rates, with 79% stating they are “a lot more satisfied” after transitioning.

That number is even higher for transgender people receiving gender-affirming care – 98% of transgender individuals taking hormones are more satisfied with their lives. These numbers challenge prevailing narratives in anti-trans media that transgender people experience significant degrees of regret or resentment towards their transition, including those published in The New York Times last weekend.

The survey managed to get responses from over 90,000 transgender people – more than 3 times the responses of the 2015 survey. This number represents a significant fraction of the estimated 1.6 million transgender people in the United States, and immediately becomes the largest dataset on transgender people in history. The vast majority of these transgender people report increased satisfaction, despite an increasing number of anti-trans laws passed in recent years.

These figures contradict recent media narratives, such as those published by Pamela Paul in The New York Times, suggesting that transgender individuals regret transitioning and that transition does not enhance the lives of trans people. For instance, Paul references a detransitioner under the subhead, “The Process of Transition Didn’t Make Me Feel Better.” While it is undisputed that transition does not improve outcomes for a small number of individuals, the release of this survey following The New York Times story highlights the skewed coverage, showcasing 4,500 words of regret without so much as mentioning the words “joy” or “satisfaction” experienced by most transgender individuals.

It should be clear, following the release of this data, that detransition and regret is rare and do not represent the normal transgender experience. Even the largest of the studies by Lisa Littman, Pamela Paul’s favorite “rapid onset gender dysphoria” and detransition researcher, only could recruit 100 responses from detransitioners after medical transition, excluding a slightly larger 239-response study that also included desistance and non-medical transition. This is despite a similar sample collection method, utilizing convenience sampling in common detransition forums. If detransitioners are so common, why do they seem to be so incredibly hard to find? If regret is the prevailing narrative, why has there never been a study showing high levels of regret among transgender people?

This year, over 370 bills have targeted transgender individuals in the United States, and many of the debates surrounding these bills focus on the fear of transgender regret. Proponents of these bills use this rationale to justify banning care and show no sign of halting their efforts. In released audio of Republican legislators in Ohio and Michigan, they state that the “endgame” of this legislation is to “ban this care for everyone.” 

Related

Anti-trans documentaries, regularly published by both right-wing media outlets and mainstream journalists, often highlight trans regret. These documentaries invariably feature the same dozen detransitioners to justify these bans. The consequences of such bans on care would be severe, directly resulting in a decline in life satisfaction for the transgender individuals responding to this survey.

The release of this survey’s early results should be a clear signal that fact checkers need to interrogate claims of high regret that are not justified through the sources anti-trans journalists and columnists often cite. Publishing stories that center on transgender regret and portraying them as a common narrative distorts the reality around gender affirming care that has been found by over 50 studies and every major medical organization: that gender affirming care improves saves lives for transgender people.

Despite this, anti-trans columnists cannot seem to stop covering the stories of the 100 found in Littman’s studies while discrediting or ignoring the stories of the other 90,000.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

James O’Keefe is using Grindr to find targets for undercover videos

O’Keefe is using dating apps to find targets for undercover videos and recruiting followers to sell it as “journalism”

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Graphic by Melissa Joskow for Media Matters

By Audrey McCabe | WASHINGTON – James O’Keefe, the ousted founder of Project Veritas who is now trying to build up O’Keefe Media Group as a new outlet for his right-wing sting operations, has been targeting Democratic officials and high-level corporate employees through dating apps, luring them to meet up, and secretly recording them speaking about their jobs.

O’Keefe is also trying to recruit followers to employ the same tactics, promoting a $20 webinar and claiming that he will pay $5,000 for usable footage from fake dates with targets.

  • O’Keefe is building a new media company to release undercover footage obtained from fake dates, including targets lured on dating apps:
    • After being ousted from Project Veritas last year, O’Keefe is trying to build up O’Keefe Media Group through sting operations targeting political opponents and videotaping them on fake dates. O’Keefe has released videos of at least four sting operations that were based on footage obtained under the cover of dates. [NPR, 2/21/23; Twitter/X, 1/25/23; YouTube, 6/22/231/24/241/31/24]
    • O’Keefe has introduced a “D.C. Swamp Exposed” series, releasing two videos on January 24 and 31 that purport to expose political corruption. Both videos — the first with a Capitol Hill intern and the second with a White House cybersecurity official — were captured on fake dates, at least one of which was set up using Tinder. [YouTube, 1/24/241/31/24]
    • O’Keefe claimed, “Tinder has just gotten rid of my profile, ladies and gentlemen. Tinder has shut down James O’Keefe’s dating profile.” He then said, “I guess I’m going to use Grindr from now on.” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24
    • O’Keefe claimed that O’Keefe Media Group plans to release a new investigation every Wednesday. He also said he intends to expand the program by recruiting followers to set up their own stings. [Real America’s Voice, War Room2/1/24; Twitter/X, 10/30/23]
  • O’Keefe has been recruiting followers to pay for his “American Swiper” program, encouraging them to use dating apps for sting operations
    • In addition to his $497 “Citizen Journalism MasterClass,” O’Keefe created an “American Swiper” workshop in November for people to learn how to spot progressives and Democratic government officials on dating apps. The workshop was accompanied by a number of promotional social media posts showcasing two earlier stings that allegedly used this tactic. [O’Keefe Media Group, accessed 2/2/24; Twitter/X, 10/30/23, 10/31/23, 11/29/23]
    • O’Keefe is charging $19.95 for access to the workshop and selling “covert camera” equipment. The description for the event reads, “As the landscape of information gathering evolves, so do the tools of the trade. Swipe right into the heart of investigative reporting with this one-of-a-kind training session, crafted to equip you with the skills to covertly extract information using popular social platforms. Without the constraints of a live event, you can now delve into the art of undercover investigations at your own pace, learning how to leverage dating apps like Tinder and Bumble to unearth compelling stories.” [O’Keefe Media Group, accessed 2/2/24
    • O’Keefe has also stated that he would pay $5,000 for usable footage of dates with targets that end up getting published. He told Patriot.TV host Kristi Leigh, “I’d like to have you as an American Swiper. … We’ll pay you 5,000 bucks to go do one of these stories if we publish it.” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
  • O’Keefe has openly admitted to using fake dates for sting operations and said he uses dating apps to find his targets:
    • O’Keefe has promoted the American Swipers program with footage of him confronting a Pfizer employee at the end of a fake date with a member of Project Veritas. The target confirmed that they thought they were on a date, admitting, “I was trying to impress a person on a date by lying.” The video was taken while O’Keefe was still at Project Veritas, but he has since used it to promote his new outlet. [YouTube, 1/26/23; Twitter/X, 10/30/23]
    • O’Keefe seemingly had a woman target a BlackRock recruiter and later used the footage in a promotion for American Swipers, saying “some of our biggest and most impactful, hard-hitting journalism has come from undercover reporters meeting subjects this way.” The target appears to go on multiple dates with the “undercover reporter” before her identity is revealed. [Twitter/X, 6/20/2310/30/23]
    • O’Keefe went on a fake date with a Capitol Hill intern as the first installment of his “D.C. Swamp Exposed” series, and said in a Twitter/X Space, “I’ve never actually done one of these so-called guy-to-guy date meeting recordings, but I did it myself … because I want to inspire you guys to go do it yourselves.” O’Keefe wrote in a post about the date, “Sign up to be an undercover journalist with The American Swiper Program at this link.” [Twitter/X, 1/24/241/24/24]
    • For the second part of his “D.C. Swamp Exposed” video series, O’Keefe admitted to creating a Tinder profile, telling right-wing influencer and “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec: “The most extraordinary thing about the tape with the executive office of the White House guy for the executive office is that I actually used my actual name, James, on Tinder.” He also posted screenshots of the target’s Tinder profile. [Twitter/X, 1/31/241/31/24]
  • Right-wing figures are praising O’Keefe’s deceptive tactics and promoting his videos on social media:
    • Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon celebrated O’Keefe’s fake date with the White House cybersecurity official, saying, “Your investigative techniques are amazing.” He also said, “This is the most important tape, in my mind, that you’ve ever done.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room2/1/24]
    • Infowars’ Alex Jones praised O’Keefe, saying that he “needs to get an Academy Award for best actor.” Jones continued, “He dresses up as a blonde-haired, gay, trendy dude and is able to get the head White House liaison who’s over all the intelligence agencies, and cybersecurity, and the Pentagon, that gives policy advice to the president, to openly brag and say, ‘Biden has dementia, he’s an idiot, he’s our puppet.’” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
    • The Babylon Bee’s Ashley St. Clair celebrated O’Keefe’s January 31 video on X, posting, “Pro tip: If you are a gay man who works for the White House + your date just cant hear enough about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, you are being James O’Keefe’d.” She went on to say, “It always amazes me how willing these suckers are to talk. You work for the WHITE HOUSE Cyber team & are just spilling it all?! A cheap vault too… just dinner and drinks!” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
    • Conspiracy theorist Lara Logan also shared the video and posted, “James O’Keefe does it again. Unbelievable.” [Twitter/X, 2/1/24]
    • Right-wing influencers the Hodgetwins shared O’Keefe’s January 31 video and celebrated his sting against a White House official. [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
  • The Daily Wire’s Brent Scher posted, “The James O’Keefe gay date costume is the funniest thing to happen this year.” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Unstable housing for LGBTQ+ youth cited most for food insecurity

Half of the LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed reported that over 20% of the young people did not have enough food to eat in the past week

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Typical streetside homeless encampment in the greater Los Angeles region. (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that 85% of LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed said unstable housing was the main reason LGBTQ+ youth had inadequate access to food.

The programs highlighted other common causes of food insecurity among LGBTQ+ youth, including a lack of access to jobs that pay a livable wage, family food insecurity, a lack of family support, and transportation barriers.

Using data gathered from 73 LGBTQ+ youth programs affiliated with the CenterLink network or identified through a targeted internet search, researchers examined the programs’ experiences and perspectives on addressing food insecurity among LGBTQ+ youth.

Half of the LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed reported that over 20% of the young people they serve often did not have enough food to eat in the past week. The most successful support strategies aligned with the multi-faceted needs of LGBTQ+ youth. These included providing meals or snacks directly, offering a food pantry, and giving gift cards to grocery stores or restaurants. However, strategies that required time and travel (such as referrals to off-site food pantries) or administrative hurdles (such as SNAP enrollment) were less successful.

“Community-based LGBTQ+ youth programs are feeding youth. With additional support, these organizations could grow their capacity and expand food access for LGBTQ+ youth.” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “While initiatives like the National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Program are reliable sources of food for millions of U.S. students, LGBTQ+ youth may not have the same opportunities to participate in them due to stigma and harassment.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

  • The most frequently cited sources of food for LGBTQ+ youth were food pantries or kitchens (92%), chosen family or friends (82%), and school meals (73%).
  • Only 60% of programs identified family of origin as a food source for the youth they serve, just slightly more than the percentage (56%) who identified obtaining food through street economies, such as sex work, the drug trade, and other nontraditional exchanges.
  • Among the programs that reported providing food directly to LGBTQ+ youth, less than half (42%) offered access to food daily, and over one-third offered food less than once a week or only on a case-by-case basis.
  • When LGBTQ+ youth programs were asked about broader changes for improving youth access to food, the majority prioritized access to transitional housing (77%), affordable housing (58%), and housing vouchers for youth ages 18 to 25 (55%).
  • Programs also recommended the following broader changes:
    • Increasing the minimum wage (51%)
    • Changing SNAP eligibility criteria (43%)
    • Free or discounted transit passes (41%)
    • Changing identity document laws (30%)

Read the report

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Research/Study

New CDC report finds transwomen at higher risk for HIV

The demographics of HIV & AIDS have been disproportionally high, especially among Black and Latina trans women

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An exterior view of the “Tom Harkin Global Comms Center” located on the CDC's Edward R. Roybal Campus in Atlanta. (Photo Credit: CDC/GSA)

ATLANTA, Ga. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new study report this week that revealed that restricted by employment and housing discrimination and lack of access to needed gender-affirming healthcare for transgender women increased the risk of contracting HIV. 

Researchers reviewed data from a 2019-2020 survey, the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Among Transgender Women, which found that the demographics of HIV and AIDS have been disproportionally high, especially among Black and Latina trans women, who had experienced employment and housing discrimination coupled with lack of access to gender-affirming healthcare.

The January 25, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, was based on data studies of over 1,600 trans women in seven major urban locales. Participants from Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. were chosen by referrals from persons and community-based organizations who knew or were part of the local population of transgender women.

The study’s researchers noted: “Employment discrimination occurs at the overlapping nexus of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, health insurance, disability, food insecurity, and survival sex work. These issues are interconnected.”

The study stated that trans women’s inability to access quality healthcare, including gender-affirming treatment or access to PrEP, and can expose them to potential incarceration as many turn to “survival sex work” and violence, which increases the risk of contracting HIV. 

The study’s author’s pointed out: “When economically marginalized transgender women are refused employment, this refusal cyclically contributes to economic hardships. This analysis…demonstrates the importance of transgender women working and living with dignity and without fear of unfair treatment.”

 

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Research/Study

41,000 transgender immigrants live in California

Half (50%) of transgender immigrants are ages 50 and up, compared to 14% of U.S.-born transgender people the study found

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TransLatina Coalition President Bamby Salcedo speaking at a rally in front of LA City Hall in Oct. 2023. (Photo Credit: TransLatin@ Coalition)

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that there are 174,200 transgender immigrants in the United States and 41,000 transgender immigrants in California, comprising over one-quarter (27%) of the state’s adult transgender population.

Most (83%) of California’s transgender immigrants have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years. They are more likely than U.S.-born transgender people to be older, people of color, married, and have children.

Using data from the California Health Interview Survey, researchers examined the demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics of transgender adult immigrants in California. Results show that approximately one-quarter of transgender immigrants live in poverty (27%), and two-thirds (68%) rent rather than own their homes.

While transgender immigrants are similar in many ways to their cisgender counterparts, more than twice as many transgender immigrants reported psychological distress in the last month compared to cisgender immigrants (12% vs. 5%, respectively).

“Organizations serving immigrant communities in California should ensure that services are inclusive of transgender people, and transgender-serving organizations must think about the unique needs of transgender immigrants,” said lead author Elana Redfield, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “Interventions that address economic insecurity, housing instability, and mental health are particularly needed for the state’s transgender immigrant community.”

KEY FINDINGS


Demographics

  • Half (50%) of transgender immigrants are ages 50 and up, compared to 14% of U.S.-born transgender people.
  • A little over half (53%) of transgender immigrants identify as heterosexual, 25% identify as bisexual, 10% as gay or lesbian, and 13% identify in some other way.
  • Fewer transgender immigrants are married than cisgender immigrants (31% vs. 61%); however, more are married than U.S.-born transgender people (13%).
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) of transgender immigrants are people of color compared to just over half (52%) of U.S.-born transgender people.
    • Over one-third of transgender immigrants are Latinx (38%), one-third are non-Hispanic Asian (33%), and nearly one-third are white (29%).
  • Most transgender immigrants live in the Greater Bay Area (42%) or Southern California, other than Los Angeles (32%).
    • Transgender immigrants are less likely than cisgender immigrants to live in Los Angeles (13% vs. 33%).

Economic Well-Being and Health

  • Among people living below 200% of the federal poverty level, transgender immigrants are three times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) than cisgender immigrants (30% vs. 10%).
  • Fewer transgender than cisgender immigrants own their own homes (26% vs. 48%).
  • About one-third (33%) of transgender immigrants report poor or fair health.

“More research on transgender immigrants in California and across the U.S. is needed, including research with large enough samples to access to examine access to identity documents, experiences with immigration officials and detention facilities, as well as violence and discrimination,” said co-author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Research that explores differences in health and economic security of transgender immigrants by legal status would also be valuable.”

Read the report

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News Analysis

Ohio governor uses anti-abortion tactic to target trans adults

DeWine announced rules to stave off a potential veto override of youth trans healthcare ban. These rules would kick most adults off their care

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Governor Mike DeWine announced a new set of rules that would severely limit trans care at any age. (Screenshot/YouTube Cleveland 19 News)

By Erin Reed | COLUMBUS, Ohio – On Friday, Governor Mike DeWine announced a new set of rules that would severely limit trans care at any age. According to the governor’s press conference, these rules would go “well beyond HB68,” the bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Under the announced restrictions on trans care, including care for trans adults, care for transgender people would have to be signed off by a psychiatrist, an endocrinologist, and a bioethicist. Furthermore, it would require the reporting of each trans diagnosis to the state. Shortly after the press conference, an announcement was posted on the Ohio Department of Health website, containing a slew of burdensome rules that appear borrowed from similar tactics used to close abortion clinics.

The rules included also included an expansive surveillance system for all trans care with no opt-out.

The rules, detailed in three separate documents on the Ohio Department of Health website, outline a series of restrictions a clinic must comply with to offer care. To provide care to a trans person of any age, a clinic must employ a psychiatrist, an endocrinologist, and a bioethicist. The bioethicist is required to complete a “comprehensive, multi-disciplinary care plan” involving services from both the psychiatrist and endocrinologist.

The first set of restrictions can be seen here:

To people not familiar with trans care, this may seem reasonable – after all, why not get the best quality care for everyone? Journalist Evan Urquhart expertly explains the issue in a thread on twitter reacting to the restrictions by comparing the restrictions to diabetes:

Imagine you have diabetes. There are five top diabetes specialists in your state, but you like most patients get your care from your primary care physician. The specialists provide better care, and their patients do better.

Now, imagine the impact of a regulation requiring all patients in your state to get diabetes treatment from one of those five. If you can’t see one of them your diabetes goes untreated.

If you’re an ordinary patient, the most likely outcome is that you lose treatment for your diabetes entirely. You don’t get improved care- there are still just five specialists, and they have no where near the capacity to see everyone with diabetes in the state.

The regulations would essentially end most adult trans care in the state, instituting a defacto ban for many trans patients. Individual private practice doctors, fertility clinics, community health clinics, and potentially even Planned Parenthood would likely not be able to offer care. The results would be devastating in underserved communities. Meanwhile, the few places that could comply with the regulations will likely see a ballooning of demand, leading to extensive waitlists.

If this sounds familiar to you, it should; Republicans have used these exact tactics to target abortion providers and shut down clinics. These types of restrictions, called “TRAP” laws, or “Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers,” would mandate things like “hospital admission privileges,” specialist forms, and waiting periods in order to access care. Even for the few clinics that were able to meet the new regulations, Republican legislators simply added more regulations until they were unable to provide care.

The regulations continue with further restrictions. See section C:

For transgender people under 21, there would be a mandatory six month waiting period with a requirement for extensive and comprehensive mental health evaluations. Those who are already receiving care are not opted out of this, meaning that it is likely that every trans person under 21 years old would be pulled off care. Similarly, people who move into the state from other states would face similar issues. Smaller clinics would likewise be uncertain of how to comply with this regulation and confirm the receipt of such care, leading to large disruptions of care.

Another section of the rules would institute an extensive surveillance system of transgender diagnoses in the state. They would require, for each diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a report from the healthcare provider within 30 days. These reports would also include the prescriptions, the age and assigned sex at birth of the individual, “change of treatment plan” and the reason why, and more.

See these restrictions here:

The end result of all of these restrictions will likely mean an end to most trans care, both for trans youth and trans adults, in the state. In 2023, two states tried similar restrictions. Attorney General Andrew Bailey of Missouri instituted trans restrictions at any age resulting in many people being kicked off of their medication. Trans adults scrambled across state lines to find alternate places to obtain care or were made to discontinued their care altogether, amounting to forced medical detransition. The effect of the rules were referred to as “horrifying” by local media outlets. These rules were overturned in court as uniquely discriminatory to transgender care.

Related

In Florida, a state law barred gender affirming care unless it was prescribed by a MD. This meant that no nurse practitioner could prescribe care in the state. The most common way in which transgender adults obtain care is through the use of nurse practitioners through clinics such as Planned Parenthood. This allows low-income trans people, trans people in rural areas, and trans people who cannot afford extensive appointments with specialists to still obtain their medication. After the Florida restriction went into place, trans adults were “blindsided” with the loss of care, according to the Associated Press.

Though DeWine likely drew up these restrictions in an attempt to stave off a veto override of the state’s gender affirming care ban for trans youth, many trans adults will likely see this scenario as worse than the original bill the governor vetoed. These restrictions will now go through an accelerated public comment period.

You can send in a comment on the rules here.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Libs of TikTok anti-trans conspiracy theory accuses innocent person

Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik shared a meme on X suggesting that multiple recent school shooters have been transgender

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – On the afternoon of January 4, Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik shared a meme on X suggesting that multiple recent school shooters have been transgender.

Raichik added the claim — spreading rapidly among anti-trans accounts — that the alleged perpetrator of a shooting in an Iowa school that day identified as “genderfluid,” adding, “What’s going on?”

But one of the photos in the meme Raichik shared — supposedly of the shooter in the 2022 Uvalde, Texas, school shooting — was of an innocent woman. 

Far-right 4chan trolls had originally shared photos of an unrelated trans woman, identified by NBC News only as “Sam,” to claim that she had perpetrated the massacre. The actual shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed on the scene by police. 

This is not the first time Libs of TikTok has spread demonstrably false anti-LGBTQ hoaxes. The account previously shared doctored footage to suggest that a drag performer exposed themself inappropriately to minors as well as a debunked hoax about schools providing kitty litter to students identifying as animals. And Media Matters has documented at least 35 instances where the targets of Libs of TikTok posts, including teachers, medical providers, and librarians, later received threats or harassment online. 

When the false Uvalde photo first circulated, Daily Wire personality Candace Owens, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones were among those who shared or referenced the claim.

Jones was previously sued for defamation for inaccurately accusing Massachusetts resident Marcel Fontaine of committing the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the suit, Fontaine argued that Jones’ publication InfoWars had published a since-deleted article linking Fontaine with the shooting, which led to threats and online ridicule. Although Fontaine has since died, the lawsuit remains ongoing.  

Trans people are no more likely than any other group to commit mass shootings, based on a review of more than 2,830 shootings with four or more victims between 2018 and 2023. The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute estimates that just 0.6% of Americans over the age of 13 are transgender, and it reports that they are four times more likely to experience violent crimes than their cisgender peers.

More than 30 killings of trans people were documented in the U.S. in the past year. The victims include Meghan Riley Lewis, 57, of Bel Air, Maryland, who reports say was killed outside her home on December 27 by a delivery driver who shouted anti-trans comments at her before fatally shooting her. 

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

No “Social Contagion” – Gender transition rates reach equilibrium

Despite claims of “exploding rates of being trans” & “rapid social contagion,” a new Swedish study shows an equilibrium of gender transitions

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | MISSOULA, MT. – In recent years, anti-trans lobbyists and politicians have claimed that there is an “explosion” in transgender identification, claiming that identification as transgender was due to an ongoing “social contagion.”

New York Times article reported on a “sharp rise” in transgender young people in the United States. In Montana, Senator Tom McGillvray stood and argued for a gender affirming care ban, citing the “explosion” in young trans people.

Even in the United States Congress, Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, representing the right-wing Christian Family Research Council, cited a “steep increase” in trans people, blaming the “increase” on social media. Now, a new study in Sweden appears to show gender transition rates appear to have leveled off among all age cohorts.

Rates of gender transition seem to have leveled off. (Kolk, Martin and Tilley, J. Lucas and von Essen, Emma and Moberg, Ylva and Burn, Ian, The Demography of Sweden’s Transgender Population – Patterns, Changes, and Sociodemographics (August 22, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4427508)

Social contagion theory claims that there is a “massive increase” in people identifying as transgender, and that this increase is due to “social contagion,” or people essentially “catching” being transgender from one another.

While the social contagion theory does not have evidence when it comes to transgender identification—for instance, most trans people experience gender dysphoria years before coming out—it is accurate that more transgender individuals are coming out now than in previous decades.

However, this new study suggests that the rates may now be stabilizing. The study, released as a preprint in the Social Science Research Network, looked at over 7,500 legal gender changes and dysphoria diagnoses in Sweden and determined that the rates “peaked in 2018, with no evidence of further increases” and have since stabilized.

This is also reflected in the Youth Risk Behavior Social Survey showing a modest decrease in trans identification after 2018 in the United States. The rates of transgender identification no longer see to be “exploding exponentially,” despite what anti-trans activists claim.

The leveling off is significant because it closely mirrors another major event where another once-discouraged trait became slowly accepted by society: left-handedness. In the early 1900s, the rates of left-handedness hovered between 3-4%. Left-handedness rates then “skyrocketed” to 12% where it has leveled off ever since.

This was, of course, not caused by a “massive social contagion” of left-handedness. Rather, increases in acceptance led to people feeling comfortable using their left hand. In the 1940s, anti-left-handedness researcher Abram Blau decried the “cultural influences” of left-handedness and the “progressive campaigns” of allowing the child “to be free to choose the side for himself.”

In an article released in 1979, Dr. Bernard McKenna said of the growth of left-handedness, “We used to call everybody a deviant who didn’t conform. We just eventually learned better. There was recognition by medical authorities that left-handedness was normal and that tying the hand up in a child often caused stuttering.”

Sound familiar?

You can see the growth in left-handedness here:

Many have hypothesized a similar trend with the prevalence of transgender individuals. In past decades, being identified as transgender was viewed extremely negatively. Young trans individuals often faced conversion therapy or institutionalization, while adults encountered substantial gatekeeping around care.

However, in the last decade, research highlighting the importance of allowing transgender individuals to transition has grown, alongside a significant increase in social acceptance. The apparent “increase” in transgender individuals can likely be largely attributed to the removal of many of these negative barriers. If this trend continues, we can anticipate a peak in gender transition rates as individuals previously barred from care gain access.

These rates should then stabilize, reflecting the actual proportion of transgender individuals in society. This study shows we may be seeing that stabilization now.

There are several key caveats to consider regarding this study. Firstly, it focuses solely on legal gender marker changes and diagnoses of dysphoria. Many transgender individuals do not receive a dysphoria diagnosis, and obtaining legal gender marker changes can be challenging.

Secondly, the study examines Sweden, where the barriers to accessing care differ from those in the United States. Consequently, the stabilization rates in both countries may vary as their populations respond to these different barriers.

Additionally, some people under the transgender umbrella may not pursue medical transition, struggle to obtain a dysphoria diagnosis, choose not to seek a diagnosis, or may not opt for legal gender marker changes. The “rate of transition” could vary among these groups. Finally, the increasing discrimination against transgender individuals likely influences the leveling off; the true prevalence rate might not have been reached yet.

With those caveats, this new study provides an important rebuttal to the idea that transgender identities are “spreading explosively” through “rapid onset gender dysphoria and social contagion.” Instead, transgender people appear to be able to come out more now than ever before, and the growth in transgender people coming out is something celebrate, not fear.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Meta earned $1.6 million from The Daily Wire’s anti-trans movie

The Daily Wire has spent at least $1.6 million on 183 ads promoting Lady Ballers on Facebook and Instagram

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Camden Carter | WASHINGTON – Since November 27, Meta has earned over $1.6 million from ads The Daily Wire has run to promote its first feature-length “comedy,” Lady Ballers, a movie pushing anti-trans rhetoric about women’s sports.

Meta has a record of failing to adequately moderate anti-LGBTQ content and has profited from anti-trans Daily Wire ads in the past, earning over $5 million on such ads from June 2018 to March 2023. 

Lady Ballers was written, produced, and largely headlined by personalities from the right-wing media company The Daily Wire, and it features cameos from former college swimmer turned anti-trans activist Riley Gaines and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Advertising for the film claims that it “mocks the recent and controversial phenomenon of men competing in women’s sports” — a “phenomenon” that the company’s co-founder Ben Shaprio has admitted is not real. 

The fictional movie centers on a has-been men’s basketball coach who convinces his former team to pose as trans women in order to participate in a women’s basketball league, which they then dominate.

While Lady Ballers attempts to mock trans women athletes, it’s been noted that the film ends up promoting misogyny toward cis women as well and is “focused on belittling women in sports and women in general.” 

The film is overtly anti-trans, as shown in moments like one toward the end in which a player attempts to come out as trans to his coach. In response to the revelation, Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing’s character tells him he is not a woman but “a lost man in a lost world with shitty parents and a real shitty coach who’ve all gone along with this lie instead of just hurting your feelings and telling you the truth” before hitting the player in the crotch.

From The Daily Wire’s Lady Ballers, released December 1, 2023:

What’s more, The Daily Wire reportedly used deceptive recruitment tactics to try to trick people into participating in the anti-trans film, as it has also done for past projects like Matt Walsh’s film What Is A Woman?

Meta has earned over $1.6 million since November 27 on ads for anti-trans film Lady Ballers

Since November 27, The Daily Wire has spent over $1.6 million on 183 ads promoting Lady Ballers on Facebook and Instagram, according to a Media Matters analysis of Meta’s ad library. These ads, which have been run from the Daily Wire and DailyWire+ accounts, have garnered at least 55.4 million impressions. 

At least 150 of the 183 ads included clips of the movie, including some of the characters posing as trans women and violently harming cis women and girls while participating in sports.

Ad paid for by The Daily Wire that ran on Meta’s platforms December 1 through 2, 2023:

Ads with these clips appear to be a violation of Meta’s policies against hate speech, which prohibit “mocking people on the basis of their Protected Characteristics” including “gender identity,” and its advertising standards, which ban ads attacking “people on the basis of what we call protected characteristics.” However, the social media company has historically struggled with enforcement of these policies around anti-LGBTQ content.

Lady Ballers is just the latest installment in The Daily Wire’s extreme anti-trans crusade

This film is just the latest in a series of anti-trans projects and rhetoric from The Daily Wire in the last few years. Media Matters previously reported that the outlet spent over $5.7 million on Meta ads amplifying anti-trans content and rhetoric between June 2018 and March 2023.

In March, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles stated at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology at every level.” He has also claimed that “transgenderism” is “a fraud,” that “you have no right to fraud,” and that trans people just “need to be normal.” 

Others at The Daily Wire also have a history of bigotry against LGBTQ people. Candace Owens has referred to the “trans agenda” as “demonic” and blamed “homosexual men” for pedophilia in the Catholic Church. Matt Walsh has said he would “rather be dead” than have a trans child and has blamed trans murder victims, saying that they engage in “high-risk activities more than average.”

The Daily Wire’s anti-trans crusade has been part of an increase in anti-trans rhetoric from right-wing media and Republican politicians, while right-wing legislators have simultaneously targeted trans rights.

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The preceding article & research study was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Christian LGBTQ people reported more internalized homophobia

Transgender people who were never Christian experienced discrimination less often than transgender people who were raised Christian

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Brandan Robertson is an openly gay minister, and TikTok religious influencer. Robertson serves as the Pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church in Queens, New York. (Photo Credit: Brandan Robertson)

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and Utah State University finds that among LGBTQ people who were raised Christian, those who are older, Black, cisgender men, and/or live in the South are more likely to continue to identify as Christian as adults. 
 
LGBTQ people who were never Christian reported coming out to family and friends at younger ages than those who were raised Christian. More people who stayed Christian had a history of conversion therapy than those who left Christianity or who were never Christian.
 
Using data from the nationally representative Generations and TransPop studies, researchers examined Christian religious identification and de-identification among LGBTQ adults and how it correlates with psychological distress in adulthood.
 
Almost two-thirds of LGBTQ people who were raised Christian no longer identify as Christian. Results show that LGBTQ people who left Christianity were bullied in childhood more frequently than people who stayed Christian. People who identified as Christian as adults reported more internalized homophobia/transphobia.  
 
Black LGBTQ people were more likely than White LGBTQ people to be raised Christian and less likely to leave Christianity. Of the 87% of Black LGBTQ people who were raised Christian, over half (54%) stayed Christian. 
 
“Some LGBTQ people, for example, Black LGBTQ people, maintain their connection to Christianity despite minority stressors because the social, cultural, and religious support outweighs the negative experiences,” said co-author Ilan Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “For other LGBTQ people, the heightened experience of minority stressors within Christian environments may contribute more to stigma than support, leading them to distance themselves from their religious faith and communities, sometimes seeking LGBTQ-affirming religious or spiritual environments.”
 
As adults, people who stayed Christian and those who left Christianity or never were Christian did not differ in health indicators, including psychological distress or social well-being. The groups also had similar degrees of resilience, measured as outness to family and friends, a sense of connectedness to the LGBT community, and levels of social support.
 
However, when LGB and transgender people were assessed separately, LGB people who were never Christian experienced higher psychological distress than LGB people who stayed Christian, suggesting that religiosity may have a protective effect. Transgender people who were never Christian experienced discrimination less often than transgender people who were raised Christian.
 
“The finding that LGBTQ people are likely to have been raised in a religious background, regardless of their current identification, may be particularly helpful to therapists with LGBTQ clients,” said lead author Tyler Lefevor of Utah State University. “Therapists may want to encourage clients to articulate the pieces they find valuable about religion (e.g., believing, bonding, behaving, belonging) and either grieve or strive to maintain these aspects.”

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