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Michigan House Speaker strips anti-LGBTQ+ state Rep. of staff

Michigan Speaker of the House Joe Tate: “Representative Schriver has deeply and personally offended the Michigan House of Representatives”

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Michigan Speaker of the House Joe Tate at the Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Office of the Michigan Speaker of the House)

LANSING, Mich. – On Monday Michigan Speaker of the House Joe Tate (D-Detroit) took action against state Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford) after Schriver’s sustained campaign of racist rhetoric and hate speech on social media.

Representative Schriver has also previously railed against the LGBTQ+ community in his social media posts in addition to the White supremacist posts.

Schriver had reposted on his X (formerly Twitter) a meme posted by far-right commentator Jack Posobiec, who has widely been known to distort facts and has collaborated with white supremacists, neo-fascists and antisemites for years according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch investigators.

Posobiec has targeted the LGBTQ+ community often using a slur to refer to transgender Americans. Posobiec has also promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and has espoused QAnon theories, which regularly accuse LGBTQ+ politicians, Democrats, Hollywood, and LGBTQ+ political allies of sexually abusing kids.

“Jack Posobiec’s extensive ties to white supremacists should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who hasn’t made the connection between Trump’s MAGA movement and hate,” said Michael Edison Hayden, the SPLC senior investigative reporter.

In the post Schriver had reposted (pictured below),  Posobiec’s meme depicted Black figures covering most of a map of the world, with white figures in small areas of Australia, Canada, northern Europe and the northern US. Underneath was the phrase “The Great Replacement.”

The map is not an accurate representation of global racial diversity.

The Great Replacement, also known as replacement theory or great replacement theory, is a white nationalist far-right conspiracy theory first espoused by French author Renaud Camus in his 2011 book Le Grand Remplacement. The American far-right white supremacist movement has used social media to spread this theory further while in most cases adding elements of antisemitism.

According to Camus and the adherents of this racist theory, the ethnic white populations at large are being demographically and culturally replaced by non-white peoples—especially from Muslim-majority countries—through mass migration, demographic growth and a drop in the birth rate of white people.

In 2017, the Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, from August 11–12, which included included members of the alt-right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and far-right militias, chanted “You will not replace us” and openly argued with counter-protestors advancing this racist theory.

For his part Schriver has been unrepentant leading to the actions taken by the Michigan House Speaker. In a statement released by his office last week on February 8, Speaker Tate said:

“Representative Schriver’s blatantly racist social media post does not align with the values of the Michigan House of Representatives. It is difficult for me to understand why he would hold these beliefs as a representative of a diverse group of Michigan residents. 

“Furthermore, the fact that Representative Schriver would espouse a deplorable and false theory and contend it is worthy of consideration puts his ignorance on full display. But ignorance is no excuse for proliferating obvious hate.

“I urge Representative Schriver to do some worthwhile research on the accurate history of people of color in this country. He is clearly in need of knowledge rooted in fact and would greatly benefit from a better understanding of the vibrant communities and diverse people that make Michigan strong.

“Perhaps most disturbing is that his post uplifts a dangerous and tortured narrative that fosters violence and instability. His callous and reckless act is not within the spirit of what Michigan is, and it contributes to a hostile environment. His actions are a stark reminder of the importance of commemorating Black History Month to ensure we are true students of history and the racist laws and practices once in place in this country that we must continually guard against in order to ensure a bright future for generations.

“Representative Schriver has deeply and personally offended the Michigan House of Representatives.”

 After it became apparent that the recalcitrant Schriver wasn’t going to back down, Speaker Tate on Monday took further action.

“I will not allow the Michigan House of Representatives to be a forum for the proliferation of racist, hateful and bigoted speech,” Tate said. “Representative Schriver has a history of promoting debunked theories and dangerous rhetoric that jeopardizes the safety of Michigan residents and contributes to a hostile and uncomfortable environment for others. The House of Representatives is the people’s house, and all Michiganders should look upon this body and take pride in how we conduct ourselves. It is also a workplace, and I have a responsibility to make sure the employees of the House feel safe and secure.” 

Tate ordered withholding the office expenses allotment for Schriver, and then also had his staff reassigned. Schriver will be removed from the House Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Committee, and the resources typically made available to a representative will be held by the House Business Office. 

In the statement by the Speaker’s office it noted that “such resources are provided at the discretion and pleasure of the Speaker.” It added that Schriver will fulfill his responsibility as a representative through his ability to cast a vote in the House of Representatives.

In a statement Wednesday Feb. 8 to The Detroit News, Schriver said he loved “all of God’s offspring” and believed “everyone’s immense value is rooted in the price Christ paid on the Cross when he died for our sins.

“I’m opposed to racists, race baiters, and victim politics,” Schriver said in the statement. “What I find strange is the agenda to demoralize and reduce the white portion of our population. That’s not inclusive and Christ is inclusive! I’m glad Tucker Carlson and Jack Posobiec are sharing links so I can continue my research on these issues.”

Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, condemned Schriver and took the Republican leaders to task over their failure in not condemning Schriver’s social media content.

“It is a failure of leadership for this kind of action to take place unchecked by the leaders of Representative Schriver’s caucus, and the longer there is no action taken, the more responsibility leadership bears,” the governor said.

Even as the House Speaker took action stripping him of his staff and committee assignments, Schriver posted another racist meme from Posobiec, this time targeting Governor Whitmer accusing the governor of fostering “replacement” politics:

On Wednesday, Feb. 14 Rep. Schriver responded defending his racist viewpoints in a unapologetic statement:

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Support for Biden among LGBTQ adults persists despite misgivings

70% of all LGBTQ respondents and 81% of those who identify as trans said the Democratic Party should be doing more for queer and trans folks

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Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

SAN FRANCISCO — A new survey by Data for Progress found LGBTQ adults overwhelmingly favor President Joe Biden and Democrats over his 2024 rival former President Donald Trump and Republicans, but responses to other questions may signal potential headwinds for Biden’s reelection campaign.

The organization shared the findings of its poll, which included 873 respondents from across the country including an oversample of transgender adults, exclusively with the Washington Blade on Thursday.

Despite the clear margin of support for the president, with only 22 percent of respondents reporting that they have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Trump, answers were more mixed when it came to assessments of Biden’s performance over the past four years and his party’s record of protecting queer and trans Americans.

Forty-five percent of respondents said the Biden-Harris administration has performed better than they expected, while 47 percent said the administration’s record has been worse than they anticipated. A greater margin of trans adults in the survey — 52 vs. 37 percent — said their expectations were not met.

Seventy precent of all LGBTQ respondents and 81 percent of those who identify as trans said the Democratic Party should be doing more for queer and trans folks, while just 24 percent of all survey participants and 17 percent of trans participants agreed the party is already doing enough.

With respect to the issues respondents care about the most when deciding between the candidates on their ballots, LGBTQ issues were second only to the economy, eclipsing other considerations like abortion and threats to democracy.

These answers may reflect heightened fear and anxiety among LGBTQ adults as a consequence of the dramatic uptick over the past few years in rhetorical, legislative, and violent bias-motivated attacks against the community, especially targeting queer and trans folks.

The survey found that while LGBTQ adults are highly motivated to vote in November, there are signs of ennui. For example, enthusiasm was substantially lower among those aged 18 to 24 and 25 to 39 compared with adults 40 and older. And a plurality of younger LGBTQ respondents said they believe that neither of the country’s two major political parties care about them.

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Court docs raise concerns over right-wing TikTok investor influence

Federal lawmakers have moved forward with a proposal that would force ByteDance to divest TikTok or ban the platform’s use in the U.S.

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Jeff Yass (Screen capture: Susquehanna International Group/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – The role played by Pennsylvania billionaire Jeff Yass in the creation of TikTok might be far greater than was previously understood, according to new reporting that raises questions about the extent of the right-wing megadonor’s influence over matters at the intersection of social media, federal regulations, and electoral politics.

In 2012, Yass’s firm, Susquehanna International Group, spent $5 million for 15 percent of the short-form video hosting platform’s Chinese-owned parent, ByteDance. In the years since, as TikTok grew from a nascent startup to a tech giant with 1.5 billion active monthly users and an estimated $225 billion valuation, Yass and his firm pocketed tens of billions of dollars.

Beyond the size of Susquehanna’s ownership stake, little was known about its relationship with ByteDance until documents from a lawsuit filed against the firm by its former contractors were accidentally unsealed last month, leading to new reporting by the New York Times on Thursday that shows Susquehanna was hardly a passive investor.

In 2009 the firm used a proprietary, sophisticated search algorithm to build a home-buying site called 99Fang, tapping software engineer and entrepreneur Zhang Yiming to serve as its CEO. The company folded. And then, per the Times’s review of the court records, in 2012 Susquehanna picked Yiming to be the founder of its new startup ByteDance and repurposed the technology from 99Fang for use in the new venture.

Importantly, the documents do not provide insight into Yass’s personal involvement in the formation of ByteDance. And Susquehanna denies that the company’s search algorithm technologies were carried over from the real estate venture — which, if true, would presumably undermine the basis for the lawsuit brought by the firm’s former contractors who are seeking compensation for the tech used by ByteDance.

Questions about Yass’s influence come at a pivotal political moment


In recent weeks, federal lawmakers have moved forward with a proposal that would force ByteDance to divest TikTok or ban the platform’s use in the U.S. altogether, citing the potential threats to U.S. national security interests stemming from the company’s Chinese ownership.

The bill was passed on March 13 with wide bipartisan margins in the House but faced an uncertain future in the Senate. However, on Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) announced plans to fold the proposal into a measure that includes foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, likely bolstering its chances of passage by both chambers.

Last month, shortly after meeting with Yass at his home in Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump changed his longtime stance and came out against Congress’s effort to break up or ban TikTok. The timing led to speculation about whether the billionaire businessman was behind Trump’s change of heart, perhaps by contributing to the cash-strapped Republican presidential nominee’s electoral campaign or through other means.

Meanwhile, Yass has emerged as the largest donor of the 2024 election cycle. A coalition of public interest and government watchdog groups have called attention to the vast network of right-wing political causes and candidates supported by the billionaire, often via contributions funneled through dark money PACs that are designed to conceal or obscure the identities of their donors.

The Action Center on Race and the Economy, Make the Road, POWER Metro: Faith in Action, Free the Ballot, and Little Sis launched a website called All Eyes on Yass that features research into the various causes he supports, along with insight into the networks connecting the entities funded by his contributions.

Broadly, in Pennsylvania they fall into five categories: Advocacy against reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights via the Pennsylvania Family Institute, lobbying on behalf of oil and gas industry interests by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, anti-union groups supported by Commonwealth Partners, a privately owned registered investment advisory firm/independent broker-dealer, the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, which seeks to privatize public schools and defeat proposed increases to the minimum wage, and the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, which advocates for lowering taxes on corporations and the rich.

Additionally, All Eyes on Yass reports that the billionaire has given massive contributions to Club for Growth along with direct spending to support the electoral campaigns of right-wing Republicans including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.), and Josh Hawley (MO); U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), and former U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.).

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GOP AGs abused power demanding trans medical records

U.S. Senate Finance Committee says GOP attorneys general of Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, & Texas used “abusive legal demands”

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U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing room, located in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. (Photo Credit: U.S. Senate Finance Committee)

WASHINGTON — In a 10-page report released on Tuesday by staff for the Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, the Republican attorneys general of Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, and Texas are accused of using “abusive legal demands” to collect the medical records of transgender patients in furtherance of the AGs’ “ideological and political goals.”

According to the document, which is titled “How State Attorneys General Target
Transgender Youth and Adults by Weaponizing the Medicaid Program and their Health Oversight Authority,” the AGs used specious or misleading legal pretexts to justify their issuance of civil investigative demands to healthcare providers.

For example, the office of Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti framed the request as part of a probe into the potential misuse of Medicaid funds, while the offices of Indiana AG Todd Rokita and Missouri AG Andrew Bailey cited suspected violations of consumer protection laws. The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which demanded records from “at least two hospitals located in Texas as well as at least two medical providers” in Washington and Georgia, did not disclose why the requests were issued.

The report found that information requested by the AGs’ offices included “invasive items such as unredacted physical and mental health records, photographs of children’s bodies, correspondence to hospitals’ general email addresses for LGBTQIA+ patients, and lists of people referred for transgender health care.”

In response, and in what the committee called “a grave violation of patient privacy and trust,” some providers turned over “near-complete, patient-identifiable” information while others used legal processes available to them such as privacy protections in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to share fewer details with the AGs’ offices.

The report noted that Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville had “failed to object in any material manner to the Tennessee Attorney General’s sweeping request and then caused undue terror to young patients and their families by supplying the Tennessee Attorney General with some of the records requested and then, again, by erroneously notifying some patients of medical record disclosures that had not occurred.”

News concerning Vanderbilt’s receipt of and compliance with the demands from Skrmetti’s office was made public in June, sparking widespread concern and panic among many of the center’s trans patients and their families. Some, according to the report, experienced suicidal ideation and emotional distress including depression and anxiety.

A plaintiffs’ lawsuit was filed in July over VUMC’s failure to redact personally identifying information from the medical records. The following month, the center disclosed plans to comply with an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights.

In a statement to NBC News, Michael Regier, the medical center’s general counsel and secretary, said the hospital disputes the findings published in the committee’s report and had submitted “a detailed letter outlining our concerns about its proposed findings before it was released.” 

“We made every effort to both protect our patients and follow the law,” Regier said, adding that “At no point did we violate privacy laws, and we strongly disagree with any suggestion that we did.”

However, the committee’s report notes that by contrast, providers in other states like the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis refused to turn over patient records, citing privacy concerns and HIPPA regulations. And after staff for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the committee chair, had requested and reviewed copies of correspondence between VUMC and the Tennessee AG’s office, they concluded that the documentation “sheds light, for the first time, on the full extent of VUMC’s acute and repeated failures to protect its patients.”

For example, the report explains that after Skrmetti’s office issued the initial request to VUMC, it followed up with two additional civil investigative demands for “confidential information across 18 categories without any bounds on the number of patients or people implicated” ranging from “employment contracts for physicians to volunteer agreements for the
VUMC Trans Buddy Program to communications to and from a general email address.”

In response, the hospital shared “65,000 pages of documents, including the medical records of 82 transgender patients.” The information that was provided pursuant to receipt of Skrmetti’s office’s third civil investigative demand is unknown.

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Drug policy reform pushed at National Cannabis Policy Summit

“We’ve come a long way,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told the audience on Wednesday. “And now we have a long way to go”

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), second from left (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

WASHINGTON – Speaking at the 2024 National Cannabis Policy Summit on Wednesday, congressional leaders pledged their support for proposals to remedy the harms of America’s War on Drugs while protecting cannabis users and cannabis businesses that are operating under a fast-evolving patchwork of local, state, and federal laws.

Overwhelmingly, the lawmakers who attended the conference at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in D.C. or delivered their remarks virtually were optimistic about the chances of passing legislative solutions in the near-term, perhaps even in this Congress.

Participants included U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with U.S. Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and was honored at the event with the Supernova Women Cannabis Champion Lifetime Achievement Award.

Republicans included an aide for U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) who was featured in an afternoon panel discussion about the cannabis policy landscape on Capitol Hill.

Each of the members have long championed cannabis-related policy reforms, from Merkley’s SAFER Banking Act that would allow cannabis businesses to access financial services (thereby affording them the critically important protections provided by banks) to Lee’s work throughout her career to ameliorate the harms suffered by, particularly, Black and Brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of marijuana and the consequences of systemic racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

America is now at an inflection point

The lawmakers agreed America is now at an inflection point. Democratic and Republican leaders are coming together to support major drug policy reforms around cannabis, they said. And now that 40 states and D.C. have legalized the drug for recreational or medical use, or both, the congress members stressed that the time is now for action at the federal level.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a formal request to re-categorize marijuana as a Schedule III substance under the rules and regulations of the Controlled Substances Act, which kicked off an ongoing review by the Biden-Harris administration. Since the law’s enactment in 1971, cannabis has been listed as a Schedule I substance and, therefore, has been subject to the most stringent restrictions on and criminal penalties for its cultivation, possession, sale, and distribution.

Merkley acknowledged that re-scheduling would remedy the Nixon administration’s “bizarre” decision to house marijuana under the same scheduling designation as far more harmful and addictive drugs like heroin — and noted that the move would also effectively legalize biomedical research involving cannabis. However, the senator said, while re-scheduling “may be a step in the right direction, it’s not de-scheduling” and therefore would not make real inroads toward redressing the harms wrought by decades of criminalization.  

Likewise, as she accepted her award, Lee specified that she and her colleagues are “working night and day on the legalization, not re-scheduling.” And her comments were echoed by Warren, who proclaimed in a prerecorded video address that “de-scheduling and legalizing cannabis is an issue of justice.”

Congressional Republicans have blocked legislation to legalize marijuana, the Massachusetts senator said, “and that is why the scheduling is so important,” as it might constitute a “tool that we can use to get this done without Republican obstruction.”

(Photo Credit: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration)

Warren, Merkley, and Schumer were among the 12 Senate Democrats who issued a letter in January to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration requesting transparency into its re-scheduling process while also, more importantly, demanding that the agency fully de-schedule cannabis, which would mean the drug is no longer covered by the Controlled Substances Act.

However, in a possible signal of political headwinds against these efforts, their Republican colleagues led by U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) responded with a letter to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram “highlighting concerns over HHS’s recommendation to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule III-controlled substance.” The GOP signatories, all of whom serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also sought to “underscore the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) duty under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to ensure compliance with the United States’ treaty obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.”

As Norton noted during her prepared remarks, elected Democrats are not necessarily always on the same page with respect to expanding access to economic opportunity facilitated by cannabis. For instance, though President Joe Biden had promised, during his State of the Union address this year, to direct his “Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana, and [expunge] thousands of convictions for mere possession,” Norton blamed Biden along with House Republicans for provisions in the federal budget this year that prohibit D.C. from using local tax dollars to legalize cannabis sales.

A non-voting delegate who represents the city’s 690,000 residents in the House, Norton called the president’s position “deeply disappointing,” particularly considering his record of supporting “D.C. statehood, which would allow D.C. to enact its own policies without congressional interference” and grant its residents voting representation in both chambers of Congress. She added that the majority of Washingtonians are Black and Brown while all are held responsible for “the obligations of citizenship including paying federal taxes.”

Norton said the city should also have the power to grant clemency for crimes committed in the District, including cannabis-related crimes — power that, currently, can only be exercised by the president.

Efforts to reform harmful cannabis regulations

Some Republican lawmakers have been at the forefront of efforts to reform harmful cannabis regulations. For instance, a participant in a mid-afternoon panel pointed to the CURE Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) that would prohibit the federal government from denying security clearances based on applicants’ past or current use of cannabis.

While securing statehood for D.C. and de-scheduling cannabis via legislation or administrative action are perhaps, at least for now, a heavy lift, Merkley pointed to promising new developments concerning his SAFER Banking Act.

The Oregon senator first introduced the measure, then titled the SAFE Banking Act, in 2019, and he said the legislation’s evolution into its current iteration was difficult. “Regulators don’t want to be told what to do,” Merkley said, and negotiations with these officials involved “nitty-gritty arguments over every word.”

Pushback also came from one of Merkley’s Democratic colleagues. In September, Warnock, who is Georgia’s first Black U.S. senator, voted “no” on the 2023 version of the SAFER Banking Act, writing: “My fear is that if we pass this legislation, if we greenlight this new industry and the fees and the profits to be made off of it without helping those communities” most harmed by the War on Drugs “we will just make the comfortable more comfortable.”

Warnock’s statement followed his pointed remarks expressing concerns with the legislation during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

“Let me be very clear,” he said, “I am not opposed to easing or undoing federal restrictions around cannabis. And I would support all of the provisions and reforms in this legislation if paired with broader cannabis reforms that substantively address the issue of restorative justice. This bill does not do that.”

At this point, however, the latest version of the SAFER Banking Act has advanced out of committee and earned the support of Senate leaders including Schumer and much of the Republican conference.

“This is the moment,” he said. “Let’s not let this year pass without getting this bill — the safer banking bill — through the House, through the Senate, and on the president’s desk.”

In her remarks, Lee also discussed the importance of business and industry-wide reforms like those in Merkley’s bill.

“We have to make sure that the cannabis industry is viewed by everyone, especially our federal government, as a legitimate business,” Lee said. “Legitimate, which deserves every single aspect of financial services that any legitimate business deserves and has access to.”

Like Warnock, the congresswoman also highlighted how these financial and business considerations intersect with “equity issues,” as “those who have been most impacted by this horrible War on Drugs” must “become first in line for the businesses and for the jobs and for the economic opportunity the cannabis industry provides.”

Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act

Reflecting on her experience introducing the Marijuana Justice Act in 2019, which was Congress’s first racial justice cannabis reform bill, Lee remembered how “everyone was like, ‘why are you doing this? It’s politically not cool.’” Her legislation sought to end the federal criminalization of marijuana, expunge the criminal records of those convicted of cannabis-related crimes, and reinvest in communities that have suffered disproportionately from the War on Drugs.

The congresswoman said she explained to colleagues how the bill addressed “many, many layers” of often-intersecting problems linked to federal cannabis policy, telling them: “This is a criminal justice issue, a racial justice issue, an issue of equity, a medical issue, a veterans’ issue, and an issue of economic security.”

Two years later, with a 220-204 vote, the House successfully passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, a comprehensive bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and to the Senate by then-U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). The measure included Lee’s Marijuana Justice Act.

“This bill is the product of many, many years of advocacy for federal cannabis reform and equity,” she said in a statement celebrating the bill’s passage. “Make no mistake: This is a racial justice bill. It’s about the thousands of people of color who sit in jail for marijuana offenses while others profit. It’s about finally repairing the harms of the War on Drugs on communities and families across the country.”

“We’ve come a long way,” she told the audience on Wednesday. “And now we have a long way to go.”

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The impact of the Supreme Court’s Idaho ruling on trans people

The ruling is complicated & will have an immediate impact for trans youth in Idaho and could have national repercussions

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U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: Architect of the U.S. Capitol)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Monday, news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States will allow Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a felony ban that makes trans care punishable by up to 10 years in prison for doctors who provide it to those under 18. 

The ruling was not based on the merits of gender-affirming care or its constitutionality; rather, it addressed broad injunctions and a lower court’s ability to block a law fully at the earliest stages — a pet issue for some conservative justices who chose to take decisive action when transgender lives were at stake.

The immediate impact of the ruling is clear: transgender individuals will be barred from obtaining gender-affirming care in Idaho, except for only two plaintiffs, despite no rationale for how a ban is supposed to work for everyone but those two plaintiffs when doctors are broadly barred from providing care. In other states where anti-trans laws are being litigated, the impacts are more nebulous, and the ruling could impact many other issues as well.

The case in question stems from a challenge to Idaho’s felony ban on gender-affirming care. In December 2023, a federal judge ruled that the ban was likely unconstitutional, ruling in favor of two transgender minor plaintiffs using pseudonyms.

The judge stated that the right to obtain medically necessary care for your children is “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and traditions,” using the logic from the anti-abortion Dobbs decision against transgender care bans as an apparent preemptive strike at such language being utilized to justify bans on trans care should the case ever reach the Supreme Court.

The judge then issued a broad preliminary injunction that prevented the state from enforcing the law on anyone while the court process played out.

It was the breadth of the injunction that came under dispute in the Supreme Court, not issues directly related to the constitutionality of transgender care. Attorneys for the state of Idaho argued that the injunction was too broad and that the state should be allowed to enforce the law on everyone except for the plaintiffs.

This would force anyone seeking care to seek individual exceptions and rulings from federal courts, an expensive endeavor. On the other hand, attorneys for the plaintiffs pointed out that the broad injunction was necessary: the plaintiffs were using pseudonyms to preserve their anonymity.

Without a broad preliminary injunction, doctors would be unlikely to continue offering care, thus making it impossible for the plaintiffs to access that care even with a ruling in their favor, and in doing so, they would have to forfeit their anonymity.

The majority of the court sided with reversing the injunction and allowing the law to go into effect for everyone but the plaintiffs, with a plurality signing onto Justice Gorsuch’s opinion stating that the ability of judges to issue broad preliminary injunctions should be muted.

They had little to say about the constitutionality of the law itself, except for Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett, who wrote in their separate concurrence that they believe the state may a likelihood of success on the merits [Update: Law Dork’s Chris Geidner states that the “merits” here, as Kavanaugh described it in his opinion, are about the scope of the injunction, and so it may not necessarily signal Kavanaugh and Barrett’s votes on the challenges to the gender-affirming care bans].

Instead, the real impact of this case will likely be on justices issuing broad preliminary injunctions to block statewide laws in the early stages of a constitutional challenge; it should not immediately impact any anti-trans laws being decided on the merits.

Of course, this provides little consolation to transgender young people in Idaho, who will have to go without access to their medication in the state even though two courts have ruled that the law blocking them is likely unconstitutional. It also raises questions about other broad preliminary injunctions nationwide on transgender topics: we likely cannot expect each student to take their school to federal court every time they want to challenge an individual bathroom ban in their local high school, for instance.

These questions have a significant impact on transgender individuals but will not only affect transgender people. They will arise anytime a state passes a law that is broadly enjoined at the preliminary stage by lower courts. This issue has surfaced in many other cases, from ghost guns to the mifepristone case, where sometimes broad preliminary injunctions are viewed favorably by the same justices who just ruled negatively on them for transgender individuals.

The impact of the ruling will likely be initially muted for transgender people nationwide. While it will have a significant impact in Idaho, there are no cases currently pending on transgender healthcare where a broad federal preliminary injunction is in place, other than in Idaho.

The case in Arkansas, for instance, has moved well beyond the preliminary injunction stage and has been ruled unconstitutional on the merits. However, numerous other cases are still being litigated, and states are enjoined on a wide range of topics, many of which have been broadly enjoined while awaiting a final constitutional ruling on the law. It remains to be seen if any of these broad injunctions are similarly challenged.

It is also important to note that this will not impact any rulings made under state-level litigation. For instance, in Montana, a ban on gender-affirming care is enjoined from enforcement using the state constitution’s right to seek “safety, health, and happiness in all lawful ways,” as well as an explicit right to privacy.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a state challenge is currently underway using a provision in the state constitution that bars the state from issuing penalties for obtaining or providing healthcare. These state challenges will be insulated from anything that happens at the Supreme Court level.

Still, the ruling will mean further hardship for transgender youth in Idaho, and could signal that the Supreme Court is willing to take drastic action when it comes to transgender healthcare, even if that action is not directly related to the merits of the healthcare bans themselves. The Supreme Court could address the issue on the merits at any time, and it seems increasingly likely that it will in the near future.

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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.

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

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The Cass Review heralds how all trans medicine will die

In effect, the study research completely blew off the input of the people most affected by access to treatment

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UK Pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass. (Screenshot/YouTube The Times and The Sunday Times)

By Brynn Tannehill | FAIRFAX, Va. – This past week, the Cass literature review for the UK’s National Health Service for transgender youth was completed after four years in development. Although touted as independent, it was anything but. Dr. Hillary Cass consulted with far-right religious anti-trans activists like Patrick Hunter, and took cues on how to ban trans health care from Florida’s rigged process. 

The results were predictable: it effectively recommends banning transition related care for anyone under the age of 25. Because of backlogs in the NHS system, this means that transgender people cannot even begin applying for care until they are 25 and will likely have to wait until they are 35, even if they have had a transgender identity since an early age. It also recommends a ban on social transitions, and any sort of social affirmation.

It arrived at these conclusions by disregarding any studies deemed “low quality”—that is, any study that wasn’t a randomized control trial and wasn’t double-blinded. This sets an impossible standard: you cannot double-blind a study where both the patient and the doctor will notice the physiological changes that come with taking the drug (or getting the surgery). The Cass review also failed to include their own findings that none of the patients reviewed were unhappy with the treatments, and only 8 detransitioned.

In effect, they completely blew off the input of the people most affected by access to treatment.

It’s also very difficult to get an randomized control trial study approved for youth, if the available evidence says a lack of treatment is likely to increase the risk of suicide. No IRB will sign off on something that is likely to turn into an LD50 study (kills half (50%) of the test subjects exposed to it). 

Using this method, the Cass review was able to exclude well over a hundred studies on transgender youth health care and declare that there was no evidence supporting affirming care. It then recommended a “treatment” for which there is no evidence (talk therapy for 20 years, and hoping it goes away before the patient unalives themselves). 

Sound like conversion therapy? Yes, that’s basically what it is. Hard stop.

You might think, “Oh, this is just the United Kingdom,” and that it doesn’t affect you. But it does. We have concrete evidence that Cass was coordinating with Ron DeSantis appointees, who in turn were selected for their religious fervor and connections with anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups in the US like the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Cass review illustrates how they are planning to end access to transgender health care for all adults in the US.

Basically, the process is to get a decision-making body (like the FDA) to commission a “review” of the evidence for health care for trans adults. The reviewers will be people who already know the outcome they want and who are only interested in p-hacking their way to a non-conclusion. The formula looks like this:

  • Do a lit review.
  • Find filters that excludes all of the evidence in support of health care for trans people (i.e. requiring RCT and double-blind for inclusion).
  • Declare that there is no evidence for transition related care.
  • Recommend “neutral” interventions like talk therapy, when there’s no evidence this works.
  • The FDA or state medical boards use the phony lit review to justify bans on the use of any off-label treatments for gender dysphoria, along with any gender confirmation surgeries.

With the death of Roe v. Wade, this is entirely legal. SCOTUS won’t stop it; they’re likely to uphold the decision-making authority of supposedly neutral medical authorities, and the lit reviews commissioned by them. If Trump is elected, this will happen nation-wide. If he isn’t, we’re going to see roughly 25 states eventually ban health care for trans adults the way they did  to trans youth. 

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The mass migration of trans people will become a stampede. They will flee either to blue states or seek asylum elsewhere. Transgender people will go back to the bad old days of self-medication, buying drugs from Vanuatu, and back-alley orchiectomies. The trans community won’t disappear merely because of this, but it’s part of the overall plan to “eradicate transgenderism” in the United States. Between banning access to care, making it a crime to appear in public dressed in accordance with your gender identity, mandating conversion therapy, de-recognizing transgender people and invalidating their IDs, kicking them out of the military, revoking their clearances, segregating them from the population by banning them from public places, and Trump promising internment camps capable of “processing” millions of people (including political enemies), the strategy for how the trans community in the US could be disappeared like it’s 1942 is coming into extremely sharp focus.

It won’t happen all at once. But the Cass review shows us how they plan on justifying the initial rules and regulations with the goal of making trans people flee, because most of the tuned-in trans will see the writing on the wall. The Cass review fulfills the same role as race science: it’s meant to justify the horrors that come next.

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Brynn Tannehill is a senior analyst at a Washington D.C. area think-tank, and is the author of “American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy.”

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EU elections, empowering queer women & need for safe spaces

It’s not only a matter of choice to preserve; it is a commitment to a world where everyone has the right to be safe, heard & celebrated

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The European Parliament is one of the legislative bodies of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Its headquarters is located in Strasbourg, France. (Photo Credit: Press & Media Relations, EU Parliament)

By Amber Laenen | WASHINGTON – As the European Union anticipates the upcoming elections in June, a disconcerting wave of transphobic rhetoric has swept across the continent, notably in 21 EU member states, according to a recent report by ILGA-Europe.

The 13th Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTQ People in Europe and Central Asia stresses the alarming rise in hate speech targeting the LGBTQ and intersex community. This growth in negativity — which particularly is directed at transgender people — raises profound concerns about the state of inclusivity, human rights and democracy within the EU. 

The alarming surge of transphobia in European politics

According to the report, there is a trend of hate speech coming  from politicians across 32 European countries of which 21 being EU member states. Painting a stark picture of the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community. In a staggering list that includes Austria, Germany, Spain and others, politicians have increasingly weaponized anti-trans rhetoric. Exploiting children is a tactic often used as part of scare strategies to create opposition to trans minors’ access to healthcare and educational facilities, extending this divisive approach to a broader trend where politicians argue that restricting information about LGBTQ people is a necessity to protect minors.

The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government over the last decade has cracked down on LGBTQ rights in the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The rise in transphobic rhetoric is not only confined to politics but it has other tangible consequences. The report highlights a concerning escalation in suicide rates and mental health issues, particularly in LGBTQ youth. Violent protests outside schools and libraries have created unsafe environments, adding to the growing list of challenges faced by the community.

The far-reaching impact of demonization by politicians and the introduction of restrictive legislation underscores the need for urgent action. Hate speech is not merely an affront to people’s rights, it is an assault on the very core values upon which the EU was founded. As ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel notes, human rights, especially those of LGBTQ people, are facing a significant challenge from far-right forces. The exploitation of LGBTQ rights to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law highlights the divisive nature of the current political landscape. 

As ILGA-Europe prepares to launch the “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign in response to these alarming trends, the need for visible and supportive queer female spaces is more apparent than ever. The campaign, seeking commitments from European Parliament candidates to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, underscores the urgency of safeguarding human rights, democracy and freedom. 

The crucial role of queer women in European elections

Belgium, amid this backdrop of rising transphobia, is preparing for the European elections on June 9, 2024. The importance of this electoral process cannot be overstated, especially for queer women. With citizens aged 16 and above casting their votes to elect 22 members of the European Parliament (MEPs), it’s a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ community.

The voting process in Belgium follows EU law, utilizing a proportional representation system. Voters choose one party, either by marking the box above the party list or selecting individual candidates on the list. The total ballot forms for each party determine seat distribution, and preferential votes then decide which candidates secure a seat in the European Parliament.

Educated voting in the European elections is essential to queer women and the importance cannot be stressed enough. Throughout history they have faced unique battles, but this community holds the power to shape policies that directly influence their lives. By engaging in the democratic process, queer women can actively challenge the current surge in hate speech towards trans people by voting for electing representatives who actively advocate for LGBTQ rights. 

Representation is more than a mere buzzword. It matters. Understanding candidates’ positions on LGBTQ issues is key and requires educating oneself on candidates’ stances as to allow queer women to vote for representatives who genuinely champion LGBTQ rights. A diverse and inclusive representation ensures that the concerns and voices of the queer community are not just heard but which are acted upon. Decisions within the European Parliament influence policies ranging from anti-discrimination laws to access to healthcare. An informed vote makes sure that legislation promotes equality, acceptance and the protection of LGBTQ rights.

By being educated on the European elections and its candidates, queer women embark on a journey of self-empowerment. By supporting candidates who prioritize inclusive curricula, they contribute to addressing LGBTQ history, health and rights, encouraging a more accepting future.

The undeniable need for physical queer women spaces

Since the European elections are nearing, the importance of physical spaces for queer women to gather and discuss voting and the candidates becomes increasingly evident. While online spaces offer the chance to connect and discuss, they come with their own unique challenges, including the spread of misinformation and miscommunication. In navigating the democratic landscape, the value of in-person gatherings for education and discussion cannot be stressed enough.

The world is saturated with digital information, and misinformation can easily infiltrate online spaces. Physical gatherings allow for a more controlled environment with direct feedback from peers, where queer women can share accurate and reliable information, ensuring a more nuanced understanding of candidates, policies and the electoral process. 

In the lead-up to the European elections, we have to recognize that physical spaces for queer women are crucial. They do not only combat misinformation, disinformation and miscommunication but also serve as a vital space for shared learning. In-person gatherings create the foundation for an informed and engaged electorate, promoting a collective voice that resonates in the democratic process. The power of change lies not just in our votes but in the shared wisdom and unity forged in the physical spaces we create together.

The plight of the Crazy Circle and the call for investment in queer women spaces

After the closing of Brussels’ iconic Crazy Circle, a feminist queer space that has served as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, it becomes increasingly evident that the struggle for queer women-only spaces in Belgium is a critical issue demanding our attention.

For the past five years, Crazy Circle has been a testament to the resilience of the LGBTQ community, creating a safe and celebratory space for queer women and their allies. However, its closure after the previous management leaving for unknown reasons and current fundraising attempt by the new owners to reopen highlight the challenges faced by such spaces in Belgium. These establishments play a vital role not only as social hubs but as catalysts for education, empowerment and advocacy. Fortunately for the new owners they recently reached their fundraising goals and raised over 50,000 euros to reopen Crazy Circle. 

The loss of a space like this underscores the broader struggle faced by queer women-only spaces in Belgium. Beyond being social hubs, these spaces are vital agents of change, providing a haven for education, empowerment and advocacy. We must recognize that our commitment to the LGBTQ community extends beyond words.

The “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign by ILGA-Europe serves as a proactive response to the alarming trends in hate speech. It calls for clear political commitments on safeguarding human rights, democracy and freedom from candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in June. Belgium, with its own elections on the horizon, stands at a crossroads where the choices made will resonate far beyond its borders.

If we want to inform queer females about campaigns like “Come Out 4 Europe” we need spaces like the Crazy Circle. Its closure is a stark reminder of the fragility of these vital spaces. It’s a call to action, urging us to invest more in preserving and expanding queer women-only spaces. The struggle faced by Crazy Circle is not an isolated incident; it reflects a broader challenge that demands a collective response all over the world. 

By fighting to preserve and expand queer women-only spaces, we are not merely safeguarding physical venues. We are investing in the education, empowerment and advocacy of the LGBTQ community. These spaces are not mere bars or gathering spots; they are crucial agents of change and empowerment.

Building a future of inclusivity

As we see what happened to Crazy Circle in Belgium, let us use this moment as a catalyst for change. It is time to rally together behind existing queer women spaces, ensuring their survival and actively working towards expanding and creating new ones. By doing so we empower individuals to educate, advocate, and, most importantly, vote for a future where safety, equality and acceptance prevail for all members of the LGBTQ community. It’s not only a matter of choice to preserve these spaces; it is a commitment to a world where everyone has the right to be safe, heard and celebrated. 

In navigating the complex tapestry of the European elections, the empowerment of queer women spaces through informed voting and the preservation of physical queer women spaces become integral threads. As we stand on the precipice of change, our choices today will shape the inclusive and accepting future we envision. Together, let us weave a tapestry that celebrates diversity, protects human rights and builds a future where every voice, especially those of queer women, is not just heard but cherished.

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Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

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Jimmy Kimmel Live’s hilarious faux ‘Out for Biden’ campaign ad

“It’s called ‘Out for Biden-Harris,’ which is a clunky title, but was definitely better than the original slogan: ‘I’m a Joemosexual”

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Late night host Jimmy Kimmel debuts a faux Biden-Harris reelection campaign advert poking fun at his allyship of the LGBTQ+ community. (Screenshot/YouTube Jimmy Kimmel Live ABC TV)

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – During his opening monologue Thursday, ABC Television late night host Jimmy Kimmel took playful aim at a new push by the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s effort to get more LGBTQ+ voters to the polls in November.

The Biden-Harris campaign on Wednesday debuted “Out for Biden-Harris,” a “national organizing and engagement program to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

In a press release announcement, the campaign stated: “From drag queens to elected leaders to LGBTQ+ faith leaders, Team Biden-Harris will use a wide range of validators to communicate what’s at stake for the LGBTQ+ community in this election and why it’s critical that we vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

In his satirical take on the announcement Kimmel noted:

“Yesterday they launched a new program to engage voters in the LGBTQ+ community,” Kimmel said, having a slight issue with articulating the acronym for the community. “It’s called ‘Out for Biden-Harris,’ which is a clunky title, but was definitely better than the original slogan: ‘I’m a Joemosexual.”

The parody campaign advertisement voiced by a Biden impersonator said:

“What’s up bitches? It’s me, Joe Biden, and I’m excited to announce the launch of Out for Biden-Harris: a new campaign all about you LGBT-cuties out there,” he said. “Listen, I may be straighter than a bamboo fishing rod, but I’m the most gay-friendly president in history. Like your mother used to always say, ‘You can’t spell Biden without Bi.’ And that’s the tea.”

The campaign noted that LGBTQ voters will be “a key part” of its coalition, while 39 percent of voters consider LGBTQ equality a “make-or-break issue.”

“In 2020, nearly 11,000 LGBTQ+ volunteers mobilized to help elect President Biden and Vice President Harris,” the campaign wrote. “This year, Out for Biden-Harris will re-engage these supporters and build on their work. The program is designed around the idea that there is no better messenger to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters than their friends and neighbors to bring new supporters into our campaign.”

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The Biden-Harris administration is the most pro-LGBTQ in history, and LGBTQ groups with a combined 3.8 million members have endorsed President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign the Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez-Rodriguez pointed out.

“LGBTQ+ voters are a force to be reckoned with. They were critical to our victory in 2020, and they will be critical to winning again this November,” said Chavez-Rodriguez. “That’s why we’re thrilled to launch Out for Biden-Harris, which will harness the LGBTQ+ community’s organizing prowess to reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris this November.”

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The Biden-Harris segment begins at the 7:22 minute mark:

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First Lady warns Trump is ‘dangerous to the LGBTQ community’

Delivering a keynote address at the HRC’s ‘Equality in Action’ event, she warned Trump is “a bully” who’s “dangerous to the LGBTQ community”

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson introduces the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Human Rights Campaign's Equality in Action event on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Arlington, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Delivering a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Equality in Action’ event Friday, First Lady Jill Biden warned former President Donald Trump is “a bully” who is “dangerous to the LGBTQ community.”

Her appearance at the three-day volunteer and board gathering at the Sheraton Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia comes as part of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s “Out for Biden” program, which aims to “mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

“Today, this community is under attack,” Mrs. Biden said. “Rights are being stripped away. freedoms are eroding. More and more state laws are being passed targeting this community. Just last month, we had to fend off more than 50 anti gay amendments that Republicans tried to force into the government funding bill.”

“These were extreme measures aimed directly at this community — measures that would have limited health care and weakened protections for same sex couples,” she said. “And they served only one purpose to spread hate and fear.”

In a nod to her long career as an educator, Mrs. Biden said, “History teaches us that our rights and freedoms don’t disappear overnight. They disappear slowly. Subtly. Silently.”

She continued, “A book ban. A court decision. A ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. One group of people loses their rights and then another. And another. Until one day you wake up and no longer live in a democracy…This is our chapter of history and it’s up to us how it ends.”

Mrs. Biden then highlighted some of the advancements for LGBTQ rights secured under the Biden-Harris administration.

“Thanks to President Biden, marriage equality is now the law of the land,” she said. “He ended the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. He’s made it possible for trans Americans to serve openly and honorably in our military. And he’s standing firmly against conversion therapy.”

“Yes, there are forces outside these walls that are trying to erase these hard fought gains, trying to unwind all the progress that we’ve made,” Mrs. Biden said. “They want to take our victories away. But we won’t let them. Your President will not let them — I will not let them.”

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Transphobic report by UK pediatrician Hilary Cass released

The report calls for restrictions on trans care, social transition including trans adults up to 25 from adult trans healthcare in Britain

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UK Pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass. (Screenshot/YouTube The Times and The Sunday Times)

By Erin Reed | LONDON, UK – On Tuesday evening, Dr. Hilary Cass released a final report commissioned by the British/UK National Health Service (NHS), widely expected to target gender-affirming care. The report met these expectations, calling for restrictions on gender-affirming care and social transition, and even advocated for blocking transgender adults under the age of 25 from entering adult care.

To justify these recommendations, the review dismissed over 100 studies on the efficacy of transgender care as not suitably high quality, applying standards that are unattainable and not required of most other pediatric medicine.

Conducted in a manner similar to the anti-trans review by the DeSantis-handpicked Board of Medicine in Florida, which Cass reportedly collaborated on, the report and its reviews are likely to underpin further crackdowns on trans care globally.

The 388-page report featured 32 recommendations on how transgender care should be conducted within NHS England. It incorrectly claims that there is “no good evidence” supporting transgender care and calls for restrictions on trans care for individuals under the age of 18, although it does not advocate for an outright ban.

The report endorses the idea that being transgender may be caused by anxiety, depression, and OCD issues, despite the American Psychological Association, the largest psychological association in the world, rebutting this as lacking evidence.

It also claims that transgender individuals can be “influenced” into being trans, a nod to the discredited theory of social contagion and rapid onset gender dysphoria, rejected by over 60 mental health organizations.

Lastly, it seemingly endorses restrictions on transgender people under the age of 25, stating that they should not be allowed to progress into adult care clinics.

To support these recommendations, the report was released alongside “reviews” of the evidence surrounding transgender care, using these reviews to assert that there is “no good evidence” for gender-affirming care.

A closer inspection of the reviews released alongside the Cass report reveals that 101 out of 103 studies on gender-affirming care were dismissed for not being of “sufficiently high quality,” based on the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale—a subjective scale criticized for its flaws and potential unreliability due to a high risk of bias.

This critique is particularly significant given the contentious political nature of the subject and connections between reviewers, Cass, and anti-trans organizations.

The Cass Review seems to have emulated the Florida Review, which employed a similar method to justify bans on trans care in the state—a process criticized as politically motivated by the Human Rights Campaign.

Notably, Hilary Cass met with Patrick Hunter, a member of the anti-trans Catholic Medical Association who played a significant role in the development of the Florida Review and Standards of Care under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

Patrick Hunter was chosen specifically by the governor, who has exhibited fierce opposition towards LGBTQ+ and especially transgender people, and then immediately got to work on targeting transgender care. The Florida review was purportedly designed and manipulated with the intention of having “care effectively banned” from the outset, as revealed by court documents.

The Florida Review was slammed by Yale Researchers as “not a serious scientific analysis, but rather, a document crafted to serve a political agenda,” and much of their full critique is applicable to the Cass Review as well.

In those meetings, Cass apparently took interest in Florida’s anti-trans expert report, according to emails from trial exhibits uncovered by transgender researcher Zinnia Jones, such as this email confirming that a meeting took place:

Paul,

See attached information sent to me from the Cass Review. I forgot to mention that they were very interested in the Florida evidence review, especially the report from McMaster University. She recognized the work done at that institution under the leadership of Gordon Guyatt. At Dr. Cass’s request, I sent them a copy of the Florida evidence review.

Notably, Patrick Hunter has been identified as part of a network of anti-trans experts who seek to roll back gains for queer and trans rights by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and both the Florida Review and the Cass Review serve those functions.

One of the most controversial sections of the Cass Review addresses social transition, with the review recommending that individuals considering social transition “be seen as early as possible” by clinical professionals. It claims that social transition could “change the outcome of gender identity development,” a statement that notably lacks the validation or evidence level that the review demands of transgender care.

Significantly, there has been discussion about prohibiting social transition in schools, even with parental consent. A recent bill proposed by former Prime Minister Liz Truss would have prevented public officials from using language or treating a child “in a manner inconsistent with their sex,” leaving unclear how individuals should be treated differently based on their sex.

The Cass Review also touches on gendered toys, suggesting that preferences like trucks for boys and dolls for girls might have a biological basis, despite significant controversy over such claims, with a recent study casting doubt on earlier monkey studies used to justify biological differences in toy preferences.

“A common assumption is that toy choice and other gender role behaviours are solely a result of social influences; for example, that boys will only be given trucks and girls will only be given dolls to play with. Although this is partially true, there is evidence for prenatal and postnatal hormonal influence on these behaviours,” writes Cass in the report.

To support arguments around potentially high detransition/desistance rates, Cass repeatedly cites Ken Zucker, including the often-challenged “85%” rate from his research. Notably, Zucker has recommended that parents withhold “wrongly-gendered” toys from their children as a strategy to change their gender identity.

Of special note is the focus on those from ages 17-25. The Cass review states that transgender people should not be transferred into adult care until age 25. Among its rationale for doing so is that those who have been waiting for youth care, with waitlists often being over 5 years long, have that waiting time counted towards the wait for adult services.

Instead, the review proposes a “follow through” service, declaring transgender 17-25 year old’s as “vulnerable.” It is uncertain what level of restrictions this follow through service would have.

Within a day of the publication of the Cass Review, it appears that those concerns were well warranted. NHS England announced that it would be launching a review into “the operation and delivery of adult GDCs” in a report released by The Guardian.

The decision to launch a review into adult care was justified by “concerns put to the [Cass] review team by current and former staff working in the adult gender clinics about clinical practice, particularly in regard to individuals with complex co-presentations and undiagnosed conditions.”

Immediately after the release of the Cass Review, experts in transgender healthcare from around the world voiced their opposition to its findings. Dr. Portia Predny, Vice President of the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health, criticized the findings and recommendations as “at odds with the current evidence base, expert consensus, and the majority of clinical guidelines worldwide.”

Similarly, a statement from the Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa condemned the review, noting, “The Review commissioned several systematic reviews into gender-affirming care by the University of York, but appears to have ignored a significant number of studies demonstrating the benefits of gender-affirming care. In one review, 101 out of 103 studies were dismissed.”

It is important to note that gender affirming care saves lives, and there is plenty of evidence to show for it. Numerous studies have demonstrated that gender-affirming care significantly reduces suicidality, with some showing a decrease in suicidality by up to 73%.

A review compiled by Cornell University, which compiled over 50 journal articles on the topic, shows the efficacy of transgender care. These findings were echoed recently in an article published by the Journal of Adolescent Health, which found that puberty blockers dramatically lowered depression and anxiety.

All of these studies and more have led to The Lancet, a medical journal with international acclaim, to publish a letter stating that gender affirming care is lifesaving preventative care. The largest and most influential medical organizations support trans care.

A recent and historic policy resolution passed overwhelmingly by the American Psychological Association, the largest psychological organization in the world, states that gender affirming care is a medical necessity and that being trans is not “caused” by things like autism and PTSD.

While the full impact of the Cass Review will not be known for some time, it is likely to significantly affect England, where transgender care is already heavily gatekept with extremely long waitlists.

Additionally, it is probable that anti-trans organizations in the United States will cite the review to justify further bans on care. However, similar to other “reviews” conducted in countries or states like Florida, where transgender medical rights are under attack, the review is unlikely to be given much credence by many United States judges, legislators in states without significant political opposition to care, and medical organizations that have remained steadfast in combating anti-trans disinformation.

Nevertheless, worldwide, the Cass Review carries forward the same types of attacks advanced in Florida, and could have significant negative impacts on transgender people globally should their recommendations be put into effect.

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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.

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

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