The Challenges of the Pandemic for Queer Youth

pandemic queer youth

The Challenges of the Pandemic for Queer Youth – Issues include limited access to community support and counseling and, in some cases, quarantining with unsupportive family members.

The pandemic has affected queer youth in many ways.  When Brittany Brockenbrough’s transgender son lost his in-school counseling and the ability to have meet-ups with other L.G.B.T.Q. youth during the pandemic, his mental health suffered.How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

“He began to feel depressed and was withdrawn,” said Ms. Brockenbrough, a mother of two in Virginia. She was later able to get her son teletherapy and in-home support from a local mental health agency and to find ways for him to stay in touch with others in his community through such activities as weekly Zoom meetings and online game nights.

“He is doing much better now that he is back in treatment and staying connected to the community,” she said. “Social distancing and taking precautions is necessary, but for the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community, even those who have supportive parents, losing the ability to have that in-person social support with other L.G.B.T.Q.+ youth can have a significant impact.”

As young people continue to adjust to the pandemic, some are dealing with increased anxiety and stress. For those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, there may be additional challenges and risks resulting from limited access to community support, lack of in-school counseling and, in some cases, the difficult circumstances of quarantining with unsupportive family members.

“My parents do not accept that I am gay,” an 18-year-old from Yonkers, N.Y. who did not want his name published, said. “My support system was mostly at school, and now I am quarantining with family members who don’t accept who I really am.”

 

The young man, whose virtual high school graduation was last week, said his parents reacted with “anger” and “disgust” when they found out he was gay, and that being home with them during the Covid-19 shutdown has been very uncomfortable. “It is humiliating to have to rely on people who do not respect you,” he said.

L.G.B.T.Q. youth are already a vulnerable population and at higher risk for anxiety, depression, homelessness and self harm than their non-L.G.B.T.Q. peers. A 2018 study in JAMA Pediatrics by researchers at Harvard University and the Fenway Institute found that transgender youth were at a greater risk for attempted suicide, depression and anxiety, and that gender-affirming mental health services are greatly needed to address these concerns.

Sarah Gundle, a clinical psychologist in New York City, said that while online supports are available during this crisis and can provide help, for many they cannot replace in-person treatment and interaction with a community that accepts and validates your identity.

“L.G.B.T.Q.+ youth who have to be at home for extended periods of time and live with unsupportive family members — or their family environment makes it unsafe for them to be out at home — can experience a profound sense of isolation,” Dr. Gundle said. “A pandemic brings significant uncertainty — there is no definitive end — and it can feel as if there is no escape. Many L.G.B.T.Q.+ youth also have to worry about their safety and the repercussions if their family members find out.”

When college campuses closed in March because of the pandemic, having to return home to an unsupportive space was not a safe option for some students.

Danushi Fernando, the director of L.G.B.T.Q. and Gender Resources at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said that approximately 225 students — following state guidelines — remained on campus through the spring semester for various reasons, some because they did not feel safe sheltering with their families. Vassar also provided support for students through virtual gatherings, support groups and counseling.

NYTimes.com, June 29, 2020 – by Misha Valencia

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Aimee Stephens, Transgender Plaintiff in Supreme Court Case, Dies at 59

Aimee Stephens

Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her job in 2013 after she announced to her colleagues in a letter that she would begin living as a woman, won her case in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Aimee Stephens, whose potentially groundbreaking case before the Supreme Court could have major implications for the fight for civil rights for transgender people, died on Tuesday at her home in Michigan. She was 59.Aimee Stephens

She died from complications related to kidney failure, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Ms. Stephens.

Ms. Stephens had been on dialysis for some time and entered hospice care in late April, according to the A.C.L.U.

Donna Stephens, Aimee Stephens’s wife, thanked supporters in a statement for their “kindness, generosity, and keeping my best friend and soul mate in your thoughts and prayers.”

Aimee Stephens, a former funeral director, was fired from her job in 2013 after she announced to her colleagues in a letter that she would begin living as a woman.

“What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster,” she wrote. “I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

“I will return to work as my true self, Aimee Australia Stephens, in appropriate business attire,” the letter continued. “I hope we can continue my work at R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes doing what I always have, which is my best!”

Two weeks after receiving the letter, though, the funeral home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Ms. Stephens. Asked for the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Mr. Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”

The case went to court, and Ms. Stephens won in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. The case, which is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, is one of three that are expected to provide the first indications of how the court’s new conservative majority will approach L.G.B.T. rights.

The National Center for Transgender Equality said it expected a decision from the court “perhaps as soon as Thursday.”

An A.C.L.U. spokesperson said Ms. Stephens’s estate would move forward with the case.

In October, when Ms. Stephens traveled to Washington for the Supreme Court hearing of her case, she said she was overwhelmed by the number of people demonstrating on her behalf.NYTimes.com, by Aimee Ortiz, May 12, 2020

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NY Health Department to begin issuing nonbinary death certificates in 2020

nonbinary death certificates

New Yorkers who didn’t identify as male or female in life will no longer be labeled as such in death, the Health Department announced Tuesday by introducing nonbinary death certificates.

Beginning in January, the roughly 54,000 death certificates the department issues each year will have a third gender option — “X” — or nonbinary death certificates, in addition to male and female markers.nonbinary death certificates

Trans men and women will still be identified as male or female on their death certificates, according to a spokesperson for the department.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the move “another valuable step to honor the identity of those who have passed.” First Lady Chirlane McCray applauded the change as “a clear message to nonbinary New Yorkers that we respect and honor their fundamental rights in every phase of life.”

Records like amended birth certificates, statements from the deceased person, medical records and other documents could all be used to determine the deceased person’s gender identity, along with input from the decedent’s loved ones, health officials said.

“What might appear like a small change to some, is in fact everything to many,” said City Council member Carlos Menchaca. “In death as in life, we want dignity and respect.”

The department will also allow families to apply for retroactive changes to old death certificates.

The City Council voted in 2014 to ease requirements for gender identity changes to birth certificates. Previously, applicants had to submit a legal name change and provide evidence of “convertive” surgery. The new rule took effect in 2015, and more than 1,600 gender-revised birth certificates have been issued to New Yorkers since. So far this year, 362 people have applied for a gender change on their birth certificates.

BrooklynEagle.com, December 19, 2019 by Alex Williamson

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Straight Allies – How straight parents can raise kids to be allies, during Pride Month and beyond

straight allies

In a recent chat at our children’s school plant sale, a fellow parent shared some of the many ways their LGBTQ family loves to celebrate Pride Month each June, from wearing rainbow socks to hosting party nights.  Straight Allies welcome!

Although I write and speak regularly about parenting, sexuality and equality — and try year-round to teach my kids, 8 and 12, about inclusivity — hearing another parent describe Pride Month as “huge” for their family made me consider what more we could be doing as straight allies with my kids each June. Here’s what I learned when I went looking for ways all families can recognize LGBTQ Pride Month.straight allies

Learn and listen

Pride is not just a party. Some LGBTQ families and allies say they approach June not so much as a month of celebration but as a time to honor LGBTQ struggles, both historical and ongoing.

“The leap between being someone who’s kind of interested in the issue and being someone who is an active ally is an enthusiasm to learn,” PFLAG National’s Straight for Equality project says in a free online guide to being a straight ally. “Go online. Ask questions. Do some research. Reach out to other allies who might have grappled with the same challenge.”

The guide suggests studying a glossary of “gay-b-c’s” to get comfortable using the terms associated with the LGBTQ community. Straight allies and other parents sometimes ask how young is too young to teach children about gender diversity, sexual orientation and the many shapes families can take. Well before preschool, kids can grasp these basic concepts — and they’re usually quick to embrace messages that feel accepting, kind and fair. Starting an age-appropriate chat can be as simple as asking, “Did you know some families have two mommies? Or two daddies? Or one parent instead of two?”

“This is the month when your children of all ages will ask you questions about ‘what is LGBTQ?’ and ‘why the rainbows?,’ ” said Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, a national organization supporting K-12 LGBTQ students. “Be ready with a succinct and supportive answer for whatever level of development your child is at.”

Focus the message on other children’s experiences. Here are some examples: “What if you heard someone at a birthday party tell a boy he can’t have a pink balloon?” “Can you think of ways to make sure kids with two moms or two dads feel included in camp stories?” “Have you ever heard a classmate say ‘that’s so gay’ in a negative way? What could you do if you hear that again?” “Did you ever wonder what it might be like for a non-binary kid to have to choose every day between bathrooms marked ‘girls’ and ‘boys’? How could our community work together to make that easier?”

Greet Pride with a smile

Pride is solemn for some observers, but Andrea Hartsough, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney and lesbian mom of two, encourages families to go for the gusto and do whatever makes Pride Month fun.

WashingtonPost.com, by Bonnie J. Rough, June 14, 20`19

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David Strah Shares His Experiences Raising a Trans Son on Latest Episode of Daddy Square

David Strah

Author David Strah sat down with the Daddy Square guys to talk about fatherhood, his book, and experiences raising a trans son.

Here’s a fact: gay parents are much more attentive to their kids’ gender expressions than heterosexual parents. Just from the nature of growing up different, sometimes in an unwelcoming environment, we don’t want our kids to suffer the emotional pain that we went through.David Strah

This is a partial explanation for an amazing growing phenomenon, where gay couples step forward and adopt transgender youth who were thrown out of their homes. In this episode of Daddy Squared we brought on David Strah, a family therapist from Los Angeles who specializes in LGBTQ issues. David is also a father of a transgender boy, and shares from his own personal experience.

“It’s sort of a myth that trans people or trans kids come out and say ‘this is the way I am’ at age 2,” David explains. “There are normally a few things that happen or that show up, and sometimes it means that they are going to be trans and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it means that they’re going to be somewhere in the middle. I think it’s about educating ourselves, about being sensitive, about creating a household that’s trans friendly, talking about things, really getting in front of the issues, talking about the gender spectrum – all the differences, and how it is a spectrum and you don’t have to be one way or the other. You can be somewhere in between or you can lean towards being a boy or lean towards being a girl and then another day you can decide to do something different.”

David thinks it’s really important to listen to our kids and if they’re saying something very clearly, to really respond to that and cooperate with them.

“I think that when my younger son, when he was a girl, probably at around 5 or 6, he definitely wanted to wear boys underwear, briefs,” David shares. “So we went out to the Gap and bought boys’ briefs and we were absolutely fine with that. We didn’t really know what it meant but we felt that he was directing that and that’s something he wanted to do so we did it, and at that time, to be perfectly honest, we thought, well, he’s got two dads and a big brother so he probably wants to wear underwear like he sees on other people in his family.

“There was another time, around Rosh Hashanah, and she needed a new dress. She absolutely refused to wear a dress, she wanted a suit, so we said okay, and went to J. Crew and bought a suit and we said ‘but you have to wear a flower on the lapelle – which was kinda silly in retrospect on our part—but that was a compromise, she was very happy and she looked very chic.”

Click here to listen to the Daddy Squared Podcast.

GaysWithKids.com by Yanir Dekel, May 29, 2019

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Which Box Do You Check? Some States Are Offering a Nonbinary Option

nonbinary

As nonbinary teenagers push for driver’s licenses that reflect their identity, a fraught debate over the nature of gender has arrived in the nation’s statehouses.

Ever since El Martinez started asking to be called by the gender-neutral pronouns “they/them” in the ninth grade, they have fielded skepticism in a variety of forms and from a multitude of sources about what it means to identify as nonbinary.nonbinary

There are faculty advisers on El’s theater crew who balk at using “they” for one person; classmates at El’s public school on the outskirts of Boston who insist El can’t be “multiple people”; and commenters on El’s social media feeds who dismiss nonbinary gender identities like androgyne (a combination of masculine and feminine), agender (the absence of gender) and gender-fluid (moving between genders) as lacking a basis in biology.

Even for El’s supportive parents, conceiving of gender as a multidimensional sprawl has not been so easy to grasp. Nor has El’s suggestion that everyone state their pronouns gained much traction.

So last summer, when the Massachusetts State Legislature became one of the first in the nation to consider a bill to add an “X” option for nonbinary genders to the “M” and “F” on the state driver’s license, El, 17, was less surprised than some at the maneuver that effectively killed it.

Beyond the catchall “X,” Representative James J. Lyons Jr. (he/him), a Republican, had proposed that the bill should be amended to offer drivers 29 other gender options, including “pangender,” “two-spirit” and “genderqueer.” Rather than open the requisite debate on each term, leaders of the Democratic-controlled House shelved the measure.

“He articulated an anxiety that many people, even folks from the left, have: that there’s this slippery slope of identity, and ‘Where will it stop?’” said Ev Evnen (they/them), director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, which is championing a new version of the bill.

As the first sizable group of Americans to openly identify as neither only male nor only female has emerged in recent years, their requests for recognition have been met with reservations that often cross partisan lines. For their part, some nonbinary people suggest that concerns about authenticity and grammar sidestep thornier questions about the culture’s longstanding limits on how gender is supposed to be felt and expressed.

“Nonbinary gender identity can be complicated,” said Mx. Evnen, 31, who uses a gender-neutral courtesy title. “It’s also threatening to an order a lot of people have learned how to navigate.”

And with bills to add a nonbinary marker to driver’s licenses moving through at least six legislatures this session, the expansive conception of gender that many teenagers can trace to middle-school lunch tables is being scrutinized on a new scale.

NYTimes.com, May 29, 2018 by Amy Harmon

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Trump Administration Proposes Rollback of Gender Identity Protections

gay hate

The Trump administration has formally proposed to revise Obama-era civil rights for transgender people in the nation’s health care system, eliminating “gender identity” as a factor in health care and leaning government policy toward recognizing only immutable characteristics of sex at birth.

The Department of Health and Human Services published its proposed regulation Friday, which eliminates gender identity protections created by a 2016 regulation inserted by the Obama administration that redefined discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include gender identity.gender identity protections

The Obama administration adopted the rule in question in 2016 to carry out a civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act, known as Section 1557 creating these gender identity protections. That provision prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in “any health program or activity” that receives federal financial assistance. The 2016 rule further defined the term “gender identity” to mean a person’s “internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual’s sex assigned at birth.”

In December 2016, a federal judge in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled that “Congress did not understand ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity,’” and the Trump administration, rather than appealing, has said it will bring the civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act into compliance.

“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” said Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the department in a statement announcing the new rules on Friday.

“The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives. The proposed rule would accomplish both goals,” he said.

Transgender rights groups reacted with alarm.

“The Trump-Pence administration’s latest attack threatens to undermine crucial nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people provided for under the Affordable Care Act,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “The administration puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Last year, Mr. Severino pushed for a legal definition of sex Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

NYTimes.com, by Erica L. Green and Abby Goodnough, May 24, 2019
 
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Transgender dads tell doctors: ‘You can be a man and have a baby’

transgender dad

Transgender dads say they face misinformation, bias and a lack of understanding from the medical establishment when they decide to start a family.

When transgender dads, like Jay Thomas, 33, decide to get pregnant in 2016, he spoke to his physician.transgender dad

Thomas, a cook who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, explained to his doctor that he and his wife, Jamie Brewster, 33, a bank employee, are both transgender, and that he had been on testosterone for more than two years. The physician said Thomas had likely gone through early menopause, and that if they were able to conceive at all, he would have to go off the hormone for at least 18 months.

But none of that turned out to be true, according to Thomas, who gave birth to the couple’s son Dorian, 2, less than a year after that doctor’s appointment.

“We got pregnant in three months,” Thomas said.

One of the most persistent myths transgender men and nonbinary people hear from doctors is that testosterone has sterilized them, experts say. While testosterone generally blocks ovulation, trans men can get pregnant while taking it, particularly if they are not taking it regularly.

It’s just one example of the misinformation and discouragement transgender men say they face from the medical establishment when they decide to get pregnant — a problem advocates and experts blame on a lack of training and research around transgender health care, as well as doctors’ biases.

There is no data on how many transgender men and nonbinary people give birth in the United States each year, because medical systems track them as female, but experts believe the numbers are likely higher than many would expect. The number of people who identify as transgender is growing: A 2016 study from the Williams Institute found that 1.4 million adults in the U.S identify as transgender, which was double the estimate based on data from a decade earlier.

In Australia, where government agencies began tracking both sex and gender in official records in 2013, 54 transgender men gave birth in 2014, according to statistics from the country’s universal health care system. And a Dutch study published in the journal Human Reproduction in 2011 found that a majority of trans men reported wanting families.

But doctors, nurses and medical office staff are still adjusting to the idea that those who are pregnant may not identify as women. Transgender and nonbinary people describe gaps in medical professionals’ understanding ranging from an ultrasound technician calling them by the wrong name to doctors who tell them hormone therapy probably ruined their fertility. The consequences can be dire. A recently published case study described a transgender man who went to an emergency room with severe abdominal pain — but doctors were slow to realize that he was pregnant and in danger. The man delivered a stillborn baby several hours later.

nbcnews.com, May 19, 2019 by Julie Compton

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Challenge to Trans Student Bathroom Access Advances

Federal court says valid sexual harassment, religious freedom claims asserted on trans bathroom Access

In a first round advance for the anti-LGBTQ litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom, a federal court judge has allowed a lawsuit challenging the Palatine, Illinois, high school district’s policy that allows trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity to proceed on theories of sexual harassment and free exercise of religion.

The March 29 ruling by District Judge Jorge L. Alonso came in response to a suit filed by students and their parents in the district who claim the policy unfairly discriminates against cisgender students who don’t want to be exposed to trans students when using what the plaintiffs refer to as “privacy facilities.”

However, Alonso dismissed a claim the policy violated the cisgender students’ right to bodily privacy or their parents’ right to direct their children’s education.

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court assumed that the plaintiffs’ factual allegations as true in deciding whether they have stated a potentially valid legal claim. The school district, which moved to dismiss all the claims, has not filed an answer to the complaint, so the plaintiffs’ rather argumentative characterization of the facts has not yet been challenged. 

The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ students, has been granted intervenor status, as have three trans students. The Alliance and the student intervenors are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.

The complaint uses terminology typical of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ propaganda.

“The crux of this suit is that defendants seek to affirm the claimed genders of students by allowing male students who claim female gender to use privacy facilities (i.e., bathrooms and locker rooms) designated for use by the female sex and female students who claim male gender to use privacy facilities designated for the male sex,” the ADF complaint reads. “Plaintiffs refer to the policy as District 211’s ‘compelled affirmation policy.’… District 211 adopted the policy solely to affirm the claimed genders of those students claiming a gender different from their sex at birth.”

The policy, the plaintiffs allege, has caused cisgender students “embarrassm­ent, humiliation, anxiety, fear, apprehension, stress, degradation, and the loss of dignity.” Those students, the suit contends, “are at continual risk of encountering (and sometimes do encounter), without their consent, members of the opposite sex while disrobing, showering, urinating, defecating, and while changing tampons and feminine napkins.”

GayCityNewsNYC.com, by Arthur Leonard, April 3, 2019

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Can a Fired Transgender Worker Sue for Job Discrimination?

In 2013, a funeral director who had been known as Anthony Stephens wrote to colleagues at a Michigan funeral home, asking for patience and support.

“What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster,” the letter said. “I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

“I will return to work as my true self, Aimee Australia Stephens, in appropriate business attire,” she wrote. “I hope we can continue my work at R. G. and G. R. Harris Funeral Homes doing what I always have, which is my best!”

Ms. Stephens had worked there for six years. Her colleagues testified that she was able and compassionate.

“He was a very good embalmer,” one said. “He was very, very thorough. Had obviously had a lot of practice prior to coming to the Harris Funeral Home. Families seemed very pleased with his work. He did a good job.”

Two weeks after receiving the letter, though, the home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Ms. Stephens. Asked for the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Mr. Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”

Mr. Rost also said he did not want to address Ms. Stephens as Aimee. “I’m uncomfortable with the name,” Mr. Rost said, “because he’s a man.”

The case went to court, and Ms. Stephens won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. Discrimination against transgender people, the court ruled, was barred by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

by Adam Liptak, NYTimes.com, November 12, 2018

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