How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America

The Trump administration may be busy waging culture wars. But in the heartland, it’s never been a better time to be L.G.B.T.

This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of L.G.B.T. rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.

What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.

From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.

In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake CityBozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national L.G.B.T. advocacy organization, is downright cheerful about this trend at a time when queer optimism feels in short supply. In the its 2018 Municipal Equality Index, the group’s president, Chad Griffin, wrote
that “while cynical politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to roll back our hard-fought progress, many local leaders are championing equality in big cities and small towns from coast to coast.”

And this progress includes transgender people. According to the group’s data, over 180 cities and counties in states whose electoral votes went to Mr. Trump in 2016 now protect employees not just on the basis of sexual orientation but gender identity as well.

On my road trip through what is ostensibly Trump country, I met many L.G.B.T. people who saw no need to flee their conservative home states for the coastal safe havens of generations past, thanks to local progress.

In Utah, I made arts and crafts with transgender and gender-nonconforming teenagers, most of whom belong to Mormon families. Over coffee in the Rio Grande Valley, a nonbinary friend told me that the region’s L.G.B.T. people remain as hardy as the prickly pear cactuses of South Texas. And in an Indiana town where everyone knows everyone, a transgender woman in her 50s told me how much things have changed in her area since she first came out over the course of the 2000s.

by Samantha Allen, New York Times, March 14, 2019

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Gay Dads and Stigmas

A new study finds that families with gay dads still face discrimination and stigma, especially in states and settings that offer fewer legal and social protections.

LGBTQ families

Public acceptance for gay marriage in America has grown since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in 2013. By May 2015, a Gallup poll reported that 60 percent of Americans approved of gay marriage.

Despite that shift in attitudes, though, a recent Tufts study found that gay fathers still feel the brunt of stigma, experiences that the researchers linked to states with fewer legal and social protections for gays and their families.  

The study, a collaboration between Ellen Pinderhughes, professor of child study and human development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and Ellen Perrin, professor of pediatrics emerita at the School of Medicine, analyzed survey responses from 732 men in forty-seven states, revealing how social contexts shape personal experiences of stigmatization. It was published last month in the journal Pediatrics.

“The key takeaway is that states’ legal protections do matter,” Pinderhughes said. “In states that provide more protections, the dads are experiencing less stigma.”

Pinderhughes said the most striking finding was that about 63 percent of respondents reported that they had experienced stigma based on being a gay father in at least one aspect of their lives. Half also reported that they had avoided situations out of fear of stigma in the past year. Forty percent of those who attempted to adopt a child said they faced barriers on their pathway to fatherhood.

More than 30 percent reported stigma in religious environments, and about one-fourth reported experiencing stigma in the past year from family members, neighbors, gay friends, and/or service providers such as waiters, service providers, and salespeople.

These encounters in settings “that are traditionally expected to be sources of support and nurturing is particularly troubling,” reported the researchers. “It is important for pediatricians caring for these families to help families understand and cope successfully with potentially stigmatizing experiences.”

To understand the influence of the social environment on responses, the Tufts researches used equality ratings that reflect each state’s lawsfor protection of LGBT families. They also used rankings of religious groups based on the explicit beliefs of each group regarding homosexuality and marriage equality.  

Among fathers who identified with a particular religion, the likelihood of having experienced stigma in a religious context was directly associated with the tolerance ranking of the religious group with which they affiliated. Almost one-third of respondents affiliated with a religious community had avoided such contexts in anticipation of stigma.

Pinderhughes said that the research also has implications on how to support gay fathers and their children. Increasing evidence, she said, links feeling stigmatized “with reduced well-being of children and adults,” including psychiatric problems.

Potentially harmful to families and children, stigma must be recognized and called out, she said. “We all have biases, and we must own them,” she said. And if one feels stigmatized, “you must resist it and learn how to arm yourself and your children against it.”

The Big Picture for Families

Pinderhughes and Perrin have been working together for more than ten years on their shared interest in sexual minority parents.

by Laura Ferguson, tufts.now.edu, March 11, 2019

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Revolutionary test could make IVF more successful by looking at the DNA a fertilised egg sheds in the lab

A revolutionary DNA test could make IVF more successful, research suggests. 

Problems with a developing baby’s chromosomes – strands of DNA found in every cell – are thought to be the main cause of miscarriages. 

To maximise a woman’s chance of conceiving via IVF, embryos are therefore screened before they are implanted into her womb to check for any chromosomal issues. 

But this involves taking cells from the embryos, which can damage them and increase the risk of a miscarriage.

The research was carried out by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and led by Dr Catherine Racowsky, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology. 

IVF involves taking a woman’s eggs, which then get mixed with her partner’s, or a donor’s, sperm in a lab. After 16-to-20 hours, they are checked to see if the egg has been fertilised.

The fertilised eggs – or embryos – grow in the lab for six days before the best one or two are transferred into the womb. 

But this can do more harm than good and therefore only tends to be carried out when older women – who are more at risk of chromosomal abnormalities – are undergoing IVF. 

To test whether a safer approach is possible, the researchers analysed 52 embryos from IVF clinics that were no longer needed and had already undergone a biopsy.

These embryos were kept in a petri dish for 24 hours.

The scientists then tested 0.01ml of the surrounding fluid in the dish, as well as the embryos themselves to determine how many chromosomes they contained. 

Results – presented at the Fertility 2019 conference in Birmingham – suggested analysing this fluid produced fewer false positives than traditional methods.

A false positive occurs when a test indicates a problem when the embryo is in fact healthy.

‘This shows DNA in spent culture medium can be reliably amplified and sequenced,’ Dr Catherine Racowsky said at the conference.   

And the new method does not harm the embryo.

Virginia Bolton, consultant embryologist at St Guy’s Hospital – who was not involved in the research – told New Scientist: ‘Trying to refine our mechanisms for choosing the embryo that’s most likely to lead to pregnancy is something that’s been eluding us for ever.

‘This [approach] doesn’t damage the embryo in any way.’ 

Dr Bolton believes this technique is better than others being developed that test for the chemicals an embryo secretes.

She worries these chemicals may become diluted, skewing the results, whereas ‘the DNA is either there or it isn’t’, she said.  

February 13, 2019, thedailymail.co.uk, by Alexandra Thompson

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The Right Way to Legalize Surrogacy in New York State


New York State is on the brink of replacing an outdated and prohibitive law that criminalizes the practice of compensated surrogacy, one of only two states that does so.

Legislation to reverse the law has been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature, and Governor Cuomo has demonstrated support for it by including it in his Executive Budget.

As a law professor who focuses on gender equity, I’ve taken great interest in issues related to surrogacy in the United States and abroad. I’ve closely reviewed laws in multiple states as well as internationally and I support New York’s legalization of surrogacy.

When a woman chooses to support a couple or individual by serving as a gestational surrogate (where she is not genetically connected to the child because she did not contribute her egg), I believe she must have the autonomy to do so – provided she is protected by the law to ensure that any power imbalance between her, on the one hand, and the intended parents, surrogacy agencies and doctors, on the other hand, is mitigated.

The proposal the New York Legislature is considering and that Governor Cuomo is advancing, the Child-Parent Security Act, does protect surrogates in many ways. While the bill clarifies the parentage of all children born through third-party reproduction, here I focus only on how it legalizes and regulates gestational surrogacy arrangements.

Protections provided by the bill include: giving the surrogate the sole right to make decisions regarding her own health or that of the fetus or embryo she is carrying; giving the surrogate the sole right to terminate the pregnancy; and ensuring that the surrogate is represented by her own legal counsel. These types of commonsense protections are critical to creating a successful and effective program. If the New York Legislature passed the Child-Parent Security Act, New York’s law would be more protective of women who choose to be surrogates than laws in many other states.

Reexamining current law is long past due as technological advances and changes in acceptance of various family structures have made surrogacy much more commonplace. When lawmakers first implemented a ban on surrogacy in New York in 1992, they did so for several reasons that are less relevant today.

For example, when the restrictive New York law was enacted, there were ethical concerns about what was then nascent medical treatment — in vitro fertilization (IVF). Today, IVF is commonly-accepted as treatment for infertility and is also used in the gestational surrogacy process.

Despite the ban, today New Yorkers do work with surrogates to build families. They are just required to employ surrogates living in other states. This results in legal challenges, risks, and costs for the intended parents, including confusion regarding what laws are applicable to the situation.

GothamGazzette.com, February 21, 2019 by Sital Kalantry

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Lingering flaws – Gendered Holdouts Nixed in NYS Marriage Equality Amendment

State Senate Republicans, after five years of resistance, support legislative fixes to lingering flaws in law

gay estate planning, family estate planning, estate planning NY

Roughly eight years after the passage of marriage equality in New York, the newly progressive State Senate finally overcame Republican obstruction to fix some lingering flaws in that law. 

The updated law, which unanimously sailed through the upper chamber and awaits another easy passage in the State Assembly, wipes out gendered language within the Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) in order to reflect the intentions of the Marriage Equality Act. 

Spearheaded by out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, the lingering flaws included provisions to remove “paternal” and “maternal” from the EPTL and SCPA and replace those with the phrases “of one parental side” and “the other parental side.” 

Another section of the EPTL was changed to say “spouses, husbands, or wives,” while the SCPA made similar adjustments by swapping out “the father or mother” with “parents” or “either parent.”

“Marriage equality is the law of the land, and all provisions of the law ought to reflect that,” Holyman told Gay City News in a written statement. “I’m proud to see the Democratic Conference acting to advance the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers after Senate Republicans blocked this bill for five years.”

The law’s passage was a long time coming for Hoylman. But after six IDC members were dethroned during the September primaries and eight new Democrats snagged Republican seats, the blue wave opened up doors to pass a series of bills that were previously blocked by conservatives to fix these lingering flaws.

by Matt Tracy, GAyCityNews.com, February 15, 2019

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A new study suggests an LGBTQ millenials ‘Baby Boom’ is in our future

LGBTQ millennials are leading the way when it comes to the growth in LGBTQ families according to a new survey from the Family Equality Council, an LGBTQ rights organization.

LGBTQ millennials

The survey found that 63% of LGBTQ millennials between the ages of 18-35 are looking at starting a family or adding to their current one. What’s more, results from the LGBTQ Family Building Survey show that 77 percent of LGBTQ millennials are either already parents or are considering having children. This is 44 percent higher than LGBTQ people over the age of 55. 

The data points to a shift in the LGBTQ community in the wake of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which secured marriage equality in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling fueled speculation that we’d see a dramatic shift in LGBTQ family growth as a result.

Additionally, the survey revealed that 48 percent of LGBTQ millennials are actively planning to grow their families in the future, narrowing the gap between them and the 55 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents. In a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, only 35 percent of LGBTQ adults were shown to be parents, compared to 74 percent of non-LGBTQ adults.

That means in the last five years, the gap between queer and non-queer people wanting families went from 39 percent to 7 percent. Likewise, transgender survey respondents were found to be equally likely to grow their own families as their non-transgender peers.

by Gwendolyn Smith, LG BTQNation.com, February 10, 2019

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The long wait for legalized surrogacy may soon end in New York


A bill legalizing the practice is backed by the governor, fertility groups and LGBTQ activists, but opposed by some feminists and the Roman Catholic Church.

On a September evening in 2015, six weeks before their twins’ due date, Michael and Melissa Musman got an urgent call from the surrogate carrying their children. The babies needed to come out, the surrogate said, and if the Musmans wanted to be there for their birth, they had to come right away.

The Musmans, both 43, live in New York, one of only three states that currently ban paid surrogacy contracts. As a result, residents of the state must look elsewhere if they want to hire a surrogate; the Musmans found theirs in Pennsylvania.

Hoping they could pull off the nearly 400-mile drive from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh in time, they quickly packed a suitcase, made arrangements for someone to watch their older child and started driving.

“We knew there would be a chance that we would not make the birth,” said Melissa Musman, a teacher who turned to surrogacy after radiation for tumors in her pelvis and abdomen compromised her fertility. “With Pittsburgh, it’s not around the corner.”

Still, the couple was hopeful. They were not new to surrogacy. Using an egg donor and Michael Musman’s sperm, they had their first child, Sean, via a surrogate in Peoria, Illinois, in October 2008. It took two planes to get to Peoria, but they had made it for his birth.

This time, as they drove through the night, their twins arrived via an emergency Cesarean section in an operating room hundreds of miles away.

Advocates say it’s a way of helping infertile and gay couples start families. But commercial surrogacy has a slew of detractors, many of whom say it amounts to women selling their bodies.

For decades, the detractors in New York prevented it from becoming legal. Now, New York is on the brink of changing its policy, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, publicly declaring his support last weekend for a bill — called the Child-Parent Security Act — that would remove the ban. Cuomo also included the bill in his state budget proposal.

New York’s long-held resistance stems from a tumultuous surrogacy battle in neighboring New Jersey, known as the Baby M case. In 1985, a woman who was struggling financially, Mary Beth Whitehead, agreed to be a surrogate and be inseminated with sperm from William Stern, a man whose wife had multiple sclerosis, for $10,000.

by Elizabeth Chuck, NBCNews.com, February 7, 2019

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The Gay History of America’s Classic Children’s Books

From “Frog and Toad” to “Where the Wild Things Are,” many of the most enduring 20th-century titles share a secret language of queer compassion.

gay children's books

IN 1998, WHEN my sons were still too young to read by themselves, my partner and I gave them a picture book called “Lucy Goes to the Country.” It’s about a cat who lives with two gay men; you can tell by the tchotchkes.

The book, then just published, was evidently meant to help normalize already boringly normal families like ours by using the traditional substitution of animals for people in order to illustrate how much fun having gay dads can be. But the plot rang no bells for us as it built to its crisis: When the “big guys” give a party for colorful friends at their weekend house, a beehive ends up in the baba ghanouj, Lucy winds up in a tree and a hunky fireman comes to the rescue.

“The Hunky Fireman” would be a fine title for a very different kind of picture book, but his presence in this one made me wonder about the intended readership. (So did the name of a town en route to the country: Peckerwood.) And if you stopped to think about it, “Lucy” seemed to argue that the gay dads, however full of fun, were inadequate: When the pita chips were down, they needed rescuing, too.

Maybe that’s why my boys didn’t love it. Among gay-themed children’s stories, they preferred “Frog and Toad.” No, I know: “Frog and Toad” — a series of four picture books by Arnold Lobel, originally published between 1970 and 1979 — is not gay-themed. But it’s not not gay-themed either. The title characters are best friends, both male, who essentially spend their lives together. Toad, shorter and wartier, is a worrier. Frog, sleeker and greener, is an ameliorator. They wear tight pants, collarless jackets and no shirts: outfits that would surely look great on the hunky fireman.

But Lobel is careful to make Frog and Toad entirely nonsexual. They sleep apart, and Toad even dons a modest Edwardian bathing suit when he swims. Instead of innate animal passion, they model the elements of love that have to be discovered and cultivated: companionship, compromise, acceptance, good humor. They get into scrapes separately but get out of them together, which is not a bad definition of marriage.

Our boys loved the stories, as did we — but not because Lobel was gay. We didn’t even know that at the time; indeed, when he started writing the series, Lobel may not have known it himself. Not until 1974, after “Frog and Toad Are Friends” and “Frog and Toad Together” had been published, did he come out to his wife, the illustrator Anita Lobel, and their children. They continued to make books together for years: a Frog and Toad tale if ever there was one.

Still, Lobel’s gayness, when I learned of it much later, seemed like something I should have known all along; it lurked everywhere in his words and pictures. I don’t know how any parent, reading the stories aloud, uttering phrases like “Come back, Frog. I will be lonely!” in a heartsick, croaky voice, could avoid being forced into intimate sympathy with the animal and thus the author. Which is not to say Frog and Toad could turn you gay. But in their gentleness, their sensitivity to small gestures and their haze of slowly dispersing sadness, the stories were part of the literature of otherness that had been a central theme of adult fiction forever, if only more recently of children’s. They suggested, no less to us as gay parents than to our sons with their polar personalities, how separateness could become solidarity and oddness accommodation. Nor did Lobel neglect to show how much work it takes to achieve those victories, and how tenuous they can be; he died, in 1987, of complications from AIDS.

New York Times, February 7, 2019 by Jesse Green

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ABA Adopts Resolution Taking a Stand for LGBT Parents

The American Bar Association, ABA, the nation’s top voluntary bar association for lawyers, has adopted a resolution taking a stand for LGBT parents in the aftermath of states enacting laws enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption.

ABA resolution

According to the LGBT Bar Association, Resolution 113 was adopted at the ABA midyear meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. The 14-page resolution says although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 same-sex couples have the right to marry, they still face discrimination in adoption in forms of anti-LGBT state laws and policies.

Among the laws cited the resolution are recently adopted state laws allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBT homes over religious objections. Those laws exist in North Dakota, Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi, South Dakota, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Carolina.

The resolution also cites continued litigation in which the rights of LGBT parents are in jeopardy. Among those cases is Pavan v. Smith, in which Arkansas refused to place the names of lesbian parents on their child birth certificates. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that policy violated its decision on same-sex marriage (although U.S. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch penned a lengthy dissent containing the ruling didn’t apply to birth certificates.)

The ABA resolution adopts the resolution in the wake of the Trump administration granting a waiver to South Carolina allowing religious-based adoption agencies in the state, including Miracle Hill Ministries, to continue receive funding from the Department of Health & Human Services even if they refuse to place children in LGBT homes or with other families contrary to their beliefs.

ABA resolution

“Any discriminatory law which restricts an LGBT individual’s right to parent not only disregards these precedents, but also contradicts longstanding research,” the resolution says. “Decades of medical, psychological, sociological, and developmental research overwhelmingly conclude that sexual orientation has no bearing on an individual’s ability to be a fit parent. This resolution therefore reaffirms the equal parenting rights of LGBT individuals.”

According to a study from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, LGBT families are significantly more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to have adopted or foster children. One in five same-sex couples, or 21.4 percent, are raising adopted children, compared to just 3 percent of different-sex couples, and 2.9 percent of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4 percent of different-sex couples

The resolution states adoption of the resolution sends the message ABA “stands with LGBT individuals and their families against the increased threat to their ability to raise children.”

“This ABA policy position would enable further advocacy in this area by providing authority for other organizations, legislatures, and courts to consult when confronted by LGBT parenting issues,” the resolution says. “The policy would also allow the ABA to directly advocate on behalf of LGBT families and make clear its stance that laws which permit discrimination against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional.”

by Chris Johnson, pride source.com, January 29, 2019

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It’s easier now for gay men to adopt. But they still face lots of pushback, and weird questions.

Ten years ago in the United States, a couple of gay men hoping to become fathers may have considered their dream too outsized or even impossible.

Until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act by 2015, many states did not recognize marriage between same-sex partners — levying a major strike against a couple of men seeking to adopt or match with a surrogate.

gay dads

Now, they are on the cover of Parents MagazineA recent report from ReWire.News suggests that becoming fathers is easier than it once was for gay men. But the evidence is largely anecdotal. There is no clearinghouse, for example, that reports on the clientele of private adoption and surrogacy agencies, heterosexual or otherwise, or how long couples wait to become parents. And there is still plenty of resistance to gay parents, as the petition by One Million Moms against the cover of Shaun T and husband Scott Blokker in Parents Magazine attests.

On Parenting spoke with four gay men who had all entered fatherhood in the past 10 years through different means. One adopted through foster care, and another had an open adoption through a private agency. Another worked with a surrogate in the United States, and one worked with a surrogate overseas. Their experiences and geographies were varied, but several themes emerged. The road toward fatherhood may be more smoothly paved than it was 10 years ago, but there are still significant challenges.

Money in the bank

Jared Gertner of Los Angeles said he often hears a particular encouragement to would-be parents: “Everyone tells you, ‘No one is ever ready to have a child, so just go for it!’ But as a gay man, the opposite is true.”

For men who want to become fathers in the United States without a female sexual partner, there are options. They invariably require a lot of paperwork, and often a lot of money and a long time waiting.

This due process isn’t a bad thing, said Julian Chang of San Diego, who adopted his son four years ago with his husband, Wade Estey. “If everyone had to be fingerprinted and produce their tax records in order to become parents, there would be a lot more wanted children in this world,” Chang said.

With the exception of adoption through foster care, though, the financial costs are often tantamount to buying a car or even a house outright.

By Kendra Lee Stanton, WashingtonPost.com, January 25, 2019

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