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

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

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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Trump Administration Proposes Rollback of Gender Identity Protections

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 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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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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U.S. appeals court hands win to Trump on transgender military ban


In a legal victory for U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, a federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lower court ruling that blocked a policy barring certain transgender people from serving in the U.S. armed forces, which the government said is important for military readiness.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned a decision by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. to block the Trump policy because it likely violates the constitutional rights of transgender recruits and service members.

AOL.com, January 4, 2019 – by Lawrence Hurley

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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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Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.trans trump

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“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 drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “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.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.

By Erica L. Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear, New York Times, October 21, 2018

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Trans Folks Want Babies Too

Parenting isn’t only meant for cisgender people.

Being a transgender parent isn’t always as complicated in real life as the media portrays it. While the nuances are rarely covered in magazines, shows like Amazon’s Transparent, which is heading into a fifth and final season, highlight what the trans experience is like long after the children are born. But today’s science is more sophisticated than in decades past, which has opened up the opportunity for trans folks to conceive children even after they’ve transitioned.trans parents

“Trans people having children is not a new thing at all,” affirms Trystan Reese, director of family formation at the Family Equality Council (FamilyEquality.org). “It’s newer in terms of how much other people may know about it but it’s been happening for a couple of decades or so.”

Reese is a trans man who gave birth to a baby boy named Leo in 2017. Leo is the first biological baby for Reese and his husband, Biff Chaplow, but he’s their third child (they had previously adopted Chaplow’s niece and nephew).

The Oregon couple admit that trans people giving birth has been relatively under the radar. Being an out trans person can be dangerous in many parts of the country, where education about the trans experience is limited. Despite these difficulties, Reese continues to promote fertility rights for transgender people. His efforts included hosting the council’s recent Seahorses & Unicorns event, which helped share as much information about transgender fertility options as possible with the community.

As more trans people look into birthing children, doctors have begun updating their language. Many now refer to egg freezing and sperm freezing as simply gamete freezing, dropping the gender identity of the process. Whether freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos for future assisted pregnancies, gamete freezing is gaining traction among trans people before transitioning lessens their reproductive ablities or they change their gender identity with medical assistance like hormones and surgery.

Aadvocate.com,  by NAYIRAH MUHAMMAD, October 2, 2018

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