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We Don’t Have to Wait for the Courts to Make Trans Kids Safe

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Picking Up the Pieces When the Courts Fail Us 

This has been a very bad week for transgender kids. On Wednesday the US Supreme Court issued an “emergency” stay to stop a 17-year Gavin Grimm from using the boy’s restroom at his school. Joshua Block, his lawyer, described Gavin this week in a blog post on the ACLU’s website:

Gavin has facial hair, a deep voice, and a state ID that identifies him as male. In every aspect of his life outside school, he is recognized as the boy that he is. But when Gavin goes back to school for his senior year of high school, he will be singled out from every other student and forced to use a separate single-stall restroom that no one else is required to use.  

Block continues: 

According to his school board, Gavin’s mere presence in the boys’ restroom is a violation of other boys’ privacy. No one, including the school board, thinks it would be appropriate for a boy like Gavin to use the girls’ restroom. So the school board converted a couple of old utility closets into single-user restrooms that Gavin must now use to “protect” other students from his mere presence. He has been shamefully forced to use a separate restroom or the restroom in the nurse’s office for the past two school years.

Later in the week, as a direct response to the Supreme Court’s intervention, other school systems in the 4th Circuit (the circuit where Gavin’s case was initially decided) retreated from plans they had to treat transgender kids with respect and dignity. So while school systems are debating back and forth whether or not to let trans kids use the bathroom like other students or whether separate really can be equal, we’ve got a crisis on our hands, and the courts aren’t coming to save us any time soon.  

This is where the rest of us come in. This is one of those times where, if you call yourself an ally, you’ve got to step up. We all do.

If you own a business, make sure your restrooms are inclusive. If you have single-stall restrooms, make sure they’re labeled just as “restroom.” There’s absolutely no reason to have gendered, single-stall restrooms whatsoever. If you have multi-stall restrooms, be sure they’re inclusive, too.  

Go out of your way to talk to your cis (non-trans) friends, family, and co-workers about the issues trans people face. For better or worse, people are influenced most by people who are like them. You’re more likely to make progress with the people you interact with on a daily basis than someone standing on a street corner with a clipboard. 

Stop letting micro-aggressions go unchecked. Yeah, sometimes it’s easier to ignore someone’s comments instead of getting involved. We don’t want the conflict so we stay quiet, instead letting someone else pick up the slack, or worse, the hurt. That has to stop. Correcting a friend or a co-worker when they misgender someone takes all of ten seconds. Stopping an inappropriate comment is as simple as saying, “I’m sure you didn’t mean it like this, but that word/joke/phrase is really hurtful to me and many others.”

For many of us, we use phrases we think are inclusive but really aren’t. Instead of saying “trans brothers and sisters,” say “trans friends and family.” “Brothers and sisters” is a binary phrase, and there are many, many trans folks who are not binary. Using a binary phrase to describe them is erasure and leaves them out entirely. (Plus, using “family and friends” keeps the same syllable count and cadence, so rhythmically you’re good.) 

Average folks like us can’t change the courts. We can’t petition the Supreme Court or convince judges and justices to rule the way we think they should. But we can pick up the slack and we can make sure that in every area where we have even a little bit of influence, we go out of our way to make the world just a little bit safer for trans kids. 

I know that the biggest barrier for most of us is the fear that we’re going to accidentally screw up and say something terrible. There’s a really good chance that’s going to happen, and that’s ok. When it does happen, apologize, fix it, and move on. Don’t dwell on it. Listen carefully to the critique, internalize it, and commit to changing your behavior. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good ally – you just have to want to see our world become a safer and more inclusive place. 

There are some incredible people fighting in the court system. They’re doing powerful, important work. In the meantime, it’s up to the rest of us to fill in the gaps to keep our kids safe. I like to think of being an ally as the bulldozer that clears a construction site before construction begins. It’s our job to clear out the trees and obstacles and move them to the side so the experts can come in and start construction. It’s not our job to tell other folks how to do the work – it’s our job to make sure the land is cleared and ready for them to build what they need. 

Finally, check in with your trans friends and family. Be a good friend, sibling, parent, teacher, or neighbor to them. Ask how they’re doing. Go out to dinner with them. Hang out together. Ask if you can do anything specific to support them more than you already are. Really, one of the best things you can do is just being a good friend. And couldn’t we all us more good friends?

 

Robbie Medwed is an Atlanta-based LGBT activist and educator. His column appears here weekly. Follow him on Twitter: @rjmedwed

 

Image by MitchellShapiroPhotography via Flickr and a CC license

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News

Watch: Fourth Grade Student Says Uvalde Police Told Children to Yell ‘Help’ – Shooter Shot One Child Who Did

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What appears to be an increasingly clear understanding of how police in Uvalde, Texas handled the Robb Elementary School mass shooting – by not going inside for at least one hour – is being made even more horrific by reported actions of police once they finally entered the school.

One fourth grade child spoke with local CBS affiliate KENS 5, describing what happened inside the school at one point.

The shooter “shot the next person’s door. We have a door in the middle. He opened it. He came in and he crouched a little bit and he said, he said, ‘It’s time to die,'” the boy told KENS 5.

“When I heard the shooting through the door, I told my friend to hide under something so he won’t find us,” the child, whose name is not being released, told KENS 5. “I was hiding hard. And I was telling my friend to not talk because he is going to hear us.”

“When the cops came, the cop said: ‘Yell if you need help!’ And one of the persons in my class said ‘help.’ The guy overheard and he came in and shot her,” the boy said. “The cop barged into that classroom. The guy shot at the cop. And the cops started shooting.”

(Transcript via KENS 5, video below appears slightly edited.)

Some have noted that since the 1999 Columbine, Colorado school shooting when 12 students and a teacher were slaughtered, police practice has been to storm the school to not give the shooter time to kill more children, and to allow those wounded to get medical attention to hopefully save more lives. That does not appear to have happened.

Presuming the child’s recollection is accurate, it appears one or more officers telling children to yell “help” may have led to at least one child being wounded or killed.


 

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News

CNN Reporter Refuses to Accept Texas Official’s Claims About Uvalde Shooting: ‘Why Don’t You Clear All of This Up Now?’

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There is an increasing concern among legal experts, security experts, and law enforcement experts about the way police in Uvalde, Texas handled the Robb Elementary School massacre where 21 people were shot and killed, and another 17 reportedly were wounded.

Two days after the mass shooting witness accounts, photos, and videos are circulating that appear to show police waited between 40 minutes and one hour before either entering the school or confronting the shooter, who was killed not by police but by federal agents on the scene. Some are suggesting that valuable time may have led to more death.

Law enforcement also appear to not have a grasp on exactly what happened, with numerous reports revealing some officers were focused on subduing not the gunman but parents desperate for police to take action.

There are also concerns that not only police inaction may have led to more death, but police action may have as well:

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, a well-known MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst rightly says “we’re clearly going to have to wait” for accurate information, but notes what the public is being told “Doesn’t make sense.”

One reporter apparently agreed that information being given to the public did not make sense.

CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, who attended Thursday afternoon’s Uvalde press conference and was not ready to accept what he apparently felt was police stonewalling.

“You guys have said that he was barricaded,” Prokupecz said, referring to the shooter. “Can you explain to us how he was barricaded and why you guys cannot breach that door?”

“So, I have taken all your questions into consideration. We will be doing updates,” replied Victor Escalon, from the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, according to a Mediaite transcript. “We will be doing updates to answer those questions.”

“You should be able to answer that question now, sir,” Prokupecz, clearly not satisfied, responded.

“What is your name?” Escalon asked.

“Shimon Prokupecz from CNN. We’ve been given a lot of bad information, so why don’t you clear all of this up now and explain to us how it is that your officers who were in there for an hour, yes, rescuing people, but yet no one was able to get inside that room,” Prokupecz continued.

“Shimon, we will circle back with you. We want to give you the why. That’s our job. Give us time. I’m taking your questions back to talk to the team,” Escalon replied.

Watch:

RELATED: Questions Swirl About Uvalde Police as Photos, Videos, Witness Accounts Appear to Tell Story of Inaction During Massacre

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Demon Seed’ Doctor and Far Right Radio Host Call to ‘Lock Up’ Men Who Have Gay Sex to Prevent Monkeypox

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As a small handful of monkeypox cases have been documented in the United States the far right is using that disease to target LGBTQ people. In a segment on Stew Peters’ radio show, he and “Demon Seed” Dr. Stella Immanuel called for the imprisonment of men who have sex with men, presumably to slow the spread of monkeypox.

As with HIV/AIDS, monkeypox is not a “gay disease” but some recorded cases are believed to have been transmitted by men who have sex with men. The far right has been attacking the LGBTQ community all year, with the rise of the false “groomer” label made popular among extremists by Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis.

“So one of the answers would be, don’t have gay sex, repent for your homosexual lifestyle, and go find Jesus,” Peters says as Immanuel, the hydroxychloroquine-pushing physician and pastor who believes demons having sex with women causes tumors and other illnesses, agrees.

“The real pandemic here is promiscuous sex among gay men – sex, orgies, and participating in satanic depravity,” Peters continued, as Immanuel again agreed. The chyron reads: “Gay Sex Detonates Monkeypox Bomb.”

“So, stop that, as a matter of fact we should make a law against homosexual sex. We should just say that that’s not allowed, it’s a criminal offense, and we should lock these people up.”

Again, Immanuel agreed.

Watch:

 

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