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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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'BAD JUDGMENT'

Mike Pence Quietly Took a Huge Christmas Ski Vacation as Coronavirus Cases Soared – Costing Taxpayers Over $750,000

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More details continue to emerge about the Trump-Pence administration.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said new documents show then-VP Mike Pence showed “bad judgment” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“While coronavirus cases surged to record levels late last December, Vice President Mike Pence went on a ski vacation in Vail, Colorado. The trip came with a massive bill to taxpayers, with Secret Service protection alone costing $757,527.85, according to documents obtained by CREW. At the time of his holiday travel, Pence was the head of the White House coronavirus task force, which put out dire warnings after Thanksgiving as the CDC recommended that Americans stay home over the holidays in order to limit the spread of the virus. Clearly, Pence did not follow the government’s advice, and in the process put dozens of Secret Service agents at heightened risk of infection,” the group said on Thursday.

“Pence’s trip extended from December 23rd to January 1st, and reportedly included a Secret Service entourage of at least 48 agents, contributing to both the high cost and the risk of infection.The agents stayed at several different hotels in the Vail area and rented 77 cars for the trip. The charges included more than $270,000 at the Marriott Vail Mountain and more than $80,000 at the Ritz Carlton,” the group reported.

“This also is not the first time Mike Pence stuck taxpayers with huge bills for his travel. Back in 2019, he traveled to Ireland for government business in Dublin, but stayed overnight at Donald Trump’s resort on the other side of the country in Doonbeg. Travel costs for that were more than half a million dollars, and also resulted in the Secret Service spending more than $15,000 at Trump’s resort,” the group noted. “While Pence’s December trip to Vail was less nakedly corrupt than his trip to Doonbeg, it showed another kind of bad judgment, by putting many government workers tasked with keeping him safe at risk in the midst of a raging pandemic. We would hope that the head of the coronavirus task force would know better.”

Image: Official White House photo by Myles D. Cullen via Flickr

 

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'GAY GAY GAY. WOW.'

Andrew Yang Tried to Get an LGBTQ Group’s Endorsement So He Talked About Wanting to Visit a Lesbian Bar: NYT

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Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who was a surprising breakout success but suffered criticisms about “tone,” and continues to, is running to become New York City’s next mayor. He’s currently the frontrunner in the very early race but once again, as The New York Times reports, his inability to build support among minority groups is hurting him.

Yang spoke to the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, a top LGBTQ organization, on Wednesday.

“It did not go particularly well,” the Times reports.

Yang’s approach and the way he treated LGBTQ people was seen as “outdated,” according to Stonewall’s president, Rose Christ.

“Yang cited gay members of his staff as apparent evidence of his openness to the club’s concerns, and expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of visiting Cubbyhole, a storied New York lesbian bar, participants said,” the Times reveals.

“He proactively talked about resurrecting the city’s Pride March, but failed to pay sufficient heed to more substantive issues they were actually concerned about, including homelessness and affordable housing, they said.”

“When I see a candidate come in just with Michael Scott levels of cringe and insensitivity, it either tells me Andrew Yang is in over his head or is not listening to his staff,” said Alejandra Caraballo, a member of the organization, referring to the character played by Steve Carell on “The Office.” “Those are both radioactive flashing signs that say he is not prepared to be mayor of New York.”

Yang also repeatedly referred to LGBTQ people as a “community,” telling members of the Stonewall Democratic Club how much he cares about “your community.”

“I genuinely do love you and your community,” Yang told members. “You’re so human and beautiful. You make New York City special. I have no idea how we ever lose to the Republicans given that you all are frankly in, like, leadership roles all over the Democratic Party.”

Filmmaker and Stonewall member Harris Doran said Yang “kept calling us ‘Your community,’ like we were aliens.”

“We have, like, this incredible secret weapon,” Yang also said. “It’s not even secret. It’s like, we should win everything because we have you all.”

“Gay, gay, gay. Wow,” one person wrote in the chat accompanying the forum, which was later shared with The New York Times. “More to us than just that.”

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Trump Loving Lawmaker Schooled for Claim Founders Oppose DC Statehood: They ‘Never Intended’ for GOP to ‘Commit Sedition’ Either

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Just before the U.S. House of Representatives voted 216-208 on Thursday to make Washington, D.C. a state, Ohio Republican state representative Mike Loychik posted a tweet insisting the “founders never intended for Washington DC to become a state.”

He’s not wrong, technically, but – as many corrected him – given that the founders never intended for many things, including for women and Black people to be allowed to vote, for people who did not own property to vote, and, as some noted, for Republicans to “commit sedition,” what difference does it make?

The founders also did not originally intend for Washington, D.C. to be the seat of government. First it was New York City, then Philadelphia.

Rep. Loychik, who just filed a bill to make Ohio taxpayers spend $300,000 to rename Mosquito Lake State Park in Donald Trump’s honor, did not respond to any of the people educating him, but hours later he posted a tweet attacking Democrats:

Loychik is clearly ignoring the fact that “the Republican Party has historically taken far more effective advantage of the addition of new states,” as The Atlantic reported in 2019.

In 1889 and 1890, Congress added North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming—the largest admission of states since the original 13. This addition of 12 new senators and 18 new electors to the Electoral College was a deliberate strategy of late-19th-century Republicans to stay in power after their swing toward Big Business cost them a popular majority. The strategy paid dividends deep into the future; indeed, the admission of so many rural states back then helps to explain GOP control of the Senate today, 130 years later.

Washington, D.C. could become the 51st state, if Democrats in the Senate can convince six of their Democratic colleagues currently opposed to the measure, and another ten Senate Republicans to support it, or kill the filibuster, which would allow passage with 50 Senate votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

Here’s how some are schooling the Ohio Republican lawmaker:

 

Image: screenshot via Facebook

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