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OpEd: A Gay Dad Sounds Off on Donald Trump and Transgender Student Segregation

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In the trans teen suicides to come, we will know that you were worse than the man who did not save kids. You, and your administration were the ones who pulled their triggers.

An heiress and a ghost had it right.  

Since the egomaniac and reality TV show star Donald Trump announced his “long shot” candidacy for President, we have been “treated” to constant absurdities, deceptions, upheavals, dramas, skullduggeries and melodramas that have thrown public discourse into unprecedented upheaval.

Through it all, mixed messages and deceptions have ruled any given day. This has been particularly true on the subject of LGBTQI rights. While making claim to be the most LGBT-friendly Republican to grace a presidential ticket, maybe ever, Trump filled his docket with supporting players who were, and are, easily characterized as LGBTQI philosophical enemies. They do not seem to be unfettered, however. Rumors of a particular pending anti-LGBTQ executive order filtered out via social media, followed by news that the non-homophobic Ivanka and her husband had squashed it through internal efforts.

Then there was billionaire Betsy Devos, nominated for Secretary of Education. As a dad, I was worried about her credentials and the conservative reputation of her family. She would be a disaster, I feared, for the plight of LGBTQI youth in the public school system.

I was wrong. In the first battle on her plate, the question on whether to rescind the Obama administration guidance on transgender student public facilities protections, she reportedly came down squarely on the right side. She lost the fight. But she, the heiress, a big campaign donor, was right.

Also right was the ghost of civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King. A letter from her hand decried the credentials of the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. It pointed to his small mindedness and inadequacies standing for the civil rights of people not privileged with mainstream power. Her outreach from the past was as relevant now as it was then. He is the proponent of stamping out the students’ protective guidelines, and the Attorney General who chose to abandon trans students nationwide. He won the fight.

He, and the President he serves, are both wrong.

I know they are wrong on this issue because, being a parent in California, I have been through this battle before. In the summer of 2013, California led the nation in transgender teen protections in its schools. California Democratic Assembly member Tom Ammiano, along with his co-author, Democratic State Senator Mark Leno introduced, and successfully lobbied to pass the School Success and Opportunity Act. The law stated that, “a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

At the time, not everyone liked the idea. California dad, then Republican Assemblyman, Tim Donnelly, not only voted against the law, but announced that he would pull at least one of his sons out of the public school system because of its enactment. In an editorial he wrote, “My 13- and 16-year-old boys were horrified at the idea of sharing a bathroom and locker room with a member of the opposite sex, after having discussed AB 1266 with them.” 

I had addressed Mr. Donnelly in one of my ‘Gay Dad’ editorial letters. I told him that as he was taking his sons out of public school, in turn I would remove my two boys out of private school and putting them into a public school (which is what I actually did). Net for the school system… no loss. Don’t let the door hit you on the fanny on the way out, Buddy. 

Since then, there have been exactly zero issues related to the law’s enactment. Months after the law’s enactment, anti-transgender activists hit California streets in an attempt remove it. Their initiative was a non-starter failing to even get it ballot qualification.

The retraction of President Obama’s guidelines should also have been a non-starter. It wasn’t, and it puts precious LGBTQI lives at risk. Here is my new letter to President Donald Trump:

Dear President Trump,

Your administration has rolled back the guidance on the treatment of transgender kids in schools. You believe that guidance is legally unclear, that decisions on the dignity of these kids should rest in the determinations of the individual states, that the original directive had been done “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

I have one question.

Why the hell does that matter? 

When you championed yourself as an LGBTQ hero, you declared that the devastation in an Orlando Nightclub was one that you personally could have prevented. In your mind, the lives of those young people were yours to save. In holding to your current principles, it is odd you did not declare that the circumstances around that tragedy to have been subject to the determination of the local government.

Let’s be clear, these directives are not really about bathrooms. They are about visibility or disappearance. They are about life or death. Actress Laverne Cox made the point beautifully in comparing the oppression of transgender kids with Jim Crow bathroom oppression of African American people in the south.

The intent was not about privacy—bathrooms are all private. We are each contained in our own, hidden from view, stalls.

The intent is to erase a group from public view.

“What people should know about these bathroom bills that criminalize trans people… is that these bills are not about bathrooms.They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public space. If we can’t access public bathrooms, we can’t go to school, we can’t work, we can’t go to healthcare facilities ― this is about public accommodations and public accommodations are always key to civil rights. I can’t help but think about that moment from ‘Hidden Figures’ when Taraji P. Henson’s character has to walk 45 minutes to the bathroom ― Gavin (the transgender teen with a case pending before the Supreme Court) had to go to a special ‘gender neutral’ bathroom, a nurses bathroom that was way out of the way.” Cox observed. 

The message is clear. “We want you erased. We want to pretend you do not exist.”

That is the issue. Mr. President, the kids this is targeting hear that message, and what is worse, they act on it.

Studies show that between 45 and 51 percent of transgender students attempt suicide. That is a far greater rate than any other category of student. 78 percent of transgender students report abuse. That statistic goes down significantly in schools with transgender-supportive programs. Most transgender students do not pursue continued education after experiencing the harassment of high school.

In short, Mr. President, as the result of this action by your administration, like in Orlando, young people… children… will die.

This time, someone’s child, their teen, will die not because of an extremist. They will die because of you. Statistically, it is certain this will happen somewhere, somehow, in one of those less progressive states that you “left it up to.”

A child will die.

I am a dad. You are a dad. Would you not seethe at the leader who allowed that to happen to your precious son or daughter?

A child will die, and you could have kept it from happening.

A study had shown that by the state embracing marriage equality, less LGBT teens have died. Can you imagine the effect of a law that was not just tangential to their current life, but one that gave them dignity and support in the present? Pure logic shows it would have an even greater effect. You are taking that life affirming support away.

For what purpose does this action accomplish sir? You would be over-riding a mistake misguided homophobes want to make that has protected exactly no one. California has had these protections for our transgender kids statewide for four years and in the Los Angeles area for thirteen. How many crimes, how many incidents have these permissive laws inspired? Exactly none. 

Through these actions of your administration, a child will die. When he or she does, please do not think we will look away. We will look to Orlando, and we will look at you. We will know despite your claims, that in Florida, you were not in fact the potential savior. Those young people would have died no matter what you did.

In the trans teen suicides to come, we will know that you were worse than the man who did not save kids. You, and your administration were the ones who pulled their triggers.

Twitter won’t save you. Crying “fake news” won’t save you. You will have grieving parents and a vast grieving community. We will not fall from your view with the next news cycle. We will never forget this moment, and we won’t let you forget it either.

It will have been the moment that you could have done something life saving and important.

But you didn’t.

Once upon a time there was a teen who called herself Leelah. She could not tolerate the rejection and invisibility of trying to live being transgender. She committed suicide but begged the world to let “her life matter.”

Her life and the lives of all trans kids matter to me. They matter to a lot of people.

Their lives, and their visibility, should matter to you.

If they don’t, you will demonstrate that you are merely an “Apprentice” President, and you should be done. You work for us, as a nation, and it is our mandate to turn to you, and feed you back your own trademark reality-TV line:

“You’re fired.”

 

If you are a transgender person thinking about suicide, or if someone you know is, find worldwide resources at http://www.stop-homophobia.com/suicideprevention.htm. You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. LGBT youth thinking about suicide can also reach out to the Trevor Project Lifeline (ages 24 or younger) at 866-488-7386.

 

Picture: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

 

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News

Democrats Discredit GOP Claims on IVF as Republicans Try to Regain Ground After Fallout

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One week after the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled frozen human embryos are “children,” causing several medical institutions to pause their in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs, Alabama and the GOP have seen tremendous nationwide anger, upset, and confusion from the left and the right over the decision, the Christian nationalist chief judge, and the Republican Party that set this in motion.

Now, GOP lawmakers and political groups are trying to regain ground after some Republicans quickly embraced the decision that, as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre predicted Tuesday, would cause “exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.”

“As a reminder,” Jean-Pierre added, “this is the same state whose attorney general threatened to prosecute people who help women travel out of state to seek the care they need.”

President Joe Biden condemned the Alabama ruling: “The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable.”

But U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) cheered his state’s Supreme Court, while appearing to not fully grasp what IVF is.

READ MORE: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

“I was all for it,” he said of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, calling young people “our number one commodity.”

But when pressed, Tuberville declared, “I’d have to look at the entire bill, how it’s written, I have not seen it,” referring not to legislation but the ruling.

And when told that women will now not be able to have IVF treatments, Tuberville repeatedly replied it was “unfortunate.”

On Thursday night, speaking to a group of religious broadcasters, Donald Trump denounced the Alabama ruling and vowed to protect IVF. On Friday, the beleaguered Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a memo directing Republicans to defend IVF. Also Friday, the Attorney General for the state of Alabama, mentioned earlier by the White House Press Secretary, effectively suggested he would ignore the state supreme court’s ruling, promising to not prosecute IVF families, as ABC News reported.

But Democrats are making clear that despite whatever claims or promises Republicans make, the IVF ruling is the direction conservatives are taking the Republican Party.

READ MORE: Smirnov Scandal: Experts Call for Investigations, Warn GOP of Possible Conspiracy Charges

“First Republicans banned abortions so women couldn’t terminate a pregnancy. Now they are coming for IVF so women can’t begin a pregnancy. The GOP agenda is about one thing: government control of women,” observed U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) (photo).

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox reports a new NRSC memo “instructs [GOP] candidates to reject clearly and concisely government attempts to restrict access to IVF.”

Just hours later, Sen. Murphy responded, saying, “umm the chairman of the NRSC sponsored the bill to ban IVF.”

He added, “newsflash: no matter what they tell their candidates to pretend, when they get power they use it to control women.”

The NRSC’s goal is to help get Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate. It is chaired by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a MAGA Republican and member of the Senate’s Pro-Life Caucus.

As Bloomberg’s Matthew Yglesias notes, Senator Daines is an original co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act.

The Center for American Progress’ Colin Seeberger adds, Daines “quite literally has been a longtime co-sponsor of the Lifetime at Conception Act, which would establish legal protections for the unborn just as the Alabama Supreme Court ordered and has led to the suspension of fertility care across AL.”

Meanwhile, Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz notes that the “text of GOP‘s most recent platform claims that ‘the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed’ and calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions — and jeopardize IVF — by granting 14th Amendment rights to fetuses.”

READ MORE: Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

Indeed, as The New York Times reported, far-right Christian conservative Tony Perkins, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ extremist group Family Research Council, called the Alabama Supreme Court ruling a “beautiful defense of life and the Alabama Constitution.”

Friday afternoon Donald Trump followed up his vow to protect IVF with a social media post that claims in part, “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder! That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every State in America. Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans, including the VAST MAJORITY of Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, and Pro-Life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.”

Former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer responded, asking: “Why would anyone believe this? In 2016, Trump pledged no cuts to Medicaid and then spent four years trying to gut the program.”

And as Axios reports, “House Democrats’ main super PAC is promising to pour money into attacking Republicans on fertility treatments in the wake of a controversial, first-of-its-kind Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Axios has learned.”

“Trump’s call came a day after President Biden’s re-election campaign blamed him for the ruling, noting his appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Axios adds. House Majority PAC, in a memo set to be released Friday, listed nearly a dozen current and former House Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored at least one version of the Life at Conception Act between 2021 and 2023.”

See the social media posts and video above or at this link.

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Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

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The re-arrest of Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who allegedly may have provided House Republicans with Kremlin propaganda that was the basis for their efforts to impeach President Joe Biden and attack his son Hunter, raised some eyebrows on Thursday.

Smirnov, once considered House Republicans’ Jim Comer and Jim Jordan’s star witness, was re-arrested even after a magistrate judge ordered him released, and at his attorneys’ offices, raising eyebrows from even national security experts, insisting there had better be a good reason for it.

Now, according to a noted legal expert, it appears there was.

“A California judge seems to be suggesting [Smirnov’s] lawyers are complicit in his efforts to flee, in a remarkable line ordering detention for the FBI source whose lies propelled Biden impeachment efforts,” writes professor of law and MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney.

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his order wrote on Thursday: “It has come to this Court’s attention that counsel for defendant has sought an emergency hearing in the District of Nevada to arrange the release of Defendant Smirnov, likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

After detailing Smirnov’s arrest and release, Judge Wright ordered his re-arrest, adding: “The U.S. Marshal Service is advised there is to be no deviation from this Order.”

Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld calls Judge Wright’s order “wild,” and adds that Smirnoff’s lawyers released “a terse statement about the extraordinary order.”

“They did not respond to questions about the language in the judge’s order suggesting a ‘likely’ aim to ‘facilitate’ their client ‘absconding from the United States.'”

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Vaccine-Laced Lettuce and Tomatoes? Tennessee GOP Lawmaker Worried

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A Tennessee Republican state lawmaker says he’s worried Tennesseans might overdose on vaccines if they eat too many tomatoes.

State Rep. Scott Cepicky claims vaccines can already be added to foods like lettuce and tomatoes, and to tobacco products, so he has filed legislation to require grocery store items containing vaccines to be labeled.

“University of California Riverside has already perfected the ability to put human vaccines into our lettuce right now,” Rep. Cepicky told his fellow lawmakers Wednesday while discussing his legislation. “Also, tomatoes, has the ability to do that also per UC Berkeley. And then big tobacco, RJ Reynolds and stuff has perfected the ability to put a human vaccine in tobacco products.”

NCRM could find no evidence supporting his claims, although researchers starting in 2021 were studying if it is possible to do so.

Cepicky, who has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), warned, “there is no law, deeming those that when you go into a grocery store, you should know as a consumer, this head of lettuce is a head of lettuce. The head of lettuce right next week could contain a vaccine in it. All we’re saying is if it does have the vaccine in it, make sure it’s listed as a pharmaceutical so people can get the proper dosage.”

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

Facing some pushback from Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Cepicky went on to say, “This is more of a consumer protection bill right here, is to make sure that if you’re going in to buy tomatoes, and there’s a polio vaccine in there, that you are aware of what you’re buying has a polio vaccine. The problem you have is if it’s not treated as a pharmaceutical, being the size and difference between you and me, how many tomatoes do I have to eat to get the proper dosage versus how many tomatoes that you have to eat? And if you eat too many do you get a overdose?”

Asked if his legislation was necessity, Cepicky added, “Well, if you’d have a child that is allergic to a certain vaccine, and it’s not disclosed, when you go to buy that, that vegetable, whatever it is, and your child dies from that, I would think that having place is going to make sure that that is treated as a pharmaceutical so that the consumers know exactly what they’re buying.”

Anti-vaxers gained a foothold during the COVID pandemic, spreading false claims about vaccines. Last year the fact-checking website Snopes deemed it “false” that “mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines has entered the food supply via genetically modified plants bred to contain it or through the consumption of vaccinated livestock.”

“Claims regarding COVID-19 vaccines ‘in your salad‘ have persisted on the internet and recirculated due to misreadings or misinterpretations of several press releases or scientific research,” Snopes added, “Mike Flynn, during a September 2021 podcast appearance, referenced this research, describing it as ‘putting the vaccine in salad dressing.'”

READ MORE: Kremlin Infiltration of Congress Alleged by Ex-Trump Prosecutor: Republicans ‘Duped or in on It’

Flynn, the former Trump U.S. national security advisor, is a far-right Christian nationalist and Trump MAGA activist.

Tennessee lawmakers voted to move Rep. Capicky’s forward.

Watch Rep. Capicky’s remarks below or at this link.

 

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