The first report from a new project dedicated to families with LGBTQ children or parents shows the negative impact of stigma on both groups—and points the way forward to keeping these families strong and healthy.
In his introduction to the Constellation report, Frank explains that families with LGBTQ children and families with LGBTQ parents both “face stigma and rejection” and “both require similar mitigation.” The report therefore offers two literature reviews, one for each group, showing the research that exists and identifying gaps in our knowledge. (I will also note that of course these two groups aren’t mutually exclusive.)
Frank points out, however, that “The scholarly consensus on LG [lesbian and gay] parenting is now so robust that, besides noting a need for further research on how to mitigate the impact of stigma on children with LGBTQ parents, this report does not dwell on the outdated question of whether LG parenting yields adequate child wellbeing outcomes. It’s now clear that, as the 2010 film put it, ‘The Kids Are All Right.’” Thank goodness that’s settled. (In my opinion, it was settled long ago; it’s just nice to see additional affirmations of it. And while there’s been less research on kids of transgender and bisexual parents, I can’t imagine the results will be different when it comes to children’s well-being.)
Instead, he says, the report shows “a particular need to focus research and support on parents.” Parental rejection of LGBTQ children is a key cause of many negative outcomes, but research shows (as I’ve discussed) that “even ambivalent and rejecting parents are often open to interventions to improve their family relationships.” We need to look even further at how best to do that. As for LGBTQ parents, Frank says, they still need support, like all parents, and may also “experience difficulties obtaining the same opportunities and protections that many parents take for granted.”
The first review, by Kirsty A. Clark and John E. Pachankis of Yale University, focuses on families with LGBTQ youth. The report summarizes what they say we know:
LGBTQ youth are more likely to face stigma-related stressors and associated mental health problems than their heterosexual, cisgender peers.
Parental rejection of LGBTQ youth raises the odds of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, substance use, and other risk-taking behavior among LGBTQ youth.
Support by parents of their LGBTQ children is associated with positive mental health and serves as a buffer against the harmful effects of minority stress.
Parents of transgender and gender-diverse youth face unique social, emotional, and institutional challenges around their children’s social and medical gender affirmation processes.
Future research directions include the need to:
Recruit more parents with conflictual or negative responses to their LGBTQ children, as well as parents with limited financial resources, conservative cultural or religious values, and more diverse racial, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds.
Recruit parents and parent-child dyads to research parent-child relationships directly, without relying primarily on youth self-reports.
Conduct more longitudinal studies of parental reactions to LGBTQ youth.
Rigorously test promising interventions that support parents of LGBTQ children, particularly those geared toward parents with rejecting or ambivalent attitudes.
The second review, by Susie Bower-Brown and Anja McConnachie of the University of Cambridge, focuses on families with LGBTQ parents. Research currently tells us:
LGBTQ people face discrimination when seeking to adopt or use assistive reproductive technology.
Rejection and differential treatment of LGBTQ parents often come from extended family (such as grandparents).
LGBTQ parents face further levels of stigma and other barriers when they are also members of other marginalized populations based on racial and ethnic identity and socioeconomic status, as well as when they live in conservative communities.
Bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming parents face additional hurdles to optimal wellbeing by virtue of their marginalized status, even within the LGBTQ population.
In the future, the report says, we should:
Obtain more robust counts of LGBTQ parents, such as via the U.S. Census.
Recruit and research larger numbers of LGBTQ parents, particularly those with diverse racial, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds; those with lower income; those from environments with conservative cultural or religious values; and those who are bisexual or transgender or gender-nonconforming.
Identify and test protective factors for LGBTQ parents, and their children, in hostile environments.
Research how rejection and differential treatment of LGBTQ parents by their own families (i.e. grandparents) affect family outcomes.
If you’re interested in the details behind all this, I encourage you to read the full report, though it is a dense dose of social science research, which will either delight you or make you run away screaming. (No judgment either way; I was trained as a historian myself and have sympathies on both sides.) If you don’t want to wade through it, at least know that it exists as a resource to guide policymakers, advocates, health care professionals, educators, and others, because, as Frank says, “The needs of the families in this report must be addressed at every level—political, social, and cultural—with an increase in knowledge, community and support.”
No matter who wins the election next week, the conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court and the threat that poses to LGBTQ families makes such work—backed by legitimate, authoritative social science research—even more vital than ever.
Halloween is likely to be pretty different this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs remain closed across whole swathes of the world so the opportunities for partying are more limited.
However, there are ways you can mark the occasion with others online. Camp horror icon Elvira has teamed up with the Los Angeles LGBT Center for a special, virtual screening event taking place this Friday (October 30).
In connection with Shout! Factory TV, Elvira will host two free online screenings of her 2001 movie, Elvira’s Haunted Hills. The screenings will take place at 7 pm and 9 pm PT. The 7 pm screening will also include a virtual costume contest. Anyone interested in entering must submit photos of themselves in their outfit in advance to lalgbtcenter.org/costume
Elvira, the gothic vamp played by actress Cassandra Peterson, earned herself a huge cult following on the release of the 1988 comedy horror film, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. It spawned numerous sequels.
Whilst watching this Friday’s movie, viewers will also be encouraged to donate to the LA LGBT Center via the Text-to-Donate mobile phone platform, to help it continue to offer its vital services during these difficult times. To join the fun, go to lalgbtcenter.org/watch this Friday evening.
“What better way to start celebrating Halloween than with shrieks of laughter from the comfort of your own home!” said the LGBT Center’s Membership Associate Kimberly Fisher.
“We are thrilled to partner with Shout! Factory TV to highlight the entertainment company’s profound commitment to honor our authentic selves in visual media. And to have Elvira herself hosting this special ‘live scream’ event is certainly a treat—not a trick!”
Depressed that Halloween won’t be the same this year? Check out a recent video from Elvira encouraging people to celebrate in any way they (safely) can!
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done a roundup of kids’ books on LGBTQ history and there have been many new ones in that time! Here’s a fresh list of old and new for LGBTQ History Month—including an upcoming picture book about Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera!
I’m focusing here on books that delve into the history of Pride and LGBTQ people more generally; ones that look solely at the experience of a Pride march or the colors of the rainbow flag can be found in my roundup of Pride Books for Kids. Also, as far as I know, all the authors below identify as White; I wish there was much more diversity of authorship among these books that chart our diverse history. (I know there are LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books by authors of color; I’m speaking just of history books here.) Publishers, you can do better than this.
An Upcoming Picture Book
Let’s start with one book I haven’t reviewed previously.Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution, by Joy Michael Ellison and Teshika Silver (Jessica Kingsley, 2020), isn’t out until November 21, but I’d be remiss not to mention it here. It tells the story of Stonewall icons and transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera by focusing on their close friendship and how they cared for their community in the face of harassment by police and others. We see them at the heart of the Stonewall Rebellion, then opening a home for homeless trans girls and continuing to fight “for the survival and rights of transgender people.”
Some of the violence during the riots has been tempered for the age group and a few historical details could be argued, but as the authors note, this is only one retelling of what happened. What comes through clearly, though—and is probably most important for this age group—is the bond between Sylvia and Marsha and the overall sense of how they worked to help those in need. A few of the narrative transitions are a little jumpy, but the thread of Sylvia and Marsha’s friendship helps hold things together.
The back matter offers additional details on the two, a glossary, discussion questions, and activities. There are a couple of errors in the two online resources listed, though: “Queer Kids Stuff” should be “Queer Kid Stuff,” and “The Family Equality Council” should be just “Family Equality.” (Also, I would have added PFLAG and Gender Spectrum as key resources, since they do a lot of work with families of trans kids.) Those are minor issues, though. This inspiring story of friendship, community, and revolution rightly gives Sylvia and Marsha their place on our kids’ bookshelves alongside the mostly White and male figures who have dominated LGBTQ picture book biographies.
Other Elementary School Books
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution, by Rob Sanders (Random House, 2019), uses the perspective of the Stonewall Inn itself to create a simple yet compelling story that focuses on the people in the neighborhood. Jamey Christoph’s evocative illustrations capture their diversity of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. (Full review.)
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Random House: 2018), is an inspiring biography of Milk that stresses his friendship with Gilbert Baker, who designed the rainbow flag as a symbol of hope and inspiration. It does mention Milk’s assassination, although as gently as possible, but parents should still be prepared to address kids’ concerns there. (Full review.)
Sewing the Rainbow: A Story About Gilbert Baker (Magination Press: 2018), written by Gayle Pitman and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, flips the perspective Sanders used, and takes us along with Baker from his childhood, through adversity, to the request by his friend Milk to create a new symbol for their community. A few rough transitions may take adult explanation, but all will be inspired by this story and how Baker regained his lost sparkle. (Full review.)
The Harvey Milk Story, written by Kari Krakow and illustrated by David Gardner (Two Lives Publishing: 2001), conveys Milk’s significance with warmth and appreciation. It is wordier and more detailed that Sanders’ book, and probably best for older elementary students. Unfortunately out of print and only available in used versions; see if you can find a cheap one or seek it in a library.
The Fighting Infantryman, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (Little Bee, 2020), is the story of Albert D. J. Cashier, an immigrant, Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War, and a transgender man—though as Sanders notes, he probably wouldn’t have used that term. Terminology aside, Sanders reinforces that “His identity fit him as snug as his suspenders.” (Full review.)
Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Levi Hastings (Henry Holt, 2020), takes us from Buttigieg’s birth in Indiana to his announcement of a groundbreaking run for president. “Only time will tell” who he will become, it concludes. It’s a smart way to end a book that was finished in May 2019 and fast-tracked for publication, as Sanders confirmed with me—well before Mayor Pete won the Iowa Democratic Caucuses but shortly thereafter dropped out of the race. It may inspire young readers on their own journeys of self-discovery and service. (Full review.)
For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful,” by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Olga Baumert (Albert Whitman), tells of Bates’ childhood during the Civil War, her dedication to study, and her work to address social injustices, as well as the trip that inspired her most famous poem. It mentions “the home she shared with Katharine Coman”; an afterward calls their relationship “a close companionship,” though as I explain in my full review, it was likely more than that.
Be Amazing: A History of Pride, by “Drag Kid” Desmond Is Amazing (Farrar Staus Giroux, 2020), is less a detailed history than a short overview of the Stonewall Riots and the first March one year later; brief biographies of Stonewall icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera; and a description of the influence of Pride on Desmond’s life. A mention of President Obama’s 2009 declaration of Pride Month makes it (incorrectly) seem as if that legitimized the observance. What it lacks as a history it makes up for with dazzling illustrations from Dylan Glynn and an enthusiastic message to “Be amazing.”
Harvey Milk,Ellen DeGeneres, and RuPaul Charles from Little Bee Books (2020) with no stated author, illustrated by Victoria Grace Elliott, each offer simple takes on these figures’ lives, though not as simple as the board book format might imply. (Full review.)
Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle, by Robin Stevenson (Orca, 2020), is an updated edition of her 2016 Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community, which blends a history of the event with a broader look at the struggle for LGBTQ equality, along with a look at what it means to come out, what to expect at Pride events around the world, a glossary, and an explanation of gender identity. The new edition places a greater focus on activism and activists, as the need for such work has grown over the past few years.
Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights, by Jerome Pohlen (Chicago Review Press, 2015), starts with Sappho, Alexander the Great, and other figures from distant history, but then focuses mostly on U.S. social and political history. A series of activities throughout the book add fun and engagement. Despite the main title, Pohlen is inclusive of the LGBT spectrum.
Stonewall: Our March Continues, by Olivia Higgins, illustrated by Tess Marie Vosevich Keller (self-published, 2019), straddles the picture book/middle grade line as it tells the tale through the eyes of young LGBT people in the 1960s seeking community in New York City. It’s an engaging approach, but the undifferentiated first-person narrative, intended to convey perspectives from different people, may be confusing. Young readers might also need adult guidance so they are not scared by the line, “My parents demand that I change or leave home forever.” (Full review.)
Young Adult Books
Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World, by Sarah Prager (HarperCollins: 2017), aims for the teen audience, but adults will also learn much from her engaging profiles. Prager offers a thoughtful exploration of historical terms for what we now call “queer” identities, an overview of queerness around the world, and profiles that are both informative and entertaining.
Gayle Pitman’s The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets(Abrams, 2019) is organized around 50 representative objects from the era and the event, such as photos, matchbooks, picket signs, and more. Pitman skillfully weaves the stories behind these objects into an accessible and substantial narrative. (Full review.)
What Was Stonewall? by Nico Medina (Penguin, 2019), looks at Stonewall in the context of the broader movement for LGBTQ equality both before 1969 and after, through 2016.
The Stonewall Riots: The Fight for LGBT Rights, by Tristan Poehlmann (Essential Library, 2016) is a solid overview, but only available in a $30 library edition, which may make it a better library pick than one for home bookshelves.
Rainbow Revolutions: Power, Pride, and Protest in the Fight for Queer Rights, by Jamie Lawson (Crocodile Books/Interlink, 2020), takes an more event-based approach to history, in contrast to Prager’s people-based one (see above), offering brief snapshots of significant moments and movements in LGBTQ history from the Victorian age to our current era. There’s a lot of fascinating information in the volume, although Lawson’s choices about what to focus on feels somewhat uneven. (Full review.)
Gay America: Struggle for Equality, by Linus Alsenas (Amulet: 2008), is explicitly limited to gay men and lesbians and a little dated now, but worthwhile within those limits, covering politics, culture, relations between the lesbian and gay rights movement and other civil rights movements, entertainment, the evolution of gay and lesbian identities, and more.
(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Travel booking company Orbitz is marking LGBTQ History Month in the US by teaming up with some LGBTQ celebrities and influencers.
The corporation has launched its own micro-site, Orbitz.com/Pride, to showcase hotels dedicated to welcoming all LGBTQ guests. It’s also asked its influencer partners to recommend things to do for visitors who may be touring their respective home towns.
“The pandemic has impacted so many parts of our daily lives, including the travel industry and the destinations and small businesses that rely on it,” says Carey Malloy, Brand and Marketing Director at Orbitz. “While many of us are still at home right now, we wanted to find a way to celebrate the places that bring joy and meaning to so many in the LGBTQIA community.”
If you check out the Orbitz Instagram, you’ll find virtual tours of each city throughout this month, led by the featured influencers. New stories will be added and highlighted using the hashtag #HappyPlace.
For example, here’s NSYNC’s Lance Bass giving you a tour of his favorite parts of Los Angeles.
Amongst Lance’s recommendations are the Mondrian Hotel (“my go-to place to host friends and family that visit for years”), the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the dog-rescue center, Vanderpump Dogs. Unsurprisingly, he also highly recommends Rocco’s WeHo (“the most inclusive bar and restaurant on the planet”), the bar he happens to own!
Todrick Hall also offers his West Hollywood recommendations on Instagram, which include The Abbey, the Los Angeles LGBT Center (“a great resource for the community but also visitors as they host live events”), and the Matthew Shephard Human Rights Triangle.
Hall also offers a rundown of things to do in his home state of Texas. Among his recommendations are the lesbian-owned Hotel San Jose in Austin, the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas (“the largest predominately LGBTQ church in the world”), and the Round-Up Saloon in Dallas (“A favorite of mine. It was the first time I saw gay men line dancing.”).
Also featured in the series are travel influencer couples Allie and Sam (@allieandsam), who offer their lowdown on Miami, and Matt and Beau (@ProbablyThis) on New Orleans.
As we head into the 2020 election, our contributing data brain, Himani Gupta, is analyzing data from past Autostraddle surveys to find out what issues are most important to our readers and what is currently at stake.
In this week’s Senate confirmation hearings, Amy Coney Barrett’s reticence to talk about her positions made it pretty clear how much damage she plans to do once she gets to the Supreme Court. Among the many disturbing things we know about Barrett’s political views, her stances on several health care issues are going to inflict a lot of harm on a lot of people.
Autostraddle’s Politics Survey, launched in December 2019, asked about a number of topics related to health care, namely: religious freedoms, reproductive rights and the affordability of care. At the end of July, I followed up with some of the original survey respondents to see if anything changed in terms of how they thought about the affordability issues in the wake of the pandemic.
We’re going to look at just how important these issues are to our community and discuss what’s at stake with Barrett’s impending nomination to the Supreme Court.
Who Took the Politics Survey
Before we turn to those results, we need to start by understanding who took the Politics Survey and who participated in the follow up.
The Politics Survey was available for anyone to take on Autostraddle’s website between December 3, 2019 and January 10, 2020. Over 4,400 people started the survey and just over two thirds made it to the mandatory questions on gender identity and sexual orientation. The analysis is restricted to queer people who identified as women, non-binary and/or trans, which gives us our sample of 2,834 respondents.
At the end of July, I reached out to the 994 Politics Survey respondents who said they were open to being contacted for follow up. Between July 26 and August 16, 662 people completed the Follow Up Survey. This divides our original sample into two subsamples: people who took the Follow Up Survey and people who didn’t.
For the most part, the Follow Up Survey respondents are a similarly diverse group of people compared to those who didn’t take the Follow Up Survey. A slightly greater proportion of trans women and non-binary women took the Follow Up Survey. The gender identities and sexual orientations of respondents to both surveys are shown below.
While the two subsamples are similar in terms of race/ethnicity, disability status and age, they differ on education. As shown in the figure below, more of the Follow Up Survey respondents earned a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree.
Another key difference is that fewer people living outside the U.S. participated in the Follow Up Survey. As a result, more of the Follow Up Survey respondents are registered to vote in the U.S. Once we account for this difference, the two subsamples are similar in terms of what region they live in. They also live in similar types of places, generally. (Note that the U.S. Census uses “urbanized clusters” and “urbanized areas” in its data collection, which are very different from how most people think about urban and suburban.) In terms of income, there is some variation, even after accounting for the differences in the proportions of non-U.S. residents.
There are, of course, unmeasurable differences between the type of person who would complete a second political survey and the type of person who wouldn’t. That being said, the Follow Up Survey provides important insight into shifts within our community.
“Anyone Who Would Discriminate ‘Based on Their Religious Beliefs’ Should Not be in Health Care.”
Far too often religion becomes the justification for mistreatment in health care, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ+ friendly and, especially, trans-inclusive care and reproductive rights. Based on a poll conducted by The Economist/YouGov in October 2019, Americans are conflicted in their views on a government regulation allowing medical providers to deny services because of their religious beliefs. Those divisions are largely along partisan lines with 81% of liberals opposing such a measure compared to 55% of conservatives supporting it.
Autostraddle Politics Survey respondents were in resounding opposition. Going beyond that question, several people further emphasized in free text comments that providers who have religious qualms about providing services should not be working in health care.
The figure below compares the results from the Politics Survey to the Economist/YouGov poll.
While the topic of religious freedoms in health care specifically didn’t come up in the confirmation hearings, Barrett’s views on religious freedom more broadly are well established. Earlier this week, writers for the Washington Post laid out Barrett’s disturbing history of supporting “preferential treatment” for religious expression. It’s likely, based on her record, that if a case on religious freedoms in health care were to make its way to the Supreme Court, she would rule in favor of those who are denying health care.
It’s also very possible that a case on this exact issue will make its way to the Supreme Court soon. In May 2019, the Trump administration created “conscience” protections that would prevent health care institutions from accessing federal funds if they took disciplinary actions against health care workers who denied services because of their religious beliefs. A few months later, in November of that year, a federal judge struck down the rule.
Anti-Trans Discrimination In Health Care Was Already A Big Problem. And Then the Trump Administration Intervened.
The Politics Survey asked respondents if they had been denied health care because of their gender identity or presentation. Among the overall sample, 5% of respondents said they had been denied services and 8% said they were unsure if that had happened to them.
But those overall numbers mask a deeper story. The figure below shows the stark differences in responses to the question on denial of services by the gender identity of the survey respondent. 50% of our trans women respondents had either been denied services because of their gender identity or presentation or had an ambiguous experience along those lines. About a third of our non-binary respondents shared that experience as well.
In addition to the responses shown above, several people shared other negative experiences in free-text comments, such as being discriminated against in other ways, traumatized and mistreated by trans-incompetent health care providers. Others mentioned putting off health care to avoid mistreatment and discrimination.
It seems almost inevitable that trans health care protections will find themselves before the Supreme Court sooner or later. And while Barrett’s views on the rights of trans people did not come up in the confirmation hearings, her use of the term “sexual preference” when asked about LGBTQ+ protections speaks volumes about how she views the community as a whole. Though she later apologized for using the term, her ties to a law firm that has fought to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people have also been reported this week.
Reproductive Rights Have Been Steadily Eroded for Decades.
Even before Barrett was nominated, the alarms were sounding that Roe v. Wade would be effectively gutted by a Supreme Court with a conservative-majority. In many ways, it already has been. Abortion is such a hot button issue that any law that gets passed, whether at the state or even a long-shot attempt in Congress, inevitably will make its way to the courts and, often, up to the Supreme Court. That small handful of people wields an incredible amount of power when it comes to reproductive rights.
Respondents to Autostraddle’s Politics Survey could not be farther from Barrett in their views. There was near unanimous support for abortion with almost 90% supporting that basic right to choose in all circumstances and another 10% wanting it to be “legal with limitations.” That was, more or less, consistent no matter how I sliced the data. In contrast, a Monmouth University poll from June 2019 found that while nearly two-thirds of American adults want abortion to be legal in some capacity, only 29% fully support it in all circumstances. The figure below compares these results.
The High Cost Of Health Care Hits Our Community Particularly Hard.
Alongside these battles over what medically-necessary services are legally permissible is the fight over the prohibitively high cost of health care. A well-established problem nationally, this is another aspect of the health care system that especially harms our community. The Politics Survey asked whether respondents to indicate whether they or someone in their household had forgone needed services because of they could not afford them. Results from the Politics Survey are compared to a Monmouth poll conducted May 2019 in the figure below. Note that all results discussed in this section exclude Politics Survey respondents who live outside the U.S. because of the policy-specific nature of this issue.
Once again, the overall numbers hide a deeper story. The Monmouth University poll found substantial differences in the response to this question by income, which is unsurprising given that cost is the underlying issue. A similar pattern was observed among Politics Survey respondents, as well. This comparison is shown in the graphic below.
A direct consequence of these disparities in access to care by income level is disparities in access to care by other demographic characteristics that are correlated with income, including gender identity, race/ethnicity and disability status. So while the rate of forgoing health care because of the cost among our community as a whole is 63%, among trans women and non-binary people that rate is 70% and 73% respectively, among Black and Latinx people it’s around 70% and among people living with disabilities it is a galling 78%. Health care is just one more arena where some of the most marginalized members of our community face the dual threats of identity-based discrimination and poverty.
The Growing Appeal of Medicare for All
Several policy ideas have been floated in the last few years to address the high cost of health care. A single public plan like “Medicare for All” has gained substantial traction on the left and dominated much of the conversation during the Democratic primaries. Among Politics Survey respondents, over 80% wanted to move towards a universal public system either immediately or eventually. The American public, of course, is much more divided. The figure below compares responses from the Politics Survey to a Monmouth University poll conducted in August 2019.
Support for a single payer was substantially higher among Politics Survey Respondents than U.S. adults, regardless of income. But, nonetheless, a greater proportion of our lower income respondents wanted to move towards a universal public system at some point than our higher income respondents: 88% of respondents with an annual income below $30,000 compared to 78% of respondents with an income above $100,000. There wasn’t much variation in support for Medicare for All by gender identity, race/ethnicity or disability.
I was curious to see if the pandemic led to any shifts in how people viewed Medicare for All, so this same question was asked on the Follow Up Survey. Among the people who took the Follow Up Survey, support for moving to Medicare for All at some point stayed about the same. The urgency, however, changed. In the Politics Survey (conducted December 2019 – January 2020), 70% of Follow Up Survey respondents said they wanted to get rid of all private insurance compared with 14% who preferred an opt-in with eventual transition to single payer. By the time of the Follow Up (conducted July – August 2020), that had shifted to 77% and 9%. The change is modest but not statistically significant.
The Supreme Court Could Affect Single Payer Health Care in Many Ways
One of the drawbacks of a single payer public health plan is that, depending on who’s in power, it might not cover politically divisive but medically necessary procedures like hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery or other trans-inclusive care, contraceptives or abortions. If recent history is any model, it’s fair to assume that even if Democrats managed to pass a plan like Medicare for All that covered all of these things (more on that in a minute), private companies would start suing left and right and the matter would make its way to the Supreme Court. Conservatives on the Court have already proven that they will side with religious freedoms at the expense of contraceptive care, as we saw in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. All evidence suggests they would act exactly the same way if there were a single payer law with a mandate for covering trans-inclusive care or abortions. And we know Barrett will fall even farther to the right on this than the conservatives currently on the Bench.
In addition to legal scrutiny over what could be covered in such plan, a single payer plan will very likely find itself in court for mandating health coverage, the way the Affordable Care Act has on multiple occasions. Here again, history is instructive of what the future may hold. In 2012, the ACA was narrowly saved with Roberts writing the majority opinion. As a legal scholar explained in a recent interview with The New Yorker, a key issue in that case and the one that will be heard by the Court the week after the election is whether requiring people to purchase health insurance is “an unconstitutional act of coercion.” In the 2012 case, Roberts ruled that the ACA, specifically, was not because of the fines imposed on people who did not purchase health insurance (which Roberts viewed as a “tax” and therefore under the purview of Congress). After Republicans did away with the fines in 2017, the latest challenge to the ACA argues that the current form of the ACA is now coercive.
It’s hard not to imagine that all of this would replay itself in one form or another if a public, single payer plan were to somehow become the law. Once again, the Supreme Court has tremendous power in determining the shape of health care in this country.
Biden, of course, does not support single payer, though Harris did during the primary. As the pandemic has worn on, Biden’s moved closer and closer towards it. In July, a “unity task force” between the Biden and Sanders campaigns put forward a plan to expand health care access substantially. While not single payer, the plan will lower the qualifying age for Medicare and includes a government-run public health insurance option. That public option would be available to anyone but would automatically enroll low-income people who lose their jobs. Again, what a conservative court will do with such a law remains to be seen.
Is Everything Doomed?
Barrett will be confirmed before the election. Republicans are bending every rule and norm to make that happen. We will have a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court in a matter of weeks. Roberts’ seemingly liberal sleight of hand votes that have, bit by bit, undermined policies that enshrine basic rights will no longer put off the inevitable. So where do we go from here?
The only say we have over who’s on the Supreme Court is through who we vote into office in the Senate and the Presidency. For his part, Biden continues to dodge questions about court-packing, which leaves us with something to hope for. Last week, Natalie covered the close Senate races; If you have the money or the time, donate to and volunteer to campaign for those races. And after the election, the phones need to start ringing.
GLSEN’s latest biennial National School Climate Survey, released yesterday, looks at the challenges that LGBTQ students face in school, the effects of a hostile climate, and the supports that can offset those effects—while also looking back at trends over two decades.
The study, conducted online from April through August 2019, included 16,713 students between the ages of 13 and 21, from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Guam. Just over two-thirds (69.2 percent) was White, two-fifths (41.6 percent) was cisgender female, and 40.4 percent were gay or lesbian. Their average age was 15.5 years and they were in grades 6 to 12, with most in grades 9, 10, and 11.
Instead of throwing a lot of numbers at you, I’ll just share the highlights, though I encourage you to go read the full report or even just the executive summary if you want further details, breakdowns by LGBTQ identity, or other demographics. GLSEN states:
Schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBTQ students, the overwhelming majority of whom routinely hear anti-LGBTQ language and experience victimization and discrimination at school. As a result, many LGBTQ students avoid school activities or miss school entirely.
A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. LGBTQ students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being.
Students who feel safe and supported at school have better educational outcomes. LGBTQ students who have LGBTQ-related school resources report better school experiences and academic success. Unfortunately, all too many schools fail to provide these critical resources.
All of that is unfortunately similar to what was found in the 2017 iteration of the survey. Taking a longer view, however, shows that “Although school climate for LGBTQ students has improved overall since our first installment of this survey in 1999, school remains quite hostile for many LGBTQ students. In 2019, we saw more positive changes than we had in the 2017 installment of this survey, but not as much positive change as in prior years.” More specifically (and here I slightly edit GLSEN’s points for brevity):
Some homophobic remarks, like “fag” or “dyke,” and negative remarks about gender expression showed a decline in 2019, after no change in 2017. Transphobic remarks decreased from 2017 to 2019, but homophobic remarks like “that’s so gay” and “no homo” increased in 2019. In addition, intervention by staff or other students when hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks generally has not changed in recent years, except for student intervention regarding homophobic remarks, which was lowest in 2019.
There have been few changes in recent years regarding experiences of harassment and assault, though there have been some small but significant decreases in most types of victimization related to sexual orientation and gender expression. The most commonly reported type of victimization over the decades, however, verbal harassment based on sexual orientation, has not improved in recent years.
On the positive side:
There have been promising increases in the supports for LGBTQ students. LGBTQ students in 2019 were more likely to report having a GSA, school personnel supportive of LGBTQ students, access to LGBTQ information from school libraries and computers, and comprehensive antibullying and harassment policies. In 2017, in contrast, there were few positive changes with regard to school resources.
Although we do not see an overall trend that schools have become appreciably safer for LGBTQ students in 2019, we do not see that they have become significantly worse.
The bottom line? GLSEN asserts, “In sum, although we do not see an overall trend that schools have become appreciably safer for LGBTQ students in 2019, we do not see that they have become significantly worse.” A tepid statement, perhaps, but under the current circumstances of our country, that may actually be a better outcome than we might have imagined. GLSEN notes that LGBTQ students have been under attack from the Trump administration: the current U.S. Department of Education revoked the Title IX guidance protecting transgender students that had been promulgated by the Obama Administration, and it has failed to investigate complaints of discrimination by LGBTQ students. GLSEN therefore says, “The fact that we have seen increases in many LGBTQ supports in schools and that we have not seen a tremendous worsening of school climate may be a testament to the resilience and strength of our LGBTQ young people in this country, and to the resourcefulness and dedication of school personnel for continuing to offer support and resources to create safer and more affirming school environments for their students.”
The fact that we have seen increases in many LGBTQ supports in schools and that we have not seen a tremendous worsening of school climate may be a testament to the resilience and strength of our LGBTQ young people in this country.
Where do we go from here? GLSEN advises that schools:
Support student clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs), that provide support for LGBTQ students and address LGBTQ issues in education;
Provide training for school staff to improve rates of intervention and increase the number of supportive teachers and other staff available to students;
Increase student access to appropriate and accurate information regarding LGBTQ people, history, and events through inclusive curricula and library and Internet resources;
Ensure that school policies and practices, such as those related to dress codes and school dances, do not discriminate against LGBTQ students;
Enact and implement policies and practices to ensure transgender and nonbinary students have equal access to education, such as having access to gendered facilities that correspond to their gender; and
Adopt and implement comprehensive school and district anti-bullying/harassment policies that specifically enumerate sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected categories alongside others such as race, religion, and disability, with clear and effective systems for reporting and addressing incidents that students experience.
As I wrote in 2017 when the previous National School Climate Survey came out, I am often amazed at the resources and opportunities for young LGBTQ people today. But for every queer homecoming sovereign, there are other students who cannot come out for fear of their safety and well-being. The impact is not just on LGBTQ students, but also on those who are perceived to be. And, as GLSEN, Family Equality Council, and COLAGE reported in their 2008 study on LGBT parents and their children in K-12 schools (which I’d still love to see updated!), “Students with LGBT parents may also be subjected to and negatively affected by anti-LGBT bias in schools.” Not to mention that all students may feel the negative effects of such bias if LGBTQ classmates, teammates, band mates, cast mates, and friends are struggling under the weight of victimization. And all students can benefit from learning about the full lives and contributions of LGBTQ people to our society and our world.
Looks like there’s still some homework left for all of us.
Donald Trump Jr. and John Mandt Jr.Photo: John Mandt Jr. campaign website
West Virginia Delegate John Mandt Jr. (R) resigned this past Saturday and suspended his campaign for reelection to the state legislature after anti-LGBTQ messages he sent to a Facebook chat group were leaked.
“Silly Faggot, Dicks are for chicks!!” Mandt allegedly wrote in the chat group “The Right Stuff,” which included conservative lawmakers in the state as well as candidates for office.
As screenshots of the messages were circulated on social media, Mandt denied making them in Facebook post on Saturday morning, saying he was “really hurt and very disappointed seeing fabricated posts circulating on social media.” That message has since been made private or deleted.
Later that same day, he had turned in a letter of resignation to West Virginia House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R).
“I have enjoyed my time in public service and thank the people of the 16th District for the opportunity to represent them in the House,” Mandt said. “Right now, my focus and priority needs to be on my family and business, and feel it is best at this time to terminate my campaign and make room for other individuals to serve the state.”
Screenshots from the group only use first names and profile pictures to identify the participants. One of them was Jeffrey Ward, a candidate for city council in Huntington, and he confirmed the authenticity of the messages.
“At first this group spoke of issues in the community and occasionally had some locker-room humor,” Ward told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, saying that he was personally invited to the group by Mandt. “However, the rhetoric from Delegate Mandt and several members shifted to personal attacks, sophomoric remarks and were not issue driven and were beneath the dignity of his office — as such, I left the group in March of this year.”
While Ward says that the messages were “beneath the dignity” of those in the group, screenshots show him asking if West Virginia Sen. Mitch Carmichael is “a homo.”
“probably Bi,” Mandt responded. “He can be a little feminine.”
Another person in the group said, “I don’t believe in bi, you either sleep with the same sex of [sic] you don’t.”
“He reminds me of a fag.”
Mandt then brings up two other state Republicans and says that they are sponsoring a “queer bill.” It is not clear what bill he was referring to.
In a different exchange, Mandt informed the group that he removed someone named “Bri” from the group – possibly his daughter Briana – who said she “lost a lot of gay friends bc of me.”
“I thought she was strong,” Mandt said of the person who was removed. “That’s youth for you. She’s tired of defending me.”
“When family turns on me,” he continued, “they aren’t family.”
Was going to go to bed. Saw something upsetting.
I know a lot of Catholics think that homophobia isnt real. I have to tell you it is. It’s so real and it scares me
The “John” in these messages is John Mandt, a local state representative. This is what I see all around me. pic.twitter.com/s13tFSPMgr
“It hurts,” said Del. Cody Thompson (D), one of the two out members of the state legislature. “I work with these people.”
“In general I’m very proud of a lot of things we can work together on for the betterment of the people of West Virginia, but when it comes down to seeing these comments, it’s really hard to work with those who, they may smile to my face and talk to me, but behind closed doors or in conversations with others they use homophobic slurs.”
Once again, it’s Banned Books Week—and a new list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books from the last decade reminds us that LGBTQ-inclusive books for kids remain among the most (needlessly) controversial.
The American Library Association (ALA) has compiled its annual Top Ten Most Challenged Books lists into a list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010-2019. Many are acclaimed novels, like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and even the Bible. As the Banned Books Week Coalition said in its press release, however, many of the books on the list were targeted for LGBTQIA+ content. They include:
Many more of the books on the list also include LGBTQ characters or ones of other marginalized identities. When the annual list for 2019 came out this past April, the ALA noted “a rising number of coordinated, organized challenges to books, programs, speakers, and other library resources that address LGBTQIA+ issues and themes. A notable feature of these challenges is an effort to frame any material with LGBTQIA+ themes or characters as inherently pornographic or unsuitable for minors, even when the materials are intended for children and families and they are age and developmentally appropriate.” Additionally, they observed:
Organized groups also continued to protest and disrupt Drag Queen Story Hour events held in libraries, claiming that the events advance political, social, and religious agendas that are inconsistent with the groups’ conservative Christian beliefs about gender and sexual identity. In 2019, OIF [the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom] tracked more than 30 challenges to Drag Queen Story Hours and other Pride programs, and identified a new and distressing trend of disinviting authors who had been invited to speak or read from their books, solely on the grounds that the authors identify as LGTBQIA+ or because their books include LGBTQIA+ themes. [Here’s my coverage of a school that disinvited author Phil Bildner from a virtual visit this May, and one that disinvited author Robin Stevenson from a talk last year.]
I don’t think I need to remind readers here of how damaging such censorship can be to LGBTQ children, children of LGBTQ parents, and also their peers, who will grow up never fully learning about the world around them. This is not to say that all books are appropriate for all children; some are clearly geared towards different age ranges. Yet even children of the same age have differing levels of maturity, so it is ultimately up to us parents or guardians to decide what books are appropriate for our own children. I will also add, speaking as the parent of a child who is almost grown, that inevitably our children will learn about some things in life before we think they should. It’s then up to us to help them understand and contextualize this information—and books are often more of a help here than a hinderance. Banning books from schools and libraries is rarely the answer and can even make a parent’s task harder.
The ALA also reminds us that the censorship of books in libraries is a violation of our First Amendment rights, yet 82 to 97 percent of challenges remain unreported. (To confidentially report a challenge, use this handy ALA online form.)
Despite the continuing challenges to LGBTQ books, however, I see several reasons for hope: Although Heather Has Two Mommies has been under fire since 1982, when it was used as an example of “the militant homosexual agenda” by an Oregon group campaigning to allow anti-gay discrimination, it came out in a new edition with revised text and graphics in 2015. And Tango Makes Three saw a 10th anniversary edition in 2015 that brought the tale to the board book format. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, which has seen challenges since 2008, came out in a new edition this past May. Clearly, the challenges haven’t slowed down the popularity of these books or the commitment of their publishers.
As I wrote in April, too, I believe that the increase in challenges to Drag Queen Story Hours and queer-inclusive children’s books is in part an indicator of their success as they spread to more libraries and communities. I’m also heartened by the many, many LGBTQ-inclusive books I’ve reviewed that haven’t been banned, although I do wonder whether this is because they’re not becoming known and getting into libraries in the first place. I’d like to think that even though queer-inclusive books will undoubtedly face more challenges, it will be harder for them all to be challenged as their numbers grow. In 2018 and 2019 there was a rise in the number of queer-inclusive children’s books published, and 2020 is continuing the surge. Get them for your own family or recommend them to your local children’s librarian.
Want to hear more about banned books from an author who’s dealt with many challenges? Alex Gino’s George, an award-winning middle grade novel about a transgender girl, has been on the yearly Top 10 list for four years in a row, topping the list in 2018 and 2019. Gino will be joining the Banned Books Week Coalition and OIF for a special Facebook Live event on Wednesday, September 30, to talk about censorship and representation in literature. For even more (mostly virtual) events on various topics related to censorship, inclusion, and more, see the Banned Book Week Events listing. Read proudly this week and every other!
(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)
A new book by the hosts of a popular podcast captures the lively spirit of the show and the insights of their many guests as it explores LGBTQ family making.
If These Ovaries Could Talk: The Things We’ve Learned About Making an LGBTQ Family, by Jaimie Kelton and Robin Hopkins, might more accurately have been subtitled “… Making LGBTQ Families,” because there are many of them here and they’re a varied lot. Since January 2018, when Kelton and Hopkins launched their If These Ovaries Could Talk podcast, they’ve spoken with dozens of LGBTQ parents, parents-to-be, and their children, including celebrities like comedian Judy Gold, poet StaceyAnn Chin, and Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls; medical, legal, and financial experts; and many other individuals and couples of various identities and at different stages of their parenting journeys. Their book, culled from the many conversations they’ve had, is aimed at two audiences: LGBTQ people who want to start a family and curious non-LGBTQ folks who might want to know more about LGBTQ families but have been “too afraid to ask.”
That sets it apart from many of the other books about LGBTQ family making, which are aimed more exclusively at prospective LGBTQ parents. The dual audience for this book, though, parallels the goal of the podcast “to normalize (for lack of a better word) our nontraditional families. To show the world our struggles, our love, our joy, our thoughtfulness and our humanity.” Hopkins and Kelton find the balance between those audiences by focusing on sharing stories rather than creating a step-by-step how-to manual—yet there’s still plenty of practical information here for those who want it. Although they don’t shy away from the many challenges faced by LGBTQ parents—both as LGBTQ people and as parents—they also give readers a big heaping dose of joy and positivity. “Our families are freaking fabulous,” they emote.
Kelton and Hopkins, both award-winning actors, bring their signature humor and chatty tone to keep things conversational, even when discussing serious topics. Hopkins began her career as a stand-up comic in New York City and is now an executive producer of the podcast Amy Schumer Presents: 3 Girls, 1 Keith. Her film and TV credits include Boardwalk Empire, Louie,Hindsight and more. She’s also an accomplished playwright. Kelton has over 17 years of stage experience as an actor, singer, and dancer, and has done voiceover work for Disney’s The Octonauts, Amazon’s Bug Diaries, and SYFY’s Happy, among other shows. Importantly, too, they’re both lesbian moms who also share their own stories.
Rather than simply give us transcripts of their podcast episodes, however, they’ve sifted through them to compile key stories and dialogues into thematic chapters. Most chapters begin with short introductory pieces by each of them, followed by the first-person reflections on the chapter’s topic by several podcast guests, sometimes in conversation with each other or the hosts.
The first section of the book is about starting a family, beginning with a chapter on deciding if you even want to do so. There are chapters on donors, assisted reproduction, adoption and foster care, and “Trans and Fertility” (awkwardly named but thoughtfully done in that the cisgender authors step back to let transgender people speak for themselves). The second section looks at topics for those who already have kids. Here we have chapters on money and legal issues, “Being Out as a Family”; “Talking to Your Kids About Their Family”; families that include networks of donors, donor siblings, and other adults; being a non-biological, adoptive, or step parent; intersectional issues including race, religion, and gender fluidity; and “Growing Up with Gay Parents.” A glossary at the end provides a helpful look at some commonly used terms.
Perhaps most importantly, the stories here convey the great variety of LGBTQ parenting experiences. The book is, of course, limited by the identities and experiences of Hopkins, Kelton, and their guests as of the book’s writing—they’re a diverse lot, but don’t, for example, include any parents who identify (at least in the book) as bisexual or any children of transgender parents. (They do, however, include transgender parents and bisexual children of LGBTQ parents, though one guest’s description of her daughter as both “bisexual” and “lesbian” begs clarification.) Their podcast continues, though; perhaps there will be a second book as well, with even more varied voices.
A few quibbles have more to do with the editing than the main content of the book. There are an unfortunate number of typos, which I hope can be corrected in a future edition. A full index would have been helpful. A list of the podcast episodes and guests would have benefited from including the episode dates. Those are minor issues, however, and do not substantially detract from the thoughtful stories, information, and sense of community conveyed by the many voices here.
If you want to be inspired by other LGBTQ families who have been have through some of the same decision-making processes; if you want to feel like you’re in a fun group discussion with other LGBTQ parents and their children that makes the whole experience less daunting; or if you want a book to share with non-LGBTQ relatives, friends, and neighbors about our families, then this is the book for you. Let’s hope these ovaries keep talking.
Like the book? Keep up with If These Ovaries Could Talk wherever you listen to podcasts.
(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)