Tag: support

Teamwork Counts: Why I Support Trans Girls in Girls’ Sports

Teamwork Counts: Why I Support Trans Girls in Girls' Sports

Those who have met me, even briefly, know one thing about me: I’m small. I stand 5’0″ in my socks and I’m not too hefty. I’ve been an athlete all my life, though, and have almost always competed against opponents who are taller and heavier. That’s only one of the reasons why I don’t understand those who want to limit transgender girls’ participation in girls’ sports.

Shoes and jump rope

I was an NCAA varsity fencer and nationally competitive for several years beyond college. I have a black belt in taekwondo. I’m a cisgender woman and have competed in both sports against women and men (mostly women, but occasionally in mixed-gender tournaments); some of the women were 6′ tall; some of the men were 5’6″ or under, and vice versa. I was good but not exceptional, but I’ve won and I’ve lost regardless of gender, height, or weight. When I lost, I sucked it up and trained harder. Tell me I’d lose just because an opponent was bigger or stronger and my instinct was to prove you wrong.

Yes, height and weight can be an advantage in some sports, but they can also be a disadvantage—and one learns to use what one has. (In fencing, my shorter arms gave me an advantage at close quarters.) And in sports where weight really matters, like wrestling, there are weight categories so a 160-pound athlete doesn’t compete against a 110-pound one. (Having said that, when I went to smaller taekwondo tournaments, sometimes there weren’t enough competitors to break out into weight categories and I’d end up sparring someone who outweighed me by quite a bit. I just learned to move faster.)

Then there are all of the middle-school sports leagues in which some of the kids have hit their growth spurts already and others haven’t, and the size/weight discrepancy among athletes is vast, even within a single gender. Do we tell the smaller kids they can’t play, or make the smaller boys compete on the girls’ teams? No. The point is to give all kids the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits of sport with their peers, which usually means with others of their gender. (Once more for the people in the back: Trans girls are girls.)

There are now, however, bills in 24 states that would ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports in public high schools, according to the ACLU. These bills claim that trans girls have an unfair physical advantage over cis girls. Yet as the AP points out, “in almost every case, sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.” And as Evan Urquart at Slate explains (my bold):

Trans women have been eligible to compete as women in the Olympics since 2004, and so far, no trans woman has even qualified, much less dominated, any women’s Olympic sport. School-age sports are a somewhat different matter, but the primary purpose of these activities is to promote fitness, goal setting, good peer relationships, and healthy competition, rather than setting records or making money. To simply ban some girls from participating outright, without recognizing that they too deserve these benefits or even attempting to find a path toward fair inclusion, is an extreme punishment, and it targets a group of young girls who are already highly stigmatized. The potential harm to cisgender women athletes posed by trans inclusion is, at best, both speculative and absolutely minuscule, given the small numbers of trans women (less than half of 1 percent of the population) who exist in the first place.

Want more information? Try “Four Myths About Trans Athletes, Debunked,” from Chase Strangio and Gabriel Arkles of the ACLU, or “Fair Play: The Importance of Sports Participation for Transgender Youth,” by Shoshana K. Goldberg at the Center for American Progress. Goldberg asserts, “There is no evidence to support the claim that allowing transgender athletes to participate will reduce or harm participation in girls’ sports,” but “transgender sports bans can have disastrous consequences, particularly as they continue to perpetuate and legitimize rejection of gender identity. While inclusion in sports is not a cure-all for the deep-seated discrimination against transgender youth, their exclusion from such activities can potentially put their lives at risk.”

Yes, there will be times when transgender girls will beat cisgender ones in sports, but it will be because of their training and determination, or a bad day on the part of another competitor, or any number of other factors that go into determining the outcome (ask me about my lucky socks) other than merely the size of the person.

Count me, then, as a cisgender woman who’s been a serious athlete (and still is, though not competitively) but who is all for trans girls’ participation in girls’ sports. But it’s not really my experience that should matter here. Go read the story of 10-year-old Zoe, a girl in Arizona who just wants to play soccer with other girls, and happens to be trans.

Think this is just about sports? It’s not. Anti-LGBTQ organizations are stirring up the fear of trans girls participating in girls’ sports as a reason to vote against the Equality Act, which would provide a broad range of protections to LGBTQ people. We can’t throw these girls under the bus in the name of some greater good, however. There is no greater good than the well-being of young people. We all need to educate ourselves (if we haven’t already) about why trans girls deserve to participate in girls’ sports so that we can convince our friends, neighbors, and elected officials—for the good of trans girls and for the good of the whole LGBTQ community. That’s what being on a team is all about.

Study links toxic masculinity with support for Trump, surprising no one

Toxic masculinity

Surprise surprise, traits of toxic masculinity are more likely to be found in Trump fans (Envato)

An entirely predictable study has found that Americans who support traditional stereotypes of toxic masculinity are more likely to back Donald Trump.

A team from Penn State University found a correlation between belief in “hegemonic masculinity” – the notion that men should be strong, tough and dominant – and voting for Trump.

Of the 2,007 participants the researchers recruited, those who held outdated ideals of manhood were more likely to vote for and have positive feelings about Trump. This held true even when they controlled for political party, gender and how much the participants trusted the government.

“The pervasiveness of hegemonic masculinity exists because we do not always know that our attitudes and behaviours are contributing to it,” said doctoral candidate Nathaniel Schermerhorn, who was involved in the study.

“The success of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign shows that even if we, as a society, have made progress in saying that discrimination and prejudice is undesirable, we have not, as a society, fully interrogated the systematic ways in which those prejudices are upheld.”

Professor Theresa Vescio added that while Trump’s ideals of masculinity may resonate with voters, few are actually able to embody them.

“In contemporary America, idealised forms of masculinity suggest that men should be high in power, status and dominance, while being physically, mentally and emotionally tough,” she said.

“But this is an incredibly high standard that few can achieve or maintain. Therefore, this is an idea that many men strive to achieve, but few men actually exhibit.”

Meanwhile, a 2020 study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that homophobic men who exhibit traits of toxic masculinity are more likely to be prone to violent bullying, sexual harassment and mental illness.

So-called “macho” men with aggressive and anti-LGBT+ attitudes are twice as likely to be at risk of depression or suicidal tendencies, and up to five times more likely to engage in sexual harassment and online, physical or verbal bullying, the study showed.

Trans kids ‘deserve support and unconditional love’

Richard Madeley seen outside the ITV Studios on August 28, 2019 in London, England.

Richard Madeley seen outside the ITV Studios on August 28, 2019 in London, England. (Getty)

Richard Madeley has said that transgender children should get “support and unconditional love.”

The former Richard & Judy presenter made the comments in his regular advice column in The Daily Telegraph after a message from Rowena, a divorced mum to a 16-year-old transgender boy.

Rowena explained that her new partner was struggling to adapt to her son’s transition, recalling: “He gets extremely upset and says that the idea repulses him. He’s said nothing to Billy’s face but he has mocked his new clothes, and he busies himself in the kitchen when I’m with Billy in the sitting room.”

The mum added: “He’s never been very forthcoming about doing things with all the kids together, but now he clams up when I suggest it, as if Billy would be a source of shame to him.”

Richard Madeley says trans teen ‘deserves support and unconditional love’

While some ‘gender critical’ activists would probably prefer to suggest packing Billy off for conversion therapy, Madeley gave the same advice we’re likely all currently shouting: dump that idiot immediately.

He wrote: “To be totally honest, the first thought that came into my mind when I finished reading your letter was: Rowena needs a new boyfriend.”

Madeley continued: “Frankly, your boyfriend needs a reality check. If your child has identified as male, he deserves support and unconditional love, not mockery about what clothes he chooses to wear and baby sulks in the kitchen.

“And even if your boyfriend’s behaviour is rooted in jealousy, not prejudice (though I suspect both are factors) do you really want to share your life with a man who resents the simple fact that you love your child?

“I believe it’s ultimatum time, Rowena. Love me, love my child. For Billy’s sake, make it crystal clear that this demand is absolutely non-negotiable.

“And if your boyfriend chooses to continue to behave like a petulant toddler, I think you know what you must do. For Billy’s sake. And your own.”

Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley at the National Television Awards 2020
Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley at the National Television Awards 2020 (Getty/Dave Benett)

Columnist says people need to shout at each other less on trans issues

Madeley has previously addressed trans issues via his advice column, responding diplomatically last year to a mother who recalled “a furious argument with my 25-year-old son about trans women in sport.”

He wrote: “Transgender issues are relatively new in society; they’re complex, and they’re here to stay. We should give ourselves time to consider them thoughtfully, without heat or recrimination.

“This is my advice to you and your son. Accept that each of you has the right to hold personal opinions based on the perceived evidence and, yes, on your emotional response to it. Discuss rather than argue. Try to explore the other’s point of view, without rancour.

“Be curious about the reasons you disagree, rather than angry – because if we end up shouting at each other, no one learns anything and everything gets stuck. Just look at Brexit.”

Ways to Honor and Support LGBTQ and All Veterans

Ways to Honor and Support LGBTQ and All Veterans

A big thanks to all veterans for your service and the sacrifices you and your families have had to make. For Veteran’s Day and any day, here are some ways the rest of us can support veterans, LGBTQ and not. (Me? I’m making my veteran spouse an especially nice dinner tonight.)

U.S. Flag

This is a slightly revised version of a list I published last year; despite the pandemic (and perhaps especially because of it), showing our support for veterans is as important as ever.

  1. Thank the veterans you know, whether it’s an older relative who served in World War II or someone who has served more recently.
  2. Learn their stories.
    • If you know any veterans personally, ask them about their service—though be respectful if they would rather not discuss what might have been traumatic experiences.
    • Watch today’s special online screening by the LA LGBT Center of Our Service, Our Stories, a short film developed, filmed, and edited by LGBT Veterans.
    • The Modern Military Association of America, which serves LGBTQ service members, veterans, and their families, publishes a magazine of stories and news for and about LGBTQ military families. Go read a few stories to learn more about the joys and challenges of military life.
    • GLAD Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Trans People of Color Coalition and SPART*A have partnered to highlight the stories of transgender veterans and service members of color.
    • Read about a transgender American hero of the Civil War, in a picture book published earlier this year.
    • Beyond the LGBTQ community, check out the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress.
  3. Support a veterans’ organization. In addition to the Modern Military Association of America, you might consider SPART*A, the nation’s leading transgender military service organization, American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), or some not-LGBTQ-specific ones listed at Military.com. (As always, do your own research on any organization before donating.)
  4. Take a veteran out for a meal or shopping, if you can practice appropriate social distancing. Many restaurants and stores have special discounts for them today—but any other day works, too.
  5. Educate yourself on how the Veterans Administration is still falling short on health care for LGBTQ veterans, according to a recent report.
  6. Remember that an estimated 134,000 American veterans are transgender, and over 15,000 trans people are serving in military today, even as President Trump is trying to deny them the right to do so. Learn more from the National Center for Transgender Equality as well as from GLAD and NCLR. Yes, Joe Biden has said he will reverse the ban, but I think it’s important we all understand what the impact of the ban has been on transgender service members and their families.

New Report Looks at Need to Support LGBTQ Parents and Parents of LGBTQ Kids

New Report Looks at Need to Support LGBTQ Parents and

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.


Families with LGBTQ Children or Parents: Countering Stigma with Knowledge and Support” is the first publication of The Constellation Project, which formed last year as a data resource to help both nonprofits and researchers reach out to and serve families with LGBTQ children or parents. One of the authors is Nathaniel Frank, the director of Cornell University’s What We Know Project, which I’ve long cited as a resource for all of the academic papers showing the well-being of children with LGBTQ parents.

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.

For LGBTQ Students, Hostilities Remain, Despite Increases in Support

For LGBTQ Students, Hostilities Remain, Despite Increases in Support

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.

GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2019

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.

GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2019

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.

Pakistan’s first transgender policewoman becomes victim support officer


Reem Sharif, the first trans police officer in Pakistan, is fighting to change the prejudices that previously held her back (Twitter/@zofeen28)

After enduring death threats, slurs and sexual harassment, Pakistan’s first transgender police officer is using her experience to help others as a trans victim support officer.

Reem Sharif has gone from victim to protector as she resolves disputes and shields trans people from abuse in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.

She has been in the post just two months and she’s already helped protect 16 trans people, reports the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The other day we got a call from a trans woman that her brothers had threatened to kill her. I went and talked them into accepting that who they thought was their brother had always been a sister,” 32-year-old Sharif said.

“In another [case], a tenant was being thrown out of her home for being a trans person and I was able to stop that.”

Sharif works at the Tahafuz centre, a pilot project of the Rawalpindi police formed to protect transgender people. Since it opened on May 12 she has received around 40 trans visitors who came to the station “out of curiosity”.

(Facebook/Reem Sharif)

Her success is hard won: she had to endure constant abuse through college, which she described as “the worst years of my life”, in addition to being ostracised by her own family.

“For my brothers, I was always a source of humiliation,” she said.

“One of them told me he would have a problem getting his kids married off if people found out about me. I was very hurt but I said they don’t have to tell anyone about my existence; in any case we live in different cities and I support myself.”

Pakistan is becoming increasingly accepting of trans people after the passage of a 2018 bill which grants broad legal protections for the transgender community.

However, abuse and discrimination are still pervasive in Pakistani society, and the experience of being shunned by families is all too common. This marginalisation makes it harder for trans people to access jobs, education and healthcare.

(Facebook/Reem Sharif)

Leading by example, Sharif intends to prove trans people are capable of leadership roles, inspiring others like her to help change the prejudices that have held them back.

“Unless (trans people) have role models to follow, they will continue in the same footsteps of their predecessors who have survived by begging, dancing or carrying out sex work,” she said.

“But when they see a transgender policewoman or a television anchor or a lawyer, they will realise they can dream and aspire to reach for the stars.”