Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Aug. 26 2016 6:12 PM

Federal Judge Blocks Portions of North Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Law

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder ruled on the legality of North Carolina’s HB2, a wide-reaching anti-LGBTQ law. The result is a partial success for HB2’s critics—especially with regard to HB2’s requirement that universities discriminate against transgender students and employees. But the ruling also suggests that Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, is skeptical of the plaintiffs’ broader claims about HB2’s unconstitutionality. The upshot is that HB2’s legal opponents have a fair amount to celebrate—and a lot more work to do.

Schroeder rendered a judgment on two central challenges to the North Carolina law: First, that it violates federal law; and second, that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Department of Education currently interprets Title IX’s ban on “sex discrimination” to encompass anti-trans discrimination, including the exclusion of trans people from the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Through this interpretation, the DOE has found that federally funded schools may not prevent trans people from using their preferred bathroom. Yet HB2 explicitly prevented trans people from using the bathroom at school unless they altered their birth certificate, which is impossible in some states.

Aug. 26 2016 11:28 AM

Help! Testosterone Is Melting My Brain! (Maybe.)

I don’t want to alarm you, reader, but my verbal ability may be deteriorating even as I write this. As part of my medical transition from female to male, I have started testosterone therapy. The latest neurological research indicates that testosterone may literally shrink parts of the brain associated with speech and language processing. This is not cool if you happen to be a professional writer who is also a trans man on hormone replacement therapy, a common predicament I assume most Americans are familiar with.

There’s a lot that’s muddy and inconclusive in the realm of sex-based brain differences, but one of the clearest results from the scientific literature is that men score worse on tests of verbal ability and that testosterone may have something to do with delays or reductions in language (at least in childhood).

Aug. 25 2016 1:42 PM

The Clinton Foundation Is Not a Scandal. It’s a Phenomenal, Life-Saving Success.

The Associated Press published an investigation Tuesday, alleging that Hillary Clinton gave donors to her family’s charity, the Clinton Foundation, special access to the State Department during her tenure as secretary of state. Vox’s Matt Yglesias promptly detailed the article’s many flaws, exaggerations, and outright falsehoods—including a thorough debunking of its claim that a majority of people Clinton met with as Secretary of State were Clinton Foundation donors. But the AP article’s thesis, that Clinton ran a pay-to-play scheme through her foundation, quickly made the rounds in the conservative press and wound up in a Donald Trump speech. Inevitably, the faux scandal migrated to mainstream outlets, and editorial boards begancalling for the Clintons to shut down the foundation or sever their associations with it.

Mostly lost in this debate, however, is what the Clinton Foundation actually does. I suspect many Americans have fallen for the myth, tirelessly perpetuated by the Weekly Standard and other GOP water-carriers, that the foundation is “more a slush fund than a charity.” I also suspect that the authors of these traducements—as well as the editorial board writers blithely demanding that the Clintons withdraw from their own charity—have never seriously examined the foundation’s work. That makes sense: The Clinton Foundation runs one of the most phenomenally successful AIDS relief program of all time, and AIDS relief is simply not on most straight people’s radars. But let me provide a bit more background about the foundation’s work to provide a more complete picture of this purported “slush fund.”

During his presidency, Bill Clinton made little effort to combat AIDS in developing countries, where the disease takes the most lives. He hoped to make up for this failure after leaving the White House by putting AIDS relief at the forefront of his new charity. This effort turned out to be an astonishing success. Through his foundation, Clinton launched AIDS initiatives in more than two dozen developing countries, placing nurses in rural clinics, training hospital managers, purchasing drugs, and negotiating huge price cuts for critical AIDS medications.

Aug. 24 2016 4:22 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory and His Anti-LGBTQ Law Are Tanking in the Polls

North Carolina’s gubernatorial race broke wide open this week as Democrat Roy Cooper galloped to a nine-point lead ahead of his rival, current Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. A Monmouth poll released on Wednesday suggests the race continues to break the Democrat’s way, with Cooper solidifying the lead he has been steadily building for months. Several factors contribute to Cooper’s ascendance: Independents have a slight preference for him over McCrory, while Cooper boasts higher favorability ratings than the incumbent governor. (More voters view McCrory unfavorably than favorably.) And Hillary Clinton is polling ahead of Donald Trump in the state, likely pulling Cooper along with her.

The biggest drag on McCrory appears to be HB2, the anti-LGBTQ law the governor signed in March and has vigorously defended since. According to the Monmouth poll, 55 percent of voters disapprove of HB2, while only 36 approve of the measure. Seventy percent of voters believe the law has harmed North Carolina’s reputation nationally, while just 9 percent say it has improved the state’s image. Among those who approve of HB2, 41 percent say it has been bad for North Carolina’s reputation; only 21 percent say it has been good for the state’s image nationwide.

Aug. 23 2016 8:30 AM

Truvada on the NHS: How Public Health Care Shapes the British Debate Over PrEP

As night follows day, a court decision declaring that Britain’s National Health Service should fund the provision of PrEP for at-risk people was met with irresponsible and homophobic media coverage. More commonly known by the brand name Truvada, if taken daily, PrEP can helpprevent someone who is HIV-negative from getting the virus.

The Daily Mail—whose high horse is usually tethered nearby for occasions such as this—labeled PrEP a “promiscuity pill” that would cost “taxpayers up to £20 million a year” ($26 million) and “encourage men to have sex with multiple partners without condoms and may even lead to higher HIV rates.” Both the Mail and the Times claimed the money spent on PrEP would divert funds from other conditions. The Wright Stuff—a morning TV talk show that makes The View seem like a Mensa summit—led with the crazed chyron, “FREE £20M HIV DRUG FOR GAYS WHO WON’T USE CONDOMS?”

Aug. 22 2016 11:26 AM

Texas Judge Issues Nationwide Injunction Blocking Trans-Friendly School Guidelines

On Sunday night—the evening before the new school year begins in Texas—a federal judge in Fort Worth issued a nationwide injunction, preventing the Obama administration’s trans-friendly school guidelines from taking effect. The guidance, issued jointly by the Department of Education and Department of Justice, would have barred schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against trans and gender-nonconforming students. But U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor blocked the new guidelines from taking effect, holding that the federal government had exceeded its legal authority—and that the policies would harm students who are forced to use the same bathroom as their trans peers.

O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, makes clear throughout his ruling that he did not approve of the administration’s new guidelines, which would have allowed trans students to use the bathroom and locker room that aligns with their gender identity. His decision includes a brief section alleging that the Obama administration promulgated its trans-friendly guidance too quickly under a federal law governing agency rulemaking. But the thrust of O’Connor’s ruling is much broader: The judge holds that Title IX’s ban on “sex discrimination” in federally funded schools may never legally be interpreted to protect “transgendered students.” (That’s the judge’s unfortunate phrasing.)

Aug. 19 2016 5:01 PM

North Carolina Tells Court Trans People Aren’t Really Trans, Just “Delusional”

North Carolina filed a brief on Thursday, opposing the federal government’s motion to halt the enforcement of HB2 as a legal challenge makes its way through the courts. The brief begins with a typo, calling itself a “BRIEF IN OPPPOSITON” [sic], and only goes downhill from there. Most of North Carolina’s arguments in defense of its indefensible anti-LGBTQ law are familiar by this point. But Thursday’s brief also puts front and center a claim it has heretofore deployed only as subtext: Not just that trans people don’t deserve rights, but that trans people don’t exist at all.

North Carolina begins by defining sex as “defined in terms of the complementary roles that males and females play in reproduction.” Sex, the brief claims, “is accordingly a ‘binary,’ either-or proposition: a person is either male or female, and the hypothesis of a ‘third’ sex is contrary to a sound medical and physiological understanding of the human person.” Wait a minute, you might think: Aren’t some people, often called “intersex,” born with both male and female attributes? Yes, the brief admits, but this condition is “extremely rare,” so the law must ignore its existence altogether. (One wonders if the brief’s drafters ever paused their writing to watch intersex Olympian Caster Semenya compete on TV.)


Aug. 18 2016 5:33 PM

Federal Judge: Religious Liberty Includes a Right to Fire LGBTQ Employees

It finally happened.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox found that Hobby Lobby’s broad guarantee of “religious freedom” to businesses exempts religious employers from the federal ban on workplace sex discrimination. Cox ruled that, under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, for-profit corporations may claim a legal right to fire employees for being transgender. His decision marks the first time a court has used Hobby Lobby’s holding to abridge LGBTQ employees’ rights under nondiscrimination law—an extension of “religious liberty” that anti-LGBTQ advocates insistedwould never occur.

The case arose when R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes’ funeral director, Amiee Stephens, announced plans to transition from male to female. Thomas Rost, her employer, promptly fired her, explaining that he could not tolerate her “dress[ing] as a woman” at work. On Stephens’ behalf, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the funeral home under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender nonconformity. While courts have divided on whether anti-trans discrimination is always “sex discrimination,” it is widely accepted that Title VII forbids employers from firing workers for failing to conform to certain sex stereotypes. Moreover, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has explicitly held that sex discrimination encompasses anti-trans discrimination—a ruling that is binding precedent here.

Aug. 18 2016 11:57 AM

Court Holds Bisexual Asylum-Seeker Isn’t Actually Bisexual, Drawing Withering Dissent

On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit issued an outrageous decision, holding that a bisexual Jamaican asylum seeker isn’t actually bisexual and can thus be deported back to Jamaica. The three-judge panel’s reasoning is profoundly flawed and rather offensive, betraying a profound skepticism toward the legitimacy of bisexuality itself. This ignorance drew a typically unsparing dissent from Judge Richard Posner, who slammed the immigration judge for her ignorance and borderline bi-phobia.

At issue in the case is the decision of an immigration judge allowing the United States to deport Ray Fuller, a 51‐year‐old Jamaican citizen who sought asylum in America due to his orientation. Jamaica is widely recognized as one of the most homophobic countries on Earth; same-sex intimacy remains criminalized and anti-gay hate crimes are stunningly common. Yet the immigration judge inexplicably held that bisexual people are not persecuted in Jamaica.

Aug. 18 2016 10:59 AM

Twinks, Bears, and U-Haul: TV’s Bizarre Version of “Gay Culture”

In the last few years, television has gotten better at including LGBTQ characters, but its representation of gay culture is still rather limited. While some shows—like Difficult People, Happy Endings, and The Fosters—reveal an understanding of the way queer people live now, others seem content to repeat outdated stereotypes and to obsess about gay men’s sexual types and lesbians’ use of U-Haul as a verb.

This video looks at what television talks about when it talks about “gay culture,” all the way from Melissa Etheridge to Cher and from twinks to bears.