Be a Better Ally: How to Support Your Transgender Friends

From Huffington Post:


Nov. 11-17 is Transgender Awareness Week, during which many organizations and community groups work together to raise awareness about important issues facing transgender people. On Tuesday the Young Leaders Council of Fenway Health hosted an interactive and thoughtful discussion about what it means to be an ally for the transgender community.

We heard from two panelists: Donnie Collins, a college student whose fraternity brothers banded together to raise over $20,000 when Donnie’s insurance refused to cover his medical expenses, and Grace Stevens, who works with businesses to develop respectful, inclusive policies and a culture of acceptance.

I consider myself a strong ally for the LGBTQ community (I work at Fenway Health, after all), but this event really broadened my understanding and taught me a lot. When asked how the world could be a better place for trans people, Grace responded, “If they could not fear losing everything when they transition.” Wow. Donnie commented on how children are taught from a young age what is “appropriate” for their biological sex and cautioned, “We don’t want kids to feel unsafe expressing themselves.” We need to stop saying things like, “This is just a phase,” and just let them be.

John Lewis, one of Donnie’s fraternity brothers who helped lead the fundraising efforts and supported Donnie all along, made several insightful comments about being an ally. He didn’t know many trans people before Donnie, but he said that after they became friends, “his fight became my own.” He talked about having lots of questions and being nervous to ask them, but then being grateful when Donnie took the time to answer. Perhaps most importantly, John reminded us all that it’s a continuous learning process for everyone involved.

So what are my takeaways? Here are some of the most basic things we can do to better support our transgender friends:

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Bill O’Reilly is a transphobic bigot who is obsessed with sex

From Salon:

In yet another segment, O’Reilly’s views about transgender young people reveal more about him than anything else

Thursday, Nov 14, 2013

Earlier this week, Bill O’Reilly compared policies guaranteeing transgender students the right to use the appropriate bathrooms and locker rooms to adults bringing young children to Hooters. A couple of months before that, he called a California law that protects trans students’ rights at the state level “the biggest con in the world,” and boasted that he would personally use such a law as an excuse to sexually harass young girls in bathrooms. Further back, he likened transgender workers at a clothing store to “Ewoks” who would “scare the customers.” All of these comments were followed by hearty laughs from O’Reilly and his rotating cast of guests, who all seem to agree that the very existence of transgender people is a really hilarious joke.

So it’s pretty obvious that O’Reilly is a transphobic bigot. He also seems pretty obsessed with sex.

But O’Reilly’s delusions about transgender people — and primarily transgender children — have nothing to do with real people (or reality, in general). What never gets mentioned during these segments is the fact that the provisions of the California law are actually nothing new. Schools across the country have had identical policies on the books for decades, and students have continued on with their lives, using the bathroom, playing sports and being kids, without incident.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has maintained such a policy for ten years without a single case of harassment. Ditto for schools in Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, Georgia and the other states where these protections exist. Because these policies aren’t about harassment or sex — they are about safe and equal access to school facilities. For most people, allowing kids to use the bathroom is uncontroversial. But not for O’Reilly, who willfully depicts, time and again, transgender children as predators.

The target of O’Reilly’s vitriol sometimes shifts from lawmakers and school administrators to parents of transgender children, but ultimately, it always ends up coming back to the kids themselves.

“I want to be sympathetic to people for whom trans people are new, but that doesn’t mean you can victimize kids. You certainly shouldn’t do it if you’re a kid, but you really have no business doing it if you’re an adult,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the advocacy group National Center for Transgender Equality, recently told Salon. “The law in California and policies we have elsewhere in the country — all they do is say that all kids have the right to an education, to be included in all of a school’s activities and resources. It’s not controversial. It’s just fair.”

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After Year of Losses, National Organization for Marriage Ends Year with $2 Million Deficit

From HRC:

by Dan Rafter
November 19, 2013

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) continues to struggle financially as its losses at the U.S. Supreme Court and in states across the country pile up. According to the organization’s latest financial documents, NOM ended the year in the red with roughly a $2 million dollar deficit.  Just three donors accounted for roughly two thirds of the organization’s funding – further evidence that everyday Americans have little interest in furthering NOM’s extremist agenda.

According to the 990 form supplied by the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund, NOM’s 501(c)(3) charitable education arm, the Education Fund loaned NOM nearly $1.7 million.  This calls into question whether the Education Fund’s loans allowed NOM to engage in electoral or excessive lobbying activity that violates the Education Fund’s tax exempt status.

NOM made their 2012 990s available late last night after repeatedly refusing to make them public following their November 15 deadline – a direct violation of federal law. HRC first made an in-person request for the public financial documents last Friday morning and again yesterday – both times, NOM was unable to produce the documents. Federal law requires organizations to publicly release their 990s the same day an in-person request is made. As a result, HRC filed a complaint yesterday with the IRS in order to compel NOM to abide by the law.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to look at the so-called National Organization for Marriage as a viable entity,” said Fred Sainz, HRC Vice President of Communications. “The organization draws its funds from just a few mega-donors, and it boasts a losing electoral track record over the past few years that reflects how increasingly out-of-step NOM’s anti-LGBT agenda is with the values of the average American voter.”

Last year, NOM’s financial documents revealed that just two donors accounted for nearly 75 percent of the organization’s funding. According to the 2012 990s released late last night, three donors contributed roughly two thirds of all money raised.

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US is Faced With a Feverish Populism of Anger and Hatred

From Truth Out:

By Michael Kimmel
Sunday, 24 November 2013

Perhaps the biggest evolutionary change in contemporary social attitudes in the United States has been an increased embracing of people regardless of gender or gender preference.  Needless to say there are many battles to be fought, but as Truthout has documented over the years much progress has occurred.  Enormous challenges remain, but the overall arc of gender equality is bending in the direction of justice.

With the sharing of power and acceptance of  “non-masculine” values, according to sociologist Michael Kimmel, also comes a backlash.  The angry white male is a major force in the ferocious efforts to return the United States to a patriarchal society.  Such is the topic of Kimmel’s latest book: Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era.

An excerpt from the Introduction to “Meet America’s Angry White Men”:

Rick is one of the men you will meet in this book, men who feel they have been screwed, betrayed by the country they love, discarded like trash on the side of the information superhighway. Theirs are the hands that built this country; theirs is the blood shed to defend it. And now, they feel, no one listens to them; they’ve been all but forgotten. In the great new multicultural American mosaic, they’re the bland white background that no one pays any attention to, the store-bought white bread in a culture of bagels, tortillas, wontons, and organic whole-grain designer scones. They’re downwardly mobile, contemptuously pushed aside by fast-talking, fast-driving fat cats and bureaucrats.

And they’re mad as hell.

You see them pretty much everywhere these days – yet they’re often invisible. They patrol America’s southern border, determined to keep out Mexican immigrants. They tune in to venomous talk-radio hosts who translate economic anguish, psychological distress, and political confusion into blind rage. They swarm into populist Tea Party rallies, hoping to find like-minded kinsmen willing to join with them to turn the country around. Some even take up arms against their own country, establishing semiautonomous enclaves and blowing up federal buildings. And, of course, when threatened by external forces, they muster up their coldest steel-eyed Dirty Harry imitation and say, “Make my day.”

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Resistance to Marriage Equality

From The New York Times:

Published: November 13, 2013

This is wrong.” That was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s blunt response late last month to states defying his order in August that same-sex spouses of military personnel be given full spousal and family benefits, including health care coverage and housing allowances, on an equal, nondiscriminatory basis.

Mr. Hagel’s order followed the Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Despite vigorous attempts to coax compliance, the Pentagon says that National Guard units in eight states — Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and West Virginia — are refusing to allow Guard facilities to be used to process applications by same-sex couples and issue the identification card that same-sex spouses need to claim benefits and access medical services and other programs at their home bases.

Mr. Hagel noted that such treatment violated federal law and imposed unwarranted burdens on couples sometimes forced to travel long distances to federal military facilities to obtain the ID cards they are entitled to. Mr. Hagel said further that such disrespectful treatment “causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice.”

The states defend their position by arguing that state laws do not recognize same-sex marriages. But state bans cannot override a valid order from the defense secretary responding to a Supreme Court ruling. The Constitution’s supremacy clause gives precedence to federal law. In fact, state law does not really come into play as the applications, which are federal government forms, are processed by federal employees on federal computer systems.

If the states persist in their defiance, Mr. Hagel will need to consider transferring federal dollars, equipment and National Guard work assignments to bases in other states. Such resistance to civil rights should not stand.

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Imminent peak oil could burst global economic bubble: study

From Raw Story:

By Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Major industrial sectors are at risk without a swift transition to a more resilient, post-carbon economy

A new multi-disciplinary study led by the University of Maryland calls for immediate action by government, private and commercial sectors to reduce vulnerability to the imminent threat of global peak oil, which could put the entire US economy and other major industrial economies at risk.

The peer-reviewed study contradicts the recent claims within the oil industry that peak oil has been indefinitely offset by shale gas and other unconventional oil and gas resources. A report by the World Energy Council (WEC) last month, for instance, stated that peak oil was unlikely to be realised within the next forty years at least. This is due to global reserves being 25 per cent higher than in 1993. According to the WEC report, 80% of global energy is currently produced by either oil, gas or coal, a situation which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

The new University of Maryland study, in contrast, conducts a review of the scientific literature on global oil production and argues that the bulk of independent, credible studies indicate that a “production peak for conventional oil [is] likely before 2030″, with a “significant risk” it could occur “before 2020.” Unconventional oil such as Canadian tar sands is “unlikely to expand enough to fill the gap”, and this also applies to “shale oil and gas.” Shale wells, the study argues, “reach their maximum production levels (peaks) much earlier than conventional ones and are therefore difficult to operate profitably.”

Although US Geological Survey (USGS), Energy Information Administration (EIA) and International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates project that the decline of conventional resources will be more than compensated by ‘yet to be developed’ and ‘yet to be found’ fields, other scientific studies find that these “projections are overly optimistic.”

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No Keystone XL? No Problem. Tar Sands Production Moving Full-Steam Ahead

From Common Dreams:

Energy outlooks predict surge in tar sands, with or without key pipeline

Andrea Germanos

President Obama’s approval of the Keystone XL is still uncertain, but that isn’t stopping booming production and flow of Canada’s tar sands.

  Calgary-based Suncor, which touts itself as having “pioneered commercial development of Canada’s oil sands,” announced on Wednesday that it expects its tar sands production to increase over 14 percent in 2014, reaching up to 430,000 barrels per day in 2014.


“With no major turnarounds planned in our oil sands business in 2014 and further debottlenecking opportunities, we’re set for a strong year of continued production growth,” Steve Williams, Suncor president and chief executive officer, said in a media statement.


It’s not just Suncor projecting tar sands growth.


In a report issued Thursday, Canada’s National Energy Board foresees production of oil in the country surging almost 75 percent between now and 2035, going up to 5.8 million barrels per day, with “situ oil sands production mak[ing] up the majority of the increase.”


“Major operating companies have announced expansion plans and foreign entities are investing significant amounts of capital to buy oil sands interests, in many cases forming partnerships with Canadian companies,” the outlook states.


All this crude needs to get to refining facilities, but energy companies aren’t being held up by a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL.


Earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “If we don’t do the [Keystone XL] pipeline, more and more [oil] is going to be coming in via rail.” This shift is also noted in the NEB report:


The pipeline bottlenecks and price differentials described above have encouraged oil shippers to seek alternative methods to move oil to markets.

Shippers in the U.S. and Canada are increasingly transporting oil by railroad. The flexibility provided by rail transportation allows oil to be delivered from regions lacking pipeline capacity to nearly anywhere in North America with a rail unloading facility.

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Antibiotic resistance will mean the end of just about everything as we know it

From Salon:

Tracing the full implications of a post-antibiotic future

Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013

In the United States, 2 million people are infected with drug-resistant “superbugs” every year, and at least 23,000 die as a result. Such numbers, journalist Maryn McKenna suggests, will seem trivial if we reach the point when all antibiotics are no longer effective — something that’s on track to become a reality.

Considering the full implications of a post-antibiotic era, McKenna concludes that it wouldn’t be so different from the apocalypse. And to know what we’re facing, we need only look at where we’ve come from:

Before antibiotics, five women died out of every 1,000 who gave birth. One out of nine people who got a skin infection died, even from something as simple as a scrape or an insect bite. Three out of ten people who contracted pneumonia died from it. Ear infections caused deafness; sore throats were followed by heart failure. In a post-antibiotic era, would you mess around with power tools? Let your kid climb a tree? Have another child?

To start with, McKenna writes, the loss of antibiotics will mean the end of modern medicine as we know it, impeding everything from surgery to chemotherapy to the far more prosaic:

At UCLA, [Dr. Brad] Spellberg treated a woman with what appeared to be an everyday urinary-tract infection — except that it was not quelled by the first round of antibiotics, or the second. By the time he saw her, she was in septic shock, and the infection had destroyed the bones in her spine. A last-ditch course of the only remaining antibiotic saved her life, but she lost the use of her legs. “This is what we’re in danger of,” he says. “People who are living normal lives who develop almost untreatable infections.”

But the implications go far beyond human health. Farm animals, themselves believed to be a major source of antibiotic resistance, would suffer too. As they’re forced to find more expensive ways to prevent disease, so too will farmers, ultimately driving up the price of meat. More of a fish or fruit person? Those systems, too, are breaking down as antibiotic resistance spreads.

None of this is inevitable, writes McKenna, but staving it off is going to require us to start taking the issue much more seriously than we currently are. And if anything will convince you this is a true crisis, her article will. Read the entire, terrifying piece at Medium.