Trump’s Transgender Proposal: Stigma Is “Not in the Interest of Public Health,” CDC Director Says

From Scientific American:

Director Robert Redfield declined to comment directly on the policy, which would define someone’s sex at birth<

By Ike Swetlitz, STAT
October 24, 2018

WASHINGTON—The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday suggested a Trump administration proposal that would define someone’s sex at birth risked heightening stigma around transgender people.

The director, Robert Redfield, did not directly criticize the proposal. But when asked whether any such effort might hamper efforts to treat HIV, especially among transgender women, he replied: “We need to understand that stigmatizing illness, stigmatizing individuals is not in the interest of public health.”

He made the remarks in an interview with STAT Executive Editor Rick Berke at the opening session of the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit.

Redfield said he was not involved in developing the policy, which was first reported by the New York Times.

The proposal was criticized by scientists, who pointed out that it stands in contradiction to basic biology, which recognizes that many individuals are born with sex chromosomes or genitalia that don’t conform to the social definitions of “male” and “female.”

Trump addressed the issue Monday, telling reporters that the administration is “looking at it.”

“We have a lot of different concepts right now,” Trump said. “They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now. You know that as well as I do and we’re looking at it very seriously.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, has declined to comment on the substance of the proposal directly. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that, while HHS is backing the proposal, the Department of Education is pushing back.

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The Health Department’s Christian Crusade

From Rolling Stone:

The religious right has infiltrated the office of Health and Human Services, and reproductive rights are the first target

October 24, 2018

It was dusk on a Friday in March 2017, and the women’s health clinic in San Antonio was mostly deserted, except for a nurse finishing some end-of-the-week paperwork, when the phone rang. The man on the other end of the line introduced himself as Dr. Meyerstein with the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Washington, D.C., the agency charged with the temporary care of children apprehended while crossing the border alone.

Earlier that day, the clinic had given a 17-year-old girl the first dose of a medication abortion — a regimen that requires two sets of pills to be taken at least 24 but no more than 48 hours apart. Meyerstein wanted to know what would happen if the girl didn’t take her second dose.

The nurse knew the patient he was asking about: petite, shy, brown hair and a face that looked younger than the age on her chart. A chaperone from the government-funded shelter where she was being held accompanied her to the appointment.

The clinic had rules protecting patient privacy, the nurse said, but she offered some general information about the risks any patient would face if she didn’t take the rest of her pills: deadly infection; serious, prolonged bleeding; and the possibility of birth defects if the pregnancy progressed.

If he wanted more information about the risks, she said, he could find it on the FDA’s website. She hung up the phone, but Meyerstein called a second time. And a third. Increasingly frantic, he told her that questions were being asked about the safety and legality of the treatment the girl had received that day.

His inquiries struck the nurse as strange and belying an alarming level of ignorance for someone who claimed to have a medical degree. Medication abortions are extremely common in the United States, and safe: Fewer than one-quarter of one percent of patients experience any kind of major complication. As for the legality, the patient had obtained a judge’s approval, as Texas law requires any underage girl without her parent’s permission to do before making an appointment.

When she got home, the nurse Googled to see if a Dr. Shaanan Meyerstein even existed at ORR. As long as she’d worked at the clinic it had been a target of anti-abortion activists, and it occurred to her that this man might be one of them, just pretending to work for the government.

She wasn’t entirely wrong. Meyerstein was a civil servant who had worked for ORR’s unaccompanied-minor program since the Obama administration, but depositions and internal documents show he was acting on orders from a tight group of pro-life crusaders recently installed in the top ranks of ORR’s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services: Maggie Wynne, counselor to the secretary of HHS; Matt Bowman, a lawyer in their Office of the General Counsel; and Scott Lloyd, the man recently tapped to helm ORR.

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After Synagogue Carnage, Pittsburgh Jews Wait To Hear Who Lived — And Who Died

From The Forward:

Josh Nathan-Kazis
October 27, 2018

All over Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon, Jews are waiting to hear which of their friends were murdered this morning at a synagogue in the leafy neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, and which survived.

“My friends have been killed and I don’t who they are,” said Harold Caplan, the treasurer of one of the three Jewish congregations with sanctuaries in the building that was attacked on Saturday. Caplan was home watching the news on television, waiting to hear the names of the eight people said to have been killed.

A gunman, identified in press reports as Robert Bowers, entered the synagogue building around 10 A.M., as services were underway in at least two of the building’s three sanctuaries.

“I know people from all three congregations,” Caplan said. “I’m sort of in shock.”

Josh Sales got the call on Saturday morning. By early afternoon, he was on the scene.

“It’s roped off,” said Sales, director of the Community Relations Council of Greater Pittsburgh, standing a block away from the building. “The FBI says it’s a terrible scene.”

Jewish community leaders, including the leaders of the three Jewish congregations, headed to the local Jewish Community Center for a meeting in the middle of the afternoon. Throughout the city, others waited for news.

“It’s a very tight-knit community,” said Saul Markowitz, a Pittsburgh resident and president of Markowitz Communications. “We all have a feeling that we’re all, all of us are going to know someone that was touched by this situation. We’re all feeling like its all happening to all of us here.”

The synagogue building is shared by the Tree of Life synagogue and New Light Congregation, both conservative, and Congregation Dor Hadash, which is Reconstructionist. It is located in Squirrel Hill, a Jewish neighborhood on the east side of Pittsburgh.

“Squirrel Hill has always been a nice, safe area to life in,” Markowitz said. “That’s the shocker right now. It’s happening in Squirrel Hill now.”

On Shabbat, Squirrel Hill slows down. Hasidic Jews walk to synagogue with their families; many stores are closed. “It’s one of those communities,” Markowitz said.

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What Has Trump Done To Us, America?

From  The Forward:

Jane Eisner
October 27, 2018

I have one daughter who is a freelance journalist and has reported from all sorts of dangerous places in the Middle East and Africa.

I have another daughter who is a nurse practitioner and right now is delivering health care to the Rohingya, whose plight is creating the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.

And yet today, the daughter I am most worried about is the one in Brooklyn, who takes her children to synagogue on Shabbat as often as she can.

Because today, a synagogue on Shabbat was a deadly, terrifying place for a Jew to be.

What has happened to America?


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Here’s why Trump thinks it’s still ‘acceptable’ to target transgender people for discrimination and abuse

From The LA Times:

Oct 23, 2018

Back in 2010, I had an emotional conversation with a woman I am proud to call my closest transgender friend.

She’s Lynn Conway, one of the most important pioneers in the history of electrical engineering and computer science, whose distinguished career spans industry and academia. She’s also a pioneer and a leader in transgender advocacy, having started her gender transition in the 1960s.

As she had told me for a Los Angeles Times Magazine piece, her decision cost her a job at IBM, where she already had made important breakthroughs, and access to her daughters. (Years later, she was able to reconnect.)

That conversation in 2010 drifted inevitably to political targeting of transgender individuals and the community. It came vividly back to me a few days ago, when a report surfaced that the Trump administration, in yet another medieval policy initiative, is considering erasing federal civil rights protections for transgender Americans, who number an estimated 1.4 million individuals. More on that in a moment.

Lynn and I were talking about the issue because in her home state of Michigan, two Republican candidates for secretary of state were trying to match each other’s transgender-bashing bona fides by pledging to bar transgender people from changing their gender designations on their drivers licenses. (Those licenses fall within that office’s jurisdiction.)

I could hear the anger and perplexity anguish in Lynn’s voice as we pondered why the transgender community suddenly found itself engulfed in Michigan state politics, out of the blue.

My theory wasn’t especially reassuring: In its crass and cruel quest for targets to unite its base against, the right wing had run out of admissible candidates for discrimination and abuse.

Open racism was no longer socially acceptable (though it has made a strong comeback in the Trump era). The roster of ethnic groups that could be stereotyped as undesirables had shrunk. It was no longer respectable to laugh at or denigrate the mentally ill, the homeless, the disabled.

Gays and lesbians had moved into the mainstream of culture and society. Even conservative and Republican families were finding themselves accepting gay and lesbian siblings, children and parents as worthy of familial love and respect.

Gay and lesbian characters in Hollywood movies and TV shows had started to evolve from those whose homosexuality set them apart; to those who were just like everyone else, except gay and lesbian; to those whose homosexuality was just another character trait; to those whose homosexuality was barely relevant to the story or their role in it. (To be sure, this evolution is a work in progress.)

Most importantly, gays and lesbians had acquired a political voice; gay-bashing would no longer work for a political candidate as it had in the past, except perhaps in the most benighted corners of American society.

So who was left? The Michigan candidates had made a calculated choice. In 2010, gender transition was still a rare enough occurrence — and gender reassignment surgery even rarer — that they figured they were unlikely to be hitting members of their base in the family circle.

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Kate Bornstein on Why the Gender Bullies Can’t Win

From Rolling Stone:

Up until now, there hasn’t been a definition of men and women that’s been encoded and enforced by law — so what should we do?

October 23, 2018

Kate Bornstein is a world renowned performance artist, and the award-winning author of Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest Of Us. She recently co-starred in the Broadway production of Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men.

I was born in 1948, just under a year after Donald Trump was born. We both grew up in the Fifties, back when it seemed we all knew that America was great. World War II was over, and we’d won. The boys came back and returned to work in the factories. The women (most of them) stopped working in the factories, and returned to their rightful places in the home, taking care of their men and the children.

No one needed to define what made a man a man, it was obvious: his penis. No one needed to define what made a woman a woman, it was obvious: she gave birth to children. Simple. Obvious. Unquestionable.

Gender wasn’t a word that anyone used besides biologists, and then only in conjunction with other words like species, phylum, and order. Sex was the word that everyone used. It was a word that included everything about what we now refer to as gender: assignment, identity, role, expression, attribution, and sexuality; as well as genitals, hormones, chromosomes, reproductive organs and all their tissues and fluids. The word sex also included the understanding of the term, secondary sex characteristics, which included beards, breasts, body hair, lack of body hair. The word sex included what we call sex drive: how bad do you want it? When you wanted to talk about suitable work for men and appropriate work for women, you were talking in terms of their sex roles. Sex was not a very precise word. When you said sex, you meant all of the above. Gender, as we’re using the word today, only really entered mainstream use in the 1970s and 80s.

Feminists were questioning the supremacy of sex as a factor in equality. A cultural wave was rising, and it was made up of more and more people who were not allowed to be called real men: women, children, homosexuals, and any adult males who were not white and Christian—nope, they weren’t real men. They were something other, and in the 1970s and 80s, all the people who weren’t real men were realizing that they were being denied jobs, homes, rights, justice, and sexual pleasure. Keep in mind, please, that this was back when America was great.

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Barack Obama campaigns in Wisconsin for Democratic candidates

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