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Why LGBTQ People Should Care About Science

Today, millions of people across the country will participate in the March for Science.

Organizers characterize the gathering as a “celebration of science” that’s not only about scientists and politicians, but also “the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.”

While science helps build support for and advance understanding of LGBTQ people, junk science remains a huge concern.

For example, in August, Johns Hopkins psychiatry professor Paul McHugh and biostatistician Lawrence Mayer published a 116-page “special report” on gender and sexual orientation in The New Atlantis, the magazine of a conservative think tank. The report made a number of claims that have long been rejected by gender and sexuality researchers. It falsely implies that children are “encouraged to become transgender” and that young transgender children undergo medical interventions as part of affirming their gender identities.

While the report’s falsehoods attack the entire LGBTQ community, McHugh’s history reflects particular animus toward transgender people. He’s collaborated with an organization designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center to attack trans kids, and penned opinion articles mocking people who transition as “caricatures,” “counterfeits,” “impersonators,” “confused” and “mad.”

Yesterday, HRC launched McHugh Exposed, a website that pulls back the curtain on the McHugh, the go-to ‘expert’ for anti-equality extremists. The resource includes a detailed timeline of how McHugh’s hateful and damaging essays have been used to target and attack LGBTQ people and a new video featuring renowned LGBTQ health expert, Dr. Tonia Poteat. It can be found at www.McHughExposed.org.

Science isn’t just about what you learned about in elementary or high school in chemistry, physics or biology classes. Scientific fields including psychology, sociology and epidemiology have helped us understand how people’s identities shape their lives. Importantly, they have exposed disparities that emerge when social inequality leads to increased risks for poor health outcomes, and other serious issues including violence and persistent poverty.

Science helps us understand how to reduce these troubling health disparities through positive laws and policies, as well as healthcare guidelines and community programs.

This insight science and research provides is particularly crucial to LGBTQ people. There are hundred of scientific studies each year examining the lives of LGBTQ people, giving us a deeper look into how to support LGBTQ youth, for example, and the effects of anti-LGBTQ laws and so much more.

In the past two years alone, scientific research has found:

  • There’s a huge deficit in LGBTQ-inclusive sex education begin offered in schools  across America. (CDC)
  • U.S. adults are more likely than ever to identify as bisexual. (CDC)
  • It is close to impossible for a person living with HIV and an undetectable viral load to pass the virus onto someone else. (New England Journal of Medicine).
  • Many LGBTQ youth aren’t getting the health information they need. (Journal of Adolescent Health)
  • Transgender kids who transition with their families’ support have similar mental health to their non-transgender peers. (Pediatrics)
  • A 10-minute conversation with a transgender person can lead to a lasting increase in support for transgender people. (Science)
  • One in three transgender adults has avoided eating or drinking for fear of problems accessing a restroom consistent with their gender identity. (National Center for Transgender Equality)
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), the once-daily pill regimen to prevent HIV, is as safe to take as aspirin. (Open Forum Infectious Diseases)
  • PrEP can work for the communities that need it most, including young, Black gay and bisexual men. (HIV Prevention Trials Network)
  • LGB teens are far more likely to experience violence and bullying, and attempt suicide, than their non-LGB peers. (CDC)
  • LGB adults are more likely than others to experience mental illness or a substance use disorder, but also somewhat more likely to get the treatment they need. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • Gender-affirming medical care appears to broadly and markedly improve mental health for transgender people. (Transgender Health)
  • Teen suicide attempts dropped in states that approved marriage equality before nationwide marriage equality became the law of the land. (JAMA Pediatrics)

Given the significant role science plays in protecting the well-being of LGBTQ people and advancing LGBTQ equality, today’s March for Science is not only a march to celebrate science; it’s a march for social justice, equality and progress.

As such, HRC will continue to support scientists, academics, researchers, and clinicians in their efforts to promote and protect the value of fact-based science. And we will continue to call out those who pedal junk science to undermine our health, dignity and rights.

This Transgender Army Veteran Won’t be Silenced Under Trump

A transgender woman who served in the military for more than three decades in silence is now speaking out against President Trump’s pick to lead the very department she once risked her life for.

In a powerful oped for The Washington Post, retired Army Col. Sheri Swokowski lays bare the impact the extreme anti-LGBTQ views of Mark Green – Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Army – could have on LGBTQ service members, who risk their lives everyday to protect our country.

“Leading the Army requires an appreciation for every individual, without exception, and Green wouldn’t have the confidence of the thousands of LGBT soldiers proudly and openly serving today,” Swokowski writes in her oped. “Every soldier needs to know that those at the top, uniformed and civilian, have their back. But based on the way he has used anti-LGBT politics to advance his career, that’s not him.”

Green has an expansive history of sponsoring anti-LGBTQ bills and spewing hateful rhetoric as a Tennessee legislator. He’s called being transgender a “disease” and, just yesterday, The Huffington Post reported Green said his transphobia will help him “crush evil”.

It’s those types of comments Swokowski says only further demonstrate the president and his administration’s “true colors” towards the LGBTQ community. She added that if the senate votes to confirm his nomination, they would be just as culpable in approving bigotry and hate at one of the military’s top posts.   

Swokowski ends her message with a direct message to Green:

“Oh, and Sen. Green, I’m not diseased.”

#AM_Equality Tipsheet: April 21, 2017

“TRUMP’S ANTI-LGBT ARMY SECRETARY NOMINEE THINKS VETERANS LIKE ME HAVE ‘A DISEASE’”: This morning in The Washington Post, retired Army Col. Sheri Swokowski, a transgender woman who served her country for more than three decades, lays bare the extreme anti-LGBTQ animus of Mark Green, Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Army, and the terrible message the president is sending to LGBTQ service members. “Leading the Army requires an appreciation for every individual, without exception, and Green wouldn’t have the confidence of the thousands of LGBT soldiers proudly and openly serving today,” Swokowski writes in a powerful oped. “Every soldier needs to know that those at the top, uniformed and civilian, have their back. But based on the way he has used anti-LGBT politics to advance his career, that’s not him.” Trump’s nomination of Green, she says, shows the president’s “true colors on LGBT issues.” She also notes that if Senators vote to confirm, they will be doing the same. Swokowski ends with a direct message to Green, a former Tennessee legislator: “Oh, and Sen. Green, I’m not diseased.” Read about Green’s record of anti-LGBTQ extremism at HRC, and Swokowski’s full piece here.

  • In radio interview, Army Sec nominee Green says his transphobia will help him “crush evil.”  In a bizarre interview, uncovered by Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel (@ATerkel), Green claims that his anti-transgender views are intended “to create an environment where people who do right are rewarded and the people who do wrong are crushed. Evil is crushed.” More from The Huffington Post.
  • Hillary Clinton warns of LGBTQ rights rollback under Trump, cites Green nomination:  During a speech in New York at The Center, an LGBTQ community organization, she called Green an “outspoken opponent” of LGBTQ rights, and also said her “heart broke” when Trump rescinded protections for transgender students. Read more at CNN.

THE WORLD CANNOT IGNORE GAY MEN BEING DETAINED AND MURDERED IN CHECHNYA: In the weeks since a Russian newspaper and LGBTQ advocates in the country have reported that Chechen police have been detaining, torturing and killing gay men, HRC has been vigilant in drawing the attention of world leaders to these horrors. In advance of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to Russia, HRC President Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) sent a letter to him, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and members of the White House National Security Council encouraging them, “to make clear to your Russian counterparts that such lawless detentions, arrests, torture and murders are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” Despite a message of condemnation from the State Department, Secretary Tillerson made no public remarks on the matter. HRC is working closely with the Russian LGBT Network, which asserts that as many as 20 men may have been killed in the attacks in the Russian republic.  The Network — the primary organization leading efforts to evacuate people in danger in Chechnya — has set up a hotline to provide assistance to LGBTQ Chechens. More from HRC.

#McHUGHEXPOSED — HRC LAUNCHES SITE DEBUNKING JUNK SCIENCE OF ANTI-LGBTQ EXTREMISTS’ FAVORITE FAKE ‘EXPERT’: Today, HRC launched #McHughExposed, a website that pulls back the curtain on the anti-LGBTQ myths and junk science being peddled by Dr. Paul McHugh. The site includes a timeline of how McHugh’s damaging essays have been used to target and attack LGBTQ people, and a new video featuring renowned LGBTQ health expert, Dr. Tonia Poteat. McHugh’s false, non-scientific assertions have been used by anti-equality activists in state legislatures and courtrooms to defend discrimination against LGBTQ people, including in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States opposing the rights of transgender student Gavin Grimm. “Paul McHugh’s writings continue to dangerously undermine the safety, security and wellbeing of LGBTQ people, and particularly transgender youth, across the country,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Vice President for Research, Training, and Programs. Read more about how McHugh and other anti-LGBTQ activists are leveraging junk science to advance their agenda at www.McHughExposed.org

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC-4hfLi8PU]

(NOT SO) FUNNY FRIDAY: Presented without comment from Charlotte Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers (@KevinSiers)… but if you need some background, find it here at HRC.

TODAY — DAY OF SILENCE TO HIGHLIGHT ANTI-LGBTQ BULLYING: Today, HRC honors Day of Silence, an annual event led by GLSEN that highlights the bullying and harassment LGBTQ youth face. LGBTQ youth experience bullying at school more frequently than their non-LGBTQ peers. In January, HRC Foundation released the results of a groundbreaking post-election survey of more than 50,000 young people ages 13-18 revealing the deeply damaging fallout the November election has had on youth across the U.S. Learn more about Day of Silence here. More from HRC.

BUZZFEED CELEBRATES LGBTQ FAMILIES: The LGBTQ community is as diverse as the fabric of this nation, and BuzzFeed showed this in a recent article featuring beautiful LGBTQ families. The family stories encompass raising children as a same-sex couple, the legal battles of adoption, protecting transgender and gender nonconforming children and more. Celebrate these families (and maybe shed a few “Feel Good Friday” tears) from BuzzFeed.

GEORGIA COUNTY VOTES TO PROTECT ITS LGBTQ EMPLOYEES: The ordinance, which passed Tuesday night by a 6-3 vote, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to existing nondiscrimination protections for county employees. More from WMAZ.

CO-CHAIRS NAMED FOR LGBTQ MARCH ON WASHINGTON: The Equality March for Unity and Pride, scheduled for June 11, will be co chaired by 13 people, including HRC Foundation Board Member Ashley Smith; LGBTQ immigrants rights advocate and Casa Ruby’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications Catalina Velasquez; and Latino GLBT History Project President Jose L. Plaza. More from The Washington Blade.

TODAY — NATIONAL KINDERGARTEN DAY: Today marks National Kindergarten Day. Although the day recognizes Johann Friedrich Oberlin, the founder of kindergarten, it also honors our youngest explorers, scientists, artists and curious learners. To celebrate, HRC shares some ideas for teachers in engaging young children in conversations about diversity with Welcoming Schools books and lessons. More from HRC.

READING RAINBOW

Vogue interviews transgender model Stav Strashko about her story and the importance of trans visibility in the fashion industry; Quartz looks at the history of laws affecting Iran’s transgender community;

Have news? Send us your news and tips at AMEquality@hrc.org. Click here to subscribe to #AM_Equality and follow @HRC for all the latest news. Thanks for reading!

HRC Launches Website Debunking the Junk Science of Anti-LGBTQ Extremists’ Favorite Fake ‘Expert’

Today, the HRC Foundation launched McHugh Exposed, a website that pulls back the curtain on the anti-LGBTQ myths and junk science being peddled by Dr. Paul McHugh, the go-to ‘expert’ for anti-equality extremists. The resource includes a detailed timeline of how McHugh’s hateful and damaging essays have been used to target and attack LGBTQ people and a new video featuring renowned LGBTQ health expert, Dr. Tonia Poteat. It can be found at www.McHughExposed.org.

McHugh’s false, non-scientific assertions have been used by anti-equality activists in state legislatures and courtrooms to defend discrimination against LGBTQ people. Recently, McHugh’s opinions were featured in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States opposing the rights of transgender students like Gavin Grimm, a Virginia teenager who filed suit against his school board alleging it violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying him use of the boy’s restroom. The case was recently sent back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a new hearing.

Additionally, anti-equality activists continue to reference McHugh’s specious claims in Congressional hearings and legislative debates — even making their way into the media.

“Paul McHugh’s writings continue to dangerously undermine the safety, security and wellbeing of LGBTQ people, and particularly transgender youth, across the country,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Vice President for Research, Training, and Programs. “McHugh’s junk science is still being referenced in legislative and legal battles despite the fact that Paul McHugh has no academic expertise in either gender or sexual orientation, and actively avoids publishing any of his anti-LGBTQ pieces in peer-reviewed journals. Policy makers, informed citizens and parents deserve to know that this is junk science and personal opinion – not at all in the mainstream of current medical and academic research and not endorsed by Johns Hopkins regardless of how McHugh uses his title to suggest credibility or expertise.”

The extensive new website includes a video that features acclaimed LGBTQ health expert Dr. Tonia Poteat, who debunks key myths about gender identity and sexual orientation, explains the central role of peer review in the scientific process, and outlines McHugh’s failure to engage in this vital aspect of rigorous scientific research. McHugh’s writings have been published by religious magazines and political think tanks, not credible scientific journals, allowing him to circumvent the vital review and evaluation of the broader scientific community. McHughExposed.org highlights how LGBTQ health experts and other scientists have pushed back against these tactics, making clear that McHugh ignores broad scientific consensus on a range of issues.

In August of 2016, McHugh and biostatistician Lawrence Mayer published a 116-page “special report” on gender and sexual orientation in The New Atlantis, a conservative bioethics magazine. The report made a number of claims that have long been rejected by gender and sexuality researchers. While the report’s falsehoods attack the entire LGBTQ community, McHugh’s history reflects particular animus toward transgender people, including collaborating with an organization designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and penning opinion articles mocking people who transition as “caricatures,” “counterfeits,” “impersonators,” “confused” and “mad.”

The personal ideology McHugh is pushing runs contrary to the overwhelming medical consensus endorsed by leading medical organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. In March, researchers at Vanderbilt University released a joint letter with nearly 600 LGBTQ health experts, scholars, and medical providers denouncing McHugh’s positions. HRC recently deducted 25 points from Johns Hopkins Hospital, the healthcare facility associated with McHugh’s home institution, Johns Hopkins University, for its failure to make clear that the hospital disagrees with McHugh’s hateful work and to explicitly affirm Hopkin’s commitment to abide by the medical consensus and established standards of care when it comes to the treatment of transgender patients.

To learn about Paul McHugh and anti-LGBTQ junk science, visit www.McHughExposed.org.

Social Security Administration to Compensate LGBTQ Couples Previously Discriminated Against

Post submitted by HRC law fellow Jim Shygelski

The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a new guidance last month reversing its discriminatory policies towards LGBTQ couples seeking social security benefits and will compensate individuals whose claims had previously been denied under the marriage bans.

SSA announced that it will reopen claims for spousal and survivor’s benefits that it denied based the agency’s failure to recognize an individual’s marriage to a same-sex spouse.  SSA admitted that, prior to the Supreme Court’s rulings in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, the agency would summarily deny social security claims by same-sex spouses based on discriminatory marriage laws. With the Supreme Court prohibiting federal discrimination towards same-sex couples and declaring state marriage bans unconstitutional, the agency will now review claims retroactively to reach those affected by these invalidated practices.

The agency has identified at least 800 individuals whose applications were denied solely on these discriminatory bases and will reach out to those affected to reopen their claims. The agency has not yet disclosed how or when these individuals will be contacted, and it may not have identified all those who were denied on these bases.  Those who have been affected by these practices are encouraged to reach out to their local SSA office and reference this guidance (POMS GN 00210.030). This guidance may also affect those who did not apply for benefits after being discouraged from doing so by SSA staff, those who applied for a reduced retirement benefit, or those who had previously been denied but were later approved by SSA.

To learn more about this new guidance and ruling, or to determine whether this policy applies to you or someone you know, please review this fact sheet compiled by Justice in Aging. 

Top U.N. Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Meets with Leading LGBTQ Advocates

Post Submitted by HRC Global Deputy Director Jean Freedberg

On Monday, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the United Nations’ (U.N.) newly appointed Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, met with 30 leading LGBTQ advocates. He discussed the challenges and opportunities he faces in monitoring the rights of LGBTQ people around the world today. HRC was proud to co-host this event with its partners Outright Action International and Open Society Foundations.

This was Muntarbhorn’s first visit to the U.S. since he took office in September and it was his first chance to meet many of the advocates in the room. Later in the day, he delivered the keynote address at the HRC’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) Awards, which honors the more than 500 leading employers that earned 100 percent on HRC’s 2017 CEI.*

The position of Independent Expert was created by the U.N. Human Rights Council last June, and then survived a succession of efforts to undo it at the U.N. in New York.  Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC’s Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training paid tribute to all those, including Outright and others in the room, who had fought so hard to secure the position, one of the most hotly debated at the U.N. to date.

In his remarks, Muntarbhorn stressed the independent nature of his position, and committed himself to being an objective voice, grounded in international law, on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He reiterated the pillars that his work would rest on, including decriminalization and non-discrimination, destigmatization, status recognition, especially on the basis of gender identity, and socio-economic and cultural inclusion.

Most importantly, Muntarbhorn emphasized the role that advocates and allies can play in supporting his work. He addressed the business community specifically, and said they had a special role to play in leading on inclusion.

All the participants in the conversation were encouraged by Muntharbhorn’s vision, enthusiasm and commitment. They were also inspired by the ever-increasing global recognition of the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people and what this position signifies.

*The CEI evaluates corporate policies and practices regarding their LGBTQ employees.