This Proposed Michigan Law Would Force Trans People in Prison to Pay For Their Own Medical Care

In the last few years, incarcerated trans people have gained significantly more access to gender-affirming medical care. In January 2017, a California woman named Shiloh Quine made history by becoming the first trans person to receive gender confirmation surgery (GCS) in a U.S. prison. Since then, courts in Oregon, Missouri, and Idaho have struck down policies that prevented trans people from accessing hormones or GCS while on the inside.

But not everyone is happy with the development. In November, Michigan state legislator Beau LaFave introduced a bill that would force incarcerated people to pay for the full cost of any transition-related surgery. The proposed legislation, HB 6524, also called for prisoners to pay for any medical care related to acts of self-harm.

HB 6524 wasn’t even passed into committee during the 2018 legislative session and it stands little chance of becoming law in 2019. But the introduction of the bill is still important, because it indicates the continuing reluctance of some Republican legislators to accept that the legal landscape is changing – that in the eyes of the medical establishment, and increasingly in the eyes of the courts, GCS is not elective and therefore must be treated as a medically necessary procedure akin to any other.

Shawn Meerkamper is a staff attorney with the Transgender Law Center, the largest trans-led civil liberties organization in the country. HB 6524 is “pretty clearly an attempt to find a loophole” to the growing legal consensus that blanket-bans on GCS are unconstitutional, Meerkamper told INTO. “This level of really singling out and targeting transgender people, and the kinds of medical care they need, I don’t think would hold up in light of day.”

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The road to HB 6524 began in 2016, when a transgender woman named Jami Naturalite wrote to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to say she was being denied hormone therapy by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). The SPLC had just finished litigating a similar case in Georgia, securing a settlement that ensured trans people locked up in the state could access hormones even if they hadn’t been prescribed them before entering prison. The Georgia settlement marked an important shift in policy on the state and national level. In a statement of interest filed in the case, the Department of Justice reminded state officials that “prison officials have the obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria just as they would any other medical or mental health condition.”

After Naturalite reached out to the SPLC, the organization contacted Michigan prison officials to explain why blanket prohibitions on transition-related care were unconstitutional. Their entreaties were successful. In June 2017, the MDOC released a new policy for the care of transgender prisoners, which facilitated access to hormone treatment and allowed for the provision of GCS on a case-by-case basis.

Naturalite was thrilled with the news, but Republican Representative Beau LaFave, who represents a district on the northern shore of Lake Michigan, was not. With the release of the new transgender care policy, LaFave grew concerned that transition-related care, like all other medical care provided to prisoners, would be paid for by state residents. “When I found out that taxpayers could be on the hook for [GCS] procedures I had the bill drafted and introduced,” he told INTO in an email.

Michigan Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain). Photo via www.beaulafave.com.
Michigan Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain). Photo via www.beaulafave.com.

“I have nothing but respect for all individuals regardless of their particular life choices or personal feelings,” Representative LaFave added. “That being said, I do not believe the taxpayers of the State of Michigan should pay for felons to get free gender reassignment surgery while in prison. Law abiding citizens do not get free gender reassignment surgeries. Why should felons at the taxpayers’ expense?”

Asked to respond to LaFave’s comment, Meerkamper explained that there’s now a broad consensus among medical professionals that GCS constitutes a medically necessary treatment for some transgender people. “You cannot ‘respect’ someone while writing legislation to deny them live-saving health care,” said Meerkamper.

Jay Kaplan, the staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan’s LGBT Project, stressed the constitutional concerns raised by LaFave’s bill. “Singling out a group of people to say, you’re not entitled to health care to the same extent as other inmates might be entitled to medically necessary healthcare, raises equal protection concerns,” he said. As drafted, HB 6524 would arguably also violate protections against cruel and unusual punishment, said Kaplan, since it would amount to a denial of life-saving medical care to prisoners who cannot afford to pay for surgery out of pocket.

It’s unlikely that HB 6524 will ever become law. There appeared to be little support for the legislation in last year’s legislative session, and when asked by INTO, LaFave said he had no plans to introduce the bill again. Even if it somehow did pass through both legislative chambers, HB 6524 would likely to vetoed by the newly sworn-in Democratic Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, according to advocates. LaFave first won his seat in 2016 at the age of 24 and was re-elected last year. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, one of LaFave’s top donors is the DeVos family, who have previously come under criticism for making contributions to anti-LGBT groups.

While it might not pose an immediate threat to the well-being of Michigan’s trans prisoners, HB 6524 does reflect how some Republicans in the socially conservative state think about trans rights.

“This is such a flawed [bill], and obviously it’s an attack on trans people,” said the ACLU’s Kaplan. “What it’s saying is you’re not entitled to healthcare the way everybody else is.”  

Michigan has lagged behind many other states when it comes to protecting transgender residents. The ACLU of MI had to sue the state to make it easier for transgender people to change their gender marker. Many residents still struggle to access transition-related care under Medicaid, said Kaplan. In Michigan and 18 other states across the country, there are no statutes in place that specifically protect people who are discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity.

“[We] have a long way to go in making things more supportive and better for trans people in the state,” said Kaplan.

For now, the question may be how to ensure that the MDOC lives up to the policy it put in place in 2017. Kaplan said he was not aware of any prisoner in Michigan who has received GCS – which may indicate that while the transgender care policy looks good on paper, it isn’t actually enabling trans prisoners to receive comprehensive care.

Before Shiloh Quine received her surgery, when she thought the California state prison administration would never approve the procedure, she tried to kill herself. For her and many other trans prisoners across the country, GCS can be lifesaving. “Whenever the state incarcerates someone, the state is taking that person’s life into their hands,” Shawn Meerkamper told INTO. “And then to take care of their needs, and their medical care is chief among them.”

Idaho Appealing Ruling It Must Provide Gender Confirmation Surgery to Inmate

The state of Idaho is arguing that gender confirmation surgery is not medically necessary. The Gem State is appealing a court order that it must provide surgery to a transgender inmate who is self-harming.

Governor Brad Little announced last week that the state will fight a U.S. District Court ruling that found it cruel and unusual to deny inmate Adree Edmo’s gender-affirming surgery.

“The hardworking taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a prisoner’s gender reassignment surgery when individual insurance plans won’t even cover it,” Little said in the announcement. “We cannot divert critical public dollars away from our focus on keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders.”

Many insurers, however, do cover transition-related care, and Medicaid covers gender affirming care.

If anything Edmo’s case may test public opinion over whether gender-affirming healthcare is medically necessary. Courts across the nation have already largely found that prisons are required to provide transgender inmates healthcare, which includes hormones and gender-affirming surgery.

“When a person urgently needs medical care because they’re seriously in danger of health consequences and they don’t get it, then courts have made clear that that care must be provided,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Attorney Amy Whelan, who is representing Edmo.

In Florida, a federal judge ruled that the state’s Department of Corrections must provide hormones to a transgender inmate and recognize her as female. The state is now appealing that ruling, a move that a dozen LGBTQ advocacy organizations are fighting.

In Edmo’s case, Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said that the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) had ignored medical standards in refusing Edmo treatment for gender dysphoria.

“This constitutes deliberate indifference to Ms. Edmo’s serious medical needs and violates her rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Winmill wrote. He gave the state six months to provide Edmo with surgery.

Edmo, who had been self-harming behind bars, said the ruling was a relief.

“Not having the care I need is like being in a prison within a prison,” she said in a statement. “Even though I am still living, it has felt like I have been dying inside.”

But many in Idaho have taken issue with the ruling, conflating Edmo’s past crimes with her being transgender. The governor’s office notes that Edmo is serving a 10-year sentence for sexual abuse of a minor.

An article on Edmo by ABC Local 8 News also parallels Edmo’s gender with allegations of sexual abuse. The article repeatedly deadnames and misgenders Edmo (this piece has not been linked as INTO does not condone either practice).

The article quotes Edmo’s ex, Brady Summers, who says he survived an abusive relationship with Edmo. But the station allows Summers to question if Edmo is even transgender.

“Never once indicated anything of gender dysphoria or sexual indifference,” Summers is quoted saying. “He was a predator. He, on several occasions, had his way with me. It was brutal.”

Asked to comment on the decisions to run the piece and its violations of the AP Stylebook and GLAAD Media Guide, News Director Curtis Jackson stood by the story.

“In our research the story is correct,” Jackson said in an email. “The reason we aired the story is because of the high interest in the prison case.”

Other articles note that Edmo would be only the second person in the nation to receive a bottom surgery behind bars. Advocates argue, however, that that hardly matters as many others have won the right to transition-related healthcare.

IDOC officials argue in Edmo’s case that gender-confirmation surgery is not medically necessary.

“If Ms. Edmo had a broken arm, we’d all agree it should be treated,” the state’s Chairman of the Board of Correction, Dr. David McClusky, said in a statement. “But disagreement among medical professionals in this case does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.”

McClusky’s reasoning that gender affirming care is elective, however, flies in the face of consensus among major medical associations.

Richard Saenz, Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist at Lambda Legal, said the law is clear when it comes to providing medically necessary care for all behind bars.  

“As a queer person who does this type of work, it’s difficult when we lose the idea of dignity and humanity of people who are incarcerated,” Saenz said. “I can understand, but I disagree with people who say they don’t deserve this healthcare. I believe that’s coming from a place of bias against transgender people in general, and it’s not where doctors are.”

Image via Getty

Traveling Solo as a Trans Woman in London

It was when the cashier converted my US Dollars into British Pounds that I knew the trip was real. I was going to London, alone. I had never been and didn’t know anyone there. How would people react to me? My accent? I considered adjusting my look. How do British people dress?

The one thing I couldn’t adjust was my transgender identity.

The UK and I have always had a long distance relationship. We stayed connected through my obsession with Robbie Williams, Doctor Who, and British Bake Off. We needed to be together. One morning, I impulsively booked the cheapest flight I could and secured an Airbnb. I was going. Not even Brexit or reports of increased violence against the LGBTQ community could keep me away.

My makeup was perfect and I wore a feminine floral dress. I was afraid to disturb binary gender standards while abroad. After the six-hour flight from New York, the first person I spoke to was an immigration officer. I feared being detained and somehow ending up in a cell full of men. Mercifully, I breezed through and had my passport stamped.

One of my first stops was Buckingham Palace. I felt compelled to take a selfie. As I took the photo, I noticed a man staring at me. I followed my first instinct and fled. Through the Canada Gate and past Green Park, I thought I lost him. I was wrong. His clothes and demeanor told me he was a business traveler looking to get laid. He matched my frantic pace and wore a diplomatic smile.

“Are you a man or a woman?

“I’m a woman, obviously.”

“I’m so sorry, I was on a trip to Thailand before and needed to know. Can I walk with you?”

“…..”

“I’m so sorry I asked you that. You are very beautiful. I wanted to meet you. Do you live here?”

“Yes. On the other side of the Thames. I have friends coming soon.”

I walked fast but he kept up. He grabbed me and forced me to locked arms. I considered if I should pull away and risk a struggle. I decided to lead us to a public place. We ended up in pub called the Silver Cross. As long as we stayed in the pub there was nothing he could do.  We sat down and he ordered a bottle of Italian Rosé.

“I want to fuck you. I have a hotel nearby. If you are a woman, I want to fuck you.”

His eyes slowly scanned my body as if he were making a map. He took another sip. I hardened myself and look him in his eyes.

“I only have sex with people I love. Unless we have an emotional connection, that would never happen. Have you ever been in love?”

I disarmed him. His forehead started to sweat. I figured he was married and I made him think about it. I started to mention children. How wonderful they are. How I want to have a child.

“Excuse me for a moment. I have to go to the toilet.”

I intentionally sat close to an exit. As soon he was out of my range of vision, I ran out the door. I ran several blocks until I was comfortable with the number of people and buildings between us.

Shaken, I made my way to the Hungerford Bridge to see the London Eye. While taking pictures from the bridge, a man with a German accent must have clocked me as a tourist. He put a necklace in my hand and asked me to help him put it on. While I was savvy enough to keep my valuable near my breasts, I made the mistake of clasping the necklace around his neck.

The man turned to me screaming, “Thank you!” He wrapped his arms around me tightly. I put my hands on my boobs. My wallet and passport were safe there. A warm, prickly kiss touched my cheek and he walked away.

My valuables were with me but my sense of safety was gone. What’s next?

I headed back to my AirBnB. With the door locked behind me, I was safe again.

My eyes glazed over as I stared out the window. The view of the apartment parking lot became darker as the sun went down. I couldn’t stay hidden in my room forever. I decided to venture out again.

Close to my building was a place called Paya and Horse. I mistakenly assumed it was a restaurant. Immediately, I was offered a drink for five pounds. I couldn’t refuse. The owner was a Serbian man with a collection of hats hanging behind the bar. I noticed him change hats at least three times although he wouldn’t admit it.

One by one, a regular would approach the bar. Each time, the weathered pub owner would introduce them as sketchy or shifty; not to be trusted. Then the owner would playfully encourage them to flirt with me.

“Don’t be shy! There is a pretty girl here! Talk to her!”

Each time, they would walk off, red-faced and defeated. I was equal parts flattered and terrified. Halfway through a pint of Fuller’s London Pride, a younger man with shaggy blond hair and thick-framed glasses walk in. He carried a confidence that the other men didn’t. I watched him walk to the bar and hoped that the pub owner wouldn’t tempt him to talk to me. He did.

As he approached me, I noticed his Tapout tank top gently draping over his muscled shoulders. Fighting sports are very popular in the UK. Through conversation, he revealed that he was half Scottish and had been living in London for the last decade. His eyes revealed that he was attracted to me.

We shared stories about Mary Berry and Simon Pegg. He gave me a tutorial on how to speak with a proper British accent. We revealed that we both scream-sing “Angels” by Robbie Williams on car rides. Our eyes met as we both reached down to play with his friend’s dog. I was disarmed.

My sides started to hurt from laughing and the pub owner had to quiet us several times. My mind was playing different scenarios. One was of another life where I was born a cisgender woman and we had several blonde, muscular babies together. The other was me fighting for my life because he learned I was trans.

Several beers later, my legs were shaky. Beer is stronger in the UK. It was time to escape. I knew the way back the Airbnb, but I needed to get there without being followed. I was planning different scenarios when the pub owner started to turn off the lights. He was closing early.

We were all outside and my new half Scottish friend stayed close to me. The entire pub said goodbye and I was alone with him, his friend, and their dog. So many of my rules were already broken and I was incredibly vulnerable.

“Let’s see the Buddha! It’s in Battersea Park! We can take the dog for a walk, then take you home. We have a job in Scotland tomorrow. Where are you staying?”

“Um… around the corner. I can just find my way.”

“Don’t worry, we’re going that way, too. We can walk together so you won’t get lost.”

It was like being confronted by a coiled snake, I was afraid to make any sudden movements. I decided to walk with them.

Battersea Park at night is pitch black. The lack of visual clues allows other senses to take lead. The texture of the ground. The cold crisp wind from the Thames River hitting your skin. The smell of hay from the park zoo.

As we walked down a trail, I felt his shoulder and elbow touch mine. He wanted to lock arms. I pulled away and asked about the zoo. Anything to create space while we walked home. We walked through darkness and I used his friend’s dog to divert any physical contact between us.

My voice. My pitch. We were engulfed in darkness. I had to raise it higher than usual. Under no circumstance could I be read as a trans woman. I never hide my transness. I’m proud of it. This was different. I had to keep it a secret. My life could depend on it.

We started to see street lights and I asked questions about the city. As long as they are talking, I’m not the focus. I’m safe. They started telling jokes about movies like The Matrix. Lilly and Lana Wachowski’s transition from masculine to feminine came up. I braced myself.

“Maybe I’ll cut my balls off. Then I can make a solid film.”

I looked at them and burst into laughter. Laughing at the situation I was in, not the joke. I couldn’t believe what I heard. This wasn’t the place to defend my position on transphobic jokes.

Finally, we made it through the park. It was time to say goodbye. We all hugged and I said goodbye to the playful shepherd dog.

My half Scottish friend wrapped his arms around me and before I could react, kissed me on my lips. It was a gentle kiss that begged me to move to London and start a new life. I stood in shock, I watched them walk away.

He was so sweet to me while assuming I was cis. Would he still be sweet if he learned that I’m trans? I’m still the tall, olive-skinned beauty that sings “Angels” in the shower. I never want to know the answer.

I made it back to my Airbnb in one piece. Behind the locked door, I sat on the bed and fell into a trance. My mind had trouble processing the day. All the adrenaline flowing through my body made my hands tremble. Hundreds of what if scenarios speed through my mind. I started to question whether solo travel abroad is a good idea. Would I ever travel like this again?

The answer is a resounding, yes. Is it more dangerous for a transgender woman to travel alone? Absolutely. I can’t stop being transgender. The dangers I face are real everywhere I go although they change based on the environment and the culture I’m in. I won’t let discrimination based on my identity stop me from living life.

I will see the world and the world will see me. Trans-identity included.

Liberty Counsel Says It Doesn’t Want to Lynch LGBTQ People After All

Liberty Counsel would like the record to reflect that it doesn’t want to lynch gay people.

The evangelical law firm drew controversy last week after President and Founder Mat Staver opposed the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. He claimed language on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the Congressional bill was a way to “slip” in federal nondiscrimination protections.

“The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in,” Staver told the right-wing website One News Now on Tuesday.

According to Staver, the anti-lynching legislation would represent “the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.” (This is false: LGBTQ people were included in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act a decade ago.)

While the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act unanimously passed the Senate last month, Staver claimed Liberty Counsel had been meeting with House lawmakers to remove the LGBTQ provisions ahead of a vote.

But just days later, the Orlando-based advocacy group is rolling back its own president’s statements—saying they were mischaracterized by the media.

In a Thursday press release, Liberty Counsel claimed many outlets “have falsely reported that Liberty Counsel is opposed to banning lynching, or, opposes banning lynching of LGBTQ people.” It called those allegations “false, reckless, and offensive” and claimed they were pushed by “those with a political axe to grind.”

“No one can or should oppose a bill that bans lynching.” Staver stated. “We oppose lynching across the board for any person. Period!”

Staver then attempted to clarify his earlier remarks. As he now claims, he does not specifically want LGBTQ people cut out of the law. He merely believes that enumerating a “list of protected categories” would weaken the legislation by limiting the application of the law.

“Lynching should be prohibited no matter the person’s reason for committing this violent crime,” he concluded.

At the risk of editorializing, that assertion makes no sense and is flatly untrue. The legislation merely recognizes that the vast majority of lynching victims are members of marginalized groups. The NAACP notes that between the years of 1882-1968, 73 percent of the 4,743 people who died as a result of lynching were black.

As hate crimes have surged in the U.S. in recent years, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community have been among the groups most targeted for violence. In 2016, LGBTQ people accounted for 17.5 percent of hate crimes.

Nonetheless, Liberty Counsel accused journalists of pushing “unrelated political agendas by hijacking a serious issue.”

“False reporting endangers lives,” it said.

The lobby group further claimed the fake news campaign against it had led to “death threats” against its employees. Liberty Counsel allegedly received an angry message saying, “All LC leaders must die.”

The individual’s “identity is being traced,” the organization claimed.

Liberty Counsel first gained infamy after defending Rowan County, Ky. clerk Kim Davis for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The law firm—which believes LGBTQ advocacy is satanic, fascist, and pro-pedohilia—has fought against banning conversion therapy and opposed Planet Fitness’ trans-inclusive locker room policy.

Image via Getty

After Protesting Church Sign Misgendering Caitlyn Jenner, These Activists Are Fundraising to Repair It

Protesters are helping a California church fundraise to repair a sign which was allegedly vandalized after it bore a transphobic message misgendering and deadnaming Caitlyn Jenner.

Justin Hoke, a pastor at Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Lake Shastina, reported on Wednesday that a sign reading “Bruce Jenner is still a man” had been destroyed.

Homosexuality is still a sin,” the message continued. “The culture may change. The Bible does not.”

In a Facebook post highlighting the damage, he claimed the Plexiglass had been shattered and the letters had been stolen.

“I woke this morning to find that our sign had been vandalized,” Hoke wrote. “I have not seen it up close yet as this picture was sent to me by a member of our congregation. Please pray that God would provide.”

“As wickedness increases the fear of God decrees,” he added later.

Although Hoke blamed the destruction on a group who protested the sign on Jan. 6, organizers Amelia Mallory, Charolette Kalayjian, and Mishelle Le Guellec told the Siskiyou Daily News the “Shastina Love Rally” was not responsible.

“To our knowledge, nobody affiliated with our peaceful rally was involved,” Mallory said. “If we do become aware of the culprit we will be informing the local authorities.”

Protesters “condemn the use of violence and destruction of property,” she added.

The estimated dozen protesters who gathered across the street from Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church on Sunday are reportedly planning another demonstration for this weekend. Activists say their message is “strictly of love and support for anyone who feels like they are the target of the sign.”

But in a perhaps surprising twist, members of the local LGBTQ community plan to use the rally to raise money for the church. There will be a “collection to help… with repairs to their sign” at this Sunday’s event, Mallory said.

Organizers hope the gesture will help change hearts and minds within the church.

“While we are donating with no strings attached, we do hope that pastor Hoke will reflect on the generosity of those he rebukes before posting another similar message,” Mallory told the local news station KRDV.

In a Sunday sermon, Hoke did not appear ready to make nice. He took aim at LGBTQ rights in a speech calling same-sex unions “selfish.”

“What the world calls love is not love at all,” he claimed. “Rather it is extreme mutually agreed upon selfishness which knows nothing of sacrifice, nothing of servanthood, nothing at all of seeking another’s highest good.”

The sermon was called “Love Warns.” The title is a reference to the popular marriage equality slogan, “Love Wins.”

As of Thursday, a temporary sign was back on display.  In the caption of a Facebook photo showing the glass patched together with duct tape, Hoke remarked: “It’s not pretty, but it’s back up.”

Florida Is Trying to Appeal A Ruling That It Must Recognize A Trans Inmate As Female

A dozen advocacy organizations are going to bat against Florida for trying to appeal a court order that it must affirm a transgender inmate’s gender.

Alleging that prison staff denied her prescribed hormones for more than two years and refused to allow her to transition socially, Reiyn Keohane filed suit against the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2016 and won in federal court. The case sought to throw out the state’s “freeze-frame” policy, which prevents transgender people from accessing gender-affirming care they were not receiving prior to incarceration.

Advocates say the 2016 ruling by Chief United States District Judge Mark Walker is among the most substantial trans-affirming decisions in a transgender prison discrimination case.

“Ultimately, this case is about whether the law, and this Court by extension, recognizes Ms. Keohane’s humanity as a transgender woman,” Walker wrote in 2016. “The answer is simple. It does, and I do.”

Keohane was issued hormones after her suit, but the DOC is now appealing the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of appeals.

Keohane claims that DOC refused her medical transition, denied her female undergarments and repeatedly forcibly shaved her head. Her complaint alleges that DOC’s refusal to allow her to transition resulted in suicidality and self-harm.

Daniel Tilley, staff attorney at American Civil Liberties of Florida, is fighting Keohane’s case and said that DOC’s continued refusal to allow her to transition exacerbates her suffering.

“It’s been a really long and brutal journey for her,” Tilley told INTO, noting that Keohane’s request for social transition has dragged on for five years.

In a letter published by the ACLU, Keohane says she has been beaten in custody and was called “a punk, a sissy, and a faggot.”

“I have been denied at every level, told by doctors that I’m not transgender, refused hormone therapy even though I had taken it on the streets, and had to go weeks without being able to shave after being put in confinement for wearing women’s clothing or standing up for my rights,” she wrote.

Tilley questions Florida’s compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which requires correctional facilities to place transgender inmates on a case-by-case basis where they will be safest. According to Tilley, DOC has defaulted to housing transgender women based on genitalia alone. Keohane is housed in a men’s facility but wants to be housed with women, Tilley said.

The Florida Department of Corrections said it was working on a response to INTO‘s media inquiry, which included the number of transgender women inmates housed in women’s facilities and its PREA compliance. 

Eleven advocacy organizations joined the ACLU on Keohane’s behalf Wednesday, filing a friend-of-the-court brief. They include Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, Black and Pink, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, among others.

Last year, Missouri’s “freeze-frame” policy was also thrown out in federal court after transgender inmate Jessica Hicklin successfully sued for gender-affirming hair removal and canteen items.

Header image via Getty

First Transgender Homicide of 2019 Reported in Alabama

It’s a grim first that has gone unacknowledged by law enforcement and media.

Dana Martin is the first known transgender person of 2019 to be murdered in the U.S. The 31-year-old Hope Hull resident was found shot to death in Montgomery, Alabama Sunday night.

Police identified her as male. Local media consequently followed suit. Monica Roberts of the blog TransGriot first broke word of her death on Twitter.

“It’s clear that she was a woman,” said Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, founder of Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering. Duncan-Boyd said she met Martin several times with her friends. “She was a person that was loved by many, and you can see it all over Facebook.”

Most of Martin’s Facebook page is set to private, so messages from friends are not publicly visible. But all of her Facebook photos dating back nine years show her presenting as female.

Shonta Dillard, a longtime friend, also confirmed to INTO that Martin was transgender.

“That’s a sister, even though she’s not here to defend herself,” said Duncan-Boyd. “We still have a community in loss that is willing to defend her…The justice system doesn’t know how to handle situations where trans folks are murdered. They always misgender, and when they misgender, it knocks the data off.”

Last year, ProPublica examined law enforcement response to transgender homicides from 2015 through August 2018 and found that in 74 of 85 cases, agencies misgendered victims in death.

Transgender people have faced an unprecedented wave of violence in the past two years. Last year saw 26 transgender people murdered in the U.S., and 2017 reported the highest number of trans homicides on record with 29. An overwhelming number of the victims are Black transgender women.

According to an MPD statement released to INTO, police and fire medics responded to a call for a vehicle crash at the 3900 block of Brewer Road at 11 pm Sunday.

“At the scene, they located a vehicle in the ditch line,” police said. “In the vehicle, they located Martin, the driver, who had sustained a fatal gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Asked if MPD was aware the victim identified as transgender, Public Information Officer Regina Duckett said that legal documents identified the victim as male.

“How a homicide victim identifies is a personal matter that becomes relevant to the investigation only if it is determined that it was a reason the victim was killed,” Duckett said in an email. “At this point, the circumstances of this homicide are unknown, and MPD will continue to pursue all leads and avenues for prosecution.”

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North Carolina to Lose Netflix Show As Fallout Over Anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bill’ Continues

House Bill 2 is set to lose North Carolina even more money, despite the law’s repeal.

Netflix’s coming-of-age drama OBX is reportedly pulling production from the Tar Heel State due to fallout from the anti-trans “bathroom bill.” Forced through during an emergency legislative session in March 2016, HB 2 would have cost the state an estimated $3.76 billion over the next 12 years if it remained intact.

The controversial measure was replaced with a “compromise” bill, HB 142, nearly a year after it was originally made law.

But according to Wilmington’s Star News, the streaming service did not feel the replacement legislation differed enough from its predecessor to justify filming in North Carolina. The “sticking point” was reportedly a clause in HB 142 forbidding local municipalities from passing ordinances “excluding them from the bill’s restrictions.”

That language prevents cities and counties from drafting pro-LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020—when the provision is set to expire.

In essence, HB 2 will remain in place for two more years.

Creator Jonas Pate claimed there’s still a chance OBX—which is set in the coastal town of Wilmington—could film in North Carolina. Pate told Star News “any effort to move the sunset date up… could convince Netflix to change course.”

“We have a tiny window where this could be pulled out of the fire,” he claimed.

The clock is quickly winding down, however. Netflix has already begun scouting locations in Charleston, South Carolina, despite its creator’s desire to shoot in the location where the show is set. OBX tells the story of a fateful summer, in which a hurricane cuts off power to Wilmington, through the eyes of four local teenagers.

“This show would be a postcard to North Carolina,” Pate concluded, describing it as akin to Stand By Me set in the Outer Banks.

Should North Carolina lose OBX to its neighbors to the south, it would result in an estimated $60 million in economic losses. Pate claimed it would also cost the already embattled state “70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs.”

Although the project has not been announced by Netflix, OBX allegedly plans to film a 10-episode season.

The news is further indication that HB 2 continues to have financial repercussions for North Carolina. Despite an offer of $2.4 billion in economic incentives from the state, Amazon announced its intent to build headquarters in New York City and Arlington, Va. According to the Associated Press, HB 2 was “still causing heartburn” with Amazon leadership.

Although North Carolina had been shortlisted for a new Apple facility, the company announced in December it would be taking 9,000 jobs to Austin instead.

Apple never stated that HB 2 was the reason it chose to open the $1 billion campus in Texas. But in an interview with Raleigh’s News & Observer, insiders euphemistically noted North Carolina’s “uncertain politics” as dissuading the company from doing business with the state.

Charlotte’s tourism board is reportedly spending $2 million in “Post HB2 Marketing/Sales support” to rehab the state’s image during the ongoing fallout.

Whether lawmakers will address this crisis by further compromising on HB 2 remains to be seen. Although Democrats flipped enough seats to break the Republican supermajorities in the State House and Senate, both chambers of the General Assembly remain under conservative control.

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Asst. Principal Who Demanded Trans Student Use Urinal in Front of Him Reinstated

An assistant principal who challenged a transgender student to use a urinal in front of him to prove he was male will be reinstated next month, a West Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night.

Assistant Principal Lee Livengood will return to work at Liberty High School on Feb. 1.

Frank Devono Jr., president of the Harrison County Board of Education, told INTO that board’s decision to reinstate Livengood was based on an investigative report from Superintendent Mark Manchin.

“After that report had been filed, and after that report had been completed, [it found] it did not warrant termination, it warranted a suspension and unpaid suspension,” said Devono. “And that he at that point would complete the stipulations that the superintendent and the board came up with, and that he would be able to come back to work.”

The incident in question dates back to Nov. 27 when Livengood allegedly followed transgender sophomore Michael Critchfield into an otherwise empty boys’ bathroom and loudly challenged him to prove he was male, stating “Come out here and use the urinal.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia, Livengood also repeatedly misgendered Critchfield and said, “I’m not going to lie: You freak me out.”

Devono said that since the incident, the district has met with the ACLU and experts at West Virginia University. He said that all staff will be trained in transgender sensitivity.

Board members met in closed executive session Tuesday night before voting to reinstate Livengood. The exact terms of his reinstatement have not been disclosed.

Initial reports from the district suggested that Livengood had been suspended with pay following the incident, but Devono said that board members objected to his continuing to be paid and placed him on unpaid leave through February.

Devono said the district held meetings with Critchfield’s parents and the ACLU on appropriate next steps before voting on Tuesday.

“They weren’t looking for termination so much as they were looking to use this as a teaching scenario that could benefit other students that are dealing with the same type of situation,” he said.

The ACLU of West Virginia appeared to support the vote, but declined to immediately offer any details about what transpired between the district, Livengood, Critchfield’s family, and the ACLU. In a statement from Executive Director Joseph Cohen, the organization said it was encouraged by discussions with Superintendent Manchin.

“Michael and his family were heartened with the outcome of the meeting and are now looking forward to working with the school district to make a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ students in Harrison County,” Cohen said. “Because of Michael’s bravery and willingness to come forward, we now have the opportunity to replicate and expand on inclusion practices in other counties across West Virginia to ensure this never happens again to anyone under any circumstance.”

Timothy Ward, a spokesperson for the ACLU of West Virginia said the organization would be releasing more information on what steps the district had taken that led to its positive statement, pending conversations with Critchfield.

Donald Trump, Jr. Shares Meme Mocking Trans People on Instagram

Transphobia is the Trump family business these days, if an Instagram post from Donald Jr. is any indication.

On Sunday, the eldest son of President Donald Trump shared a meme mocking trans and non-binary people. In the photo, an individual walks down the street dressed in futuristic attire: space boots, a fur coat, and blue hair reminiscent of The Fifth Element.

The unidentified person is also holding a Louis Vuitton purse.

Meanwhile, a sign in the background reminds Virginia voters to cast a ballot in the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Reading “Blue Wave 2018,” it calls out candidates Tim Kaine and Don Beyer by name.

Given the juxtaposition of Democratic candidates and the individual’s colorfully avant-garde appearance, the photo apes the popular meme, “This Is the Future Liberals Want,” in which a Muslim woman sits on the New York City subway next to a drag queen.

This time around, the caption takes aim at the #NotMyPresident hashtag: “No, no, don’t tell me. Let me guess… Trump is not your president?”

Trump Jr. piled onto the mockery. “I’ll take that bet all day long,” he wrote.

The feedback on Instagram was largely negative. While a typical post on his account attracts 1,000 or 2,000 comments, there are more than 6,900 responses.

Choice comments include: “Not my president either, and that’s a totally fab ensemble,” “Keep this same energy in prison, kiddo,” and “I hope your children grow up to be gay and trans and a drag queen.”

The First Son, however, lashed out at followers who claimed the post was reflective of animus toward the queer and trans community. Responding to a comment asking if Trump Jr. is “against LGBTQ people,” he claimed, “Not at all, and you can find plenty of evidence against that.”

INTO took Trump Jr. at his word, and the results were a mixed bag—to say the least.

The 41-year-old has come out in favor of same-sex marriage in the past, telling comedy podcast The Six Pack in 2012 that he’s “totally for” allowing all couples to wed. “If I have to suffer through marriage, why shouldn’t they?” he asked.

In the next breath, however, Trump Jr. said he “wished every guy was gay” while growing up “because it just meant more women for [him].”

If that didn’t make one question the sincerity of his pro-LGBTQ stance, Trump Jr. has done little to voice support for the community since his father’s inauguration. Instead, he mocked queer and trans students who protested the opening of a Chick-fil-A at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, calling them “triggered.”

Luckily these students won’t likely have to tackle issues more stressful than a yummy chicken sandwich in their lives,” he tweeted in April 2017.

Trump Jr. also lashed out at Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon on Twitter last year after the openly gay athlete called attention to Vice President Mike Pence’s anti-LGBTQ history. Those bullet points include signing a religious freedom bill and contributing to an HIV/AIDS outbreak as governor of Indiana.

Meanwhile, Trump Jr. has yet to break from his father’s administration on any key LGBTQ issues—whether trans inclusion in the military or discrimination against queer and transgender employees in the workplace.

Fittingly for someone with such a mixed record on equality, Trump Jr. failed to see what was “homophobic about [his social media] post.”

The First Family member counts 1.5 million followers on Instagram.

Header image via Getty