Gender

I’m a pediatrician who cares for transgender kids — here's the truth about their treatment

by Mandy Coles, Boston University

When Charlie, a 10-year-old boy, came in for his first visit, he didn't look at me or my colleague. Angry and crying, he insisted to us that he was cisgender – that he was a boy and had been born male.

A few months before Charlie came into our office, he handed a note to his mother with four simple words, “I am a boy." Up until that point Charlie had been living in the world as female – the sex he was assigned at birth – though that was not how he felt inside. Charlie was suffering from severe gender dysphoria – a sense of distress someone feels when their gender identity doesn't match up with their assigned gender.

I am a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist who has been caring for transgender youth for over a decade using what is called a gender-affirmative approach. In this type of care, medical and mental health providers work side by side to provide education to the patient and family, guide people to social support, address mental health issues and discuss medical interventions.

Getting on the same page

The first thing our team does is make sure our patients and families understand what gender care is. We always begin initial visits in the same way. “Our goal is to support you and your family on this journey, whatever that may look like for you. My name is Mandy and I am one of the doctors at CATCH – the Child and Adolescent Trans/Gender Center for Health program. I use she/her pronouns." Sharing pronouns helps transgender people feel seen and validated.

We then ask patients and families to share their gender journey so we can better understand where they are coming from and where they hope to go. Charlie's story is one we often hear. A kid may not think much about gender until puberty but begins to experience worsening gender dysphoria when their body starts changing in what feels like the wrong way.

Social transitions with family help

Transgender and gender-diverse youth (those whose gender identity doesn't conform to the norms expected of their assigned sex) may face transphobia and discrimination, and experience alarmingly higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide than their cisgender peers. One option can be to socially transition to their identified gender, both at home and in the outside world.

An important first step is to help parents become allies and advocates. Connecting parents with one-to-one as well as group support can help facilitate education and acceptance, while helping families process their own experience. Charlie's parents had been attending a local parent group that helped them better understand gender dysphoria.

In addition to being accepted at home, young people often want to live in the world in their identified gender. This could include changing their name and pronouns and coming out to friends and family. It can also include using public spaces like schools and bathrooms, participating on single-gender sports teams and dressing or doing other things like binding breasts or tucking back male genitalia to present more in line with their gender identity. Though more research needs to be done, studies show that youth who socially transition have rates of depression similar to cisgender peers.

Many young people find that making a social transition can be an important step in affirming identity. For those that still struggle with depression, anxiety and managing societal transphobia, seeing a therapist who has knowledge of and experience with gender-diverse identities and gender dysphoria can also be helpful.

However, most young people also need to make physical changes to their bodies as well to feel truly comfortable.

Gender-affirming medical interventions

When I first met Charlie, he had already socially transitioned but was still experiencing dysphoria. Charlie, like many people, wanted his physical body to match his gender identity, and this can be achieved only through medical interventions – namely, puberty blockers, hormonal medications or surgery.

For patients like Charlie who have started experiencing early female or male puberty, hormone blockers are typically the first option. These medications work like a pause button on the physical changes caused by puberty. They are well studied, safe and completely reversible. If a person stops taking hormone blockers, their body will resume going through puberty as it would have. Blockers give people time to further explore gender and to develop social supports. Studies demonstrate that hormone blockers reduce depression, anxiety and risk of suicide among transgender youth.

Once a person has started or completed puberty, taking prescribed hormones can help people match their bodies with their gender identities. One of my patients, Zoe, is an 18-year-old transgender woman who has already completed male puberty. She is taking estrogen and a medication to block the effects of testosterone. Together, these will help Zoe's body develop breasts, reduce hair growth and have an overall more female shape.

Leo, another one of my patients, is a 16-year-old transgender man who is using testosterone. Testosterone will deepen Leo's voice, help him grow facial hair and lead to a more male body shape. In addition to testosterone, transgender men can use an additional short-term medication to stop menstruation. For nonbinary people like my 15-year-old patient Ty, who is not exclusively masculine or feminine, my colleagues and I personalize their treatments to meet their specific need.

The health risks from taking hormones are incredibly small – not significantly different, in fact, than the risks a cisgender person faces from the hormones in their body. Some prescribed hormone effects are partially reversible, but others are more permanent, like voice deepening and growth of facial hair or breasts. Hormones can also impact fertility, so I always make sure that my patients and their families understand the process thoroughly.

The most permanent medical options available are gender-affirming surgeries. These operations can include changes to genitals, chest or breasts and facial structure. Surgeries are not easily reversible, so my colleagues and I always make sure that patients fully understand this decision. Some people think gender-affirming surgeries go too far and that minors are too young to make such a big decision. But based on available research and my own experience, patients who get these surgeries experience improvements in their quality of life through a reduction in dysphoria. I have been told by patients that gender-affirming surgery “literally saved my life. I was free [from dysphoria]."

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Ongoing gender care

In March 2021, nearly five years after our first visit, Charlie walked into my exam room. When we first met, he was struggling with his gender, anxiety and depression. This time, he immediately started talking about playing hockey, hanging out with friends and making the honor roll. He has been on hormone blockers for five years and testosterone for almost a year. With the help of a supportive family and a gender-competent therapist, Charlie is now thriving.

Being transgender is not something that goes away. It is something my patients live with for their entire lives. Our multidisciplinary care team continues to see patients like Charlie on a regular basis, often following them into young adulthood.

While more research is always needed, a gender-affirmative approach and evidence-based medicine allows young transgender people to live in the world as their authentic selves. This improves quality of life and saves lives, as one of our transgender patients said about his experience receiving gender-affirming care. “I honestly don't think I would be here had I not been allowed to transition at that point. I'm not always 100%. But I have hope. I am happy to see tomorrow and I know I will achieve my dreams."The Conversation

Mandy Coles, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

There's a profound moral problem that the pro-life movement ignores

Once upon a time, I was a straight news reporter freelancing for a new national religion publication. My assignment was to attend religious services in my area to see what faith leaders were saying on the Sunday before the 2012 presidential election.

I decided to go to a Roman Catholic Church here in New Haven that offers mass in English, Polish and Latin (obviously, not at the same time). The Latin Mass, if you've never experienced it, is truly moving what with the incense and cathedral setting and so on. I was enjoying myself all the way up to the homily. It was in English. I got my notepad. "Abortion is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetimes," the priest said. The message was clear: don't vote for the (Black) candidate supporting infanticide.

I don't think abortion is murder, but I can see why others do. I can see why people see it as a "humanitarian crisis." I can even see why some think of the pro-life movement as a civil-rights movement. For these believers, life begins at conception, meaning a person becomes a person at what they believe is a sacred moment. Even if you don't think it's murder, you might credit the view with having a profound moral weight.

Yes, yes. I know. Anti-abortion politics is really about putting women back in their place in the natural order of things.1 It's about maintaining the local authority of white man, for the most part, and their dominance over women, especially the women in their lives. This, to me, is transparently true. Even so, abortion is what it is. It's not like the pro-life movement is based on nothing serious. There is a moral foundation, no?

What if it's not what you think it is? The energy driving 40 years of partisan politics, to strike down Roe, has been described as a moral crusade. The moral dimension has been strong enough to wedge apart liberals and social-gospel Catholics, wrote Christopher Jon Sprigman. "But for so many I knew, the struggle over abortion overwhelmed their other political commitments. For many, it was the Supreme Court's constitutionalization of abortion that turned disagreement into a great moral schism."

Again, what if it's not that? What if the question is not centered on the morality of ending a pregnancy but on something quite different? Most liberals don't even bother asking the question. They just deny the premise of the argument. They deny a fetus is a person. But what if a fetus is a person, as pro-lifers say? Then what? Well, then we have a titanic ethical dilemma no serious person in the pro-life movement talks about. And by refusing to talk about it, they give up the game. This isn't really about babies.

Think about it. The pro-life movement wants the government to outlaw access to abortion, the result being women carrying out pregnancies. Put this together with the belief that a fetus is a person. What are pro-lifers asking for? That the government force one person to permit another person to use her body. Though it's true this person requires another person's body for its survival, that doesn't change the fact that forcing one person to permit another person to use her body for its survival is a moral question as profound as the question of whether ending a pregnancy is good or bad.

Even if you think ending a pregnancy is bad, on account of your belief that a fetus is a person, you should be downright disturbed by the idea of the government forcing one person to allow another person to use her body for its survival. These are different moral problems, sure, but they are equally problematic. If the pro-life movement is not ignoring one in favor of the other, it's deciding one is OK while the other is not. And the consequential burden of either decision falls entirely on who? Pregnant women.

If abortion really were a "great moral schism," its opponents would be struggling to untangle the vexing moral knot of a government forcing one person to use another person's body. But I don't see serious abortion opponents doing that. What I do see is what everyone else sees—debate over whether the US Supreme Court will strike down Roe, or enfeeble it, out of the profound moral conviction that abortion is wrong.

But abortion is not a "moral debate." It's a one-sided moral debate. It's a debate over which one side won't look at the moral implications of winning the debate. Or it's a debate over which one side understands the moral implications and accepts them, because accepting them is in keeping with its view of the natural order of things. What's sacred isn't so much the life inside the mother as her presumed social role.

How evangelicals got fixated on gender roles

by Susan M. Shaw, Oregon State University

Prominent evangelical leader Beth Moore, who announced in March 2021 that she was leaving the Southern Baptist Convention over its treatment of women, among other issues, recently apologized for supporting the primacy of the theology of “complementarianism."

This belief asserts that while women and men are of equal value, God has assigned them specific gender roles. Specifically, it promotes men's headship or authority over women, while encouraging women's submission.

As a scholar of gender and evangelical Christianity who grew up Southern Baptist, I watched how complementarianism became central to evangelical belief, starting in the late 1970s, in response to the feminist influence within Christianity.

The start of the doctrine

In the 1970s, the women's movement began to make inroads into a number of arenas in the U.S., including work, education and politics. Many Christians, including evangelicals, came to embrace egalitarianism and to champion women's equality in the home, church and society.

In response, in 1977 evangelical biblical studies professor George Knight III published a book, “New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women," and introduced a new interpretation of “role differences."

Other evangelical biblical studies professors, such as Wayne Grudem and John Piper, began to write about submission and headship in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, making the claim that women's submission to men was not, as many Christians at that time believed, a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden when Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit.

Rather, they argued, the requirement for women's submission was part of the created order. Men, they explained, were created to rule and women were created to obey.

Southern Baptists incorporate the belief

Evangelical leaders began to hold secret meetings, conferences and evangelical associations to work out, and then promote, a fully developed framework for complementarianism.

In 1987, a group including Piper and Grudem met in Danvers, Massachusetts, to prepare a statement that came to be known as the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It set out the core beliefs of complementarianism.

Among other things, the Danvers Statement affirmed the submissive role of women. It said, “Wives should forsake resistance to their husbands' authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands' leadership."

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was created at the same time. The goal of the council was to influence evangelicals to adopt the principles of complementarianism in their homes, churches, schools and other religious agencies.

Within a decade, the council and the Danvers Statement began to have significant influence among evangelicals, particularly Southern Baptists, the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

Entrenched evangelical beliefs

The Southern Baptist Convention soon incorporated these beliefs into its confessional statement – a document of generally shared beliefs. In an amendment in 1998 to the “Baptist Faith and Message," the convention included the complementarian language.

The amended section on “The Family" stated, “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation."

For some, the theology of complementarianism became so deeply entrenched in evangelical belief that they came to see it as an essential doctrine of the faith. As Piper said in 2012, if people accept egalitarianism, sooner or later, they're going to get the Gospel wrong.

While Moore has not entirely renounced complementarianism, she has now decried its use as a first-tier doctrine. First-tier doctrines are the ones that evangelicals believe people must accept in order to be Christians. For some evangelicals, however, complementarianism remains a litmus test for theological faithfulness, right alongside belief in God and acceptance of Jesus.

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Susan M. Shaw, Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Oregon State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The right wing launches a new sexist attack against First Lady Jill Biden

Over the weekend, First Lady Jill Biden's patterned tights went viral on conservative Twitter. It began when a photograph of her deplaning at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland — wearing a tailored black blazer, an A-line leather skirt, the aforementioned tights and black booties — was shared on the platform and a user likened them to "fishnet stockings."

It started a really nasty pile-on, underscored by a lot of Republicans drawing comparisons to former first lady Melania Trump; a couple of the tamer comments read, "Jill Biden is too old to be wearing fishnets. It's gross. Melania, on the other hand, would rock them," and "Madonna called and wants her trashy look back, Doc."

Biden's supporters were quick to defend her. "She is wonderful, you are jealous," one wrote, while another added: "She looked very chic."

For what it's worth, Biden's tights weren't actually fishnets. They were sheer tights with a geometric pattern — not that it should matter, obviously. However, the immediate backlash to Biden's outfit echoes past pearl-clutching, especially from conservatives, about what type of clothing is "appropriate" for the first lady of the United States.

It's an exercise that often speaks to a certain societal discomfort with reconciling cultural understandings of what femininity and power look like, and has since extended to criticism of how other women politicians dress.

According to Carl Sferrazza Anthony, the author of "First Ladies: The Saga of Presidents' Wives and Their Power," first ladies of the United States have held a "highly visible, yet undefined, position in the U.S. government."

"The role of the first lady, the U.S. president's spouse, has evolved from fashion trendsetter and hostess of White House dinners to a more substantive position," he wrote. "While there have been diverging views on the roles of women in society, the first lady is still a role model for American women. One of the highest-profile jobs in the U.S. government comes with no official duties, no paycheck, and almost limitless possibilities."

Inherent to that concept of being a role model is an understanding that the first lady will be, well, "ladylike." The meaning of that term has shifted some throughout time, though it denotes politeness and a certain demureness or docility. As such, it's no surprise that male politicians have weaponized the term against their female counterparts, like when Republican Todd Akin complained that his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill, was not sufficiently "ladylike" in 2012.

This expectation of demureness has long extended to FLOTUS fashion, which has ignited a number of fashion scandals throughout history. When Mary Todd Lincoln wore shoulderless, sleeveless dresses, she was criticized as "showing off her bosom." Several years later, the Women's Christian Temperance Union started a petition over Florence Cleveland's sleeveless gowns, claiming they were an immoral influence on America's young women.

While some first ladies have been criticized as being "frumpy" — Mamie Eisenhower with her pressed shirt dresses and Hillary Clinton in her pant suits, for instance — it seems that there's no bigger affront to being in a position of political power or prestige than being considered provocative. We've seen this reaffirmed over and over again as more and more women take office of their own.

For example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been criticized for her signature red lip – which she wears as a nod to Latina culture – as being too frivolous or seductive, a sentiment that was echoed by some conservatives when a video of her dancing in college was released hours after she was sworn in.

It remains to be seen, however, how or if eventual first gentlemen (FGOTUS?) will be judged by their attire. The closest search result that comes up when you Google "Doug Emhoff too sexy" is a lighthearted piece by The Forward, "Kamala Harris' husband Doug Emhoff is our hot Jewish dad crush," and we all know that male politicians' style choices rarely cause a blip on the radar. I don't think I've ever seen a commentator decry an especially vibrant red tie as too much for the House floor, for instance.

Yet in more recent memory, Michelle Obama ignited controversy by wearing a pair of shorts while exiting Air Force One at Grand Canyon National Park Airport which caused the blogosphere, as Time reported in August 2009, to explode with debates over whether they were "hot pants? Cutoffs? Booty Shorts?"

Obama's shorts were far from "booty shorts." They were gray, loose and looked like they could have been pulled off the shelf at GAP or J. Crew. To me, this is reminiscent of the Jill Biden tights situation. Sure, fishnets — like hot pants — are culturally recognized as sexy, if a bit campy in certain contexts (in "The Pleasures of the Text," French essayist Roland Barthes posited that the appeal was found in "intermittence, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing").

But in both situations you have commentators who seem intent on positioning certain items of clothing as more seductive than they actually are as a way to shame or discredit the women wearing them.

There is, of course, a certain amount of hypocrisy that comes from Trump supporters criticizing either Michelle Obama or Jill Biden over the appropriateness of their attire. Before marrying Donald Trump, Melania worked as a model and occasionally posed nude. Those photos ran on the cover of the the New York Post in 2016, during Trump's campaign.

The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik posited at the time that this was potentially done with Trump's knowledge, or even blessing, as the Post was resolutely pro-Trump. It could have been Trump's way, Gopnik wrote, of trying to lure his feminist opponents into "revealing their hypocritical readiness to turn on a woman with the wrong politics." That didn't happen.

"The photographs were received almost entirely without scandal, because, well, because education does happen, and change does take place, and even the most benighted among us, Trump quite possibly aside, now understand that a woman's body is hers to pose and have photographed more or less as she chooses, and that it is for the rest of us to respect her choices and to look or not at the photographs as we choose," Gopnik wrote.

It seems that Jill Biden's detractors could take that advice, as well.

Why activists are urging the Biden administration to tear down part of Betsy DeVos' legacy

On March 2, Miguel Cardona was sworn in as secretary of education in the Biden Administration — and activists have been pressuring Cardona to revise the Title IX policies of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the way they address students who have suffered sexual assaults.

NBC News' Tyler Kingkade notes that Cardona has faced a "growing clamor from victims' advocates, civil rights groups and Democratic members of Congress demanding a quick overhaul of the Trump Administration's Title IX regulation." Title IX, which is part of the Education Amendments of 1972, is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination on the part of any school or education program that receives federal funds.

Kingkade points out that President Joe Biden has "signed an executive order directing Cardona to review the Title IX regulation and explore rewriting it." Under DeVos' watch, Kingkade notes, Title IX gave "accused students more avenues to defend themselves" and restricts "how a school can investigate sexual assault allegations."

The Trump Administration had a great deal of turnover during former President Donald Trump's four years in the White House, but DeVos was around for most of those four years — although she resigned as education secretary following the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. DeVos favored hard-right policies during her time in the Trump Administration, but now that Cardona is education secretary, activists are pushing for new education policies — including a different Title IX approach.

Activist Sage Carson, manager of the group Know Your IX, told NBC News, "Student survivors need immediate action on Title IX. What seems like just a few months to non-students is an entire semester for a student. Survivors can't spend another semester, let alone another four years, with the current status of the Title IX regulation."

The GOP's war on trans students hurts all kids

Despite the rapidly changing times we live in, one truth remains eternal: Whenever conservatives claim they're "protecting" women, women better be on their guard, because they're always coming for our freedom.

In the 19th century, chivalrous rhetoric about women being the "angels in the house" was used to ennoble antagonism against women's suffrage. Anti-feminists in the 1970s attacked the Equal Rights Amendment by falsely insinuating the housewives would be abandoned by their husbands. Reproductive rights opponents still justify onerous obstacles on abortion access by suggesting women can't be trusted to make important decisions about their own bodies. And, as the current protest movement in Great Britain demonstrates, women's freedom to socialize or even leave the house is often attacked under the guise of "protecting" them from violent men.

Chivalrous rhetoric is being dusted off once again to abuse some of the most vulnerable people in our society: young trans people, especially those who are still minors. Across the country, the New York Times reports, "Republicans are diving into a culture war clash that seems to have come out of nowhere," which is the growing hysteria over trans people competing in sports.

People are being whipped into a frenzy over false claims that young people assigned male at birth are transitioning to female for the opportunity to compete on girls and women's sports teams. And the story doesn't hold up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. Transitioning is often medically invasive and is almost always disruptive to someone's life on every level, not something one does just to get a gold medal at a high school track meet. But, as hysterias of the past demonstrate — think of urban legends like "Satanists hide messages in rock albums" and "people are hiding razor blades in Halloween candy" — many people's will to believe trumps common sense.

"Everybody must have seen the movie Juwanna Man and thought it was a real-life thing," Renee Montgomery, former Minnesota Lynx player and current co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, joked on the podcast "Lovett or Leave It". But as reporter Jeremy Peters notes, this panic isn't really coming out of nowhere, but "has been brought about by a coordinated and poll-tested campaign by social conservative organizations."

The GOP needs a highly emotional wedge issue that preys on people's worst impulses, like the homophobic panic over same-sex marriage that helped George W. Bush win a tight election in 2004. Trans people, unfortunately, make a perfect target, as many cis Americans, those whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth, are ignorant about the realities of trans lives, making them easy to bamboozle with misinformation. But it has not passed the notice of people who actually care about women's sports that the conservatives claiming they want to "save" women's sports from trans athletes are the same people who have hobbled women's sports at every turn through underfunding and outright mockery.

"As a woman who has played sports my whole life, I know that the threats to women's and girls' sports are lack of funding, resources and media coverage; sexual harassment; and unequal pay," Women's World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday. "[W]hat if all these people claiming to be fighting for the future of women's sports would really fight for the future of women's sports? What if they suddenly said, 'We demand women's sports get equal resources, equal media coverage, and equal pay'?" Lindsay Crouse, a journalist and long-time champion of women's sports, wrote in the New York Times last week.

It's not really hypocrisy that all these right-wingers claiming to be "protecting" women's sports are also the same people who tend to otherwise treat women's sports like a joke. On the contrary, the attacks on trans rights are all tied up in the assumption that women's sports and female athletes are inferior. The myth that men are merely pretending to be trans in order to compete in women's sports depends on seeing women's sports as a consolation prize, an inferior product that someone only settles for if they can't get the real deal. Claire Thorton's interviews with trans athletes and their families for USA Today illustrate how conservative rhetoric around this is inherently reductive and demeaning to both the kids and to the very concept of women's sports.

"[Basketball] teaches you how to be a team player, it teaches you how to communicate, it teaches you how to work hard," explained Layne Ingram, a college women's basketball coach and a trans man who grew up playing boys basketball.

The push to discriminate against trans students ends up reducing the entirety of women's sports to not just athletes' bodies, but their genitalia, reinforcing notions that women's reproductive systems should define their entire existence. The primary victims of this shiny new GOP wedge issue are trans kids, but make no mistake, the rhetoric being employed hurts all sorts of kids, cis or trans.

The attacks on trans girls for supposedly not being "feminine" enough to play girls' sports also affect cis girls whose bodies or behavior don't conform to what sexists believe proper little ladies should look or act like. As Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota's advocacy manager, said in response to a GOP-sponsored bill that would ban trans kids from sports in the state, "These attacks on trans women and girls are rooted in the same kind of gender discrimination and stereotyping that has held back cisgender women athletes for centuries."

Many of the anti-trans bills in states open the door to gender-testing that affects all kids, trans or cis. Put bluntly, in places like Idaho, the anti-trans laws give permission to schools to force kids to submit to an investigation of their genitals, a process that will be no less traumatic for cis girls who "pass" the inspection. As with laws requiring women who want an abortion to undergo vaginal ultrasounds, conservatives cannot wait to punish women they see as transgressing their standards of femininity — either by being trans, by playing sports, or by getting abortions — by subjecting them to humiliating invasions of their privacy.

Such policing of gender expression, without regard to fairness, is neatly exposed by a case in Texas, where 17-year-old trans boy Mack Beggs was forced in 2017 to wrestle on the girls team and not the boys team. Beggs, who was taking testosterone to transition, ended up being utterly dominant in the sport. He took no joy in it, however, recently explaining to Yahoo! News that it was a "no-win situation" because "You have to wrestle against girls — but you really want to wrestle against guys."

Far from "protecting" girls sports, trans bans make a spectacle out of girls sports, humiliating both trans and cis female student-athletes.

Conservatives have long resented women's sports, especially since Title IX was passed in 1972, requiring public schools to treat men and women's sports equally. It's a provision that the right has spent decades trying — with great success — to undermine. Now trans athletes give them a twofer, a chance to both abuse a group of children and reinvigorate narratives that paint women's sports as silly and inferior. And if they can toss on genital inspections of female athletes and force high school girls to wrestle boys, it's only that much better.

No feminist should be fooled by this phony language about "protecting" girls and women in sports. Policing trans kids is about reinforcing the same rigid gender norms that are used to trap cis women all the time, with assumptions about how we should look and act — and what our bodies should be used for — based on our gender. The people who, given a chance, would kill Title IX in a heartbeat are not the champions of women's sports they pretend to be. They're just the same old bigots and sexist, who have only put fresh coat of paint on the same old regressive arguments they've always made.

A New York Times columnist distorts my views — while covertly pushing a socially conservative agenda

The provision for a child tax credit in the newly enacted American Rescue Plan Act is arguably the nation's most transformative new welfare policy in decades. Compared to previous government programs for American families, it is downright revolutionary.

It boasts three features that make it significantly different from previous versions of the benefit. First, it is available to all families with children under 18, even if they have no taxable income. Second, unlike traditional welfare, it doesn't discourage work. The vast majority of families will still qualify for the full credit even if their earnings increase (the benefit doesn't phase out until the head of household makes over $112,500 a year). Finally, it will arrive not in an annual lump sum but every month, like a Social Security check. That regularity will make it a godsend to many families.

Sure, the measure has its faults. Ideally, it would be more generous, fully universal and of course, permanent (it expires in a year). But there is no doubt that it will be life-changing for some people. Researchers say the tax credit, together with the other goodies in the covid relief-economic stimulus plan, will cut the child poverty rate by more than half. Single mothers and families of color will disproportionately benefit.

In many ways, the benefit is an implicit rebuke of the shameful welfare reform act of 1996, a disastrous policy which more than doubled the rate of children of single mothers living in deep poverty. By contrast, economist Claudia Sahm has said that the new benefit marks the "most aggressive fight against deep poverty in decades."

Most feminists I know have applauded the new child tax credit. Not only is it supported by mainstream women's groups like NOW and the National Women's Law Center, but those of us who are socialist feminists are also enthusiastic. We like that the benefit redistributes income to poor and working-class families, and that supports women's perennially under-compensated care work. In this, it resembles the child allowances that are common in Scandinavian social democracies and that many socialist feminists, most certainly including me, have long championed.

That explains why I find it annoying that in a recent piece, Times columnist Elizabeth Bruenig strongly suggested, without a whit of evidence, that I oppose the benefit.

True, she didn't come right out and say it. But she does cite me, along with several other "liberal women," as someone who has "warned that child benefits would enforce gender inequality." This is misleading. For one thing, I am not a liberal. I'm a socialist. (It's even in my Twitter bio, fer gosh sakes). And even if she didn't know that, by no stretch of the imagination could anyone giving a remotely fair reading of the piece that I wrote, and that she cites, refer to me as a "liberal." In that article, I approvingly cited Marxist scholar Kathi Weeks and argued in favor of a universal basic income and free, universal, publicly provided child care. That sounds pretty socialisty to me!

It is also false to suggest, as Bruenig does, that I don't support child benefits. Bruenig has had a long-standing animus against liberals and feminists, and she seems to have wanted to write a "both sides do it" piece about how both Republicans and Democrats are at heart evil neoliberals who want to snatch bread out of the mouths of infants.

But it's telling how hard it is for her to find liberals and feminists who allegedly oppose the benefit. To drag socialisty me into her argument, Bruenig resorted to digging up a two-year old piece that was about a totally different subject (child care) and in which I explicitly say that her husband Matt Bruenig's policy proposal for an extensive list of child benefits is "excellent," with the exception of one of them that would pay parents to stay home with their children for an extended period of time.

Furthermore, I'm not the only person on the left whose views she mischaracterizes. She cites two people on Twitter as being "hesitant" about the benefit, even though one of them calls the child allowance "great" while the other says that Elizabeth Bruenig misinterpreted her tweet, and that she is "very PRO child allowance." Another person she puts in the "anti" camp is a Politico reporter whose political ideology is unclear. That leaves Bruenig's final example, feminist author Linda Hirshman. Though Hirshman is clearly ambivalent about the benefit, she hasn't come out against it.

Intellectual dishonesty pervades Bruenig's piece. It's not only in her construction of feminist straw women. It's in the way she characterizes the debate over the tax being about "the question of whether women ought to work outside the home." That framing trivializes the matter. No one is arguing that women should stay out of the paid labor force. What's at stake is gender equity at work, in the home, and in society at large.

Feminists are rightly concerned that over the past several decades, women's progress in our society has, by many measures, come to a screeching halt. For the past 20 years, women's labor force participation has been declining or flat. The pandemic has had a devastating, and disproportionate, effect on women's employment. Since the pandemic's beginning, nearly 3 million women have exited the workforce, most of them women of color. In January, female labor force participation hit a 33-year low.

It could take many years for women to make up the economic ground they've lost. These facts are crucial context yet astonishingly, Elizabeth Bruenig ignores them. Is it any wonder that feminists are alarmed and want to ensure that any new work and family policies we adopt don't inadvertently drive more women out of the workplace? (It should be noted that there's little reason to believe that the new child benefit would do this. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that a child allowance would cause most parents to cut their work hours by less than an hour a week).

As feminists have long understood, participating in the paid labor force is good for women. A woman earning her own money has more power and autonomy outside and inside the home. Researchers have found that women with their own economic resources have more bargaining power within the family and more control over household decisions. They are also less likely to experience domestic violence. As a society, we should adopt policies that encourage women to enter the paid labor force and improve conditions once they are there. Those policies include, but are not limited to, raising the minimum wage, making it easier to join a union, paid family leave and sick leave, single-payer health care, and universal, publicly provisioned child care.

The child care piece is particularly critical. Our grossly inadequate child care system is a major culprit in women's exit from the labor force. There is strong evidence that public child care is better for gender equity than policies that pay women to stay home to care for children for extended periods. Sweden, Finland, and Norway have programs pushed by right-of-center parties that pay parents to stay home to care for kids under 3 years old. Though in principle the benefit is gender-neutral, researchers have found that in all three countries it has had a negative impact on gender equality. In Finland, the benefit is associated with an increase in the proportion of mothers with children under 3 becoming homemakers and with high long-term unemployment rates among mothers of children from 3 to 6 (i.e., right after the benefit expires). Additionally, it has slowed the development of publicly provisioned child care services there.

Paid family leave is another entitlement which can inadvertently hurt women. There is evidence that while paid family leave policies tend to increase women's employment, extended leaves of nine months or more are associated with reduced female earnings. Aware that some family policies have the potential of reinforcing the traditional division of labor, feminist policymakers have applied various fixes. For example, to encourage more men to take parental leave, Sweden and other countries reserved a portion of the leave for fathers only. But although this significantly increased the proportion of leave days taken by men, it's still not anywhere near a 50-50 split.

I suspect that Elizabeth Bruenig is well aware that some kinds of work and family policies can undermine gender equality. If she isn't, she should be—and that brings me to another level of intellectual dishonesty in her Times piece. Though she's cagey about it, Bruenig is a social conservative. Her deployment in her Times piece of the right-wing cliche "social engineering" is one of the tip-offs, and there are more.

Bruenig is a convert to Catholicism, and in her earlier writings she opposed abortion rights, defended the Catholic Church's sexist policies, like its opposition to birth control and female priests, and she sympathetically reviewed a book that counseled Catholic gays and lesbians to practice celibacy. However, those pieces were published years ago, and today she is far more tight-lipped about her socially conservative beliefs. Surely, that's because Bruenig realizes that if she now were to write openly about, say, abortion, she'd damage her brand and lose her leftist cool-kid cred.

Even so, it's downright bizarre that someone who makes a living as an opinion journalist is so evasive about her core beliefs. Bruenig's child tax credit piece, and her other writings, carry a strong whiff of natalism. This is troubling, because the natalism narrative objectively plays into the hands of creepy white nationalists like Tucker Carlson, and it opens up the unappetizing possibility of an alliance between the right and the socially conservative left in support of a pro-marriage, pro-natalist agenda.

Unlike her Times colleague and fellow Catholic Ross Douthat, Bruenig won't openly cop to natalism as a policy goal. At least with Douthat, you can have an honest debate. But that's not possible with Bruenig. She is deliberately opaque about her underlying agenda. This is the problem with a political ideology like Bruenig's, which is rooted in a personal religious commitment. In debates about public policy, theological arguments are irrelevant because citizens in a secular society aren't united in any one faith. Thus the tendency of religiously motivated pundits like Bruenig to obfuscate.

Nevertheless, for the health of the left, an open and honest airing of our factional differences is essential. Two paths forward confront us. One, a socially conservative left that would expand the welfare state but would support natalism and other policies that leave existing gender and racial hierarchies intact. Two, an intersectional left that is committed to economic redistribution but also embraces a politics that is feminist, anti-racist, and supportive of queers and other minority groups. Those of us on the left must be crystal clear about what we are doing and which future we are fighting for, because the stakes couldn't be higher. That's why it's so maddening that an influential Times writer on the left like Elizabeth Bruenig won't put her cards on the table

The thing about a socially conservative left is that, as Gabriel Winant has pointed out, we tried it. It was called the New Deal. Over the long haul, it was not sustainable. It privileged the patriarchal, hetero-normative family. Access to its benefits were conditioned on race, gender and sexuality. This hierarchical form of social citizenship divided and weakened the working class, making it vulnerable to the globalized capitalism that began gaining strength in the 1960s and 1970s. The normative welfare state championed by Bruenig and others on the left is not a solution. To paraphrase Brecht, we must build not from the good old things but from the bad new ones.

There's a dark fetish for martial order behind the right wing's latest outrage over Kamala Harris

The vice president was the subject of brief but tempestuous scandal-mongering earlier this week. High-profile cranks and authoritarians accused Kamala Harris of disrespecting members of the armed forces when she did not return a salute Monday.

Bernie Kerik, the former commissioner of the New York Police Department, said it was "DISGRACEFUL." "Kamala Harris refuses to salute the honor guard at the steps of the aircraft. It is a clear demonstration of her dislike for those in uniform, both law enforcement and military." Charlie Kirk, a handsomely paid liar, added a little more context: "Kamala Harris doesn't salute members of the military as she gets on Air Force Two, breaking with a customary tradition of respect. Remember when she and Joe Biden tried to sell the lie that Trump was the one who didn't respect the troops?"

The vice president does not have to do much to outrage fools like Kirk1 and Kerik.2 That's because their outrage has nothing to do with Harris' conduct, good or bad. They will say virtually anything about her, and a large portion of the population will believe them, because, you know, there's just something about her that's different. As Editorial Board member Issac J. Bailey3 put it, with respect to Barack Obama, lies work due to "the undercurrent in their messaging—that that Black dude in the White House had something up his sleeve, that there were sinister motives behind every decision."

But in Kirk and Kerik's outrage there's more going on than racism and laughable attempts at undermining trust in the first woman, and first woman of color, to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. They are saying, without saying, her identity as a woman is disgraceful (because who ever heard of a woman being in charge of anything, amirite?). They are saying, without saying, that her republicanism4 is disgraceful to the point of illegitimacy. This is demonstrated by their particularly intense focus on the salute, and what that military gesture means to the hierarchy of authority in a republic.

Most presidents did not return salutes to members of the armed forces, because most presidents had reverence for a feature that makes the United States very different from most of world history's forms of government—the civilians are in charge. Indeed, some presidents did return salutes (and anyway, who's going to stop them?), but the military salute did not become a "customary tradition of respect" until Ronald Reagan. Every president since the 1980s has habitually returned salutes to men and women in uniform, mostly because if they did not, they'd get hell from the Washington press.

That's what happened to Bill Clinton. His experience with the press corps may have deepened the "customary tradition" more than anything Reagan did. The former president was already under a cloud of suspicion as a draft-dodger, which he was, so it's probable that his sloppy saluting was of legitimate concern. But by the time his aides realized he didn't have to salute, as the press corps was saying, he'd gotten so good as it, he didn't stop. But in conceding the point, Bill Clinton ceded one of the founding principles. We don't live in a military regime. We live in a democratic republic. A young Chris Matthews, known back then as Christopher, said it well:

The ritualized salute inaugurated by the Reagan reign fuzzes the line between the country's civilian leader, the president, and the armed forces whose duty lies in serving him. … We have had some extremely patriotic presidents—I can think of Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson—who managed to lead the country without greeting sailors, soldiers and Marines as if our elected president was one other office in uniform. He's not. The president of the United States does not wear a uniform, and for a reason. He did not rise through the military ranks, nor does he, in any imaginable way, owe his office as commander-in-chief to the military forces. He represents a republican form of government dependent on regular election by the people. He is a civilian and he should act like one. He no more need adopt the military form of greeting than the military form of dress.5

In this sense, not saluting is the proper military gesture. (The commander-in-chief sits atop the chain of military authority.) Not saluting is also the proper republican gesture. (The president is the representative of the ultimate sovereigns, the people, and is not beholden to military power.) That some presidents choose to salute is, I think, their business. That some people insist on it as a matter of "customary tradition" suggests more about them than it does about the president (or the vice president, as the case may be). "Disgraceful" to Kerik wasn't Harris "failing" to salute. Disgraceful was the vice president, a product of democracy, failing to respect their fetish for a martial order. They don't want a president to govern equitably. They want a commander-in-chief to rule imperiously. And, of course, that commander can never be a woman.

A stunning 172 Republicans vote to oppose the Violence Against Women Act

172 House Republicans voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act Wednesday, just 24 hours after eight women – including six Asian American women – were gunned down in a shooting spree at a series of Atlanta spas by a shooter who is now claiming he has a sex addiction.

The legislation passed 244-172, with a mere 29 Republicans joining Democrats to support the bill. No Democrat voted against it. The bill now heads to the Senate.


The Violence Against Women Act is Clinton-era legislation that was sponsored in 1993 by then-Senator Joe Biden. Originally so uncontroversial it passed on a voice vote in the House and 95-4 in the Senate. It must be regularly renewed, and is currently expired because then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to allow it to be re-authorized in 2019.

Urging passage of the critical bill, President Biden in a statement last week said: "Delay is not an option, especially when the pandemic and economic crisis have only further increased the risks of abuse and the barriers to safety for women in the United States. Domestic violence is being called a pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic, with growing evidence showing that the conditions of the pandemic have resulted in escalated rates of intimate partner violence, and in some cases more severe injuries."

Ex-Cuomo aide gave 120 pages of contemporaneous notes in sexual misconduct investigation, lawyer says

Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday spoke with investigators for four hours, her attorney says, and provided 120 pages of contemporaneous notes about what she says is the sexual harassment she experienced from the New York Democrat.

"One piece of new information that came to light today was the Governor's preoccupation with his hand size," her attorney, Debra Katz said in a statement, "and what the large size of his hands indicated to Charlotte and other members of his staff."

Bennett "detailed her allegations of sexual harassment" and in addition to the 120 pages of contemporaneous notes also gave investigators "other examples of documentary evidence," Katz's statement reads.

"She also provided details about the sexually hostile environment the Governor fostered in both his Manhattan and Albany offices and his deliberate efforts to create rivalries and tension among female staffers on whom he bestowed attention."

Last month The New York Times reported Bennett "is accusing [Cuomo] of sexual harassment, saying that he asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men."

She also "said the governor had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship."

Cuomo has apologized, is refusing to resign, and says he never touched anyone inappropriately. "I did not do what has been alleged," Cuomo said last week. Approximately 70 state and national lawmakers have called on Cuomo to resign.

CNN host destroys Fox News' Tucker Carlson for attacking women in the military – then blasts entire network

CNN anchor Brianna Keilar is making a high-level attack one Fox News' low-life "propaganda host" Tucker Carlson, blasting the conservative cable network's star for his comments attacking women, especially pregnant women, in the U.S. Military.

Keilar expanded her attack to include all of Fox News, intelligently noting that not only is Carlson, the face of the Rupert Murdoch propaganda machine, "denigrating honorable female service members" but it has been defending their male counterparts who have been accused of committing crimes, including war crimes – in quite the "double standard."

Calling Fox News "a highly rated propaganda arm that usually professes to support the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States Armed Forces," she slammed Carlson for taking "aim at service members who not only fight for this country, but schedule the growing of human beings around deployments off into war zones."

She also played Carlson's response to the countless social media posts berating him for attacking women who wear the uniform of their country to defend it – including his right to free speech attacking them.

"Today, Department of Defense launched a large and coordinated public relations offensive against this show," Carlson said on-air Thursday night. "Pentagon brass issued hostile statements, people in uniform set up videos on social media. The DoD even issued a news release attacking us. 'Press Secretary Smites Fox News Host'," he said, mocking a Dept. of Defense article on its own website. "'Smites,' like we're a hostile foreign power," Carlson complained.

"This is bigger than a feud with some flak at the Pentagon. This is genuinely worrisome. The Department of Defense has never been more aggressively or openly political," he claimed.

Keilar then gave it all context.

"Carlson had to respond because the backlash was fierce, so he chose to respond by pretending the backlash was just the Pentagon, just Biden political appointees rebuking him, but that is not what this is. The military at every level is rebuking Carlson's comments because they're sexist and because they're anti-military. Military spouses rebuked Carlson," she noted. "Active Duty women and men skewered Carlson, it was extraordinary that they spoke up, but Carlson ignored that trying to say he was just focusing on making sure the military is strong."

She then played another clip of Carlson:

"Nothing matters more than the job it does to our US military. Our military is the last functional institution of any size in this country, is the last institution most people trust and respect. It is by far the most important, a weak military means no country, period."

"Now," she continued, "if Tucker Carlson thinks that, then why is he actively trying to weaken it by denigrating essential members of the armed services for no reason other than that they are women? Maybe he doesn't realize his comments are weakening the military, after all he wouldn't know deployment from a trip to Nantucket or a rocket launcher from a lacrosse stick, but that's what he is doing maligning pregnant service members."

In response to Carlson defending himself, his show, and Fox News as "pro-pregnancy" after attacking flight suits and uniforms for pregnant women, Keilar, frustrated, asked: "What is he talking about?"

"Pregnant pilots are just pilots who are pregnant. They are no worse or better because they're pregnant. They are just highly-qualified women, and in an all volunteer force in a country where most people wouldn't qualify to join, the military needs highly qualified women. It's not surprising that Tucker Carlson doesn't understand that, or that Fox doesn't. The network has a double standard, they have used their platform to effectively lobby for the pardons of male service members and military contractors convicted, or accused of war crimes."

"Tucker Carlson's predictable play would be to make this about free speech," she continued, wrapping up her prosecution of Carlson and Fox News. "Well, he is free to say whatever the hell he wants. He is free to wake up in the morning and figure out who he wants to insult and what nutso thing he wants to rant about to get the attention he seems to need. But keep in mind the highest rated show on the network is Carlson's. He is Fox, and as Fox tries to right its rating ship, its Tucker rising its other programming, as well. Laughlan Murdoch said out loud that his network would be the 'loyal opposition' to the Biden administration. Well. Is he cool with his top rated host acting like the loyal opposition to the rank and file of the US military that the network says it champions? What say you? Fox can come to the aid of convicted war criminals, but denigrate honorable female service members? We tried to find out more about this contradiction from Fox, they've had more than 24 hours to respond to our questions and they have not."

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