Entries in Transgender (20)


Transgender 6-Year-Old Barred from Using Girls' Restrooms at School

Courtesy Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund(FOUNTAIN, Colo.) -- Coy Mathis, born a male triplet, has behaved like a girl since she was 18 months old. Since being enrolled at Eagle Elementary School in Fountain, Colo., the 6-year-old has presented as female and worn girls' clothing. Her classmates and teachers have used female pronouns to refer to her, and she has used the girls' bathrooms.

Everything was fine until December of 2012 when school officials told her parents she can no longer use the female facilities and ordered her to use the boys' or nurse's bathroom.

"We want Coy to have the same educational opportunities as every other Colorado student," said Kathryn Mathis, Coy's mother. "Her school should not be singling her out for mistreatment just because she is transgender."

Now Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis, with the help of the Transgender Legal and Defense Education Fund (TLDEF), have filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on behalf of Coy, alleging that the school has violated her rights.

 "We are hopeful we can resolve this quickly for Coy's sake," said TLDEF's executive director, Michael Silverman.  

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against transgender students in public schools.

A letter from the school's lawyers explained the rationale behind the decision, saying, "The district's decision took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls' bathroom would have as Coy grew older."

While other students and teachers do not notice that Coy has male genitals, the school said it feared as the child developed parents and students would become "uncomfortable."

Transgender youth typically face several challenges and discrimination, and are at a disproportionate risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.

Coy's parents worry that the school's policy is setting their child up for stigma and bullying.

"We have five children and we love them all very much," said Kathryn Mathis. "We want Coy to return to school to be with her teachers, her friends, and her siblings, but we are afraid to send her back until we know that the school is going to treat her fairly. She is still just 6 years old, and we do not want one of our daughter's earliest experiences to be our community telling her she's not good enough."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


California Transgender Woman Plays College Basketball

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SANTA CLARA, Calif.) -- Fifty-one-year-old Gabrielle Ludwig is a 6-foot-6-inch transgender woman, and among the first to play on both men’s and women’s college ball teams.

Once male, now female, Ludwig is a computer administration major at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif., where she joined the Lady Saints women’s basketball team.

“I have always been an avid basketball player and fan and I will try to stay on the team for as long as I am a student,” Ludwig said in an interview with ABC News.

Ludwig, who plays center on the team, was prepared for intolerance, and there was some. There was an anonymous threat that prompted the college briefly to assign her police protection, and a safer parking space near the gym.  And Ludwig said the college had some bureaucratic hurdles for her to get over as well.

“I wasn’t allowed to participate in any games until I produced a new birth certificate… This made me feel discriminated against since none of the other team players had to provide birth certificates,” she said.

“I looked into NCAA and CCCAA [California Community College Athletic Association] rules regarding transgendered eligibilities to play basketball, and I had to provide evidence of being on female hormones for more than two years,” she said. “I am a woman in every way.”

Still, Ludwig says she has been accepted more readily on the team than some might think. “Gabrielle contacted me in July about possibly playing at Mission College, and since late August 2012 we started working on her eligibility to do so,” Corey Cafferata, head coach of the Mission College women’s basketball program, told ABC News.

A former technician in the Navy who served in Operation Desert Storm, Ludwig was born in Germany, lived in Wyoming and New York, and has a grown daughter, born when Ludwig was a man.  She briefly attended college as a teenager in New York and played basketball there, but that was 30 years ago.

Cafferata said that after Gabrielle enrolled at Mission and started taking 12 academic units she became eligible to be on the college team.

“Being part of the team is a big accomplishment. I have been trying out with a group of young and powerful athletes, and keeping up with them is a great thing,” said Ludwig. “The best thing about being on the team is being able to contribute to our goal of winning every game.”

Her age has sometimes slowed her on the court, but her coach says her fellow players have rallied around her.  “Gabrielle is liked and well respected in the team. She is a hard worker, courageous, and inspirational young lady and is a role model to many of her teammates,” said Cafferata.

Ludwig still has a long way to go to get back in shape. “The worst moments for me are when I fall on the court and have to take a few seconds to check whether or not I am injured, while the rest of the players just bounce back up.”

But Ludwig’s height will make a difference when Mission plays the College of the Siskiyous on Dec. 29. She stands a head taller than her teammates.

“She is very big and her team can turn a slow game into a fast one… We’ll be prepared next time and we’ll try to keep a double team on her,” Tom Powers, head coach of the Siskiyous women’s basketball team, told ABC News.

“I dealt with gender identity at an early age and I had many responsibilities raising my daughter,” Ludwig said.  “Once she was well on her way and once I felt she was okay with it, I decided to become who I really am.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Transgender Inmate Michelle Kosilek Fighting for Electrolysis

WCVB/ABC News(BOSTON) -- A convicted wife killer, who has been living as a woman in an all-male prison facility in Massachusetts, is fighting for electrolysis treatments while the Department of Corrections appeals a judge's earlier decision to grant the inmate gender reassignment surgery.

Lawyers for Michelle Kosilek, 63, who was born Robert, were to appear in federal court Monday to argue that the hair removal treatments are a necessary part of Kosilek's physical transformation into a woman.

Kosilek's attorneys wrote in court documents that she was initially granted the electrolysis treatments "to keep the issue from being fully litigated at trial, showing further indifference to Kosilek's serious medical needs."

In September, a federal judge ordered Massachusetts prison officials to provide Kosilek, who was convicted in the 1990 strangulation death of her wife, Cheryl, sexual reassignment surgery, calling it the only way to correct the "prolonged violation" of the inmate's Constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Michelle Kosilek had experienced "intense mental anguish," and said there was a "serious medical need" for her to have the procedure.

"It has long been well-established that it is cruel for prison officials to permit an inmate to suffer unnecessarily from a serious medical need," the judge wrote in his 128-page decision.

He called it "unusual" to treat a prisoner with gender identity disorder differently "than the numerous inmates suffering from more familiar forms of mental illness."

Kosilek has tried to castrate herself and has attempted suicide twice, Wolf noted in his ruling.

Prison officials have said if Kosilek had the surgery she could be a target for sexual assaults, among other security risks, according to court documents.

Wolf said those concerns were "either pretextual or can be dealt with."

The court left the decision of where to house Kosilek after her surgery to the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Corrections offered no immediate comment but said it planned to explore its appellate options.

Kosilek first sued the Department of Corrections in 2000. Two years later, Wolf ruled she should receive treatment for gender identity disorder, which included hormones. Kosilek sued again in 2005, again asking for gender reassignment surgery.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Petitions World Health Organization: 'We Are Trans, Not Sick'

Youtube/notsick2012(NEW YORK) -- Maxwell Zachs is on a global crusade to normalize what until now has been considered a mental illness -- being transgender.

Zachs, 25, was born female, but three years ago he transitioned to male.  In 2009, he began taking the hormone testosterone and in 2010, he went to Thailand for a double mastectomy and male chest contouring.

"There is nothing wrong with me.  I am perfectly healthy, I just happen to be transgender," the Londoner told ABC News in an email.

Now, he has filed a petition with demanding that the World Health Organization (WHO) eliminate the diagnosis "transsexualism" from the mental disorders section of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).  He says the designation only contributes to discrimination.

"I'm a person like everybody else and I have the right to live my life without stigma, without people telling me I am sick because of how I live or how I look," he says in his petition, which has been signed by 42,000 people.  "Gender is not an illness, it's just part of who I am, like being Jewish or vegetarian or sometimes talking too much!"

Zachs' position is controversial.  When being transgender is no longer considered a medical condition, will insurance companies in the United States refuse to pay for medical treatments -- counseling, hormone treatment and sometimes surgery -- for those whose gender identity doesn't match their DNA?

The ICD is the listing of medical conditions used by the 194 countries which are part of the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the WHO.  It is used as a standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes worldwide.

The current edition, ICD-10, was endorsed in 1990 and is being revised.  The ICD-11 is expected to be complete by 2015.

The WHO has five classifications for gender identity disorders in adults and in children, including transsexualism.

According to the ICD-10, transsexualism is defined as "a desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to make one's body as congruent as possible with one's preferred sex through surgery and hormonal treatment; presence of the transsexual identity for at least two years persistently; and not a symptom of another mental disorder, such as schizophrenia, or associated with chromosome abnormality."

Zachs, who has college degrees in English literature, indigenous studies and constitutional law, is a rabbinical student at a progressive yeshiva in Sweden and wants the classification "transsexualism" to go the same route as "homosexuality," which was discarded as a mental disorder by WHO in 1990, when the ICD-9 was revised.

Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO, said that Zachs' petition should be directed at the international "expert group" that is charged with updating the ICD-10.  Ultimately, they will make recommendations to the World Health Assembly and its member nations will vote on changes.

Two years ago, the WHO secretariat, its administrative body, recommended the ICD-10 be "updated," according to Hartl.  Now, an external expert group, comprising medical professionals from member nations, is debating the matter.

But removing the classification from the ICD could be problematic.

"If they're not 'mentally disordered' than they are 'normal,'" said New York psychiatrist Jack Drescher, who sits on the ICD-11 working group that is evaluating gender identity disorders.

And transgender Americans see that as a double-edged sword.

"Honestly, taking it out of the WHO book completely would surely eliminate the possibility of insurance coverage," said Claire Louise Swinford, executive director of Transhaven, an advocacy organization based in St. Louis.  "You can't bill for what you can't code. And at the end of the day, the ICD is a coding book."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Transgendered Voters May Face Discrimination at the Polls

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A study from the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the University of Los Angeles, estimates that about 25,000 transgender Americans could be disenfranchised in the upcoming election because of a patchwork of voter ID laws.

And it's not just voter ID requirements that are the problem.

Poll workers have discretion in giving voters a regular ballot or a provisional ballot, and bias could still affect who gets to vote. Provisional ballots can also be counted differently from regular ones.

Voter laws vary from state to state, but according to the Williams Institute study, voters will face the most complex requirements in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Four of those states -- Georgia, Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee -- have strict photo ID requirements in addition to laws that require sex reassignment surgery before birth certificates or licenses can be updated.

Studies on the transgender community have also found that they are more often than not economically disadvantaged and are more likely to change addresses or even be homeless, making it harder to register to vote.

When it's difficult to get ID -- for financial, medical or other reasons -- it's hard to cast a ballot, according to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, which is on a mission to get transgender Americans to the polls. Some get so discouraged they stop trying.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Transgender Man Denied Cancer Treatment; Now Feds Say It's Illegal

Courtesy Jay Kallio(NEW YORK) -- Jay Kallio, a former EMT who is disabled with kidney failure, rheumatoid arthritis and now cancer, has struggled to get good medical care, but being transgender stood in the way.

At the age of 50, Kallio transitioned from female to male but never had gender reassignment surgery, only hormone treatment.

When a suspicious lump was found in his breast and tested positive for cancer, the surgeon was so shocked that Kallio's body didn't match his gender identification -- not knowing whether to address him as "he" or "she" -- that he couldn't bring himself to tell his patient the grim biopsy results.

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said that under the Affordable Care Act, it is against the law to discriminate against transgender and LGBT patients in federally funded healthcare programs.

The policy follows a landmark 2010 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling on sex discrimination in the workplace.  LGBT and transgender advocacy groups pursued a clarification from HHS for harassment and gender stereotyping in healthcare settings.

Kallio, who is now 56 and lives in New York City, learned "accidentally" that he had breast cancer when the lab technician called to ask how he was doing with his diagnosis.

"Which diagnosis?" Kallio asked, horrified.

And it happened a second time, when the medical oncologist was "hostile" and refused to advise him on treatments.

Later, said Kallio, the doctor apologized, stating, "I don't think it interfered with the quality of your care."

In fact, it did.  Having to find new doctors delayed the start of chemotherapy beyond the so-called "therapeutic window" for Kallio's particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

"Our community needs medical providers to know what their obligations are and passing a law is the strongest and clearest way to do that," said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).

The U.S. Census and other federal agencies do not keep track of data pertaining to gender identification and many who are transgender do not go public.  But NCTE estimates that between .25 and 1 percent of the population is transgender.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Transgender Woman Wins Insurance Coverage for Mammogram

Courtesy Beth Scott(NEW YORK) -- Beth Scott was told by her doctor she needed a mammogram, a cancer screening that health insurance usually covers.

She had the mammogram in June 2010, paying $385 out of pocket. But when she submitted the claim to her insurance company, Scott was denied coverage, because Scott is transgender.

But in an appeal that lasted almost two years, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund intervened and announced this week that it had resolved Scott's claim, winning a landmark battle with Aetna.

"I am really pleased and glad it went smoothly," said Scott, 44, who for 11 years has worked as a data integrity specialist for a high-tech company, through which she gets her insurance.

"It's something that gives me hope -- by the fact that Aetna apologized and reimbursed me," she said. "Their willingness to treat transgender people is a positive sign."

Her settlement clarified that "these denials would not happen in the future," said TLDEF staff attorney Noah Lewis. "It also added a provision to allow transgender individuals to change their sex on their insurance records by providing a birth certificate or driver's license."

Lewis said denying health coverage for transgender employees was a "widespread problem and not an isolated incident."

Scott's claim was denied on the grounds that it fell under her policy's exclusion treatments "related to changing sex." She was born biologically male but developed breasts after she underwent estrogen treatments when transitioning to female.

But TLDEF argued that the insurance company's interpretation was "overbroad" and should apply only to medical treatments prescribed to change an individual's sex characteristics. It said that a mammogram had nothing to do with a sex change.

"Transgender people should have their health care needs covered by insurance just like everyone else," said Lewis.

"But as long as exclusions remain in place, Ms. Scott's case makes clear that they cannot be used to deny other medically necessary care simply because someone is transgender," he said.

In 2007, she made the physical switch from male to female, first undergoing the surgical shaving of her Adam's apple and following that with hormones. Neither treatment was covered by Aetna.

Aetna told ABC News that it couldn't talk specifically about Scott's case because of privacy laws but clarified that the ruling had been made by a self-funded Aetna health plan run by Scott's employer.

"What we can say, in general, is that a mammogram is covered in a situation like the one described," said Aetna spokeswoman Cynthia B. Michener in an email to ABC News. "Any denial would have been an error corrected by Aetna in administering the claims in the appeals process."

Since 2009, the company has covered breast cancer screenings for female-to-male transgenders who have not had a mastectomy, as well as prostate cancer screenings for male-to-female transgenders who have retained their prostate, according to Michener.

But advocacy groups are fighting for full medical coverage for sex change treatments.

"The consensus in the medical community is that [being transgender] is a medical condition," said Jennifer Levi, director of the Boston-based Transgender Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD. "It's legitimate and real and has an established protocol for treatment."

Advocates say it is a discriminatory practice when an employer knowingly hires employees who are transgender and then excludes them from basic workplace benefits, as, they say, was the case with Scott.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Knock Off’ the Hate Speech, Says LGBT Super Bowl Ads

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time ever, gay-rights advocates will launch a sassy advertising campaign aimed at football fans in the most macho of American venues -- the Super Bowl.

Four award-winning public service announcements feature various celebrities telling teens to “knock it off” when they overhear them using the ubiquitous line, “That’s so gay.”

The videos will be strategically placed on a screen at the entrance of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., to be viewed by Super Bowl ticketholders on Feb. 5.

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In its newest ad, GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, has garnered cooperation from the NBA and Phoenix Suns stars Grant Hill and Jared Dudley. The NBA is the first professional sports league to address antigay language among teens.

The campaign -- Think Before You Speak -- was created by ArnoldNYC and Toronto-based Grazie Media donated the airtime. The PSAs were funded by GLSEN, whose mission it is to ensure safe schools for all students.

Launched in 2009, the PSAs coincide with national concern about homophobia and school bullying and have received accolades from the Ad Council.

“The casual use of ‘That’s so gay’ is very common and rampant and often leads to more overt forms of harassment,” said GLSEN spokesperson Andy Marra. “This audience may not even see it as a problem.”

The first three videos have been distributed to local markets and have generated more than 387 million impressions and $25 million in donated ad time, according to GLSEN.

“It’s a new audience for us to reach,” said Marra. “The tone and feel is a good fit. The ads are not confrontational -- but very disarming and spark a conversation. That is the intention.”

Think Before You Speak features humorous TV PSAs with celebrities interrupting teenagers who use the term “that’s so gay.”

In one video, celebrity Hilary Duff switches the tables on two girls picking out dresses in a store, scolding them for equating gay with “bad.” In another, Wanda Sykes chastises adolescent teens eating at a pizza restaurant.

Last year, GLSEN unveiled its sports project, “Changing the Game,” which specifically addressed name-calling and bullying in physical education and sports settings.

“LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) athletes are in school and we want them to feel safe and come out and be open and honest about who they are. It's a challenge because of the climate in many PE settings,” said Marra.

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate survey, three-quarters of LGBT students hear slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently or often at school and nine in 10 report hearing anti-LGBT language frequently or often. Homophobic remarks such as “that’s so gay” are the most commonly heard type of biased remarks at school.

Research shows that these slurs are often unintentional and simply a part of the teens’ vernacular. Most do not recognize the consequences, according to GLSEN.

Ad Council research found that the campaign has shown a shift in attitudes and behaviors among teens and their language.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Transgender Chaz Bono Opts for Risky Surgery to Construct Penis

ABC/RICK ROWELL(NEW YORK) -- Chaz Bono wants to take the final step in his transition from female to male and have penile reconstruction, a complex procedure that can be risky.

Born Chastity, the son of '60s pop icons Sonny and Cher, Bono says he knew from an early age that he was born in the wrong body.  Since going public in 2009, he has injected himself with testosterone, grown body hair and surgically removed his breasts.

Now, the Dancing With the Stars contestant has told Rolling Stone magazine that, "within a short while he will finally be able to afford to get himself a penis."

Bono said that he is saving up for surgery, either the simplest procedure that uses clitoral tissue to build a micro-penis or a full phalloplasty where surgeons take skin from another part of the body and roll it to create a phallus that is attached to the groin.

Medical experts say that less than half of all who are transgender will ever go on to have genital surgery.  And those who transition from female to male are even less likely to take that step because it is complicated, expensive and not always successful.

About one-quarter to 1 percent of the population is born transgender, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.  Medical experts say that many know by the age of 6 that their physical gender does not match their identity.

"Most people describe rejecting those feelings and they can get depressed with the sense that they are living a lie," said Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel, chief of facial plastic surgery at Boston University School of Medicine.  "But with therapy and information, they come to see that it is a disorder."

"For many people, the goal is to transition in a way that they disappear from special scrutiny," he said.  "The goal is to blend in."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Twin Boys, One Transgender, Become Brother and Sister

Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- As early as age 4, Wyatt Maines would ask his mother, "When do I get to be a girl?," and tell his father he hated his penis.  The boy always liked girl's clothes and movies, while his twin brother, Jonas, played with traditional boy toys.

Born identical twins, the siblings share the same DNA, but their gender identification took divergent paths. Now, at age 14, they are brother and sister, as Wyatt's transition to Nicole is well under way.

Their story -- marked by tears, bullying at their first school and eventually a lawsuit, and a move to a different town -- was chronicled in the Boston Globe this past weekend.  Their parents, Wayne and Kelly Maines, said they brought their transgender daughter into the spotlight in the hopes that their story might shed light on the struggle of others.

"We sat down with our kids at the breakfast table when they were 9 and talked about fear, hate, evil and freedom of speech before sending them to school," their father, Wayne Maines, 52, wrote in an email to ABC News.

"I was very angry and sad to have to talk to our small children in this manner," he said. "We also told them to keep their heads-up, be proud and take care of each other and their friends. I am very proud of them both because they have not forgotten that lesson and they continue to help others whenever it is safe to do so."

Wayne, who is director of safety and environmental management at the University of Maine in Orono, said his "biggest concern" was the safety of his son and daughter after the Globe ran its front-page story.

A hunter and a political conservative, Wayne told the newspaper that he at first had trouble calling Nicole by the name she adopted in fourth grade: "I was grieving," he said. "I was losing a son."

But Nicole said, "The thought of being a boy makes me cringe."

"It is important for people to understand some of the challenges we and other families are dealing with at home, at work and in our communities," Wayne wrote, declining to do a full interview.

"We need to watch for a little while to see how this recent step out in the world impacts their safety and ability to function normally at their new school," he said.

Wayne has warned his daughter since she began speaking out before advocacy groups and even at the Maine State House, to watch her back.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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