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Pentagon expects decision on trans military ban in spring

Report won’t be made public until after final decision



Ashton Carter, Department of Defense, gay news, Washington Blade
national news, Ashton Carter, Department of Defense, gay news, Washington Blade

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon would begin a six-month review of the trans ban in July. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Pentagon has affirmed it intends to make a determination on the transgender military ban this spring after the conclusion this month of an internal six-month review.

Matthew Allen, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will make a decision at that time in response to a Washington Blade inquiry this week for an update on the review.

“The transgender working group appointed by the secretary of defense will conclude its deliberations by the end of January and present its findings and recommendations directly to the secretary soon thereafter,” Allen said. “The secretary will take whatever time he needs to analyze, evaluate, and discuss the Working Group’s findings with his immediate staff and the senior leadership of the department. We do, however, anticipate a final decision from the secretary sometime in the spring.”

In July, Carter announced the Pentagon would undertake a review of transgender military service, which is currently banned as a result of medical regulation. At the time, Carter said the review would be conducted under the presumption the policy would be changed. In an attempt to limit transgender discharges, the secretary also directed that all separations of troops for gender identity would be handled by a senior civilian official.

According to the Pentagon, the working group’s recommendations will address accessions, retention, transition and medical care for transgender service members and potential applicants to the armed forces.

Although the Pentagon is set to complete its report by the end of the January, Allen indicated no part of the report will be officially made public until the final policy determination is made.

“Materials from the working group will be released only after the secretary makes a final decision and has determined what is appropriate for public release,” Allen said.

Media reports last year indicated the Pentagon was set to lift the trans ban on May 27, but Allen disavowed that was the target date, even with the expectation of a spring decision.

“Any end to the current prohibition on accessing transgender persons, or their open service in the military services, will be informed by the working group’s recommendations and final decisions made by the secretary of defense,” Allen said.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said the only determination Carter could make based on available data is lifting the ban on transgender service.

“If the new DOD policy is based on the successful experiences of our allies who allow transgender personnel to serve, and on the scientific consensus of the the American Medical Association and retired Surgeons General that there is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from military service, then I believe that full repeal will take place and implementation will be successful,” he said.

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  1. Steve Karper

    January 15, 2016 at 2:22 am

    well a lot of progress re trans, while the anti made a non discrimiation bill in houston into a lie about men in womens bathrooms, the dallas city council voted recently to protect trans people from discrimination, 11 to 1

    If our soldiers cant deal with being witth or working with a trans person, how can we count on them when the other side is attacking?

    • Lee Anne

      January 15, 2016 at 5:45 am

      It is estimated that 15,000 trans people serve in the services. Our soldiers work with trans people now. They just do not know it.

      • Straight is OK too?

        June 8, 2016 at 9:20 am

        True. And the fact that it was not allowed up until this year tells you all you need to know about the trustworthiness of those troops.

    • Straight is OK too?

      February 9, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Wow, people who want co-ed bathrooms, I guess they don’t have kids? Can you imagine the issues? I guess not. I guess you want to put our children and women at risk for about 10% of the 1/30,000 who want to force the issue. Sad

      • Veronica Leigh Johnson

        April 24, 2016 at 1:32 am

        Yeah, because if I had kids, I would totally want them to serve in the military as soon as they were old enough to pick up a gun and use it (I think the age of 6 is about right, don’t you?) and I would be so afraid of them being molested in the “wrong” bathroom by their fellow soldiers.

        • Straight is OK too?

          June 8, 2016 at 9:19 am

          I am talking about giving pedophiles access to children. What are you talking about?

  2. Straight is OK too?

    January 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    50% suicide rate and defined as “unstable” by Psychologist. Sure, Obama. Give them guns and stress. What could go wrong? There are already 4 VA clinics for transexuals while troops wait 5 years for disability reviews. Sad, sad failure.

    • JamieSays

      January 15, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      Correction. That’s 41%, and it includes suicide attempts. But the real conversation here is that the rate is so high because of people like YOU constantly attacking transgender people. And then the stress of those never-ending attacks causes mental problems.

      • Straight is OK too?

        January 18, 2016 at 12:16 pm

        what? So you think society is to blame that Bruce thinks he’s Caitlin. Living with the Kardashians had nothing to do with that? Look, people with gender identity issues have serious mental problems. Those who have surgery to mangle themselves are even further gone. Psychologist agree. Sad that Obama is trolling for votes by forcing the military to give these folks guns and life/death responsibility. FAIL

          • Straight is OK too?

            January 28, 2016 at 6:12 pm

            so before he got married and had kids and slept with lots of women? He is in his 60s. You’d think he’d have figured this out before now. Also, shocker, like most transgenders, he is second guessing his decision not. wow

          • Straight is OK too?

            February 9, 2016 at 2:43 pm

            and you think the answer, the way to address that incredibly high suicide rate (less than 1% is the norm) is to give them a gun and lots of responsibility. Wow.

          • Johnny Brown

            April 21, 2016 at 3:55 pm

            I’m curious if you know the current suicide rate for veterans, as they commit suicide at an astounding rate – much, much more than any other group of people. In fact, 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. Trans people commit suicide because they are oppressed, misunderstood, labelled as freaks, and ostracized for simply wanting to be comfortable in their own skin. Perhaps if we started changing that, the suicide rate among them would begin to decline. Veterans, however, still need a ton of help – and not just in the form of dozens of pills.

          • Straight is OK too?

            July 6, 2016 at 9:50 pm

            And right on cue, Chelsea Manning tried to commit suicide today. I agree with you by the way on veterans. We need to do more as a country to help them. It is disgusting how the VA turns their back on us when we take off the uniform.

        • Chris Fleming

          January 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

          How drunk are you? Trolling for Votes? For what, a 3rd term? I also love that you put “Psychologist Agree.” As in 1 Psychologist. Only 1 is on your side. The rest is on the side of the American Psychology Association and the World Health Organization.

          15,000 people already have the responsibility. They have to remain silent about it for fear of preoccupations. However the Army and Air Force have already relaxed their positions to allow service member’s to transition based on Unit Commander approval.

          • Straight is OK too?

            January 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm

            42% suicide rate. drops mic. walks away ……

        • Christine Guinn

          January 21, 2016 at 3:23 pm

          No, living with the Kardashians had NOTHING to do with it! Caitlyn Jenner has said that she felt that way from at least the age of 8 years old! She had started transition and taking female hormones in the 1980’s before she met and married Kris Kardashian, but stopped once they got married.

          Transgender people are NOT mentally ill, and the majority of psychiatrists and psychologists agree on that fact!

          • Straight is OK too?

            January 28, 2016 at 6:10 pm

            WOW. Christine, I am a psychologist. You? Cartoonist? HS student? Let me assure you, gender identity confusion = broken. We love those people because they are to us like a Chrysler PT Cruiser is to a mechanic, job security.

          • Michelle Theia

            February 8, 2016 at 2:21 pm

            No Straight, gender dysphoria (I’d think you’d know that word as a psychologist) != broken, it means trapped. If you’d bother to read the ongoing literature on the subject (like my therapist does) you’d know that the symptoms associated with dysphoria (depression, suicide, isolation) are generally eased, if not outright erased, with transition.

          • Straight is OK too?

            February 9, 2016 at 2:45 pm

            Right, trapped. Feeling like you are born in the wrong gender. I get it. I’ve done papers on it. Like most psychologist, I don’t think the answer is body mutilation or issuing a gun and giving life/death responsibilities … along with hormone shots and pills for depression

          • Michelle Theia

            February 18, 2016 at 10:45 am

            Since I’ve already done over 14 years in the service, yeah.
            “Like most psychologists”? I suppose it’s just a radical few heading the APA and making decisions for the DSM then, that agree with what I and others have been saying?

            I don’t get “hormone shots”, nor do I take “pills for depression”. Even if I did, neither of those are absolute exclusions to being in the service for NON trans people. If you knew as much on the subject as you claim you wouldn’t be speaking in such base, mundane, ignorant terms; and you’d also speak differently about the specifics.

            Also, having served through TWO full presidencies, as well as being very well versed in politics and political science, I can tell you that of the last two presidents, it was not president Obama who “played with the military.” It was Mr. Bush who treated us like his bucket of toy soldiers and capriciously sent my friends an me off to war.

            I feel sad though, sad that none of this will likely matter to you. You’ve decided trans people are “icky” and “wrong”, and you’ll continue to grab and use anything that confirms that bias. C’est la vie.

          • Straight is OK too?

            February 18, 2016 at 12:11 pm

            Michelle, being a retired Lt Col with 25 years in, I am familiar with the politics of the service. The fact that you think Bush did more damage to our brothers and sisters than Obama kindof defines the elementary view you have of the service. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t voting based on race who voted for Obama. I know when I retired, the 14 that left with me all received letters of congrats from Bush and Obama. Bush’s letter went on the wall and the Sequestration president’s went in a drawer with the wife’s certificate. It’s always interesting when an admin troop tells me what psychologist think, even though I have the degrees and they don’t have a clue. Here’s a link for you to read. Read it slowly. I don’t think you are “icky”. Just think you are broken and need help, not a gun.

          • Michelle Theia

            May 3, 2016 at 7:23 pm

            A short colonel knows less about the troops, and the ‘politics’ at the PLT level than many privates AZ. Btw, i was an MP for ten years, though being an admin (which i did four years) is nothing to be ashamed of.

            you do think I’m “icky” and you are trying to rationalize it. I handled a weapon just fine, including in OIF 1. Suddenly i come out and NOW i shouldnt serve? Its bs bbased on 50 year old thinking and NOT based on any modern scientific understanding.

            btw, the fact that you and your buddies dont like the president doesnt prove a damn thing about each president’s effects on the military. The military is vastly bloated anyway, and neeeded a cut, even if it was only a small one.

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 13, 2016 at 10:38 pm

            Michelle, while I appreciate your service, surely you recognize that the facts about transsexuals are disturbing. The fact that over 40% COMMIT suicide, most who have surgery regret it, and most have serious mental disorders like bi-polar or depression. These don’t bode well for military service where life and death are in your hands. You were an MP, you were responsible for security of people — people who depended on you for their lives. Wouldn’t you rather have someone not on lithium doing that? And I’m not even talking about substance abuse and disease levels.

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 13, 2016 at 10:39 pm

            I never said you were “icky”. Transexuals have much higher rates of substace abuse and mental illness than the other 99.97% of society.

          • DGJC

            May 14, 2016 at 2:21 am

            Heterosexual males have a much higher rate of violent acts, child molestation, rape and abuse of women. What was your point again?

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm

            NO … you see … “rate” goes to %. If you said “number of” then maybe. Maybe.

          • Straight is OK too?

            June 8, 2016 at 8:34 am

          • Straight is OK too?

            February 18, 2016 at 8:56 am

            So again, speaking as someone who has gone to therapy, do you think your psychologist would prescribe for you a gun and lots of stress to cope with your broken, trapped feelings? Maybe responsibility for billions of dollars worth of equipment and hundreds of people’s lives? Nope.

          • Michelle Theia

            June 6, 2016 at 7:44 pm

            I don’t have “broken, trapped feelings.” I never did, but thank you for putting that stereotype on me. It really gave me the warm and fuzzies. And yes, my therapist thinks my returning to the service is a great idea, thank you for asking.

            Being a short colonel means you have experience and tenacity, not intelligence and wisdom. Since I’m going to go with the understanding that you weren’t a therapist in the service, you are, quintessentially, talking out of your oakleaf. When were you a joe? How much time did you spend on the roads and in the towns of Iraq? How deep did you patrol in Afghanistan? Yeah, bush did way more damage than Obama could have if he were trying (which he’s not). You and your buddies hating on him and retiring the moment he got into office is more an indictment on you all than on him. The majority of the force being brainwashed poor white rural conservative men, and thus hating him from the start and voting against him, also proves nothing. The common masses, of which you are sadly a part of given your education level, have been convinced by republicans that the GOP is actually the party that supports troops. They don’t, they just support defense spending. Not the same.

          • Straight is OK too?

            June 8, 2016 at 8:32 am

            Actually, being a Colonel means you have to have at least a Masters or two and 15-30 years of experience. I’ve been all over SWA … years of experience in the sandbox. And there is a reason less than 25% of the TOTAL military polled by “Military Times” plan on voting for Hilary. It isn’t because we are all old, white guys. The US military is more diverse than the US population. You should know that.

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 13, 2016 at 10:41 pm

            Um …. no. They are not. The cure for gender confusion is not body mutilation it is talk therapy.

          • DGJC

            May 14, 2016 at 2:20 am

            There is no “cure” for gender confusion, because it’s not an illness. You cannot cure something which is not an illness in the first place. Secondly, most people who have gender dysphoria seek mental health help due to the ignorant people they encounter in life. They know they are in the wrong body, but the a-holes in their lives don’t get it. The same is true of gay people. Most gay people seek mental health help due to being rejected in some form or fashion. This is rapidly changing, so much so that gays are now more popular than Evangelical Christians!


          • Straight is OK too?

            May 22, 2016 at 9:38 pm

            Sure, not an illness. That’s why they commit suicide at a rate of 42% compared to less than 1% of the rest of the population.

          • DGJC

            May 22, 2016 at 11:36 pm

            Your stats are way off and for one minute did you stop to think that people who are treated badly in society wouldn’t have this tendency? Duh…. There is nothing inherent in the homosexual orientation that would lead one to be suicidal and I’ve already educated you to the fact that gays seek mental health help in order to deal with the prejudice and ignorance we endure. In fact, gay teens are often rejected by their own parents. You heterosexuals have no fricking clue…

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 26, 2016 at 7:54 pm

            There are a lot of factors. Sell-loathing is brought on by personal demons and societal influences. The high addiction rates don’t help.

          • DGJC

            May 26, 2016 at 8:57 pm

            Somehow I’d rather be an addict than someone who abuses women or commits a mass shooting (heterosexual men).

          • Michelle Theia

            June 6, 2016 at 7:32 pm

            Says you, but not any major medical or psychological body in the western world. I’ll keep sticking with them, you keep sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting at the rain.

          • JamieSays

            February 9, 2016 at 3:12 pm

            I seriously doubt that you’re a psychologist. That requires a caring personality, tact etc. And you behave like a bipolar patient, not a professional. Get a checkup on those meds.

          • Straight is OK too?

            February 18, 2016 at 8:55 am

            Always funny how libertards with no facts attack the person’s avatar or their mom or their name or says something inane line “liar, liar, pants on fire.” I have three degrees on my wall that says you don’t have a clue, JamieSays. No degree, no facts, and no substance. Go away, the adults are talking.

        • Kaitlin Browell

          January 21, 2016 at 6:22 pm

          wow didn’t you know, transgender people are currently serving in the US military now as I type this… I did 4 years in the air force, I was transgender… you all act like this is some new thing and social experiment. Canada, UK, Australia all allow transgender people to serve openly.. for about 5 years now.

          • Straight is OK too?

            January 28, 2016 at 6:09 pm

            oh, they exist. But serving openly, no. There is a reason the moral has gone down 50% since 2009. Obama playing with the military has done that …. and sequestration, which he swore he’d never approve …

          • Lindsey Muller

            March 8, 2016 at 2:59 pm

            I serve openly. If you’d like to ask questions or gain a more thorough perspective regarding transgendered service members feel free to contact me.

    • Remrie Ra Arrie

      January 23, 2016 at 5:18 am

      It’s not the transgender people who are out who have guns you need to worry about. It’s the ones who are still too scared to come out as trans who are the most at risk. The further they progress through their transition, and the more peer support they get to be themselves rather than peer pressure to be something else, the healthier and happier they become in every way. Your lack of understanding of the issue and the individuals your words spit upon is abysmal at best. I am transgender, and I’ve owned guns and been around them all my life. I never wanted to join the military because I could easily get an underpaid security job down the street if I wanted one rather than protect Dick Cheney’s oil trucks so people like you can drive to and complain at McDonalds and Wal-Mart.

      • Straight is OK too?

        January 28, 2016 at 6:10 pm

        42% suicide rate. drops mic. walks off stage.

        • Michelle Theia

          February 8, 2016 at 2:22 pm

          You might want to pick that mic up, cause you weren’t done. It’s a 42% suicide attempt or completion rate PRE-transition. Post transition the numbers come down to around the average for the general population.

          • Straight is OK too?

            February 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm

            REALLY? So after transition the numbers are less than 1%? Really? You are going to stick to that? Wow. So the hormone injections and social issues and higher drug and alcohol addiction rates and physical issues, no impact? Hummmmm. I think you are mistaken, Michelle.

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 13, 2016 at 10:40 pm

            So once transsexuals have surgery their life is great and they are miraculously healed from their abuse addictions and gender identity issues and depression and …………..

          • DGJC

            May 14, 2016 at 2:21 am

            The depression and identity issues often come from the way they’re treated, and have nothing to do with the internal battle you seem to imply.

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 22, 2016 at 9:37 pm

            Hahaha – read a book. You are clueless. Studies show that the MAJORITY of transsexuals that have the surgery regret it. That is why many doctors refuse to do it anymore.

          • DGJC

            May 22, 2016 at 11:36 pm

            This is false. The majority of trans people who have the operation are happy. I know many personally.

          • Straight is OK too?

            May 26, 2016 at 7:52 pm

            NOPE. Studies show ……. Now maybe your friends are a unique, well educated, wealthy group. IN general, no.

          • Michelle Theia

            June 6, 2016 at 7:31 pm

            Well, since the treatment for “gender identity issues” ( the word you’re looking for is dysphoria) IS social and physical transition, yes, they tend to go away. The depression common amongst trans people is a secondary condition of their dysphoria, along with low self esteem and confidence from living in a world that hates us. The addiction issues are actually more strongly linked to poverty, which is insanely more likely to happen to a trans person due to so few places protecting us from workplace and residential discrimination. Once the underlying dysphoria is treated recovery rates for addicts tend to match the rest of the population, especially if they make it out of poverty.

            You’ve claimed to have so much professional knowledge, but it’s clear you e never read a synopsis of a modern paper on transgender health, let alone the full paper.

          • Straight is OK too?

            June 8, 2016 at 9:19 am

            I am just amazed this is your position, Michelle. Even GLAAD and other agencies that represent people with gender issues are in hard disagreement with you here.

  3. JamieSays

    January 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Lift the ban! Stop the discrimination! End the forced suffering! We can do the job! And do it well!

  4. matt

    February 1, 2016 at 2:25 am

    im transgender and want to join the military to serve my country. i don’t see the difference from anyone else joining.

    • Veronica Leigh Johnson

      April 24, 2016 at 1:34 am

      I’m transgender and I served. I was separated in ’05 under DADT because my chain of command didn’t know the difference between transgender and gay so they prosecuted me under “homosexual conduct” and held a separation board.

  5. bogey69

    April 25, 2016 at 7:17 am

    The most accurate estimate of the LGBT population in the U.S. is between 3.5-3.8 percent, with 0.3 percent being transgender(TG). There are no accurate estimates for the percentage of TG in the military for numerous reasons. One of which include the fact that the military never tracked TG and consequently were included in the gay/lesbian percentage. Another being the fluidity of TG. TG in the military is a relatively new issue. In addition, I’ve noticed that the studies being cited are primarily unqualified sources (pro/against). By the American Psychiatric Association’s own admission there have not been enough qualified studies in regards to TG (either outdated or biased). Until that time the consensus among the medical community is to treat TG with psychotherapy, hormone therapy, and or SRS to alleviate distress. Until that time we can all argue for or against to no avail. There are continuing studies to determine the best course of action. By virtue of gender dysphoria being listed in the DSM-V(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), NOTE the name, TG is a mental disorder if diagnosed. It was changed from Gender Identity Disorder to Gender Dysphoria to avoid stigma. The actual definitions of both dysphoria and disorder are interchangeable. In my opinion the term was changed to appease the TG community. Therefore in my opinion until further studies are done and science advances we should not allow TG into the military. Because of the fluidity and the various forms of TG it would be impossible to manage. I served 10 years in the Army and got out as a Major. In one of those assignments for a Major Command I managed the enlisted strength/issues for the command. I wrote numerous briefs to the CG concerning assaults by service members on TG due to the TG portraying themselves as a biological female for illegal sexual activities. When the true identity came out it often resulted in harm to the TG. I truly think this would create not only a morale issue but undue harm to individuals. It seems anytime someone disagrees with a TG they are automatically labeled a bigot or uneducated. We all are entitled to our opinions and by attacking someone because of a difference only shows your ignorance and does your cause no good. No disrespect but i liken TG to someone diagnosed with anorexia or borderline personality disorder. They look at themselves completely different than what they actually are. And by the way my girlfriends son identifies as a girl. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s which is now autism spectrum. He is 24 and this just became an issue 8 months ago. He hasn’t ever held a job, flunked out of college and vo-tech and sits at home on the internet. However his new LPC is ready to write a letter for hormone therapy without taking into account his inability to function as a member of society. She doesn’t want him to obtain a job making over $1104/month because he would lose his SSI disability income. In other words don’t have him work to his potential and let him remain a leach on society in order for her to get paid. I’ve found that in the TG community it is often all to easy to find a counselor that will do whatever you ask with the least concern for your well being. We have become an entitled, spoiled, self serving, and politically correct society. History tells us there WILL be major consequences.

  6. Straight is OK too?

    May 22, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    hahahaha – WRONG, music man. We help people work through their demons. Gender identity confusion is treated through therapy.

    • DGJC

      May 22, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      I have no demons. You apparently do, since you have issues with homosexuality. I don’t share your issues. I’m perfectly adjusted and very happy I was born gay. I celebrate it, in fact.

      • Straight is OK too?

        May 26, 2016 at 7:44 pm

        GLAAD to psychologists is like Chrysler to car mechanics, keep us busy

        • DGJC

          May 26, 2016 at 8:25 pm

          Dumbo, rape has nothing to do with sexual attractions. Why would a straight man rape a man? For the same reasons he would rape a woman- to inflict pain and humiliate a victim. It’s not an act of love making. God you’re retarded.

          • Straight is OK too?

            June 2, 2016 at 8:00 pm

            OK … your desperation is showing. Instead of discussing this logically you are shouting names at me and saying ridiculous things. “Men rape men because they want to humiliate them.” In all my years of military service and psychology I have seen this happen NEVER. Bye-bye, crazy man. Good luck with the lifestyle choice.

        • DGJC

          May 26, 2016 at 8:27 pm

          Homosexuals can donate blood, dumbo. That restriction was lifted a year ago. And if you are so desperate for money that donating blood is your only source of income, you’re pretty pathetic. I don’t know anyone who donated blood. Why bother?

        • DGJC

          May 26, 2016 at 8:59 pm


    • DGJC

      May 22, 2016 at 11:56 pm

      I can’t imagine you helping anyone. You have no business working with any patient. You are more likely to make them commit suicide. Your ignorance is embarrassing frankly, which leads me to think you’re nothing but a troll. I only respond to you in the case that someone else reads this and learns something. I’m using you.

      • Straight is OK too?

        May 26, 2016 at 7:34 pm

        OK, piano man

        • DGJC

          May 26, 2016 at 8:29 pm

          Yep, you’re an idiot, because you think rape is an act of love making. It’s not.

        • DGJC

          May 26, 2016 at 8:46 pm

          OK fake psychologist.

        • DGJC

          May 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm

          Dumbo, the restriction in gays donating blood is no longer in effect. Now tell me why would anyone want to donate blood…. I’ll wait….

  7. Straight is OK too?

    June 2, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    13,000 a year in the USA, so …again … you are WRONG

  8. Straight is OK too?

    June 8, 2016 at 9:17 am

    So your argument is that (despite every study ever done) trangender people have the same or lower rates of depression and suicide as the rest of society. Is that seriously your contention? Watch the Caitlin Jenner speech where “she” accepts the WOMAN OF THE YEAR award. In her introduction, the GLAAD rep goes through a list of issues with transgender people. I am amazed they have supported Jenner because he is a man with boobs right now, still hasn’t undergone the surgery. In fact, in recent conversations he has talked about what a mistake he has made and wanting to reverse things and go back to his wife.

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VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights



(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1



Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

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Rachel Levine on becoming four-star admiral: ‘It comes from my desire to serve’

Trans official sworn-in to U.S. Public Health Service



For Rachel Levine, the appointment to her new role as a four-star admiral complementing her existing duties as assistant secretary for health is another way for the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed presidential appointee to serve.

“I think that this just really comes from my desire to serve in all capacities,” Levine said in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade. “To serve the first day in my field of academic medicine and pediatrics, but then in Pennsylvania and now in the federal government, and it furthers my ability to do that.”

Levine, 63, also recognized the importance of the appointment as a transgender person within the U.S. Public Health Service, for which she was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday

“I think for the LGBTQ+ community, it is a further sign of progress and our president’s commitment to equity, to inclusion and diversity,” Levine said. “So I think that it is a very important milestone, and I’m pleased to serve.”

As part of her duties, Levine will lead an estimated 6,000 public health service officers serving vulnerable populations, including deployments inside and outside the country for communities beleaguered with the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. The role involves working closely with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, whom Levine called her “friend and colleague.”

The U.S. Public Health Service, Levine said, has deployed “many, many times,” including its greatest number ever of deployments to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the places the service has deployed, Levine said, was in her home state of Pennsylvania, where she recently served as secretary of health.

Not only is Levine the first openly transgender person to serve in the uniformed health service as a four-star general, but she’s also the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“We have 6,000 dedicated committed public servants really all focused on our nation’s health, and they serve in details to the CDC and the FDA and the NIH, but also clinically with the Indian Health Service, and the federal prison system,” Levine said. “They’re also detailed and deployed throughout the country, and they deployed like never before for COVID-19 as well as the border, as well as dealing with floods and hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Although the Public Health Service is primarily focused on addressing public health disasters within the United States, Levine said it has a record of deployments overseas, including years ago when it was deployed to Africa under the threat of Ebola.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra had high praise for Levine in a statement upon news of taking on a leadership position in the service.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Adm. Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Levine, however, was careful to draw a distinction between her appointment within the Public Health Service and being a service member within the U.S. armed forces.

“It is not a military branch, it’s not the armed forces: It’s a uniformed force, so it’s different,” Levine said. “For example, the Army, the Navy, our military, there are two other uniformed branches, and that is ours, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA.”

The new role, Levine said, would complement her duties as assistant secretary for health. Although not only secretaries of health have been commissioned to take the uniform, Levine said she wanted to undertake that as part of her role in the Biden administration.

The two appointments were not simultaneous, Levine said, because of a general process she undertook, which was completed just this week.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Levine. During her Senate confirmation process, when she was hounded by anti-transgender attacks in conservative media and rude, invasive questioning by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on her gender identity.

Levine, however, said she hasn’t encountered any hostility regarding her new role (as of now) and shrugged off any potential attacks in the future and said the move is about her career “to serve and to help people.”

“I’ve continued that for our nation as the assistant secretary for health and this is just a further demonstration of my commitment to service,” Levine said. “I don’t know what others will say, but that’s the genesis of my wanting to serve in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to place on the uniform.”

Levine’s new appointment comes shortly after a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent her a letter dated Sept. 30 calling on her and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to issue new guidance for hospital or residential care on mental health needs of transgender people.

Asked about the letter, Levine said mental health issues are under the authority of Delphin-Rittmon and the two “will work together and we will respond.”

Specifically, the senators in the letter call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

Asked what the response will look like, Levine said, “We’re going to work on that.”

“We will be looking at what they’re asking for and the requirements, and we’ll talk with them and the stakeholders and we’ll look to issue appropriate guidance,” Levine said.

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