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OnlyFans reverses decision to ban sexually explicit content

LGBTQ performers part of backlash against restricting porn

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The London-based website known as OnlyFans, which has at least 130 million users and more than 2 million people who create and sell content on the site, including sexually explicit performances, announced on Wednesday that it has reversed a decision made less than two weeks earlier to ban sexually explicit content on its site beginning in October.

The reversal came after a groundswell of opposition to the proposed ban surfaced from its performers and customers, many of whom are members of the LGBTQ community who, like their straight counterparts, used the site to generate income over the past year and a half during the COVID pandemic.

OnlyFans stated at the time it announced on Aug. 19 its earlier plan to ban sexually explicit content that it did so in response to concerns raised by banks and credit card companies that in recent years have threatened to stop processing payments to adult websites.

“Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard,” OnlyFans said in a statement released on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

“We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change,” the statement says. “OnlyFans stands for inclusion, and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.”

When asked by CNN whether OnlyFans’ use of the word “suspension” to halt its planned ban on sexually explicit content means that it could reinstate the ban at a later date if credit card companies continue to raise objections, OnlyFans replied by stating, “The proposed October 1, 2021, changes are no longer required due to banking partners’ assurance that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators.”

An official with the Free Speech Coalition, which serves as an adult industry trade association, told the Washington Blade a policy by OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content from its site would have an especially harsh impact on the most vulnerable groups, including LGBTQ people, that rely on the site and other similar sites to earn a living through sex work.

Mike Stabile, the Los Angeles-based Free Speech Coalition’s director of public affairs, said sites like OnlyFans have enabled sex workers to generate a substantial income by performing from their homes rather than working on the streets, in providing content to “fans” or customers who pay them directly to view their performances.

“These platforms have enabled them not just to survive but build equity and thrive,” Stabile said.
In an Aug. 19 statement, Free Speech Coalition said OnlyFans and other sites providing adult content have been targeted over the past two years by conservative religious groups and churches that the coalition says have falsely attempted to link adult websites to sex trafficking of children.

Stabile told the Blade that adult sites have longstanding safeguards in place that prevent sex traffickers from placing content on their sites. He said during the past two years in which the controversial federal law passed by Congress to hold adult sites liable for sex trafficking, known as SESTA-FOSTA, has been in effect, the law has rarely been used to prosecute sex traffickers and has yet to be used to shut down any of the sites used by consenting adults.

He noted that prior to the time SESTA-FOSTA took effect, prosecutors used existing statutes to shut down Backpage, an adult site widely used by sex workers to interact with customers on grounds that the site allegedly allowed sex traffickers to use the site.

Around that same time, Craigslist on its own removed all “personal” classified ads from its site, saying it could not risk being held liable for allegations of sex traffickers using its personal ads under the SESTA-FOSTA law, even though Craigslist prohibited its site from being used for sex trafficking or any nonconsensual practices.

While no credible evidence has emerged that adult sites are in any way allowing sex traffickers to use those sites, Free Speech Coalition has said conservative religious groups that oppose all sex work and want to ban all pornography on the Internet have begun to put pressure on banks and credit card companies to stop servicing the adult sites.

Stabile points out that studies have shown that far more sex traffickers have succeeded in slipping through safeguards to prevent them from posting on sites with Facebook and Twitter than with the adult sites. No online platforms can be 100 percent effective in preventing a few traffickers from getting on their sites, Stabile said, but the anti-trafficking groups hold the adult sites to a greater degree of blame than mainline sites like Facebook.

The adult sites have stated repeatedly they will cooperate with law enforcement officials to identity and help prosecute sex traffickers who target underage people.

“Banks and credit card companies are risk-averse institutions, easily scared by potential bad publicity,” Free Speech Coalition says in its Aug. 19 statement. “Religious groups know this and have made no secret of targeting them in their quest to eliminate sex workers altogether,” the statement says.

“In doing so, companies like Mastercard have become enablers of these anti-porn, anti-LGBTQ, misogynist groups,” the statement continues. “Companies like Mastercard are now accomplices in the disenfranchisement of millions of sex workers, complicit in pushing workers away from independence into potentially more dangerous and exploitative conditions.”

A Mastercard spokesperson told CNN earlier this week that it was not involved in OnlyFans’ initial decision to ban or restrict sexually explicit content from its site.

“It’s a decision they came to themselves,” spokesperson Seth Eisen told CNN.

But Free Speech Coalition and other adult industry advocates point to a Mastercard policy announced in April that requires adult sites to put in place strict safeguards to prevent “illegal content” from being uploaded on their sites. Stabile noted that the new policy comes shortly after Mastercard and other credit card companies stopped servicing Pornhub, the largest of the adult sites after allegations surfaced that sex traffickers were using that site.

These developments have had a chilling effect on the adult sites and sex workers who rely on them to support themselves financially, adult industry advocates have said.

Cyndee Clay, executive director of the D.C. sex worker advocacy group HIPS, which provides support for local gay and trans sex workers, said the OnlyFans decision to ban sexually explicit content from its site, if left in place, would have an especially harmful impact on D.C. sex workers.

“The OnlyFans announcement comes as yet another devastating blow to sex workers’ ability to work and care for themselves and their families in an industry already full of stress and hardship during the pandemic,” Clay told the Blade before OnlyFans reversed its decision.

“Under the threat of SESTA/FOSTA and when platforms like Backpage went down, HIPS saw a 100 percent increase in street-based sex work, because folks turned back to the streets to survive when safer, more autonomous online options were taken away,” Clay said. “We haven’t outlawed all house cleaning services because of a few documented instances of forced domestic trafficking,” she said.

Clay, like officials with the Free Speech Coalition, pointed out that OnlyFans, which launched its site in 2016, became a multimillion-dollar operation through the income it generated by sex workers and their online customers who used the site far more than any other “fans” or content creators.

When it announced its decision to ban or restrict sexually explicit content from its site, OnlyFans said the decision was based in part on concerns raised by banks and credit card companies as well as on its efforts to secure funding from investors who are reluctant to be associated with companies that provide sexually explicit material.

“In order to ensure long-term sustainability of the platform, we must evolve our content guidelines,” OnlyFans said in a statement last week.

“Sites like OnlyFans provided a safer online option for many sex workers during the pandemic,” said HIPS director Clay before OnlyFans reversed its earlier decision. “OnlyFans was a harm reduction alternative for sex workers who were trying to be safe by avoiding personal contact, working in clubs, or working the streets,” she said. “It’s immoral that we are now punishing sex workers for these efforts by taking away this platform.”

Matt Lownik, an OnlyFans performer who lives in London, contacted the Blade to express his concern about the OnlyFans initial decision to ban sexually explicit content before the company reversed the policy change.

Lownik said he currently has 144,000 followers on OnlyFans, one of its rival sites called JustForFans, and on a Twitter account.

“There are performers all across the world who use OnlyFans, and a huge number across the U.S.,” he said. “I’ve met several performers who live in or near D.C., but I would say the majority that I’ve met are from New York or Los Angeles,” he told the Blade.

He said the fees that performers charge for their subscribers vary widely, but most charge approximately $10 to $15 per month, with many performers having dozens or hundreds of subscribers. He said OnlyFans takes a cut of 20 percent of its performers’ earnings.

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U.S. Supreme Court

US Supreme Court rules Idaho to enforce gender care ban

House Bill 71 signed in 2023

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

BY MIA MALDONADO | The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed Idaho to enforce House Bill 71, a law banning Idaho youth from receiving gender-affirming care medications and surgeries.

In an opinion issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state of Idaho’s request to stay the preliminary injunction, which blocked the law from taking effect. This means the preliminary injunction now only applies to the plaintiffs involved in Poe v. Labrador — a lawsuit brought on by the families of two transgender teens in Idaho who seek gender-affirming care. 

Monday’s Supreme Court decision enforces the gender-affirming care ban for all other trans youth in Idaho as the lawsuit remains ongoing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador
Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador gives a speech at the Idaho GOP election night watch party at the Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho, on Nov. 8, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho, both of whom represent the plaintiffs, said in a press release Monday that the ruling “does not touch upon the constitutionality” of HB 71. The groups called Monday’s ruling an “awful result” for trans Idaho youth and their families.

“Today’s ruling allows the state to shut down the care that thousands of families rely on while sowing further confusion and disruption,” the organizations said in the press release. “Nonetheless, today’s result only leaves us all the more determined to defeat this law in the courts entirely, making Idaho a safer state to raise every family.”

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador in a press release said the state has a duty to protect and support all children, and that he is proud of the state’s legal stance. 

“Those suffering from gender dysphoria deserve love, support and medical care rooted in biological reality,” Labrador said. “Denying the basic truth that boys and girls are biologically different hurts our kids. No one has the right to harm children, and I’m grateful that we, as the state, have the power — and duty — to protect them.”

Recap of Idaho’s HB 71, and what led to SCOTUS opinion

Monday’s Supreme Court decision traces back to when HB 71 was signed into law in April 2023.

The law makes it a felony punishable for up to 10 years for doctors to provide surgeries, puberty-blockers and hormones to trans people under the age of 18. However, gender-affirming surgeries are not and were not performed among Idaho adults or youth before the bill was signed into law, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported

One month after it was signed into law, the families of two trans teens sued the state in a lawsuit alleging the bill violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

In late December, just days before the law was set to take effect in the new year, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill blocked the law from taking effect under a preliminary injunction. In his decision, he said he found the families likely to succeed in their challenge.

The state of Idaho responded by appealing the district court’s preliminary injunction decision to the Ninth Circuit, to which the Ninth Circuit denied. The state of Idaho argued the court should at least enforce the ban for everyone except for the plaintiffs. 

After the Ninth Circuit’s denial, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office in February sent an emergency motion to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Idaho Press reported. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision agrees with the state’s request to enforce its ban on trans health care for minors, except for the two plaintiffs.

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Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and international political economy.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Kansas

Kansas governor vetoes ban on health care for transgender youth

Republican lawmakers have vowed to override veto

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Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed two abortion bills and a measure criminalizing transgender health care for minors. House and Senate Republican leaders responded with promises to seek veto overrides when the full Legislature returned to Topeka on April 26. (Photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

BY TIM CARPENTER | Gov. Laura Kelly flexed a veto pen to reject bills Friday prohibiting gender identity health care for transgender youth, introducing a vague crime of coercing someone to have an abortion and implementing a broader survey of women seeking abortion that was certain to trigger veto override attempts in the Republican-led House and Senate.

The decisions by the Democratic governor to use her authority to reject these health and abortion rights bills didn’t come as a surprise given her previous opposition to lawmakers intervening in personal decisions that she believed ought to remain the domain of families and physicians.

Kelly said Senate Bill 233, which would ban gender-affirming care for trans minors in Kansas, was an unwarranted attack on a small number of Kansans under 18. She said the bill was based on a politically distorted belief the Legislature knew better than parents how to raise their children.

She said it was neither a conservative nor Kansas value to block medical professionals from performing surgery or prescribing puberty blockers for their patients. She said stripping doctors of their licenses for serving health interests of patients was wrong. Under the bill, offending physicians could be face lawsuits and their professional liability insurance couldn’t be relied on to defend themselves in court.

“To be clear, this legislation tramples parental rights,” Kelly said. “The last place that I would want to be as a politician is between a parent and a child who needed medical care of any kind. And, yet, that is exactly what this legislation does.”

Senate President Ty Masterson (R-Andover) and House Speaker Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita) responded to the governor by denouncing the vetoes and pledging to seek overrides when legislators returned to the Capitol on April 26. The trans bill was passed 27-13 in the Senate and 82-39 in the House, suggesting both chambers were in striking distance of a two-thirds majority necessary to thwart the governor.

“The governor has made it clear yet again that the radical left controls her veto pen,” Masterson said. “This devotion to extremism will not stand, and we look forward to overriding her vetoes when we return in two weeks.”

Cathryn Oakley, senior director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the ban on crucial, medically necessary health care for trans youth was discriminatory, designed to spread dangerous misinformation and timed to rile up anti-LGBTQ activists.

“Every credible medical organization — representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States — calls for age-appropriate, gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary people,” Oakley said. “This is why majorities of Americans oppose criminalizing or banning gender-affirming care.”

Abortion coercion

Kelly also vetoed House Bill 2436 that would create the felony crime of engaging in physical, financial or documentary coercion to compel a girl or woman to end a pregnancy despite an expressed desire to carry the fetus to term. It was approved 27-11 in the Senate and 82-37 in the House, again potentially on the cusp of achieving a veto override.

The legislation would establish sentences of one year in jail and $5,000 fine for those guilty of abortion coercion. The fine could be elevated to $10,000 if the adult applying the pressure was the fetuses’ father and the pregnant female was under 18. If the coercion was accompanied by crimes of stalking, domestic battery, kidnapping or about 20 other offenses the prison sentence could be elevated to 25 years behind bars.

Kelly said no one should be forced to undergo a medical procedure against their will. She said threatening violence against another individual was already a crime in Kansas.

“Additionally, I am concerned with the vague language in this bill and its potential to intrude upon private, often difficult, conversations between a person and their family, friends and health care providers,” the governor said. “This overly broad language risks criminalizing Kansans who are being confided in by their loved ones or simply sharing their expertise as a health care provider.”

Hawkins, the House Republican leader, said coercion was wrong regardless of the circumstances and Kelly’s veto of the bill was a step too far to the left.

“It’s a sad day for Kansas when the governor’s uncompromising support for abortion won’t even allow her to advocate for trafficking and abuse victims who are coerced into the procedure,” Hawkins said.

Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said HB 2436 sought to equate abortion with crime, perpetuate false narratives and erode a fundamental constitutional right to bodily autonomy. The bill did nothing to protect Kansas from reproductive coercion, including forced pregnancy or tampering with birth control.

“Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes trusts patients and stands firmly against any legislation that seeks to undermine reproductive rights or limit access to essential health care services,” Wales said.

Danielle Underwood, spokeswoman for Kansas for Life, said “Coercion Kelly” demonstrated with this veto a lack of compassion for women pushed into an abortion.

The abortion survey

The House and Senate approved a bill requiring more than a dozen questions be added to surveys of women attempting to terminate a pregnancy in Kansas. Colorful debate in the House included consideration of public health benefits of requiring interviews of men about reasons they sought a vasectomy birth control procedure or why individuals turned to health professionals for treatment of erectile dysfunction.

House Bill 2749 adopted 81-39 in the House and 27-13 in the Senate would require the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to produce twice-a-year reports on responses to the expanded abortion survey. The state of Kansas cannot require women to answer questions on the survey.

Kelly said in her veto message the bill was “invasive and unnecessary” and legislators should have taken into account rejection in August 2022 of a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would have set the stage for legislation further limiting or ending access to abortion.

“There is no valid medical reason to force a woman to disclose to the Legislature if they have been a victim of abuse, rape or incest prior to obtaining an abortion,” Kelly said. “There is also no valid reason to force a woman to disclose to the Legislature why she is seeking an abortion. I refuse to sign legislation that goes against the will of the majority of Kansans who spoke loudly on Aug. 2, 2022. Kansans don’t want politicians involved in their private medical decisions.”

Wales, of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said the bill would have compelled health care providers to “interrogate patients seeking abortion care” and to engage in violations of patient privacy while inflicting undue emotional distress.

Hawkins, the Republican House speaker, said the record numbers of Kansas abortions — the increase has been driven by bans or restrictions imposed in other states — was sufficient to warrant scrutiny of KDHE reporting on abortion. He also said the governor had no business suppressing reporting on abortion and criticized her for tapping into “irrational fears of offending the for-profit pro-abortion lobby.”

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Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.

The preceding story was previously published by the Kansas Reflector and is republished with permission.

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The Kansas Reflector is a nonprofit news operation providing in-depth reporting, diverse opinions and daily coverage of state government and politics. This public service is free to readers and other news outlets. We are part of States Newsroom: the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization, with reporting from every capital.

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Colorado

Five transgender, nonbinary ICE detainees allege mistreatment at Colo. detention center

Advocacy groups filed complaint with federal officials on April 9

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(Photo courtesy of GEO Group)

Five transgender and nonbinary people who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a privately-run detention center in Colorado say they continue to suffer mistreatment.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, the National Immigration Project and the American Immigration Council on April 9 filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Offices for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Immigration Detention Ombudsman and Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility on behalf of the detainees at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility near Denver.

Charlotte, one of the five complainants, says she spends up to 23 hours a day in her room. 

She says in the complaint that a psychiatrist has prescribed her medications for anxiety and depression, but “is in the dark about her actual diagnoses because they were not explained to her.” Myriah and Elsa allege they do not have regular access to hormones and other related health care.

Omar, who identifies as trans and nonbinary, in the complaint alleges they would “start hormone replacement therapy if they could be assured that they would not be placed in solitary confinement.” Other detainees in the complaint allege staff have also threatened to place them in isolation.

“They have been told repeatedly that, if they started therapy, they would be placed in ‘protective custody’ (solitary confinement) because the Aurora facility has no nonbinary or men’s transgender housing unit,” reads the complaint. “This is so, despite other trans men having been detained in Aurora in the past, so Omar is very likely receiving misinformation that is preventing them from accessing the treatment they require.”

Omar further alleges staffers told them upon their arrival that “they had to have a ‘boy part’ (meaning a penis) to be assigned to” the housing unit in which other trans people live. Other complainants say staff have also subjected them to degrading comments and other mistreatment because of their gender identity. 

“Victoria, Charlotte and Myriah are all apprehensive about a specific female guard who is assigned to the housing unit for transgender women at Aurora,” reads the complaint. “Victoria has experienced this guard peering at her through the glass on the door of her form. Charlotte, Myriah and the other women in her dorm experienced the same guard making fun of them after they complained that she had confiscated all of their personal hygiene products, like their toothbrushes and toothpaste, and replaced them with menstrual pads and tampons, which she knows they do not need.”

“She said something to them like, ‘If you were real women, you would need these things,'” reads the complaint. “The same guard told them that they had to ask her for their personal hygiene products when they wanted to use them, stripping them of their most basic agency.”

Victoria, who has been in ICE custody for more than two years, also says she does not have regular access to hormones. Victoria further claims poor food, lack of access to exercise and stress and anxiety because of her prolonged detention has caused has made her health deteriorate.

The GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates the Aurora Contract Detention Facility.

Advocates for years have complained about the conditions for trans and nonbinary people in ICE custody and have demanded the agency release all of them.

Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV, on May 25, 2018, died in ICE custody in New Mexico. Her family in 2020 sued the federal government and the five private companies who were responsible for her care.

Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans Salvadoran woman, on June 1, 2019, passed away at a Texas hospital four days after her release from ICE custody. Kelly González Aguilar, a trans Honduran woman, had been in ICE custody for more than two years until her release from the Aurora Contract Detention Center on July 14, 2020.

ICE spokesperson Steve Kotecki on Friday told the Blade there were 10 “self-identified transgender detainees” at the Aurora Contract Detention Center on April 11. The facility’s “transgendered units” can accommodate up to 87 trans detainees. 

A 2015 memorandum then-ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Thomas Homan signed requires personnel to allow trans detainees to identify themselves based on their gender identity on data forms. The directive, among other things, also contains guidelines for a “respectful, safe and secure environment” for trans detainees and requires detention facilities to provide them with access to hormone therapy and other trans-specific health care.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to ensuring that all those in its custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments,” said Kotecki. “ICE regularly reviews each case involving self-identified transgender noncitizens and determines on a case-by-case basis whether detention is warranted.”

The complaint, however, states this memo does not go far enough to protect trans and nonbinary detainees.

“ICE’s 2015 guidance has some significant flaws,” it reads. “It fails to provide meaningful remedies for policy violations. It does not acknowledge the challenges that nonbinary people face when imprisoned by ICE and the lack of such guidance explains why the needs of nonbinary people are largely misunderstood and unmet.”

“Further, the language used to describe people who are TNB is not inclusive and does not reflect terminology adopted by the community it is meant to describe,” adds the complaint. “Although this list is not exhaustive, it addresses some of the primary concerns voiced by the complaints.”

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