Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton released a formal attorney general opinion concluding that performing certain “sex-change” procedures on children, and prescribing puberty-blockers to them, is “child abuse” under Texas law Monday.
The opinion came after Texas state Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers in the Texas Legislature, wrote to Paxton asking if the treatment of Texas Trans youth was “in fact child abuse under Texas statues,” following Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s August 2021 letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, (DFPS), requesting a determination of “whether genital mutilation of a child for purposes of gender transitioning through reassignment surgery constitutes child abuse.”
The Commissioner of DFPS had responded to the governor expressing the opinion that “genital mutilation of a child through reassignment surgery is child abuse.”
“There is no doubt that these procedures are ‘abuse’ under Texas law, and thus must be halted,” said Paxton in issuing his opinion. “The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a responsibility to act accordingly. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”
“Targeting trans youth, their parents, and their health care providers for political gain is unconscionable. We strongly denounce this alarmist and misguided opinion which could obstruct access to medically necessary care. It is yet another example of the profound misunderstanding of the conditions under which transgender people live, and a profound lack of compassion for the need for responsible medical care that helps trans people, including trans youth, to thrive and contribute to society,” Walter Bouman, PhD, MD, President, World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) told the Blade in an emailed statement.
A spokespeople for the state Department of Family and Protective Services and Texas Health and Human Services told The Dallas Morning News that the agencies would be reviewing the opinion.
“All children deserve to grow up healthy and learn to take care of their bodies in a way that helps them live full, happy lives. For transgender kids, this might include gender-affirming care that has been endorsed by pediatricians and proven to help kids’ mental health and future wellbeing. Our position at Equality Texas has always been and will continue to be that we stand with every major, credible medical association in supporting age-appropriate, best-practice standards of healthcare for transgender youth and adults because that care is evidence-based, rooted in science and, quite literally, life-saving. We urge all Texans to be skeptical about campaign stunts disguised as legal opinions from a corrupt politician who has built their career spreading disinformation about marginalized communities and who has no expertise in healthcare. That’s exactly why we must leave health care decisions to the actual experts–the pediatricians and other providers who are working with families to keep kids healthy–instead of letting politicians interfere,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, told the Blade in a statement.
“Since the beginning of the 2021 legislative session, anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, including the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general have sought to lay the groundwork to turn Texans against their LGBTQ+ neighbors through an onslaught of harmful legislation, inflammatory rhetoric and discredited legal opinions. They have found it politically advantageous to spread lies about and villainize LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, grossly mischaracterizing our lives to paint us as scary caricatures that need to be feared, all in service of securing their re-elections,” said Martinez.
“Disinformation, being spread about transgender people and their healthcare, highlights, exaggerates and imagines a non-existent problem as an urgent moral emergency that must be tackled right now – days before the primary election. It’s predictable and sad that during a crowded primary, politicians will further sow civil discord by amplifying lies about trans people to score political points. Misconstruing the law and amplifying junk science to attack innocent children and their parents is cruel, beneath contempt, and could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families,” Martinez added.
Over 100 LGBTQ-themed books in a Florida school district labeled with advisory warning
They warn: “this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”
A southwest Florida district put parental “advisory notice” on over 100 books, many of which are race or LGBTQ-themed.
A great number of books in Collier County Public Schools, either digital or physical, now have warning labels writing “Advisory notice to parents,” according to an NBC report,
The label, tweeted by nonprofit free-speech-promoting group PEN American, states, “This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students. This book will also be identified in the Destiny system with the same notation. The decision as to whether this book is suitable or unsuitable shall be the decision of the parent(s) who has the right to oversee his/her child’s education consistent with state law.”
The labels appear digitally in the library records & physically on the books. They warn: “this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.” Apparently, a lot is ‘unsuitable’. Even Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers & illustrated by @MarlaFrazee. pic.twitter.com/wA5fT5fjLr— PEN America (@PENamerica) August 5, 2022
Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which means to fight book banning, told NBC that she had a call from Elizabeth Alves, the associate superintendent of teaching and learning for Collier County Public Schools. In the call, Alves told her that the district added the labels starting in February.
These measures, which Alves described as a “compromise,” happened after the district’s legal representative talked with the Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group which initiated a “Porn in Schools Report” project last year. The report included a list of books that “promote gender self-identification and same-sex marriage” as well as titles that include “indecent and offensive material,” as the group explained.
Chad Oliver, the Collier County Public Schools spokesperson, on the other hand offered a different story.
Oliver sent an email to NBC News and said, “Based upon advice from the General Counsel, we placed advisory notices on books about which parents and community members had expressed concern and in accordance with the recently passed Parents’ Bill of Rights Law (HB 241).”
The law referred by Oliver is also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
According to PEN America, there are 110 labeled books in total, and the list greatly overlaps with the one Florida Citizens Alliance inquired about with Collier County Public Schools.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney introduces bill to make monkeypox testing free
Health insurers would be required to cover costs
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), amid the ongoing monkeypox affecting gay and bisexual men, has introduced legislation in the U.S. House seeking to make testing for disease free to the public.
Maloney, one of seven openly gay members of Congress and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement the measure, called the No Cost for Monkeypox Testing Act, would testing amid the monkeypox outbreak would be accessible to all.
“It is critical that we eliminate cost as a barrier to testing for monkeypox to ensure we can identify cases and prevent further spread,” Maloney said. “This legislation takes the lessons we learned from past public health emergencies and protects those at risk of contracting monkeypox by making tests accessible to everyone.”
The legislation would require private health insurers as well as Medicare and Medicaid to cover the costs of monkeypox testing at no expense to the patients, either through deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance.
The bill introduction comes the week after the Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and the same it has issued new guidance to enhance to the accessing of existing vaccines doses amid criticism federal officials were too slow in distributing shots.
The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the Centers for Disease Control seeking comment on the legislation. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra said Tuesday the federal government has the capacity to conduct an estimated 80,000 tests each week.
Maloney has been representing New York’s 18th congressional district, but after redistricting is now seeking re-election in the 17th district. Amid controversy over a potential showdown between Maloney and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who’s Black, another openly gay member of Congress and the current representative of that district, Jones has since opted to run for re-election in the New York’s 10th congressional district. Maloney is now running unopposed in the 17th.
Biden administration shifts monkeypox vaccine approach amid shortage
Health experts sees new guidance as mixed bag
The Biden administration, amid criticism it was slow to act on the monkeypox outbreak and still not meeting the demand for vaccines as the number of cases continues to grow, has announced a shift in guidance for implementation of the shot in an effort to enhance availability.
As the estimated number of monkeypox cases in the United States reaches 8,900, top health officials announced the new move on Tuesday as part of a decision by Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra to issue a determination under Section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to justify emergency use authorization of vaccines. The announcement follows up on the Biden administration’s announcement last week declaring the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency.
Becerra said in a conference call with reporters the 564 determination and change in approach to vaccines would “boost and strengthen” the Biden administration’s response to monkeypox, which has overwhelmingly affected gay and bisexual men, and “safely accelerates and multiplies our supply of effective vaccines by up to fivefold.”
“Today’s action also reaffirms HHS and this administration’s commitment to using all available resources and capabilities to end the monkeypox outbreak and provide the best possible care to those suffering from the virus,” Becerra added.
The new vaccine approach, which may may be considered minor to non-medical observers, would change injections of the JYNNEOS vaccine from the subcutaneous route (delivery of the vaccine under the fat layer underneath the skin) to the intradermal route (delivery of the vaccine into the layer of skin just underneath the top layer). In theory, that would allow for greater accessibility of monkeypox vaccines as it increases the number of doses from each vial of vaccine.
The change was made amid criticism the Biden administration failed to meet the demand for vaccines during the outbreak and geographic inequity as certain metropolitan areas of the country have more access to vaccines than other places.
As The New York Times reported last week, the Biden administration has faced criticism for not moving quickly enough in acquiring and distributing vaccines, including bulk stocks already owned by the U.S. government manufactured in Denmark by Bavaria Nordic now being given to other clients.
“The government is now distributing about 1.1 million doses, less than a third of the 3.5 million that health officials now estimate are needed to fight the outbreak,” the Times reported. “It does not expect the next delivery, of half a million doses, until October. Most of the other 5.5 million doses the United States has ordered are not scheduled to be delivered until next year, according to the federal health agency.”
Biden officials, nonetheless, touted the numbers of vaccines and tests in response to monkeypox as a positive, acknowledging the 1.1 million vaccines being made available as well as delivery of more than 620,000 of those doses, deployment more than 15,000 courses of the monkeypox treatment and increasing the country’s capacity to administer tests on a weekly basis to around 80,000. Meanwhile, officials also promoted the change in approach in vaccines as means to allow greater accessibility to the shots.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, promoted during the conference call the use of intradermal injections and said they’re “often used for TB skin tests and have been used for other types of vaccines.”
Although Walensky conceded some health care providers “may not be as familiar with intradermal administration” as they are with subcutaneous injection, she said CDC would make additional guidance materials available, including a clinician alert message to the Association of State & Territorial Health Officials, outreach to key clinician partners and an education resource video. The change in guidance, Walensky said, is for vaccine implementation in adults, but children — where single digit monkeypox cases have been reported — would continue to receive vaccination in the traditional subcutaneous approach.
But health experts aren’t responding with overwhelming praise to the decision to change the guidance on vaccine implementation from subcutaneous injections to intradermal injections, expressing concerns the new approach may be insufficient.
Jennifer Kates, director of global health & HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was among those saying the change in guidance on vaccine approach was a mixed bag and told the Blade more data is needed to evaluate the effectiveness.
“As we saw with COVID, using these authorities in the context of public health emergencies is an important strategy,” Kates said. “In this case, this step will significantly expand access to vaccines for those most at risk. However, there remain questions about the effectiveness of this approach — real world studies are needed — and challenges to translating vaccines into vaccinations.”
Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research (CBER) at the Food & Drug Administration, was asked during the conference call with reporters to respond to concerns the change in guidance was insufficient and downplayed the novelty of implementing the vaccines through the intradermal route as “not at all new.”
“In fact, the reason why the Bavaria part of this equation comes from the fact that in Germany, this vaccine was given intradermally originally, in an effort to replicate the original version of the smallpox vaccine,” Marks said. “It’s been given to thousands of people intradermally, so this isn’t the first time it’s been done.”
Walkensky said the intradermal vaccine approach has been implemented amid policies among localities to implement a one-dose approach to the JYNNEOS vaccine through the subcutaneous route. (The D.C. government is one of the jurisdictions that had enacted a one-dose approach amid a vaccine shortage.) There is not data, Walkensky said, to support that approach and “in fact, if anything, there are data saying that that is not protective enough.”
“So by using this alternative strategy of intradermal dosing, not only do we have more doses, but we actually allow people to get two doses in a way that shows immunologic response that’s superimposable from the subcutaneous dosing,” Walkensky said. “So we have more doses, and in fact, we have the ability to doubly vaccinate people so that they get the protection that they need.”
Two new political memoirs reveal how the sausage of democracy is made
LGBTQ and intersex communities in Pakistan forge ahead
Finding your footing in fall housing market
Wanda Alston Foundation chosen as Casa Ruby receiver
Another gay couple assaulted in D.C. in suspected hate crime
Another gay couple assaulted in D.C. in suspected hate crime
For Gaiman fans, ‘Sandman’ is a ‘Dream’ come true
A rare misstep for the amazing Nancy Pelosi
Student activists picket Loudoun Co. School Board
Comings & Goings
Sign Up for Blade eBlasts
Africa7 days ago
Landmark intersex rights law takes effect in Kenya
District of Columbia2 days ago
Another gay couple assaulted in D.C. in suspected hate crime
Obituary6 days ago
LGBTQ ally Olivia Newton-John has died at 73
District of Columbia5 days ago
Gay couple assaulted on D.C. street by attackers shouting ‘monkeypox faggots’
District of Columbia6 days ago
Lesbian activist assaulted with barstool at D.C. lounge
Television4 days ago
For Gaiman fans, ‘Sandman’ is a ‘Dream’ come true
Out & About6 days ago
10 LGBTQ events this week
Arts & Entertainment7 days ago
Abbi Jacobson engaged to her girlfriend Jodi Balfour￼