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In response to a lawsuit filed by a foster youth and alumni group as well as LGBTQ service and advocacy organizations, a court has remanded and vacated a Trump-era policy permitting taxpayer-funded discrimination against people who receive services from HHS grant programs.
A federal district court on Wednesday rescinded a discriminatory Trump-era rule that prohibited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from requiring that service providers in its $500 billion federal grants program not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and other characteristics when providing HHS grant-funded services. Democracy Forward and Lambda Legal, along with pro bono co-counsel Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, LLP, filed a lawsuit challenging the rule in February 2021 on behalf of Facing Foster Care in Alaska, Family Equality, True Colors United, and SAGE. Wednesday’s order rescinds the rule completely and restores protections in the 2016 Rule.
Just over a week before it left power, the Trump administration finalized an unlawful rule that scrapped nondiscrimination protections, including an important clarification recognizing the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decisions. The Trump administration’s rollback of these protections left beneficiaries of and participants in federally funded programs vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. In February of 2021, HHS agreed to a court order that immediately stayed the effective date of the rule.
Vulnerable and traditionally marginalized populations — such as children in foster care, older adults, youth experiencing homelessness, and families navigating the child welfare system — have been and, under this Rule, would have been subject to discriminatory practices from taxpayer-funded service providers and programs. Such discrimination harms beneficiaries, imposes additional barriers to service, causes significant economic costs, undermines HHS’s mission to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, and will lead to worse outcomes in HHS programs.
“We are thrilled that the court has removed the continuing threat the presence of the discriminatory Trump-era rule posed to some of the most vulnerable members of society, including LGBTQ+ children, seniors, and people with low income, who rely on federally funded programs to meet their basic needs. Beneficiaries and participants in HHS-funded programs should have the basic expectation that they can access all services and care and do so without facing harm.” said Currey Cook, Senior Counsel and Youth in Out-Of-Home Care Project Director at Lambda Legal. “This week, the court took an important step on the heels of HHS’s acknowledgment of a flawed process that violated important procedural safeguards ensuring that comment by the public is meaningfully considered.”
“There was simply no excuse for the Trump administration’s unlawful policy sanctioning taxpayer-funded discrimination against people who receive services from HHS grant programs, including youth and families in the child welfare system, youth experiencing homelessness and older adults, among other vulnerable populations,” said Kristen Miller, Senior Counsel at Democracy Forward. “While today's victory is a step in the right direction, the Trump-era decision not to enforce the lawful 2016 rule has not yet been reversed. Lambda Legal and Democracy Forward will continue to challenge the non-enforcement policy until all persons receive the protections of the law."
Read more about the case: Facing Foster Care in Alaska v. HHS
We all know that pride month is here and it’s a very exciting time! Although pride can be such a joyous and positive time, it can bring mixed emotions and challenges for people. Your mental health should always come first and it’s important you make that a priority during pride.
It’s typically full of fun gatherings as we celebrate our identities and remember those who have paved the way for us. It’s also a pivotal time for us to gather as a community and continue to fight for the rights and recognition we deserve, both for us and for those who will come after us.
Know Your Feelings Are Valid
Know Your Feelings Are Valid
A range of feelings can crop up during pride month. Many people feel mixed emotions of happiness at how far we’ve come, as well as sadness and anger that we still need to fight against stigma and discrimination.
There are so many injustices and ongoing attacks against our community, both from the system we live in and from those around us. It’s impossible to overlook that, even during a time of celebration. Know that it’s ok to acknowledge your feelings about this: you don’t have to try to ignore them.
Some marginalized groups face discrimination even within our community, for example, people of color, indigenous people, disabled people, bisexual people, and transgender individuals. This can lead them to feel left out of pride month or feel anxious about being accepted into queer spaces.
A lot of queer people don’t feel accepted by their family or friends and might feel isolated, especially if they haven’t yet made connections within our community. This feeling of loneliness and frustration can be enhanced during pride when they feel they aren't able to take part in the celebrations like everyone else.
However you feel during pride month, remind yourself that your feelings are completely valid. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to acknowledge and process those emotions.
Don’t Feel Pressured
It’s often hard not to feel pressure during pride - pressure to be loud and proud, pressure to drink and party, and pressure to attend events. Remember that you are in control of your life and should do what’s best for you.
If you aren’t out yet or don’t feel fully comfortable being so publically open about your sexuality or gender identity, that’s completely fine! Don’t feel you have to attend large celebrations or be the center of attention. You can keep things more low-key and move at a pace that suits you, or celebrate pride from home (we’ll talk about that more later).
Whether you’re sober or you just don’t feel like drinking a lot, don’t feel that you have to bow to pressure from others and get drunk to celebrate pride. There are lots of ways to have fun and get involved in the celebrations without alcohol.
Ultimately, if the people around you are pressuring you into doing something you don’t want to do, you could probably do with better friends anyway!
Attending parades, protests, and parties during pride can be a lot of fun but it can also be exhausting! Especially if you’re attending a lot of events while trying to balance work, school, and other commitments. So, make sure to take breaks when you need to.
If you’re at an event and you become overwhelmed, just take a few moments to step aside and breathe. You can always head home early (there’s no shame in doing that). Your mental and physical health comes first.
Two women eating.
Self-care refers to any action you take to look after your physical or mental health. We like to think of self-care as setting yourself up for success. Self-care during pride might be making sure you’re getting enough sleep; staying hydrated (especially if you’re drinking more than normal or are out in the sun for long periods); eating well; doing some exercise when you get the chance, and making time to do things you find relaxing.
Mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress, improve your sleep, and help yourself regulate emotions. Since we hear about mindfulness so often, it can seem cliché but it does have so many benefits. There are lots of great, quick guided mindfulness sessions online for free to help you get started.
Stay True to Yourself
The whole point of pride is to be proud of who you are, but it can be all too easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others or feeling like we need to look or act a certain way. While this can happen year-round, it can feel more intense around pride month.
Do your best to stay true to yourself. Remember there’s no one ‘right’ way to be queer and our individuality is what makes us so special. If you don’t identify with the label ‘queer’ that’s completely valid too - there’s no one size fits all way to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. You are valid, regardless of how you identify or express yourself. Be your true, authentic self!
Connect With Others
Pride is a perfect time to connect with others! If you’ve been feeling alone or isolated, pride can help you get out of that slump and help to rebuild your confidence.
Connect with your friends and family (whether that’s your biological or chosen family). Be open to meeting new people and forming new connections. Connecting with others allows us to feel part of the community and is fantastic for our mental health.
Research shows that when LGBTQ+ people feel part of the community their sense of well-being is increased, they feel more confident and accepted, and pivotally, their mental health is significantly improved.
Ask for Help If You Need it
If you feel like you’re struggling with your mental health during pride, check in with your loved ones. Talk to your friends or family members (or whoever you trust and feel able to open up to). There’s no shame in asking for help.
If you need help from a professional, reach out to your doctor or therapist. There are a lot of great organizations that offer mental health support for the LGBTQ+ community that you may be able to access online or in your local area.
There are also several hotlines you can call if you need someone to talk to including:
- The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
- The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
- Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
Although it can feel worrying to reach out, it’s so important that you do. You aren’t alone, even if it feels like it at the time. There are people who can help you to cope.
Celebrate Pride in a Way That Feels Right for You
We all deserve to take part in pride and you can do that in a way that feels right for you. For some people, it may be attending pride protests, marches, parades, and parties. For others, it may be attending online pride celebrations or getting involved through social media. This can also be more accessible for those who live in an isolated area or who don’t feel able to attend pride celebrations in person.
If you prefer to keep it more low-key and stay at home, you could invite some friends around and have a chill night in. You could choose to mark the event by reading queer literature, watching LGBTQ+ movies or documentaries, or reading more in-depth about the history of pride.
You deserve to be a part of pride so find a way to celebrate that feels right for you! There’s no ‘right way’ to get involved. Wherever you are on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, be kind to yourself.
Love is Love
Ceatha, N., Mayock, P., Campbell, J., Noone, C., & Browne, K. (2019). The Power of Recognition: A Qualitative Study of Social Connectedness and Wellbeing through LGBT Sporting, Creative and Social Groups in Ireland. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(19), 3636.
Woman leaning on another person for support.Photo by Külli Kittus on Unsplash
April was Sexual Assault Awareness month, and most of the time the narrative about assault gets lost in the heteronormative world. Unless we have experienced it first-hand, the images that come to mind are often stolen from the news and they are mostly man-assaults-woman kind of images. But a huge part of the LGBTQ+ community has experienced sexual assault of some form and is incredibly underrepresented. A 2020 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law demonstrates, in fact, that LGBTQ+ people are nearly four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than non-LGBTQ+ people.
Sexual assault is, by definition, “any type of intentional physical conduct that the victim has not consented to”, and falls under criminal law, while sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, includes unwelcomed sexual advances and covers discrimination based on one’s gender and/or sexual orientation, and falls under civil law.
Sexual Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities
When a victim of sexual assault decides to come forward, it is never easy. Many fear not being believed, being pointed out as guilty, to not finding support; for LGBTQ+ people, it’s even harder as we face the risk to encounter homophobic or transphobic authorities and facing disbelief that sexual violence even affects the lives of LGBTQ+ people. But studies tend to highlight the contrary.
In a study dated 2006 called “Sexual harassment between same-sex peers: Intersection of mental health, homophobia and sexual violence in schools” it was found that lesbians and gays are most likely to suffer sexual violence as a hate crime than other minorities. For transgender people, the numbers are very high: in a study of 6.436 individuals who identified as transgender and gender-non-conforming, 51% had experienced sexual assault in school, and 6% at work; the rates were higher among people of color, which highlights the intersection between transphobia and racism. In another research, it was found that 47% of transgender people are victims of sexual assault in their lifetime, as well as 1 in 8 lesbian women, 1 in 5 bisexual women, 40% of gay men, and 47% of bisexual men.
What seems to be lacking, understandably, are the reports of these attacks. In fact, raped lesbian or bisexual women seem to come forward 11-53% of the time, while the percentage of raped gay or bisexual men coming forward is 11-45%. This is commonly due to the possibility of not being believed, but also the possible fear of coming out to the authorities.
Sexual Assault Facts
Your body belongs to you
Surviving sexual assault takes a lot of strength. In fact,
- sexual assault survivors are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide than people who have not been abused
- 40% of survivors contract a sexually transmitted disease during the abuse
- 42% of raped women expect to be raped again at some point in their life
- 4 out of 5 victims develop some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. These mental health consequences include impaired memory and concentration, difficulty in relating to others, difficulty in engaging in a relationship, anger, rage, detachment, nightmares, apathy, self-harm, suicidal behavior, sleep disturbance, and drug and alcohol abuse.
- In cisgender men, the consequences of sexual assault can include the contraction of STDs (including HIV), infertility, sexual dysfunctions, abscesses of the rectum etc.
- In the LGBTQ+ community, we are 6 times more likely to experience violence from someone who is well known to us, and about 2.5 times more likely to experience it from a stranger, compared to non-LGBTQ+ people.
What to Do If You Are Sexually Assaulted
If you are attacked and want to report the crime to the authorities, do it as soon as possible, without taking a shower or changing your clothes, in order for the medical personnel to gather physical evidence of the assault.
Remember that everyone deals with sexual assault differently, especially when survivors. Do not feel pressured to come forward as a survivor: you should do so on your own time and terms, if you ever desire to. It is helpful, though, to talk about it and process the trauma with people you trust: be it a friend, a family member or a therapist. Dealing with the post-traumatic stress can be exhausting, which is why therapy is considered a valid method to get through it.
A lot of the time survivors feel the need to connect with people who underwent similar experiences, which is why support groups are a valid option. You can find them online or through therapists in your area if you prefer to meet in person.
If you or anyone you know is in a crisis, these resources should help:
The Florida state legislature today passed Senate Bill 1834 House Bill 1557s, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, broad and vague legislation that would ban discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grades or were “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students,” effectively erasing LGBTQ+ students, families, and LGBTQ history.
The bill would also force teachers and other school administrators to “out” LGBTQ+ young people to their parents or guardians, potentially putting them at risk of harm. Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law, which will then go into effect on July 1, 2022.
Florida Senate Passes "Don't Say Gay" Bill | Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan youtu.be
Former Teacher, Senior U.S. Department of Education Official, and Lambda Legal CEO, Kevin Jennings has issued the following statement:
“Let’s be clear: This bill is not about improving the well-being of our young people. Instead, this bill will further stigmatize, marginalize, and isolate a group of already vulnerable young people who experience disproportionate rates of harassment and violence in school.
Instead of erasing LGBTQ+ youth and their families, lawmakers should be working with school administrators and educators to ensure all students are safe, welcome, and have equal access to education. In a calculated political move ahead of state elections, politicians in Florida, like in states all over the country, are playing politics with the lives of LGBTQ+ youth by making them pawns in a bid for power. Without a doubt, these deplorable actions protect no one but rather give the ‘green light’ to teach intolerance, allow harassment, and fail to confront violence against LGBTQ+ youth and their families.
“Just like recent actions in Texas that encourage surveillance and harassment of transgender young people and their families, this bill and others like it, serve only one purpose: To erase LGBTQ+ people from every facet of public life. In response we have a message for LGBTQ+ youth in Florida, to transgender youth in Texas, and to LGBTQ+ people everywhere: You are not alone and we will fight for you.”
About Lambda Legal
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work.