Student, professional athletes push for NCAA to pull events over transgender athlete bans

Student and professional athletes joined LGBTQ advocates Friday to ask the National Collegiate Athletic Association to take action against states passing bills to exclude transgender women from women’s sports teams.

“This is a moment of national crisis where the rights and very existence of transgender young people are under attack,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a virtual press event. “This year’s state legislative sessions mark the highest number of anti-transgender bills in history — more than 50 — which target the ability of transgender athletes to participate in sports.”

In North Carolina last month, Republican lawmakers filed a bill to bar transgender women from competing against other women at schools and universities. Just this week, they filed bills that target transgender health care, seek to force teachers and counselors to report children who exhibit “gender nonconformity” and legally protect scientifically debunked “conversion therapy” that seeks to cure LGBTQ people.

As North Carolina saw five years ago, during the battle over HB2, the economic and cultural impact of sports organizations withdrawing competitions from states with discriminatory laws can make a difference. In response to that bill, the NCAA moved seven championship events scheduled to be held in the state as other major organizations and corporations boycotted the state. The final economic impact was estimated at nearly $4 billion.

Last month nearly 550 current NCAA athletes from across the nation signed a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors asking that they reaffirm the organization’s existing non-discrimination policies and pull championship events in states where transgender athletes are banned from competition. More than 700 NCAA athletes have now signed the letter.

Alana Boja, track and field athlete at Washington University.

“We noticed more and more states slated to host championships were putting anti-trans bills on the table but the NCAA was just staying silent,” said Alana Boja, a Washington University track and field athlete who helped spearhead the letter.

“We couldn’t just sit back and watch as the right to play sports was stripped from our fellow athletes,” Boja said.

The bills are a threat to all women athletes, Boja said.

“It’s impossible for women athletes to feel safe and supported in an environment where their personal identity and integrity is questioned,” Boja said. “The reality is many of these bills cannot possibly be enforced without inviting policing and bullying of all student athletes who do not meet stereotypes of gender and could empower any person to force any student athlete to undergo invasive physical exams or hormone tests in order to ‘prove their gender,’ whatever that means.”

Transgender women don’t threaten women’s and girl’s sports, Boja said.

“They’re my teammates, who want to play for the exact same reasons that I do,” Boja said. “To have fun, to improve ourselves, to make friends and be physically fit.”

Boja’s Washington University teammate, Aliya Schenck, said Republican legislators aren’t supporting or protecting women’s sports by discriminating against transgender women. If they want to do that, she said, they can concentrate on funding underfunded women’s sports programs all over the country.

The NCAA has had a policy allowing for the inclusion of transgender athletes since 2011. The organization should treat the current legislation like the threat to its policies and values that it is, Schenck said.

“Trans girls have been competing for a long time without incident,” Schenck said. “The NCAA needs to take action and withdraw all athletic competition from states considering anti-transgender sports bills.”
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Elon Poll: Support for COVID-19 vaccination has grown dramatically

Support for and confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine has grown dramatically in the last six months, according to a new Elon University poll released this week.

The poll, taken from March 30 to April 2, found 63 percent of respondents had already been vaccinated or plan to be.

When Elon began asking about peoples’ vaccine plans in October, only 33 percent answered “yes” when asked if they planned to be vaccinated when that became possible.

Those who are unsure or skeptical remain, however. In the poll 18 percent of respondents said they are not sure whether they will take the vaccine and 19 percent said they do not plan to do so.

“The size of the group of residents saying ‘no’ to vaccines has consistently been around 20 percent for months,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science.

Across four surveys, Elon has found the number of people against taking a vaccine holding steady at about 20 percent.

“This continues to cast doubt in my mind about whether some herd immunity goals will be met throughout all regions of North Carolina,” Husser said.

While the poll found a split in attitudes by political party, a majority of both Democrats (76 percent) and Republicans (54 percent) were in favor of vaccination. Among those who belong to neither party, 57 percent were in favor.

Dramatically more Republicans (28 percent) said they will not be vaccinated compared to Democrats (9 percent). Among those belonging to neither party, 22 percent said they would not be vaccinated.

The poll found modest variation on the issue by race, with 64 percent of white respondents saying they were already vaccinated or planned to be vaccinated and 63 percent of respondents of other races answering the same way. The poll found 59 percent of Black respondents had already been or planned to be vaccinated.

A greater variation was found according to level of education. The poll found 10 percent of those with a bachelors degree or higher said they would not be vaccinated. Among those with less than a bachelors degree, that number was 24 percent. The poll found 55 percent of those with a bachelors degree or higher said they had already been vaccinated while 31 percent of those with less than a bachelors degree said they had.

Among those who have already been vaccinated, 92 percent said they are glad they took the vaccine.

The poll found 80 percent describing the experience  of vaccination as “very easy” or “somewhat easy,” with two-thirds reporting they no negative side effects.  Of those who did experience negative side effects, 69 percent said it was no more than “a minor disruption.”

 

The poll was a representative online survey of 1,395 North Carolinians. The overall results have a credibility interval of +/- 2.8 percentage points, according to information released by the school.

Read the full report, including more information about methodology, here.

Two new bills target transgender rights, health care

Two new bills filed this week target transgender North Carolinians, part of a wave of anti-trans legislation filed by Republicans across the country.

Senate Bill 514 would prohibit transgender people under the age of 21 from receiving medical care related to gender transition, even if judged medically necessary by their parents and doctors.

The bill closely mirrors a similar legislation filed across the country, including in Arkansas this week where a similar bill was passed into law this week. To enact the law, that state’s legislature overturned the veto of Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, who condemned it as “government overreach.”

But in several respects SB 514 goes beyond the law passed in Arkansas.

The bill would also require state employees, including teachers and counselors, to inform parents in writing if they have knowledge of a minor who exhibits “gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex.”

Gender non-conformity can include anything from young men who paint their nails and young women who prefer to dress in clothes traditionally considered masculine to non-binary and gender-fluid people who do not identify strongly as male or female. The bill would require those children’s teachers and counselors to report them to their parents if they “exhibit symptoms” of gender non-conformity, even if they do not consider themselves transgender.

The bill also seeks to legally protect so-called  “conversion therapy,”  a scientifically discredited practice  that attempts to “cure” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The practice, which research has repeatedly found causes depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, has been banned in 20 states. In 2019 Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order forbidding taxpayer money to be used to pay for its use on minors in North Carolina. Polling shows overwhelming support for banning the practice in North Carolina, but multiple bills to do so have gone without a hearing or a vote.

Taken together, these provisions of the bill establish a legal mandate to identify and report children who may be transgender, prevent their parents and doctors from making medical decisions about their care and legally protect methods of “curing” them that have been established to be harmful.

“It’s heartbreaking – though not unexpected – to see these direct, repeated attacks on trans and gender-nonconforming youth in North Carolina and across the country,” said Kendra Johnson, Executive Director of Equality NC, in a statement Wednesday. “These attempts to control the bodies and medical decisions of parents and their transgender children are invasive, inappropriate, and outright dangerous.”

“Decisions about a child’s medical welfare should be made between that child, their doctor, and their parents or guardians – not lawmakers.,” Johnson said. “We cannot legislate the transgender community out of existence. It is the job of all lawmakers to understand the entirety of their constituency and mitigate challenges instead of creating barriers.”

At the heart of the bill are arguments about whether transgender identity exists and whether certain of their rights are protected by law. These are disputes that have already been largely resolved by the scientific community, federal policy and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Significantly, gender dysphoria is mischaracterized throughout the bill. The American Psychiatric Association makes clear it is not a mental illness, instead defining it as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.”

More than 40 years of research into and treatment of transgender people experiencing dysphoria has led psychiatric and medical professionals to conclude the most effective course of treatment is gender transition — aligning one’s life socially and sometimes physically to better match their gender identity. Not all transgender people choose to medically transition, but for those for whom it is judged necessary, medical experts agree that it can be life-saving.

The bill would also legally prohibit any state government health plan or state provided insurance from paying for that care.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina, which administers the State Employee Health Plan, recognizes the necessity of transition care. It has, since 2011, recognized dysphoria as a serious medical issue and covered treatments related to transition, including hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery. But as Policy Watch has reported, the trustees of the state health care plan cut off that coverage to state employees.

The board of trustees of the state health care plan voted to begin covering treatments for gender dysphoria at the end of 2016, near the end of Janet Cowell’s term as State Treasurer. The change was necessary to comply with the Affordable Care Act. When Republican Dale Folwell came into office in 2017, he opposed the move, calling care related to gender dysphoria elective and unnecessary. The plan’s trustees allowed the coverage to expire at the first opportunity and have never reinstated it. Transgender state employees and employees with transgender family members cut off from their coverage sued the state over the change.

Ignoring scientific consensus and federal law that recognizes transgender peoples’ identities and upholds their rights, the bill seeks to legally conflate gender identity and biological sex. It describes sex as “the biological state of being female or male, based on sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles, and is genetically encoded into a person at the moment of conception, and it cannot be changed.”

Making no distinction between biological sex , gender and gender identity, the bill characterizes transgender people as confused and says that if they are not encouraged to transition, any gender dysphoria they experience will naturally dissipate.

That judgement is opposed by every major legitimate medical and psychiatric association that has examined the issue.

A second bill, Senate Bill 515, would allow any medical provider  to refuse to perform any form of care or service “on the basis of conscience, whether such conscience is informed by religious, moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs or principles.” That would including providing referrals to others who may provide the care or service. LGBTQ advocates call it a “license to discriminate” against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people among, among others, for religious reasons.

“This is the latest in a series of coordinated attacks on healthcare access for trans and gender-nonconforming youth across the country, the true aim of which is to push trans and non-binary people out of public life,” said Chantal Stevens, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, in a statement Wednesday.

“Not only are these bills rooted in falsehoods, hate, and fear-mongering, but they also invade the private interactions between each of us and our medical providers,” Stevens said. “Just as North Carolina is recovering from the damage wrought by HB2 on our reputation and economy, let’s move forward together to build equitable communities rather than doubling down on being a state that legislates hate.”

These two bills follow the filing last month of House Bill 358, which would bar transgender women from competing against other women in sports at schools and universities in North Carolina.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, warned the current wave of ant-trans legislation could lead to the sort of division and harmful backlash that accompanied HB2, the law that excluded LGBTQ people from non-discrimination protections five years ago.

“Our state learned a lesson all too painfully with HB2,” Beach-Ferrara said in a statement Wednesday. “Extreme bills that target LGBTQ people harm individuals, communities, and the fabric of our state itself.”

“We’re working toward building communities across North Carolina where every LGBTQ person can thrive,” Beach-Ferrara said. “That means being treated with dignity and respect, it means living free from discrimination, and it means being able to access the health care you need and deserve in your hometown.”

Democratic lawmakers file raft of LGBTQ equality bills

Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate filed four bills Tuesday that would provide protections and equality for LGBTQ North Carolinians.

“It’s no secret that North Carolina has a difficult history when it comes to LBTQ+ rights,” said Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham), at a virtual press conference Tuesday. “But we’re here to change that.”

The bills filed Tuesday are:

House Bill 450 / Senate Bill 396 – “The Equality for All Act” — Legislation that would extend LGBTQ non-discrimination protections statewide. Seven communities across the state have already passed such protections since a statewide ban on such local protections expired in December.

House Bill 451 – A full repeal of HB2, the controversial law that excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections and generated international headlines and boycotts of the state.

House  Bill 449 – A bill to prohibit so-called “gay/trans panic” defenses in “heat of passion” assaults and murders of LGBTQ people.

House Bill 452/ Senate Bill 392 – “The Mental Health Protection Act” – A bill to prohibit so-called “conversion therapy,” a scientifically discredited practice aimed at “curing” LGBTQ people. The practice has been linked to suicides among LGBTQ youth and is banned for minors in 20 states and Washington D.C.  In 2019 Gov. Roy Cooper banned the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for the practice.

Alston said HB450  “affirms what we already know — that no one should live in fear of discrimination and that everyone in North Carolina deserves basic human rights.”

Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham)

“No one should worry that they can’t buy a home because of who they love or be denied a haircut or a hotel room because of their gender identity,” Alston said. “And I want to be able to go to a restaurant and know that my right to be there with my family is protected by the state I call home.”

Kendra Johnson, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC, called passage of the bills essential.

“For too long, LGBTQ North Carolinians have lived under the shadow of archaic and outdated laws that impact everyone in our community, but most directly those of us that live at the intersections of multiple lenses of oppression,” Johnson said. “Black, Brown, transgender, and gender-nonconforming North Carolinians continue to suffer the greatest threats to life and safety under the legacy of House Bill 2, the lack of nondiscrimination protections in this state, through the invocation of the so-called ‘panic defense’ and at the hands of those practicing conversion therapy. We must pass these four bills so North Carolina can not only catch up with the rest of America but also begin to build a state that actively embraces the true diversity of the human experience.”

Versions of several of the bills have been filed previously without ever getting a vote in the General Assembly, whose Republican majority has generally opposed them. But advocates and lawmakers said things have changed significantly since the fight over HB2 five years ago.

“Since then, we’ve seen thousands of residents open their eyes to the mistreatment that LGBTQ people endure and open their hearts and minds to solutions that will make life in North Carolina more equitable,” said Allison Scott, Director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality.” This package of bills confronts the attempted erasure of LGBTQ minors, ensures everyone can live in public as their authentic self, and catches our laws up to where we really are as a state. It’s time to turn the page on the relics of our past such as HB2 and HB142 and move toward a path that is  inclusive with an equitable future for our state.”

Cherry Iocovozzi, a food systems manager at East Fork Pottery in Asheville, said their employer makes them feel welcomed and protected as a non-binary person. But five years after HB2, that still isn’t the case everywhere in the state.

“Five years later, our economy is still missing out because LGBTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in NC,” Iocovozzi said. “We’re lagging behind the 20 other states that fully protect LGBTQ people, including our neighbors to the north in Virginia, who passed comprehensive protections last year. And while it’s great to see local communities passing nondiscrimination ordinances, 93% of our state’s residents live in municipalities without protections.”

“I want every LGBTQ person to feel included and welcome and free from discrimination, not just in the workplace but in every area of life,” Iocovozzi said. “Your basic freedoms should not depend on where you live.”

Several lawmakers also shared personal stories of how the issues addressed by these bills have impacted them or their families.

“I have family members in the LGBTQ community, including a grandchild that identifies as female and is transitioning,” said Rep. John Autry (D-Mecklenburg). “I would do anything to protect any of my children and my grandchildren, and that is why I am so supportive of these measures here today.”

Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake) shared that her aunt was a victim of conversion therapy.

“She’s in her late 70s and still to this day, there are ramifications from said ‘therapy,’ Dahle said. “So it’s very important to me that no child has to go through this, that no person has to go through this.”

 

 

UNC-Chapel Hill asking for new names for buildings named for white supremacists

Demonstrators protesting buildings named for slave owners and white supremacists on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Last year UNC-Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees lifted the self-imposed moratorium on renaming buildings on campus, allowing the school to address decades of pressure from students, faculty and community members to replace the names of slave owners and white supremacists. Now, the school is looking to rename three buildings before students return for the Fall semester in August.

In a message to the campus late last week, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz issued an open call for new names.

“We have previously received names for consideration which are included in our Honorific Naming Registry and we invite you to submit additional names,” Guskiewicz said. “We will keep this process open for a two-week period, closing the registry at 5 p.m. on April 9. The committee will receive all submitted names and conduct an initial vetting process to narrow a list of possible options to six names for consideration. I will consider those names for submission to our Board of Trustees.”

Guskiewicz laid out criteria for the new names, saying they should:

  • Represent the values that define our University: excellence and an unwavering commitment to teaching, research and public service.
  • Have traditionally been underrepresented on our landscape.
  • Have a demonstrated positive impact on our campus and in our community.

 

The buildings at issue are the Aycock Residence Hall, the Carr Building and  the Daniels Building.

The Aycock Residence Hall was named for Charles B. Aycock, the white supremacist governor of North Carolina from 1901 to 1905. In his famous speech “The Negro Problem” Aycock set out his explicit segregationist and white supremacist views.

“I am proud of my State…because there we have solved the negro problem,” Aycock said. “We have taken him out of politics and have thereby secured good government under any party and laid foundations for the future development of both races. We have secured peace, and rendered prosperity a certainty.”

The Carr building was named for Julian Carr, a UNC alum and industrialist who supported the Ku Klux Klan and celebrated lynchings, including the 1898 Wilmington Massacre. Carr gave a speech at the 1913 installation of the Silent Sam Confederate monument on the UNC campus in which he bragged he once “horse-whipped a negro wench” in public for disrespecting a white woman and praised Confederate soldiers for saving “the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South.”

The Daniels building, which houses a student store, was named for Josephus Daniels.Daniels, a former publisher of Raleigh’s News & Observer newspaper, was a prominent white supremacist who used the paper’s influence to promote racist policies. Infamously, he stoked racial hatred that helped lead to the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, in which white supremacists killed at least 60 Black Wilmington residents while overthrowing the town’s elected mixed-race government.

Last year Daniels’ family voluntarily removed his 8-foot statue from its place in Nash Square in downtown Raleigh, where it overlooked the former News & Observer building.

“This is an exciting time for our University as we celebrate and remember the people who have pushed our University forward by serving its people and our mission,” Guskiewicz said in his message. “In doing so, we are taking concrete steps to build our community together. I am grateful for the students, faculty and staff who have advocated for change. I am confident that we will have plenty of worthy honorees who have been instrumental in our shared history.”

Policy Watch will continue to follow the renaming process for these and other buildings on UNC System campuses.