Joe Biden plans to reverse Trump's transgender military ban when he takes office
via Nick Hodge / Twitter and Jlhervas / Flickr

President-elect Joe Biden has sweeping plans for expanding LGBTQ rights when he takes office in January 2021. Among them, a plan to reverse Donald Trump's near ban on allowing transgender people to serve in the military.

In 2016, President Obama allowed transgender individuals to serve openly in the U.S. military and have access to gender-affirming psychological and medical care.

However, the Trump administration reversed course in 2017, when Trump dropped a surprise tweet saying the military "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."





The Trump administration used the cost of gender-confirming medical care as an excuse to discriminate against transgender Americans, but the numbers don't add up.

"Well, it is what it is," Trump told Piers Morgan. "Also massive amounts of people going in and then asking for the operation, and the operation is $200,000, $250,000."

Dr. Joshua Safer, the executive director at Mount Sinai's Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, disputed Trump's claims in an interview with Time. He says that the real cost is closer to $25,000 on the low-end to as much as $100,000.

A 2016 report by Rand found that providing gender-affirming care to transgender troops would cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. In comparison, the Defense Department spends $80 million a year on medication for erectile dysfunction.

The Trump administration's policy change went into effect in 2019 and although it wasn't a complete ban on all transgender military personnel, it drastically limited the enlistment of transgender individuals.

Under the new policy, currently serving transgender individuals who have already received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria can continue to serve under the gender which they identify and receive gender-conforming treatments.

However, after the new policy took effect, anyone with a gender dysphoria diagnosis who is taking hormones or has undergone a gender transition was not allowed to enlist.

via Ted Eytan / Flickr

"The policy is insidious in operation but designed to be as comprehensive a ban as possible," a report from the nonpartisan Palm Center, which studies LGBTQ military issues, stated.

"In that sense, it is a perfect parallel to the failed 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, also sold as not being a ban although designed to systemically push gay people out of military service — or at least keep them silent and invisible," the report continued.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, says that reversing the Trump policy should be as easy as "pushing a button" and she expects it'll be "one of the first things he does."

Biden has said he will direct the Pentagon to allow transgender troops to serve and get medical care because it's what's best for all Americans. The Trump policy is "discriminatory and detrimental to our national security," Biden's campaign website says.

In addition to reversing Trump's transgender ban, Biden has pledged to support efforts to ban LGBT conversion therapy and reinstate Obama administration guidance directing public schools to allow transgender students to access bathrooms.

Biden's top legislative priority for LGBTQ issues is to pass the Equality Act which would extend anti-bias protections to LGBT individuals as they apply to housing, public accommodations, and public services.

As Vice President, Joe Biden was lauded by the LGBT community for coming out in favor of gay marriage even before President Obama. It appears as though, as president, he's going to give the LGBT even more reasons to celebrate.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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