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President Obama stood up for trans students in a HUGE way. Here's what you need to know.

The administration alerts schools everywhere to respect trans students' gender identities.

President Obama stood up for trans students in a HUGE way. Here's what you need to know.

On Friday morning, the Obama administration issued guidance urging school districts around the country to treat transgender students equally.

This comes just days after Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke her way into the history books in addressing the transgender community directly, saying, "The Department of Justice and the entire Obama administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward."

With today's letter, it looks like the administration is taking major steps in putting action behind those words. And. It. Is. Awesome.


Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

But let's take a moment to address what are sure to be some common questions about this guidance, shall we?

1. What is it?

It's essentially a letter to the schools from the president. And while it's not legally binding, it's putting school districts across the country on notice not to discriminate against transgender students; after all, they survive based on federal funding and should follow federal guidelines.

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so," the letter reads.

That's pretty freakin' huge. Just a few years ago, to think the word "transgender" would even be part of the president's vocabulary would seem like a stretch. Now, he's out there dishing out guidelines and showing support like it's nobody's business.

2. Why now?

Given everything that's going on in North Carolina regarding the state's new controversial law that paints trans people as predators, the dueling lawsuits between the administration and the state — and just the general sense of hostility trans people are facing — now's as good a time as ever to remind everybody what the administration's position on trans student rights is.

Also, the alternative to this is ... having North Carolina-style battles state by state? That sounds exhausting.

When Fox News says you've gone too far... GIF from Fox News.

3. What kind of discrimination will this address?

Specifically, this deals with restrooms and locker rooms. Trans girls (i.e., girls who were assigned male at birth) and trans boys (i.e., boys who were assigned female at birth) should be able to use girls' and boys' restrooms respectively. This complements 2014 guidelines from the Department of Education clarifying that trans students are covered under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. This guidance from the presidential administration just clarifies it a bit more.

In other words, trans students need to be protected the same way we protect other groups on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, etc.

This will affect students like 15-year-old Jazz Jennings. Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

4. But whoa, whoa, whoa: Won't this put students at risk of being spied on by students who are only pretending to be transgender?

No, no — a thousand times no. It might sound like a valid concern, but some of the largest school districts in in the country have had trans-inclusive policies in place for yeeeeeaars without aaaaaany incidents of that happening.

While some people (looking at you, Mike Huckabee) jokingly say they'd like to act out the plot of "Ladybugs" in real life, it just doesn't actually happen.

Um, Gov. Huckabee...? And do people still take group showers in schools anyway?

5. Why are restrooms so important anyway? Why can't trans kids just use restrooms separate from other students?

While this sounds like a reasonable compromise, quarantining them away from other students doesn't exactly say, "Hi! We see you for who you are!" so much as "You're weeeeeird!"

But what's the big deal about letting trans students use restrooms that match their consistently-held gender identity (again, no, a male cisgender person cannot just go, "Today, I feel like a woman" and then switch between genders to spy on women)? I mean, if you're seeing other people's genitals when you use the bathroom, you're bathrooming wrong. No one's privacy is being invaded (no one has a right to know what your genitals look like, regardless of whether you're trans or not), and people really need to chill out.

What exactly do you think people do in bathrooms?

And there needs to be consistency across the country. Imagine a trans boy in California, who's been using the boys' bathroom, moves into a different school district in another state and suddenly has to undergo an embarrassing public battle to get his gender recognized by his new school district.

6. How will people react to this announcement?

Prepare for this to be presented in a way that makes it seem like the gates of hell have been opened and innocent souls are being pulled into fiery sinkholes in the shapes of those bathroom sign stick figures that are like half-dress and half-pants.

Like this, but with fire, OK?

7. What do the 2016 presidential candidates think about this?

The two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination would appear to be on the president's side on the matter, as they've both denounced North Carolina's anti-trans law and put forward very LGBT-inclusive platforms.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump at first said he didn't care what bathroom people use and that he didn't think North Carolina's law was a good one, but then switched his position, saying that states should be allowed to handle things at their level (as North Carolina is doing).

Additionally, the Republican National Committee "calls on the Department of Education to rescind itsinterpretation of Title IX that wrongly includes facility use issues by transgender students" and "encourages state legislatures to enact laws thatprotect student privacy and limit the use of restrooms, locker rooms, and similar facilities to members ofthe sex to whom the facility is designated." So, it's safe to say they're not exactly fans.

8. What happens now?

It's anybody's guess really. It looks like both sides on this issue are getting ready for a long, ugly fight. However radical this seems right now, there will be a day where it seems hard to believe this was ever an issue. When you're on the right side of history — as the Obama administration is in this case — you'll come out on top.

We need to see past the talking points and the hypothetical horror stories and dig deep in our hearts to offer these students some compassion. This is a BIG step forward.

Thanks, Obama. For reals.

via ABC and Bee Gees / YouTube

A year ago a woman in Pearland, Texas helped save her husband's life because of her quick thinking and the sweet, four-on-the-floor disco beat of the Bee Gees.

After finishing a two-mile run with her husband Quan, Ganesa Collins watched him fall to the ground. "We sat on the bench, and he was in front of me," Collins told ABC. "I was standing behind and stretching, and he just went face forward. His head hit the dirt."

She quickly called 911 and the operator said he was having a heart attack.

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via ABC and Bee Gees / YouTube

A year ago a woman in Pearland, Texas helped save her husband's life because of her quick thinking and the sweet, four-on-the-floor disco beat of the Bee Gees.

After finishing a two-mile run with her husband Quan, Ganesa Collins watched him fall to the ground. "We sat on the bench, and he was in front of me," Collins told ABC. "I was standing behind and stretching, and he just went face forward. His head hit the dirt."

She quickly called 911 and the operator said he was having a heart attack.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."