The Trump administration's latest anti-transgender slam should have people outraged.

Back in February 2017, newly appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wiped out a lot of work done to protect transgender students in schools.

It seemed a simple position-statement move at the time. Just months before, guidance had been put in place with an Obama-era "Dear Colleague" letter that instructed schools not to discriminate against students on the basis of gender identity. It was meant to clarify the government's interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and end patchwork policies and lawsuits involving transgender students.

DeVos, however, had argued that schools' transgender discrimination issues are best "solved at the state and local level" and left only vague steps to take, if any, to ensure trans students have the same access to a quality education as other students.


DeVos at the Department of Education on Feb. 8, 2017. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

It was a huge blow to the trans community, leaving trans students more vulnerable than ever.

But now, a year has passed, and the Education Department is clarifying its position. And it's not good.

According to BuzzFeed reporter Dominic Holden, Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill said on record that it's the agency's position that restroom-related complaints from trans students are not covered under the law. This step, in explicitly saying that the law doesn't cover trans students, goes beyond simply rescinding the Obama guidance.

"Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity," Hill told BuzzFeed.

It is worth noting that a number of federal courts have found that bans on sex discrimination do cover gender identity, in contradiction to Hill's assertion. And while the Education Department's statement doesn't actually change the law, it has the potential to embolden anti-trans bullies and to encourage districts to flout the court rulings.

Parents of trans students have been heartbroken by what has unfolded from DeVos's first actions — especially ones who met with her.

After DeVos rescinded the "Dear Colleagues" letter, student LGBTQ issues defender GLSEN arranged a meeting between DeVos, a handful of trans students, and their parents.

"She sat across the table from our family and two other families and expressed deep concern over the well-being of transgender students, like my daughter Ellie," said Vanessa Ford, a mother of a 6-year-old trans child, in a GLSEN press statement. "[She ...] looked me in the eyes and assured me she had my daughter’s safety in mind. However, today’s actions make it clear DeVos’ Department of Education has no desire to protect Ellie or the thousands like her."

Trans student Gavin Grimm's discrimination case was set to be heard by the Supreme Court regarding Title IX's discrimination protections and trans students, but DeVos' actions halted that process. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Time.

Another mother, Katharine Prescott, lost her trans child to suicide and calls the Education Department's latest stance appalling and a tragedy.

"Barring a student from using the facilities that align with their gender identity is discrimination," Prescott said in the GLSEN statement. "If a transgender girl is forced to use the boys’ room at school, it places their safety and well-being in jeopardy. This denies her basic right to a public education. This administration continues to fail to protect our most vulnerable students."

And these students are extremely vulnerable. PFLAG's executive director, Jaime M. Grant, reacts to this new Title IX stance with a plea of understanding that the high rates of self-harm among transgender youth is not self-hatred but societal frustration.

"Those numbers are a result of seeing no possible path to grow a life, not the result of hating one’s gender," Grant writes in an email. "If I can’t use the facilities in elementary school, how am I going to get to college? Hold a job? Get an apartment? Find friends and loved ones? If my teachers won’t take a stand for me, who will? These are the questions constantly confronted."

Even though some aren't tuned in to trans students' issues, this slide into discrimination ties into a number of other topics.

Human Rights Campaign press secretary Sarah McBride argues the Trump administration's fight against trans students is simply one part of a larger ongoing effort to undermine marginalized groups. In an interview, she says, "When you turn your back on transgender students merely trying to get through the school day, you're undermining their ability not just to succeed academically, but to pursue their dreams, and that has a lifetime worth of consequences."

McBride speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

McBride continues, drawing attention to intersectionality:

"If you're not part of the transgender community, you are likely part of some community that this administration has fought to undermine access to a quality education for. When they attack transgender students, it also makes it easier to attack students with disabilities  and survivors of sexual assault, and certainly those at the intersection of all of those identities."

Critics of trans-inclusive policies often argue that the trans community makes up just a tiny fraction of the whole and therefore isn't worth protecting.

MJ Okma, the associate director of news and rapid response for GLAAD, an LGBTQ media watchdog organization, thinks that's the wrong way to think about it.

"The transgender population is larger than most people ever realize," he says, "but even if you want to brush it off as a small community, nobody should have to live in fear of being denied the ability to meet basic physical needs at school." Especially, he explains, when there's no evidence transgender students' bathroom use puts anyone else at risk.

In any case, though, it shouldn't be so hard for adults — especially those in our government charged with the responsibility to look out for all our interests — to grasp the concept of empathy. Okma gives great insight:

"One way I try to explain this to cisgender people is by asking them to think about one thing that made you different in grade school, then imagine that core aspect of yourself being debated, attacked, and demonized in a public forum. Then imagine going back to school to facing your peers day after day while this is happening."

Activist and TV personality Jazz Jennings at WE Day California 2016. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

There are things you can do to help ensure that all students have access to a quality education, regardless of gender identity, race, religion, disability, or other factors.

McBride calls on allies to the trans community to "be the heart that Betsy DeVos clearly lacks and step up and speak out for transgender students."

"The policies impacting trans students aren't just made in Washington, they're made in state capitals and in school boards and city halls across the country." Fighting for equal rights on a local level can be tough, especially when there are anti-LGBTQ groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom (the name is a bit of an inaptronym) suing any school district that follows DeVos' advice in determining policies for trans students that work best for them. To add a dash of irony to the story, it's important to note that DeVos and her family have long been major ADF donors.

"We need people to vote, not just in presidential elections or midterm elections, but in school board elections and [local] elections," McBride says. "Those institutions can and should step in to support trans students if they're not already."

Nicole Maines at the 2016 GLAAD media awards in New York City. In 2014, Maines won a discrimination lawsuit against her school district. Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.