Trans Bodies, Trans Choices: Online Townhall Replay

TransLash Media collaborated with the National LGBTQ Task Force to produce Trans Bodies, Trans Choices: Online Townhall on March 23, 2022.

As the Supreme Court decision on abortion looms, this Trans Bodies, Trans Choices virtual townhall unpacked the importance of reproductive justice for the trans community. Trans people give birth, need access to trans competent medical care and have abortions, but so often transgender people are erased from the conversation around body autonomy. This virtual gathering sought to change that with an intersectional lens bringing perspectives surrounding race, disability, and economic justice during Trans Month of Visibility.

Explore this guide to the Trans Bodies, Trans Choices: Online Townhall featuring resource links, transcript, and more information about the Trans Bodies, Trans Voices series. Thank you for reading, and be sure to include the #TransBodiesTransVoices hashtag in any signal boost posts on social media. We appreciate you, TransLash family!

‘Trans Bodies, Trans Choices: Online Townhall’ Transcript

Imara Jones: Hello everyone, my name is Imara Jones. I am the founder and creator of TransLash Media. Welcome to the Trans Bodies, Trans Choices Townhall tonight, sponsored with our partners at the National LGBTQ Task Force. I don’t know about you, but I could’ve been into the music lasting longer, but we only have an hour, so we have to get to it, but I was into it. Thanks to everyone for joining. We, at TransLash, came up with the idea for a month long campaign, to spotlight the intersection of reproductive justice and trans justice during the month of Trans Month of Visibility to end the invisibility of trans people when it comes to reproductive justice. You know, there’s not as many communities that have a stake or as much knowledge or interest in the issues of body autonomy, than trans people, but for far too long, we have been excluded, deliberately from the reproductive justice movement and that’s led to us being harmed in so many different ways by the medical establishment, by different providers, by insurance companies, and the list goes on. And that harm is a form of violence against our communities, and as the Supreme Court decision looms on reproductive justice, that decision could come any day now, in the next several months, it’s important for us to make sure that we raise our voices and to speak what is generally unspoken. And so that’s why I am thrilled tonight to be in conversation with our amazing panel. I’m just going to go through who they are really briefly and then we’ll move on to the rest of our program. Followed by these brief introductions, what we’re going to do is to screen one of the films that is a part of our Trans Bodies, Trans Choices initiative all month. Each week, beginning on March 14th, we’ve released a new story, a new film that allows a trans person to tell their own story in terms of their relationship to reproductive justice, including access to trans affirming medical care as well as abortion. And each week, that’s followed by a series of discussions throughout the week, whether or not it be on Instagram or this town hall or on Twitter spaces to continue to amplify the conversation in so many ways, including a podcast episode of the TransLash Podcast, which is coming out on tomorrow, actually, on Thursday. And so, this is a large narrative effort, but it is grounded in these films. So we are going to start out tonight, after these introductions, with the first film that premiered in that series and that happens to also be the person who is featured on our panel tonight, one of the four. The first is Cazembe Murphy, who is a Black, Southern, queer trans organizer. They believe in working across movements using a multi-tiered approach to ending systemic oppression, and we’ll be seeing their story and their film in a minute. Also joining us tonight is Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, an organization which advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people. Before the Task Force, Kierra led URGE, which is Unite For Reproductive and Gender Equity. So there’ll be lots of insights there. Next joining us is Dallas Ducar, who is CEO of Transhealth Northampton, an independent trans-led health center that serves rural Massachusetts. And last, but certainly not least, in terms of voices tonight, is Oriaku Njoku, who is co-founder and executive director of Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, an organization devoted to eliminating barriers to accessing abortions rooted in radical care. So we clearly have a very powerhouse panel tonight. We could actually spend, probably the whole hour just talking to one of them, but you know, we wanna provide as many voices as possible and so we’re gonna begin tonight, first of all, by grounding us in story, you know, me, at TransLash, I personally, as a journalist, believe in the power of story as a transformative liberation tool. Stories also can help us ground as humans and find common ways to relate to each other. And so there’s no better way to begin tonight than the story of Cazembe Murphy, which we will show right now. And after, in eight minutes of this film, which is gonna fly by, we’ll come back and have a really powerful conversation. So, if you all can cue the film, that would be fantastic.

Cazembe Murphy: The day I found out that I was pregnant, I didn’t know how to kill myself, I just knew I wanted to die. My abortion saved my life. I’m Cazembe Murphy Jackson and I’m 41 years old and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. So I call myself an organizer and, slash, revolutionary. I moved in 2014, and it was like the height of this generation’s black liberation movement. I was born in Austin, Texas. I grew up in a historically Black neighborhood. At 12, I came out as a lesbian and my mom was like, “We need to talk to the pastor.” And we went in his office and he was like, “Being gay is an abomination and you have to deny any feeling of that or you will burn in Hell. ” I would go back in the closet, like, I would be like, “Yeah, this is definitely a sin and I’m hurting myself. ” One of the best schools in Texas, for criminal justice majors is San Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. I remember thinking, like, I’m about to have a whole, new life, like, “I’m about to be as gay as possible.” (laughs) My trajectory changed, (chuckles) once I got to school. I didn’t have like a best friend, or like a girlfriend, nothing like that. I don’t think there is anybody that I went to college with that I’m still friends with today. So it was an impactful time in my life, but a lonely one. I was studying with a group of people from one of my classes and I was the last one to leave the library. It was probably like 1:00, something like that, in the morning. And usually, I definitely was raised not to walk by myself at night and so I never walked by myself at night, but this night, in particular, there was nobody left to walk with. I got to the corner of my dorm and a car with four men pulled up next to me and started talking to me, and I was like, “I’m just trying to go home. I’m just trying to get to my dorm. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not interested. ” And they were like, “My homeboy just got outta jail “and he lookin’ for somebody to hook up with. ” They got out of the car, three of them got out of the car, the other one drove around to the parking lot. And, yeah, they, it was like one person held my hands down, they raped me, each one, one after another, and they kept saying, they kept saying, “Yeah, God wants you to know what a real man feels like. ” That’s what they said to me. And, “It just takes a real man to make a woman outta you.” Eventually, they left and I stayed outside and I had some cuts. I remembered, was like on TV, they say don’t take a shower if you get raped. And so I was like, “I can’t take a shower, who do I call?” And I called my mom and talked to her, and told her what had happened, and, yeah, she told me she had basically put a spell on me, (laughing) that I wouldn’t have peace or safety or anything like that, that normal humans get. I didn’t deserve because I was gay and that I, like, basically, without saying it, she told me that the rape was my fault for being gay. I had missed my period and I was like, “No.” Like, “Please don’t let me be,” I tried to take my life. When I got home, I was like, “Oh, “there’s a Planned Parenthood around the corner. ” I went and they told me it was gonna be $300. I ended up taking out a payday loan. I went back to a Planned Parenthood and was like, I’m ready to have an abortion. One of the ladies, this Black woman, I don’t remember her name, but she was the sweetest thing, and she, I had told her what happened to me and how I got pregnant. She called the Rape Crisis Center in Austin, and was like, told them what happened to me and that I didn’t have insurance and that I needed therapy. And I don’t know who paid for it or maybe they had a grant or whatever, but I ended up getting into therapy and seeing a psychiatrist and going to group therapy, actually, after that. So a lot of times, when I talk about my abortion, I say my abortion saved my life. Efforts to limit abortion access are coming from everywhere, the Supreme Court, different state governments, just about every state in the South has some kind of law on the books or either trying to get on the books. I think it’s important to include trans and queer and non-binary folks in the conversations about abortion access. One, because inside of the trans community there is not a lot of talk about abortions or uteruses, especially once people have gone through, like a medical transition, they don’t wanna talk about the past and I feel like, because there are other people, other than women that get abortions, there needs to be people telling their stories cause stories have power. It’s a lot of stigma around abortion. There’s a lot of stigma around being trans, but neither one of those mean we don’t exist. My commitment was, I’m a commitment to loving myself so deeply that others are inspired to love themselves just as deep. And when I started on that journey, it was actually more about young queer and trans youth than it was about me, but it was like, I see people looking at me. I organize with a lot of young, black people. So I was like, “These people are paying attention to me “and they’re watching how I move, so if I want them to know ” “that it’s okay to love themselves, then I have to figure ” out how to love myself.”

Imara Jones: So while everyone dries their eyes, (chuckles) I just wanna welcome us back into the room and welcome Cazembe, whose story that was. Cazembe, thank you so much for joining us tonight and thank you so much for the power of your story and for the courage that it takes to tell it, so grateful. One of the things that I wanted to ask you is what is it like when you see your story? What is it like for you to see, broadcast something that you experienced, and probably have told countless times?

Cazembe Murphy: Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me to be here, today, and yeah, I feel a lot of feelings, watching my story being broadcast like that, but mostly, I think the feeling is pride because it’s a reminder of what, what I’ve been through. And a story of how I was able to find love for myself, through young queer and trans youth. And yeah, there’s a lot of loneliness and sadness in the story, in the beginning, but I think the story ultimately ends, well, I don’t know how it ends, (laughs) thankfully, but I think the story, right now, is, you know, I’m happy and I’m living a good life. And my abortion really did make that possible.

Imara Jones: One of the things that a little bit more about why and for us to be foregrounded and I’m wondering if you can just unpack and often driven by the same forces. and the attacks on abortion rights, And you talk about how important it is anti-trans movement. are really sending you so much love. But one of the things that you talk about for us to be centered, for us, these issues around body autonomy If you look at all of the people in this conversation, in this conversation. is the attacks on trans people now, at the same time, One person said that, “You So I hope that you feel that. speak like Nelson Mandela,” that I think is really powerful, that the people in the chat the anti-abortion movement, they’re all behind the well you say so many powerful things, which are occurring right which is not surprising. who are behind in sponsoring and funding you say in the film, you think it’s so essential.

Cazembe Murphy: Yeah, definitely, that’s a great question. I think yeah, that it’s important to me to understand that there’s nobody who knows more about the need for bodily autonomy than a trans person. It’s like, making a plan for self-determination, for yourself in all the different ways that we do that, as trans people. And abortion rights are also, and reproductive justice, in general, is also about bodily autonomy. Like, we don’t want other people telling us what to do with our bodies, and so I think, you know, Audre Lorde, (laughs) I’m always talking about Audre Lorde, but Audre Lorde said once that, you know, “We don’t live single-issue lives, so we can’t have single-issue movements. ” And that’s why I think it’s important to talk about the intersections of these movements cause we can’t just fight for reproductive rights without fighting for trans rights. Like you said, the same people are funding both anti movements and so it only makes sense, strategically, for us to join together and also be fighting them as a united group.

Imara Jones: Thank you so much for that. Kierra, I wanted to turn to you next because this kind of, the intersection and all of the things that Cazembe just outlined are kind of embodied in you and your work, right? You lead this LGBTQ+ organization that’s designed to fight for our rights, and before that, you had led an organization that was devoted to reproductive justice. And why, for you, is this something that you wanted to make an important issue, and do you see the rest of the fields that you, I guess just left, reproductive justice, understanding these connections that Cazembe outlined.

Kierra Johnson: Yeah, you know, Cazembe, when you were talking about the critical nature of doing this work and intersections, it resonates so much with me. You know, there’s an organized effort, right, coming for us, right? And it’s not coming for us in a single issue way, right? It’s in grand ways, when we’re talking about, you know, self-determination and bodily autonomy, we’re seeing that play out right now, with, you know, abortion bans, preventing gender-affirming care, the policing of Black bodies, right? All of those things are connected and the reason they’re coming after us is that, right, self-determination and bodily autonomy is at the foundation of personal power, right? They know that whoever controls bodies, right, has power, and so we can’t underestimate that, right? Power of information, the power of bodies, the power of engaging in our democracy, it’s not a coincidence that we’re seeing attacks on all of those things, voting rights, the right to protest, right? And so it’s just all so tightly connected. Our movements, in particular LGBTQ movement and reproductive rights, gender justice, women’s rights, is foundational around beating back sexism and misogyny. It’s all about, right, self-determination and bodily autonomy and deciding for ourselves when and if and how and who we have sex with, when and if and how we decide to get pregnant, when if and how we choose to parent and with who. There’s a reason, right, this has been a decades long, maybe centuries long battle, right, and why we’re situated in this space right now and I don’t think there’s a way forward if we’re not thinking about solutions, coming at it from a whole view.

Imara Jones: Mmhmm, do you see the rest of either, you know, LGBTQ+ leadership, I feel so, let me rewind. Do you see the “LGBTQ Inc.,” I guess that’s a better way to describe it versus leadership. LGBTQ Inc., the alphabet organizations, is this something that they’re beginning to focus on as well as, kind of, the mainstream reproductive organizations, like Planned Parenthood and others because, historically, you know, they’ve been not good on (laughs) these issues as well as, you know, a whole host of other issues that intersect that we saw in Cazembe’s piece, including issues around race and economic access and, you know, disability or ability issues. So, I’m just wondering what you’re seeing as a person who communicates with all these people, what you’re, kinda, hearing?

Kierra Johnson: I think there’s definitely been movement, right? Like, you know, what, you know, we’re definitely, right, like I think people are starting to see and feel more coordination and collaboration and curiosity and strategy between these movements, than say 20 years ago, (laughs) and we still have a long way to go, right? I mean, representation, right, isn’t enough, right, like how do we interrogate what, you know, what it means to be culturally competent, right, as people are coming in the door, right? Like what does it mean to be patient or person-centered and forward, right, when someone is walking through the door in need of whatever services, right? Whether that’s birth control or, you know, help because they’re survivors of assault or they’re seeking an abortion, right, people have different needs based on religion, based on where they sit, geographically, right, in our, you know, communities, our country, the world, and based on, you know, sexual orientation and gender identity. And so I’m hopeful, right, I do think I’m seeing more of it, and unfortunately, I think these attacks that are happening across the states are creating opportunities, right, real opportunities for people to step up and step in in a real way, right? You know, you look at Texas, you look at Florida, at the same time we’re seeing anti-trans bills, we’re also seeing abortion bans, right? And those places, we’re also seeing attacks on, right, again, like I said, the right to protest. And so I think, for better or for worse, it is creating opportunities for us to think outside of the box and in a more collaborative, intersectional way.

Imara Jones: Mmhmm. Yeah, I think that all of those are important. By the way, you have received some love for your Britney Griner jersey that is hanging over your shoulder. In the chat, I think that, yes, we are all–

Kierra Johnson: Until she comes home, until she comes home.

Imara Jones: Exactly, exactly. Some of the issues you raised make me, now I think it’s important to bring in Dallas. Dallas, you are a trans person that leads a trans-led health organization that serves rural counties in Massachusetts, you know, places that we don’t normally think about, and one of the things that we know about trans people is kind of as, both Cazembe and Kierra were alluding to, is that trans people, when it comes to reproductive justice, have a full range of needs. You know, we need trans-informed medical care. People need treatment for STIs. People have, need support in birthing. People need access to abortions. And I’m wondering if you can just talk about what you see, both in your practice, the needs of the people that are walking through the door, and where you sit on so many medical faculties, you know, across the United States. You, as a person, are involved in a lot of medical, the medical establishment as, not only a practitioner, but as an academic, what you’re seeing in terms of the conversation around the need for there to be informed care around reproductive justice for trans people in medical schools and amongst, kind of your fellow practitioners.

Dallas Ducar: Yeah, thank you, Imara. Cazembe said there’s really no one who knows more about the need for bodily autonomy than a trans person. And it’s really about making a plan for self-determination. As Kierra said, you know, attacking self-determination is an attack on power. And let me be clear, these attacks, across the United States are attacks, you know, trans rights, reproductive justice are direct attacks on freedom of speech, expression, self-determination. It’s against our first amendment right, right? This is anti-American as well and I think we need to really call that to the fore. I don’t think that that’s really highlighted enough too. So much of healthcare, in general, is really sterile, right? It’s just based on creating safety. It’s not actually based on creating an affirming environment when more people are actually seen, heard, affirmed, and have the creativity to really explore themselves, right? So much of healthcare also is so gendered, right? There are algorithms that are really baked into the electronic medical record based on how you are seen, right, or based on what sex assigned at birth was put in there and really, we have to ask who is making those algorithms, right? Who is at the table that is deciding what those algorithms are, right? In 2019, there was a trans man who was brought to an E.D., we’ll call him Sam, and they really saw him as an obese man, and they didn’t see the fact that he could be pregnant, you know, and for people on T, they may not even know that they’re pregnant. And, you know, menses can stop with testosterone. So he had even taken a home pregnancy test that morning, got a positive result, right, wondered whether it was a false positive, came into the E.D., when he peed himself that morning, and the result of this tragic episode was fetal demise, right? He was heartbroken at the loss of his baby and really suffered a major depressive episode. And that is because the algorithms that were baked into the healthcare system at the beginning, right, when that patient was brought into the emergency department. So we really have to ask who is at the table in creating these systems, right, these healthcare systems, and how do we then change how the healthcare systems are created so they’re not sterile, right, although they should be, they’re not just about safety, but they’re about affirmation, they’re about creating a space where people have the creativity to really be able to explore who they are in an authentic way, right? The direct exclusion, I believe, of trans and queer people, especially in healthcare, and the direct exclusion of those at the margins is, as you said, Imara, a form of violence against our communities, right, and that has impacts, and, you know, whether people are youth or adults and not being able to see themself and their providers or their clinicians. You know, it has wide-ranging implications for the terms that are used and the insurance criteria. They’ve made for, you know, psychological barriers to accessing care and very real structural barriers to accessing care in certain services because so much of healthcare gets gendered whether it’s the clinical algorithms, whether it’s the insurance companies, whether it’s how clinicians are trained to really treat people. And so gender-affirming care, I believe, like abortion care, has to be treated as essential care, not just a, nice-to-have, but really essential. And specifically, the fertility and birth practices, it can be so gendered and there’s so much that clinicians have to unlearn before they can actually do a good job. And so, instead, we really should be starting at the very beginning in medical schools, in nursing schools, in clinical education in general, by really bringing those who are at the margins, who have been pushed to the margins, to the fore to not only just be students, but also to teach, right, and not depend on them to teach, but really to be able to be people who can bring their own life experience as well in creating healthcare systems that actually put those individuals in positions of power where it’s, whether the algorithms, the type of care, or the way we interface with insurance, can actually be changed.

Imara Jones: Yeah, thank you for that. On this issue of abortion care is essential care, as Dallas said. Oriaku, that is one of the essential tenants of ARC, and I’m wondering, for you, if you can talk about, not only your organization, but why you, specifically, decide to work at these, so many different intersections, building an organization that not only is supportive of abortion, but supportive of inclusive abortions and care when it comes to gender identity, working on issues that run into that, raise economic justice, again, disability issues, and on top of that, operating in the South, you know, one of the most hostile places for all of those things, (laughs) in the country. So I’m wondering if you can just talk about where you start, personally, in this? That is to say, why is this something that you have a stake in, and also, why you think the fight, where you’re fighting it, how you’re fighting it. The care that you’re providing is so important.

Oriaku Njoku: Imara, (laughs) that was so much, but so good.

Imara Jones: It was a lot, so you can take bites, you can take whatever part feels right cause it’ll all take you back to the same place.

Oriaku Njoku: Yes, for sure, for sure. So Access Reproductive Care Southeast or ARC -Southeast is a regional reproductive justice organization based in Atlanta, Georgia. And we do our work in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. So, personally, as being a Black queer, Southern, fat, femme, here, in the South, my life crosses so many intersections and it just, to me, seemed like natural to be like, if we’re fighting for folks bodily autonomy, if we’re trying to do this work to make sure that everyone can self-determine what is the best for themselves and their families, we have to include everyone, everyone needs to be included at the table. And so, you know, one of the things that I like to talk about is the distinction between, like having the right and then reproductive justice. So, you know, the right, to me, falls on this binary whether you can choose to be a parent or not to be a parent, or you know, for trans folks, you have rights or you don’t have rights. There’s so much more to it, you cannot talk about reproductive justice or trans justice without acknowledging that economic justice is a thing, that gender justice is important, that you know, access to water and environmental justice is a thing. All of these things come into play to say, like, these are the things that impact our lives everyday. And you know, doing abortion access work in the South, it ain’t easy, y’all, like, (laughs) it is (laughing) it is not easy. It is not easy at all. But, you know, we come from a legacy of folks who have been making sure, you know, in the spirit of mutual aid, making sure that all of us have access to all the things that we want and need, no matter what. And so showing up for community by funding abortions, by providing rides and lodging and childcare and, you know, whatever folks need to get to their appointment. It’s sad that we have to do that because we live in a country that has created systems that were never intended for us to thrive. So for us, it’s like we’re taking it upon ourselves to show up and show out for people in our community. So, you know, (chuckles) it’s really interesting, thinking about how, you know, just reproductive justice, to me, is inherently intersectional because it’s really covering all of the things that impact our lives. And, you know, one of the things that I get excited about, I mean, talking about, especially in this particular moment, talking about abortion access and reproductive justice and trans justice. It’s so easy to fall into this idea of doom and gloom. It’s so easy to be like, what are we doing? What’s gonna happen? We’re gonna lose all our rights. But actually, you know, for me and so many other people, it’s really like, what is the future that we want? What is the future that we are fighting for? We’re fighting for this future where all of us can thrive. We’re fighting for this future where all of us can self-determine what is best for ourselves and our families, without any bias or barriers or anything coming into play. So, you know, and that we have all the resources that we need to thrive. And I feel like that’s how abortion access, you know, not just the right to have an abortion, but to be able to access an abortion, in the same way, not just having the right, but being able to access the things that you need is the distinction that we like to make, doing abortion access work and, you know, even though it sounds like we are in this moment that sounds so horrible, I definitely have hope and definitely believe that if we all come together, we’ll be able to actually make the change that we know is possible for all of our communities.

Imara Jones: Mmhmm, and we know that with abortion access, the access means so many different things, right? It may or may not mean, you know, not only the ability to be able to go to a doctor that’s competent, but if you need to travel out of state, having a place to stay, do you have a person that can go with you, what’s aftercare like, like, this idea of access that under, guards your organization and your work is an expansive one, around access. It’s not legal access, right, it’s access, like in all the ways.

Oriaku Njoku: Yes, definitely. I mean, and for us, it’s so important, even in our intake, you know, a question that we ask is, you know, we want to honor everyone’s gender identity so we’re gonna ask you what your pronouns are. Do you use she her, he him, they them, any combination of those because we want to make sure that not only are we advocating for folks to be able to get abortions, but when you go to the clinics, you will be treated with respect, you will have folks use your right pronouns because we want people to be able to show up wholly and fully and be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what. So, you know? That’s part of the reason, it’s like, not only for me, where I feel like I’m doing this work, but for all of us, honestly.

Imara Jones: Mmhmm. I just want to remind everyone who is participating virtually, that we will be giving you the opportunity to ask questions in the next 10 to 15 minutes, so make sure that you’re thinking about those or already posing those so that we can have those queued up. So this is just a reminder for that. All of you all are organizers, which means, in various ways, that which means that you’re in different spaces with people that may not get the perspectives that you all are articulating, that may not understand why this is important and I’m wondering what you all have heard, among the most shocking things in those rooms, right, like when you brought this up, and secondly, what you say to people when they don’t understand. That is to say, how are you reaching people in terms of understanding why these issues are important? What are you saying to people who don’t immediately get it? And, you know, that could range from people who bring you in to talk, to your colleagues, to somebody that, you know, sitting next to you on a plane and you’re trying to explain, you know, they ask you what you do and you’re trying to explain it to them. I’m wondering, because I think it’s important for everyone to hear how you all are going about reaching people cause that’s one of the key issues in all of this is reaching people who don’t immediately get it. And anyone can start there. I feel like I ought to have the Jeopardy! clock, everyone like looked up, I was like, I don’t have the Jeopardy! clock and like, I think I’ll just have the Jeopardy! music while everyone thinks about their answers. But Dallas, it looks like you had a thought.

Dallas Ducar: Yeah, well I think the most surprising thing to me is when people think that gender for main care is a luxury, it’s an extent, and there’s a lot of individuals that believe that. And that it’s something that’s far off removed or separate from healthcare, in general, when really, you know, gender for main care should be a human right, it should be a staple of healthcare, really. And actually, I believe it leads the way, in terms of what healthcare should look like, in general, affirming care. The way that I try to bring it back to individuals is I try to really get them to think about their own story, their own life and think about what their relationship is to gender, when they first started to discover their own gender, what that was like for them in some way, and then really try to get them to think about the fact that gender touches all facets of life, right? Where we work, how much we get paid, where we might be incarcerated, what type of school you might go to, what early, childhood experiences we have or how we die, right? Gender is really based into so many parts of society and we all have a relationship to gender. And so, I try to bring people to this point where we can say, you know, gender-affirming care is really just patient-centered care. It’s really just, at the end of the day, saying who are you or where are you and how do we help you get to where you wanna be, right? And how do we really respect you, as a whole person. And to me, that is just, it’s so fundamental, that everyone wants patient-centered care so why would we not want affirming care?

Imara Jones: Mmhmm. Other things–

Kierra Johnson: I just wanna exclamation point that, like 22 times. And I also think, you know, we’ve gotten confused, at least, you know, in this country, about, like I don’t need to agree with your individual choices, right? Like I don’t, like I’m not judging Dallas on the, you know, the McDonald’s you ate yesterday and you get a heart transplant, nope, you know? I don’t have to judge Cazembe, right, like on, you know, the sex, right, he’s having or not, right, like I’m not judging Oriaku on the fact that you wanna have seven babies and you want five of them to be girls, right? Like I don’t have to, that’s none of my business and the beauty is I can disagree with all of those things and affirm your humanity and your right to be in community, right, and make decisions with your family, with your faith tradition, with, you know, your partners. And so, I do, I think we get it really, like we don’t have to agree, you don’t have to agree with the fact that I have three partners and one kid and we’re all raising them together, you don’t have to agree. That’s irrelevant. And you know, I just, how do we continue, to your point, Dallas, it’s patient-affirming, centered care and it’s also honoring the humanity of people. My sister, I tell this story and she gave me permission, I know people are like, “You can’t be telling other people’s stories, ” but she told me I could. My sister got pregnant, you know, at 15, 16 years old, right, and I was like, “You are totally having an abortion, right? ” And she was like, “No, I’m not having an abortion.” And I thought that was wrong. I was like, “You are in high school, dude, what are you gonna do? She had, and this is in Florida, she made the right decision and still suffered at the hands of ridicule and judgment and shame, right? Her 16-year-old, brown, young body, walking around with a belly that’s getting bigger, right, walking around with a baby in a stroller, right, having gotten tracked out of high school because the school system decided she wasn’t worth investing in anymore. Right, again, this isn’t about individual choices, right, it is about who gets to decide? Who gets agency over their lives? Same around these decisions, right, you know, in Philadelphia and what was going on with the foster care system. This isn’t about protecting babies. They literally, this institution was denying loving families to kids based on whether or not the parents were in same-gender loving relationships or not. What? And so again, who, like this is not about saving children, this isn’t about morality, this isn’t about protecting women, it isn’t, it’s about who gets to decide and who owns ultimate control over us and whose humanity gets to be affirmed and denied.

Imara Jones: Mmhmm. Anyone else–

Cazembe Murphy: Yes. 

Imara Jones: Go ahead, go Cazembe. 

Cazembe Murphy: I’m like “yes” to everything you said, and I think, for me, when I’m thinking about how to talk to other people about these issues, it’s less for me about, you know, kinda explaining gender or, you know, when I want somebody to understand climate change, I don’t talk to them about the science of it, you know? Or the impact of climate change on us, but I think that I talk to folks about, you know the systems that I think are causing these problems. For example, a white supremacist, like capitalist, hetero-patriarchal system that oppresses a certain type of people, why do you think these people have a harder time or are marginalized, do you think it’s because they actually are inferior, or do you think something else is going on? And the response is always, “No, all of those people can’t be inferior.” It’s not just Black people, it’s not just poor people, it’s not just queer and trans people, it’s not just women, it’s like, it’s everybody who doesn’t fit in that mold and it’s a system that is in place that institutionalizes all of these different laws to control us and to tell us what to do and to continue to oppress us. And so, my job, as an organizer, I feel like, is to be like, “What are we gonna do about it?” Like, “What do you wanna do?” (laughs) How do you wanna fight this? Less about if you understand cause I know you understand. I know you understand that you are facing oppression every day and this gas is $5.00 a gallon, I’m just like (laughs) like you know, you know that you are struggling like everybody else and there is a reason for it and we have to fight it. And I think that requires study and practice. And so my advice would be join an organization or read a book. 

Imara Jones: And that’s that on that. Also, Cazembe, I know there are a lot people who are hearing about this $5.00 gas and wondering where it is, cause they need to get some, so for you, (laughs) you know, like some people are like, “$5.00 gas,” you know, they’ve checked out, they’re trying to find where this is. Oriaku, I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on this, and also, panel, you know, I think we have two questions, so we probably need to go over a little bit. I don’t know if you all have 15 more minutes, if we can go to 7:45, so hoping that that will be okay? But Oriaku, first of all, like we were loving the sun coming through your windows, getting lots of compliments. Then you went off camera, clearly closed the blinds, denying us of our sun, but I’m wondering if you have any thoughts or additions on this issue of how, especially in the South, you know, how you’re engaging people who are in opposition or say they don’t get it or don’t understand or those parts of the puzzle.

Oriaku Njoku: Yeah, this is one of my favorite things to do, especially when we’re talking about abortion access, but one of the things that I firmly believe in is relationship before task. And so, in the South, it is definitely, you know, you’re not just gonna knock on someone’s door and be like, “Hi, how are you,” like, who are you, who are your people, what is up, what do you believe in. And so, for me, when I’m thinking about how to have these conversations, it goes to the values. So I will turn questions back to folks and be like, Do you believe that, you know, “you should be able to determine what is best for yourselves ” and your families? “Do you believe in the human right to bodily autonomy? Do you believe that you should be able to live in safe and sustainable communities without any fear or shame or stigma? And if you’re not wild as hell, your answer is gonna be, yes, yes, you believe in all those things. And so when I’m talking about those values, it’s like, then what makes it different for someone who’s having an abortion or someone who’s trans or someone who’s queer? You can’t say that you believe in all of those things and then make, you know, but not these folks, but not those folks, but not, you can’t do that. You’re not being honest, you’re not being true to yourself and so being able to not only talk about the values, but engage in the conversations. There’s so many times where folks are like, you know, other, you know organizers and folks who I love deeply, but they’ll be like, “Oh, you don’t understand? “I ain’t got time because the struggle is real. ” Like, “I’m gonna keep going, “I actually don’t have time to talk to you. ” But for me, it’s like, it’s worth the grapple, it’s worth having that conversation with folks, it’s worth having you come and sit down on my porch and have some bourbon and sweet tea and talk about it, you know? Like these are the things, these are the ways that we should be talking, and you know, creating those safer and braver spaces for people to talk. Like, we can talk, we don’t have to agree on everything and that is okay. Even when I first started this movement, I was like, “Oh, I want everyone to join. We’re doing this collectively.” Sometimes it’s like, okay, like, if you decide that you’re not about this life, it’s okay, if something eventually changes with you, where you decide, actually, I do believe in all these things, you’re not gonna be canceled, you’re not gonna be discarded, but you’ll be welcomed because we know that we need everyone across several movements to make, you know, this idea of this future of justice, a reality. So, yeah, to me it goes to the values piece and having the conversation.

Imara Jones: So many people are saying that they wanna be on your porch with you. I mean, you know, I had the reaction, I was like, bourbon and sweet tea, like–

Oriaku Njoku: We’re sipping, mmhmm, mmhmm. 

Imara Jones: I don’t know, Dallas, you know, do we have like, you have a medical professional standing by? That was my reaction, everybody else was like, “Sign me up.” So–

Oriaku Njoku: It’s the Kentucky in me, so, yeah. (laughs) 

Imara Jones: Kentucky bourbon, okay, look bright. A couple of things I wanted to center before we turn to the questions, when we use the term, reproductive justice a lot, we just need to say that that term was coined by a Black woman, Loretta Ross, in a famous article where she was arguing for an expansion to include issues of body autonomy and so consequently, this conversation, we wouldn’t be having unless there was someone else, you know, right, here we go, Kierra is holding up that right now. So I just want, I think it’s really important, (clears throat) excuse me, for us to name that as we have this particular conversation. One of the other things that I’ve done is I have failed in my homework with the digital strategist at TransLash so I am gonna do my homework right now. So I promised them that every time I was on a panel or moderated a panel or gave the talk that I would urge people to go to TransLash.org and sign up for our weekly newsletter. So now I’ve done that and I’ve done my homework so when I get asked about it tomorrow, I can say that I’ve done that. (laughs) Make sure that you sign up because we’ll have more films coming out in the series and you can see those and do all those together. So I’ve done my homework and I also just wanted to shout out other partners that we have had in this campaign or other organizations that have supported in addition to our partnership with the Task Force on the National Network of Abortion Funds, the National Birth Equity Collaborative and the Women’s March, as well, have all been involved in some way, as a part of this conversation. As we begin to land the plane, I wanna turn to some of our questions that we’ve gotten from our audience. One of them was about ways that, we had some trans youth in this particular conversation earlier and parents as well who are asking about ways that they can support, learn more, get involved as parents, on these issues around gender identity and body autonomy and reproductive justice. One, I wish that I had a parent who was thinking about those things. (laughs) My life would be so different, but that’s for another panel. I’m wondering what you all think about in terms of, and this is particularly relevant, I think, Dallas and Oriaku, you know, people who have young adults in their lives and they’re trying to figure out the best ways to support them as they decide what’s best for their body. So I don’t know if you have thoughts about that. (bird chirping) I’m definitely getting a Jeopardy! countdown music for the panel. It’s not even a question, I’m gonna have it. If I could sing, I would sing it, but I can’t. Dallas, go ahead, go ahead. You actually probably see young people.

Dallas Ducar: Yes, yeah we– 

Imara Jones: You probably see young people through your practice, so.

Dallas Ducar: Yeah, well we see a lot of youth at Transhealth Northampton, and I will say that, like first and foremost, we just try to create a space that, you know, offers youth the space that they need to be able to be themselves. So many kids are just being traumatized in this world, not being able to express their own identity. I, myself, don’t remember my childhood, likely due to the trauma of not being able to express my own gender identity. So first and foremost, it’s just creating a safe space so that we’re not creating more traumatized adults in the future, honestly, and more than that, too, you know, we have to listen to the bravery of these kids, right, like these kids have, before they come into a clinic, before they tell their friends, before they tell their parents, right, they have researched everything possible, they’ve done their homework, they are the experts of their own life, right? So believe kids, right, trust kids, know that they are so brave in being able to express themselves too. And in terms of resources, I think one of the most helpful resources, especially parents, specifically, is going to other parent groups, if you have the option to, to learn from other parents who have already navigated this experience in one way or another. And one of the amazing things that’s come out of COVID, really, has been a lot of support groups that are able to be virtual now and able to go across state lines and you can just Zoom in. At Transhealth Northampton, we have support groups for all ages that we offer to anyone who has Zoom because you don’t need insurance to be able to access the support group, right? And so I think there are more and more support groups out there, there’s a lot of different health centers out there that are providing them, Transhealth is just one of them. We also have a resources page on our website, which has a lot of pediatric resources too and I think, really, when it comes down to it, it is, you know, parents need to do their work and that is not on the kid to educate the parent, right? When someone comes into our clinic, we ask who’s in crisis, is it really the kid or is it the parent in crisis, right? Because the kids are the experts and they should be celebrated for their bravery and who they are and the parents, often times, need to do their own work, and that starts with connecting with others, hearing stories, and learning from experience, but not having your kid be the expert for you, right? Doing your own work.

Imara Jones: Listen, that’s the answer of the year. It’s the answer of the year, it’s the answer of a lifetime. People just got an entire lesson in parenting (laughs) in that, that was like a whole word, so many things, and also just what you said about childhood trauma and a whole host of other things. So, I’m gonna be journaling tonight, based upon that. One of the questions that we are getting, and have gotten as well, that I think is really powerful and important is, how do people remain positive in this particular climate of attack because not only are these things floating out in the world, but these words, these energies are heard by us, they are absorbed into our bodies and the impact on us physically and in so many other ways, is very real. I know so many people who are at the intersection of abortion rights and trans rights who are just at the breaking point because these attacks are so relentless. You know, I’m constantly amazed the fact that, you know, these bills have really began to take off in 2020 and 2021, and that the right wing, in the middle of a global pandemic, where, in the United States, we would lose 1,000,000 people, their thought was, in all of that, “let’s attack trans kids.” Right, which goes to like the mentality or people who are willing to threaten people and to traumatize people at their most vulnerable moment when they go into an abortion clinic. Like I really think that there’s something corrupt in people that do that. I shouldn’t say that, but I really do. So I think that there’s a lot to be examined there. But all of this has an impact on us and so how do you all remain positive?

Oriaku Njoku: I’ll answer this, because this is one of my–

Imara Jones: Besides bourbon. (laughs) 

Oriaku Njoku: Oh yeah, besides bourbon, I’m obnoxiously optimistic. So, you know, but not in a way (laughs) that’s just like, you know, it’s one of those things where I’m like, I’m honoring the realness of this moment that we’re in and as my partner says, (laughs) they’re like, “I play to win. I’m not on a losing team.” This idea that the opposition has this moral high ground is a farce, that is not the truth. And so, you know, what keeps me going is being like, one, I know we do have the moral high ground. Two, (chuckles) those folks are wild, but we can be just as wild too. I also think the opposition is not creative. We know what their playbook is. You know, you’ve seen all their things coming down Main Street, you know, we know what they’re gonna do because they’ve consistently been doing the same thing for decades. They copy and paste legislation. They’re like, oh, let’s see who could do it worse than the other. It is literally not creative. It is not innovative, but we are. And so for me, when I’m thinking about, like, how do I stay grounded, again, it’s like, what future do we want? It’s not just for future generations, but I deserve, we all deserve to live in a world where, you know, we can live without fear or shame or stigma. We all deserve to live in a world where we have access to all the things that we want and need and deserve, no matter what. So for me, I’m like I’m playing to win, I’m playing the long game. This is not just a reaction to this particular moment, but this is a longterm investment in making sure that we change the material conditions of all of us so we can all be able to thrive. You know, and therapy helps stay grounded, (laughing) as well, you know, making sure that you have a community of people to talk to, we’ve just gotta hold each other up in that way. Yeah so, it’s like yes, it sucks, it’s horrible, and there’s this future that we want and see and we could totally get there, you know?

Imara Jones: Yeah, and nothing in life ever comes without a fight, right? I mean, it’s one of the reasons why I think that we’re actually well-equipped for this moment because in order for me to be me, in order for Cazembe to be him, in order for Dallas to be themselves, in order for everyone to be who we are in this panel, we all had to engage in incredible battles. (laughing) right, most of which never were seen or televised. And there is something within our being that knows how to move in this moment, even if it’s really hard. So I think that’s really important. Okay, one question for everyone and this will have to be our last question. Clearly, we could go on for a lot more time. The only thing that would make this better is bourbon, maybe, but besides that, I’m actually having a pretty good time tonight, but everyone here has time limits and you all have time limits that we need to respect. So this will be our last question, sadly. Just a reminder that if you miss any part of this or you wish to share this with the people who are not in the room, you will be able to do that through a link. This is being recorded and we’ll share that and so you can make sure to be able to do that more broadly. But our last question comes from the Q & A function. I think it’s so important, and that is, “how do you find joy in your work?” I host a podcast, the TransLash Podcast, and no matter what the topic is, we begin every single episode with trans joy, someone, something, some idea that is at work in our community, making it better, so that we always ground in joy. And so this particular question elates me. What, for each of you, and everybody’s gonna answer this, what are the things that bring you joy in your work?

Cazembe Murphy: I think, and I’m sorry about the lighting, I don’t know if you all can still see me, (chuckles) but I think what brings me joy in my work is truly recognizing the power of organizing and the power that we, like, I read an article today that was like, “It’s more of us than it is of them.” And like, like it’s powerful, it’s magical, and, like it’s nothing that we can’t do, you know? And so as I’m doing my work, a question I’m constantly asking myself is like, “is this making an impact,” like “is this shifting the narrative, is this gonna bring awareness to something,” those kind of things, and I honestly think the biggest thing that brings me joy in my work is being able to do this work. Like, it’s definitely a privilege and an honor to get to do panels like this or, you know, get to work with young, queer and trans folks. It’s a blessing. And so I think, you know, I don’t know what other feeling I could get from doing this kind of work.

Imara Jones: So beautiful. Joy, what brings the rest of you joy, as you do this work?

Kierra Johnson: I agree with you, Cazembe, I’m so grateful, right, that I get to do this work, right, even when it’s hard, even when I get rundown, even when I get angry and frustrated and cuss at these stupid people, asking our soon to be Justice, dumbass questions, right? Like I’m so grateful that I get to be in community and in relationship, right, with the folks I work with, the folks I get to engage with out in the community and the field and spaces like this. And those moments when you’re engaged with people and there’s like an “Aha,” moment, right? Like, I’ve got power, right, like, I actually get to decide and to choose and to be and to act and to disrupt and to make impact, right? And those moments are like mind blowing for me and it just fuels me and this last little story, I’ll tell you, I’ve told this story a few times, my 11- year-old, in the 6th grade, and he’s learning science root words, right, like ology, right like, you know, psyche, bi was one of the words. They go into class, they have to say a word, right, using the root word and then explain what it is and my 11 year old goes, bisexual, in a 6th grade class, (laughing) and then explains what this is and it was just normal, like my gender, non-conforming kid is talking about bisexuality in their 6th grade class and isn’t feeling like popping their collar, but also isn’t ashamed or shy about it. It’s just normal and that is not about me, right, that’s about us, and that is impact. That’s real impact.

Oriaku Njoku: Mm, I find so much joy in this work on so many different levels, whether that’s the joy in resistance, that brings me a lot of joy, being like, no, we’re doing this. Oh, you all think that you can keep introducing legislation and that’s okay? It may take us a bit, but just hold my purse. So that is something that gives me a lot of joy. The other thing is, you know, working at a direct service organization where we acknowledge that direct service is community care, but in order for us to care for community, we have to care for ourselves as well. And so being able to see the folks that I work with embody unconditional, radical, revolutionary love when talking to each other, when talking to folks in community, when supporting people get their abortions, these are things that bring me so much joy. And also, that like, when you’re talking to someone on the phone and they weren’t sure how they were getting to their appointment, who’s gonna watch their kids, you know, when they’re thinking about, how am I gonna pay these hundreds of dollars for an abortion and we’re like, This is what we can contribute. Or, “We’ve got the rest of your procedure.” That sigh of relief, that just like, “oh my gosh,” the weight that ends up being lifted off of people’s shoulders, that brings me so much joy in a way that I’m like, yeah, we gotta keep doing this, we have to keep doing this, there’s no way that we can stop. Everyone deserves to feel this level of joy and pleasure and peace and happiness, every, single day. So, you know, I can’t help but center joy, (laughs) in everything that I do because, you know, it’s almost like my reaction to all of the negativity that keeps coming at us from all different sides. It’s like, “No, y’all are not gonna steal my joy, “y’all are not gonna take me down, I’m committed to this joy.” So.

Dallas Ducar: At Transhealth Northampton, we use Slack and we have a Slack channel called Things That Make Us Happy, and it’s just filled with the coolest stuff everyday. Like it’s the most popular Slack channel, right? And just some of the examples are like, when your best friend gets you the best nail polish, and it’s so glittery, or like, my little gay self would be so proud of where I am today, right, or, you know, like look at these cool, amazing stickers that have come in, right? Or, you know, a cool quotation, I feel like the last 18 1/2 years of my life led me here. Or, you know, someone at the front desk hearing joyous shouts in the hallway as someone leaves with their first bag of needles and sharps container, right? Like, there’s just so much pervasive joy that has come out of something so simple, which is just a place for people to share their experiences and community with each other. And so I just get so much joy from community, from all of these individual experiences that come together, whether it’s patients, whether it’s families, whether it’s from life experiences, you know, the ability for someone to show up to work in a crop top at Transhealth, right, like that is, you know, just being able to be who they are, being able to change their name and pronouns, it’s no big deal, right? That just normalizing the ability to be yourself, right, and to be able to breath easy, that brings me so much, so much joy. And I will also say, the kids, the kids are all right. There’s so much cool, I don’t go on TikTok, but I’ve been recently exposed to TikTok and I’ve seen so many cool things from so many different queer kiddos around the world and I am just like, oh, the future is good, y’all.

Imara Jones: Yeah, and it’s our job, as adults, to make sure that it stays good for them, right? That’s our job. And, you know, at least you didn’t say “The TikTok,” Dallas, right, like, I didn’t know what it is, it’s like I went to The TikTok and they showed me these people. (pair laughing) So, you’re still, you’re still in the game, you know, you’re still in the game.

Dallas Ducar: Yes. 

Imara Jones: On this issue of joy, right before we close, I heard a TikTok personality say something, actually, in a TikTok video, that happiness is a joy, as a result of something that has happened in the world. Joy is for joy’s sake. Right, that is to say, that fundamentally, the ability for us to feel joy and connect it is within us and is contained within us and that’s a really powerful notion, even as we engage in the fight to make the world a better place, in a world as Oriaku said, that wasn’t built for anyone who is on this panel tonight and engaged in this conversation. We’re still here. Well, I wanna thank you all for still being here, even though we went over 20 minutes, nobody left, (laughs) which is good. Thank you all very much for hanging in there. Thank you for this conversation about the intersections of reproductive justice and gender identity and racial justice and economic justice and issues around ableism. I think this conversation is the future. This is where we need to inhabit, this is where we need to be and learning from the experiences of trans people in the fight for body autonomy, I think, is an essential, regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court. So I hope that everyone will follow each of you and follow your work. Again, you’ll be able to watch this again and to share it with people who weren’t able to be here. This fight isn’t going anywhere, we’re not going anywhere, so hopefully this conversation will continue and is just the beginning, as it were, when there’s a reset on these rights, when we hear from the Supreme Court. We’re still gonna be here the next day. So thank you all so much. Please make sure to follow the Task Force, make sure that you follow TransLash at TransLash Media, across all platforms. We have more Trans Choices, Trans Bodies content because there’s still, what, eight days left in the Trans Month of Visibility. So we have eight days more of trans bodies, trans content coming out. And everyone, have a great evening and be safe. Thank you so much. The lights came on, for Cazembe, right at the end.

Trans Bodies, Trans Choices Online Townhall: Resources

Trans Bodies, Trans Choices Films

Getting an Abortion

  • Under 18 and need an abortion + free legal representation for judicial bypass? Call or text Jane’s Due Process: 1-866-999-5263
  • The National Network of Abortion Funds connects abortion seekers with grassroots organizations that can support financial and logistical needs here
  • Tips on how to choose a good abortion provider and questions to ask a clinic
  • The Brigid Alliance arranges and funds travel, along with related needs, to support individuals across the country who are forced to travel for later abortion care. 

For Clinicians and Providers 

Calls to Action

  • Sign on and Demand #AbortionWithinReach: Abortion funds have come together to deliver an unprecedented bold statement, explicitly identifying what it means for abortion to be truly accessible for our callers. As we shine a light on these demands, we also want to spotlight independent clinics, who are our partners on the front lines giving support and care to abortion seekers. Independent clinics perform the majority of abortions in the U.S., and show up big as plaintiffs in the monumental cases of the past few years. 
  • Expand the Supreme Court & Save Abortion Rights. Sign the petition here.
  • Talk about abortion! Change culture and shift stigma through powerful, values-based conversations. We believe dialogue, storytelling, and intentional conversations are powerful tools to organize and strengthen our movement. This guide for heart-to-heart abortion conversations from NNAF   and this toolkit from Chicago Abortion Fund will support you to hold a small group gathering, house party, or action space where you can invite your friends, family, and acquaintances into meaningful conversations about abortion, issues that relate to abortion, and why you support abortion funds.
  • Support the Black reproductive justice policy agenda, which outlines proactive policy solutions to address issues at the intersections of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity within the situational impacts of economics, politics and culture that make up the lived experiences of Black women, femmes, girls and gender-expansive individuals in the United States.
  • Invest in long-term sustainable models of care that supplement existing structures of support and center the expertise of those who have been laying this groundwork for years so that communities have reliable support systems that contribute to one’s current and future ability to thrive. 
  • We urge all individuals knowledgeable about a person’s reproductive choices to make a commitment to not – under any circumstances – punish, criminalize or report any person for any pregnancy decision or seeking medical assistance for a decision. This includes abortion funders, public health authorities, clinicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, and community members.

Resources on Pregnancy as a Transgender Person

‘Trans Bodies, Trans Choices’ Press

Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donation.

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Rep. Paul Gosar was among those spreading a baseless rumor that the shooter responsible for the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was... transgender. #Uvalde #UvaldeMassacre #transtwitter
https://www.newsweek.com/salvador-ramos-transgender-rumors-spread-like-wildfire-despite-no-evidence-1709867

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