SESTA/FOSTA: Doing More Harm than Intended 

By Katia Acierno

On April 11th, 2018, Donald Trump signed two bills: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, together known as SESTA/FOSTA. The two bills were meant to clarify sex trafficking laws, in hopes to target websites that may knowingly assist, facilitate, or support sex trafficking. The law amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects online platforms from being held liable for the content posted by their users. By amending Section 230, SESTA/FOSTA now holds online platforms liable for sexual service ads or “promoting sex work” on their sites, thus allowing law enforcement to prosecute such cases. SESTA/FOSTA has received backlash from sex workers, distinct from sex trafficked victims, as their work is consensual and commercial. Sex workers argue that online platforms allow them to engage in their work safely and offer an online source of information and communication.  

SESTA/FOSTA was passed to disrupt, fragment, and shrink the online sex work marketplace to prevent the exploitation of human trafficking victims. While the efficacy of the laws is yet to be collected and analyzed, its catastrophic effects have already been felt. According to the Fordham Law Review, SESTA/FOSTAs immediate effects have not fulfilled its initial promise. Instead, it had devastating consequences for individuals performing commercial sexual services under consensual and coercive circumstances alike. By holding online platforms responsible for the content of its users, SESTA/FOSTA has halted important means of communication that sex workers have grown to rely on. According to one article that interviewed online sex workers, “Being able to source clients from an online space gives sex workers more space to negotiate with a client while our work is still criminalized…It just gives you more space to make a decision before getting in a car” (Tung, 2020). In addition, online platforms are utilized by sex workers to curate blacklists to warn other sex workers of harmful or dangerous clients, create electronic databases of clients, and communicate to one another about safe spaces, and other health and safety tips. Without such vital communication and warnings, sex workers are either displaced to working the streets or unknowingly place themselves in the hands of dangerous clients. Sex work conducted on the street is more dangerous and lethal compared to other forms of sex work, especially online sex work, as it doesn’t allow an opportunity for the sex worker to negotiate. According to a 2017 study, Craigslist provided an “erotic services” section to its front page, allowing sex workers to advertise and solicit sex services. The erotic services section reduced the female homicide rate by 17.4%, a direct result caused by street sex workers moving indoors and online (Henderson, 2018). 

SESTA/FOSTA, as aforementioned, harms the sex work community, and likewise, harms efforts to prosecute sex trafficking and locate sex trafficking victims. Firstly, SESTA/FOSTA operates under the presumption that eliminating access to sex websites will strike the sex trafficking industry. Instead, it diverts otherwise U.S.-regulated websites to offshore websites, where U.S. law no longer has jurisdiction, thus solicitors and facilitators of human trafficking are not held responsible. In addition, online platforms allow law enforcement to easily track and document sex trafficking victims through photographs and forms of identification provided by such websites. Lastly, SESTA/FOSTA assumes that where “prostitution” and sex work are found, human sex trafficking is to follow, but it is not clear that such an implication is true. SESTA/FOSTAs promised goal to curb sex trafficking has caused extensive consequences for consensual sex workers, which arguably outweighs its intended premonition. 

While SESTA/FOSTA has successfully such down websites, like Backpage, that knowingly facilitated human sex trafficking, it’s unclear whether the collateral consequences to sex workers and other human trafficking victims are worth its minimal payoff. 

Works Cited 

Blunt, Danielle, and Ariel Wolf. “ERASED: The Impact of FOSTA-SESTA and the Removal of Backpage on SEX Workers: Anti-Trafficking Review.” Anti, April 27, 2020. https://www.antitraffickingreview.org/index.php/atrjournal/article/view/448/364.

Chamberlain, Lura. “FOSTA: A Hostile Law with a Human Cost.” FLASH: The Fordham Law Archive of Scholarship and History. Fordham Law Review, 2019. https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/flr/vol87/iss5/13/.

Henderson, David, Scott Sumner, and David Henderson. “Craigslist Reduced Female Homicide Rate by over One Sixth.” Econlib, April 5, 2018. https://www.econlib.org/archives/2018/01/craigslist_redu.html.

Tung, Liz. “FOSTA-SESTA Was Supposed to Thwart Sex Trafficking. Instead, It’s Sparked a Movement.” WHYY. WHYY, July 10, 2020. https://whyy.org/segments/fosta-sesta-was-supposed-to-thwart-sex-trafficking-instead-its-sparked-a-movement/. 

Transgender Participation in Sports

By Kanade Shiono

The Women’s Sports Policy Working Group is known as a pioneer in the fight for equal participation in sports games. Members include professional tennis player, Martina Navratilova, Olympic gold medal swimmers, Donna de Varona and Nancy Hogshead-Makar, and other world-class athletes and influential sports leaders. With an initiative to change the way transgender girls and women participate in women’s sports, the group announced that transgender girls and women in high school sports and above should be required to suppress testosterone levels for at least one year before the competitions. They suggested accommodations such as separated races, podiums, or teams for transgender girls in high school who do not suppress testosterone levels. Although they claimed that their proposals were scientifically supported, whether testosterone levels directly affect athletic performance remains unclear.

A study shows that testosterone-blocking hormone therapy has a significant effect on physical strengths. It found that after 4 months of hormone therapy, transwomen’s  Hgb/HCT (Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells and hematocrit is a measurement of the amount of red blood cells as related to total blood cell count) levels were equivalent to those of cisgender women. After 12 months of hormone therapy, significant decreases in measures of strength, LBM (Lean Body Mass), and muscle area were observed. However, transwomen’s LBM and muscle area were higher than those of cisgender women, even after 36 months of hormone therapy. These results suggest that testosterone-blocking hormone therapy can reduce Hgb levels, but it does not reduce transwomen’s physical strengths. 

On the contrary, bioethics at Yale University, Katrina Karkazis, claims that the notion that transgender women have advantages in competing because of their high testosterone levels is not always true. She says that “it’s an artifact of the ideology of testosterone that we continue to believe that it drives aggression, because aggression has been framed as a masculine behavior and testosterone has been framed as a masculine hormone.” She explains that testosterone can help build lean muscle mass, and increase red blood cells that carry oxygen, but there is no clear relationship between testosterone levels in athletes and their athletic performance. 

Furthermore, the idea that transgender individuals have an advantage in physical performance fails to consider the fact that they are more likely to suffer from high rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidality, which could negatively affect their training and performance in competition. They also face significant health and economic hardships than cisgender adults. Transgender Americans have significantly lower employment rates, lower incomes, and higher rates of living in poverty,  lower rates of having a good self-rates of health than cisgender Americans. 

Although  research may seem to support that hormone therapy can help with maintaining equality among participants in sports games, we need to consider a variety of factors such as socioeconomic status, effects on mental health, and education to achieve equality, fairness, and justice for a transgender individual in athletic sports. 

Voting Restrictions and POC

By Niko Skaperdas

Elections have been on the minds of Americans since the events of 2020 and the subsequent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. With the passing of laws tightening access to polls in states like Georgia after alleged voting fraud (though there has been no corroborated evidence of such from voting audits), the question of impact is now on the minds of politicians and activists who see these restrictions as a new form of voter suppression that disproportionately affect Black-Indigineous people of color. 

This subject is a sore one in the American consciousness as centuries of systemic voter suppression have left districts misrepresented and many citizens apathetic and disillusioned to the American democratic process. With access to the polls being a major focus as of late, the capitalistic ethos of American public policy forces the question of how access affects the economy and what would be the impact of establishing federal voting days as holidays so wage workers would have access to the polls. 

The new voting restrictions come in the wake of high mail in and absentee voting in the 2020 election. As former deep republican states began to turn democratic and ultimately handed Joe Biden a victory, conservative lawmakers claimed election fraud. These calls snowballed into legislative action in 13 states, where 30 laws have been passed to restrict the ease of absentee and mail in voting, according to the Brennan Center (Brennan Center). These laws, while neutral on their face, hold restrictions that target individuals who are the least likely to vote in the first place. Wage working people of color are the least likely to vote as they are the most likely to suffer from voter apathy and discouragement according to Pew Research Institute (Pew). 

Laws such as those passed in Georgia see additional photo ID requirements, limits the window for absentee ballots, and diminishes ballot drop locations throughout the state, according to the Associated Press. Outrage has been expressed over the institution of a new chair of the state election board by the legislature, which increases partisan influence on election integrity. Laws like this come across as reactionary as Georgia saw a massive increase to its voter base in the 2020 election thanks to the efforts of Stacey Abrahms registering 800,000 non-voters for the first time. Many of these voters identify as black and/or POC. This group that was once silent in the state of Georgia became a force that thwarted Conservative expectations (Associated Press). 

With state legislatures passing laws like those in Georgia, the question arises of how voting restrictions can be blocked or circumvented. Obviously, any government that silences the voices of a specific group of people is not a true democracy and systemic protections should be put in place at the federal level to protect voting rights. However, this seems to be an aspiration rather than a tangible goal (Britannica). 

A popular idea that has circulated recently is the concept of making voting days a federal holiday. While this would increase overall voter turnout (as shown in Belgium with 87% of citizens casting ballots compared to the US’s 44%), blue collar and wage workers would not be protected as federal holidays have no jurisdiction over private businesses. Holding voting on weekends would be similar as many wage workers work then. Doing so, according to Annie McDonald, Editor of the Berkeley Public Policy Journal, would disadvantage low income workers even more and misrepresent districts as only higher income individuals with jobs that observe federal holidays would have access. Retail employees may even face higher hours and less access to the polls as many stores run holiday sales which increase customer turnover and lead to managers scheduling employees for more hours (Britannica). 

The ideal situation to block voter suppression is to enact federal legislation that protects early and absentee voting in both public and private enterprises. Every American deserves the opportunity to have their voice heard. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act are currently held for Senate approval after passing the House of Representatives. These laws would protect against voting restrictions that primarily affect BIPOC individuals. The onus is also on private companies to allow their employees to vote during a potential work day. Public policy should guide corporate actions, not the reverse. The United States has a long history of voter suppression in marginalized communities, but there is absolutely no reason any citizen’s voice in 2021 should be silenced for someone’s political gain. 

Sources

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/filling-voting-rights-hole-left-scotus-shelby-county-v-holder

https://www.procon.org/headlines/election-day-national-holiday-top-3-pros-and-cons/

https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-legislature-bills-state-elections-voting-rights-b2b014cc81894a50fc513168a5f1d0b8?fbclid=IwAR2znSpL57spcsk7mFQzqRuar-v1CCh-UNok_tqVs8Hc5yBf5YX7Xk-WIj0

Isolation and Loneliness: The LGBTQ Experience in STEM

By Sasha Novozhilova

STEM professions have always been regarded as some of the most challenging and demanding, yet very desirable career paths. As the median STEM income has risen to hundreds of thousands of dollars, majors in such fields have quickly climbed the lists of top most popular college degrees despite their extreme difficulty and selectivity. In fact, for many, particularly those in the LGBTQ community, inclusivity may be a factor in the initial choice of a STEM career. At first glance, science and research seem quite objective, allowing for inclusivity towards groups that have been traditionally marginalized in fields such as business, consulting, entertainment, etc. However, that is far from reality. Upon further inspection, the image of objectivity and strict professionalism based on merit rather than personal characteristics is quickly shattered, giving way to subtle discrimination towards the community based on the specifics of research culture.

When it comes to gender and sexuality discrimination in STEM, one of the biggest barriers preventing progress in eradicating it is the lack of information on the discriminatory practices. While there has been great progress made in terms of helping other marginalized groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, thrive in STEM, that hasn’t been the case for the LGBTQ community. Until recently, there simply hasn’t been enough research coverage on what kind of challenges the LGBTQ community faces in the field. Hence, despite the rise of the movement against gender discrimination, STEM has been primarily left out of any real progress.

Why might that be? There are two main factors possibly contributing to the lack of studies, as described by the 2020 article by Jonathan Freeman titled “Measuring and Resolving LGBTQ Disparities in STEM.” First, in general, STEM education literature sees sexual and gender identity as “an irrelevant demographic detail” rather than an important part of one’s social identity, excluding it from studies on discriminatory practices. Second, even with the desire to collect research regarding discrimination in STEM, “major NSF funding mechanisms for STEM education research are geared toward studying traditionally studied underrepresented groups (example: race), with investigators only able to study other groups if they can provide evidence for those groups’ underrepresentation.” However, as previously stated, there isn’t a lot of research regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation in the first place, making it difficult to prove that such practices take place. As such, finding the resources to survey the LGBTQ community in STEM about their experience becomes increasingly difficult.

Thankfully, in recent years, advocates have managed to collect some surveys regarding the LGBTQ experience in STEM, and it proves that gender discrimination isn’t limited to business fields. According to an article by Holly Else for Nature.com, a 2021 survey of 25,000 researchers has found that LGBTQ scientists are more likely to experience harassment and career obstacles than their non-LGBTQ colleagues. For some more concrete statistics, we can turn to another survey referenced by Else, conducted by sociologists Erin Cech at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Tom Waidzunas at Temple University, collected from members of 21 scientific societies. The survey found that LGBTQ scientists were in general “less likely to report opportunities to develop their skills and access to the resources required to do their jobs well [and] 20% more likely than non-LGBTQ colleagues to have experienced some kind of professional devaluation” (Cech, Waidzunas). Moreover, those practices extend beyond the professionals’ work life, affecting their physical and mental health, with “LGBTQ researchers 41% more likely to have had trouble sleeping and 30% more likely to have experienced symptoms of depression than their peers over the past 12 months.” Ultimately, this leads to a “leaky pipeline,” with about 22% of current STEM LGBTQ minority employees expressing wishes to exit the industry (Freeman).

So, what is the reason for these practices? Why does a fairly objective field that focuses on one’s merit rather than connections tend to discriminate based on one’s identity? Well, the issue could lie in that objectivity and the culture within STEM. In general, according to Freeman’s article, scientists tend to value being “impersonal, objective, data-driven, emotionless, apolitical, and non-ideological” in their co-workers, which aligns perfectly well with the practical elements of academia and research. This type of attitude prioritizes professional life over personal life, discouraging researchers from sharing any personal characteristics, such as gender identity or sexual orientation. As such, it may be difficult for incoming students, researchers, professors, and other positions in STEM to find mentors or to feel connected to anyone in the field, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Hence, the culture itself promotes a certain level of conformity in terms of values and personal characteristics, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity. As such, sharing these attributes may be regarded as unprofessional, degrading members of the LGBTQ community in STEM.

Now that we have established the problem, what can be done to help solve it and ensure the comfort of LGBTQ scientists and researchers? The answer may be quite simple and it lies in one concept: visibility. Finding mentors and role models in one’s field would help LGBTQ researchers and students feel more welcome and comfortable, while also promoting a culture of openness, thus increasing retention. The best and possibly easiest way to achieve this level of visibility is through education. According to Mary Hoelscher for GLSEN, “LGBT high school seniors whose STEM curriculum included positive LGBT content are twice as likely to choose a college major in those fields” as reported by one of GLSEN’s recent research reports. There are multiple historical role models for LGBTQ students to look up to in STEM that could easily be included in the science curriculum, notable examples being Alan Turing and Sally Ride. Disclosing these figures’ sexuality alongside their great achievements would teach students to feel proud of their identity and encourage them to disclose it in professional settings. Beyond education, establishing networks for LGBTQ scientists to connect would alleviate marginalization and loneliness. For example, the SETAC North America 40th Annual Meeting introduced pronoun stickers new to the conference to help establish an inclusive environment and avoid confusion about one’s identity.

While there’s still lots to do to achieve equality in STEM, even such small steps will help create an atmosphere of openness and inclusion, increasing employee retention and the comfort of LGBTQ minority workers. An overall shift in STEM professional culture is more likely to help alleviate discriminatory practices in the long run, and that could be achieved with more funding for research surveys and reports on the LGBTQ experience and further mentoring opportunities for students entering the field. The progress made in business fields in eradicating workplace discrimination makes me confident that the STEM field will one day feel very inclusive.

Resources:

Else, Holly. “Largest-ever survey exposes career obstacles for LGBTQ scientists.” Nature News. January 27, 2021. Accessed June 20, 2021. 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00221-w

Freeman, Jonathan B. “Measuring and Resolving LGBTQ Disparities in STEM.” Behavioural and Brain Sciences Vol. 20. 

Hoelscher, Mary. “Why (and How) STEM Curriculum Needs to Be LGBT Inclusive.” GLSEN. June 20, 2021

https://www.glsen.org/blog/why-and-how-stem-curriculum-needs-be-lgbt-inclusive

Cech, E. A. Waidzunas, T. J. “Systemic inequalities for LGBTQ professionals in STEM.” Science Advances. January 15, 2021. Accessed: June 20, 2021.

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/3/eabe0933

Miller, Ezra. “LGBTQ+ Experiences in STEM.” SETAC, Vol. 21, Issue 7. July 30, 2020. Accessed: June 20, 2021.

Internship Privilege in the Upper Middle Class

By Nisha Sweet

Summer has finally arrived, the time where college students can enjoy their time off from busy classes and exams to enjoy their… internships? Many college students, especially those eager to enter into an area of business after their undergraduate experience, spend painstaking months throughout the year researching, networking, applying, and interviewing for top tier internships that are sure to make them stand out to future employers and ultimately put them in an advantageous position to excel in the post-grad world. This seems to be a normal trajectory for the vast majority of those in higher education, where internships act as a pre-requesite for attaining a job. However, the demanding nature of the internship process is much more selective than being simply “qualified” for the position. Socioeconomic status plays a large role in the inequity of accessibility and feasibility of landing one of these sought after internships, pushing the upper middle class ahead, and leaving many of those of lower socioeconomic status to either scrape by and make sacrifices, or scramble after graduation. The American dream promises the access and attainability of social mobility, but the infrastructure and transition of higher education to an entry level job makes this difficult. Addressing problematic issues such as unpaid internships, opportunity costs, connections will help to shed light on a few of the inequities present in the relationship of social class and the internship process.

Unpaid internships, even for those that can afford them, are upsetting. Unpaid internships makeup 43% of the internship job opportunities in the United States, according to Washington Post. Although the Department of Labor has outlined extensive expectations and rules for employers engaging in hiring unpaid interns, some of the rules associated with this process act to only benefit the employer, rather than protect the intern. One of these primary beneficiary tests to address the relationship status of intern to employer states “the extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern”. This enforces that interns can go unpaid as long as it is not work that is usually done by an employee. The issue within this is that oftentimes, unpaid internships are often tied to smaller companies. These are the companies where there are few employees, so oftentimes, the interns are doing real work that would have to be done regardless of position in the company. Sometimes unpaid internships are offered at prestigious companies where the opportunity would be hard to pass up. Unpaid internships are usually paired with the reward of receiving college credit, making the experience directly linked to being essential to educational value. Bottomline, many unpaid internships are used by companies to source free or low cost labor under the guise of providing essential skills to students desperately seeking whatever experience they can find or to students drawn to the prestige of a top company- because lets be honest, an unpaid internship is not anyone’s first choice. If you are an upper middle class student, a position being unpaid is only a slight disappointment; receiving that college credit acts as an extension of the benefits of tuition paid by parents, and oftentimes upper middle class families have the privilege of not having to worry about paying for their child’s living costs and can prioritize the importance of gaining experience in the corporate world. 

But what about the students for whom unpaid internships are not just a disappointment – but rather a struggle or even impossible? For students who are economically disadvantaged or have thousands of dollars of debt, finding the financial resources or time to intern for free are concerns. In a study across five post-secondary institutions reflecting different geographic locations, student body characteristics, and institutional missions: of 676 students who answered “no” to having participated in an internship in the last 12 months, the most common reason that prevented students from taking an internship was the need to work at their current paid job (60%) (https://wcer.wisc.edu/docs/working-papers/WCER_Working_Paper_No_2019_8.pdf). For many working class students, the opportunity cost of continuing to work at their full or part time jobs are the potential doors of opportunity that the internship would open. However, this is a cost many have to endure in order to provide for themselves and maintain their student status, further enforcing the glass ceiling of social mobility. Another factor influencing mobility in a more literal sense is geographic location of internships. Many internships require the intern to relocate (usually to a city) to work at a company’s branch or headquarters. This requires transportation costs and housing costs that many students would not be able to afford. According to a study performed at a University in the UK, “Middle class students interviewed were both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the role of internships in their career development, whereas working class students were more likely to be critical of internships and viewed them—even high quality, well-paid internships—as an exploitative waste of time, using highly emotive language to describe internships such as ‘slave labour’and ‘exploitation’. (O’Connor, H., & Bodicoat, M. (2017). Exploitation or opportunity? Student perceptions of internships in enhancing employability skills. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 38(4), 435–449.) The semantics associated with internships shows the stark difference in perception of how internships benefit or hurt students across different socioeconomic classes. Overall, the opportunity of internships greatly benefits students who can afford it. Students who cannot afford unpaid internships are left behind, making it more difficult to climb the corporate ladder due to financial priorities.

Another set of barriers to internship participation include sociocultural factors such as social and professional networks. These networks are important because they represent channels through which information, resources, and social affirmation—also known as social capital—can flow and grant prestige to well-connected students (https://wcer.wisc.edu/docs/working-papers/WCER_Working_Paper_No_2019_8.pdf). This is especially tied to industries that are more difficult to break into than others such as finance, consulting, and creative industries. Some students are lucky to have these connections and social capital through family and friends and have less need to spend time seeking out connections to help them along the way. It is an open secret that nepotism is core to attaining careers in the creative industries but not everyone has the same privileges of access to friends or relatives with power or influence (Interning and Investing: Rethinking Unpaid Work, Social Capital, and the “Human Capital Regime”). Students whose parents or friends who are already well established in professional cultures and networks will have an advantage over those who lack access to such communities, creating another barrier for first generation, minority, and working class students to cross.

The extent to which employers rely on internship experience deepens and perpetuates structural inequities. With the pandemic negatively affecting those of lower socioeconomic status and in many cases boosting the wealth of upper middle class and upper class, while also making it less likely for companies to hire interns due to costs and efficiencies, it has been harder than ever for the working class to achieve the desirable internship status. Creating and promoting company wide diversity recruitment programs in industries where internships are prerequisites will greatly help those heavily influenced by financial obligations to break through the glass ceiling. Universities providing adequate resources and connections associated with different industries will help students create their own social capital and become their own self starter. Finally, social mobility is only possible through security. Interns and employees who are comfortable in their pay and company culture will be more likely to provide their time, service and attention to companies which will provide for mutual success.

Healthcare Disparities For TGNC

By Tiffany Jeong

Our generation has never experienced a circumstance as universal as the COVID-19 pandemic; but we know that the impacts are not felt equally. Now more than ever, mainstream media has been more attentive to health inequities in communities of color. A recent article published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that black and Latino Americans are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. While it is necessary to address these health disparities, there is still more work we need to do simultaneously in our pursuit of health equity. As we approach the anniversary of America’s first COVID-19 lockdowns, we want to call attention to transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people whose needs and vulnerabilities we have not attended to.

The complex relationship between TGNC and the healthcare system begins at birth when providers medicalize gender by imposing a binary sex classification based on anatomical features. Sex assignment at birth is both a product and producer of the gender binary. This social construct, which is widely accepted as normal, has shaped modern medical practice. A prominent example of this is the standard of care for babies who are intersex. The term intersex refers to those who are born with a combination of male and female sexual characteristics. Many providers in the past fifty years have recommended gender aligning surgeries at an early age to protect intersex children from psychological hardship, although these intentions are not substantiated in the literature. These procedures are often unnecessary, irreversible, and may result in sterilization without the consent of the child. One woman who discovered she was intersex well in to her adult life explains “this way I was treated was never about me—it was about my doctor and my parents and everyone feeling uncomfortable with how my body was.”(Human Rights Watch, 2017).

TGNC face barriers to receiving healthcare on multiple levels. Systemically their access to healthcare is at the mercy of the political administration. After the Trump era, the government does not hold insurance companies and healthcare providers accountable for discriminatory actions; and can deny TGNC gender-transition services or care that is consistent with their gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace results in many transgender people being low income and unable to afford private medical coverage. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people who are trans do not have health insurance and are less likely overall to have healthcare coverage than their cis counterparts (Dickey et al., 2016). Even with insurance, 19% of TGNC have been refused medical care (Grant et al.,2011). This staggering figure calls attention to the interpersonal discrimination that is permitted by cisnormative healthcare systems. 

While collectively TGNC are vulnerable to these care gaps, it is important to not erase individuals’ experience by over-generalizing. Race, socioeconomic status, and congruency of gender presentation with assigned sex complicate the discussion of anti-TGNC discrimination in healthcare. Transgender people of color experience significantly more anti-transgender discrimination across healthcare settings (Kattari et al, 2017). Furthermore, TGNC whose gender presentation is perceived as very congruent with their birth-assigned sex reported better health and fewer long-term mental health problems (Rider et al, 2018). Some TGNC have expressed a desire to conceal their gender in healthcare settings. While code-switching may confer comfortability, providers who are unaware that a patient is TGNC may make unsuitable health recommendations.

Negative experiences in the healthcare system can lead to feelings of shame and anticipation of rejection. In one population-based study, researchers found that transgender and gender non-conforming adolescents report poorer health and fewer preventative health visits than their cisgender counterparts (Rider et al, 2018). These health disparities continue into adulthood for TGNC individuals (Dickey et al, 2016). A global health crisis may amplify these care gaps. While variable across states, qualification for a vaccine is determined by healthcare providers in most cases. Previous studies have shown the unique barriers to accessing preventative healthcare for TGNC and suggest TGNC communities may not get vaccinated against COVID-19 at the same rate as their cis counterparts. 

The movement towards trans-affirmative healthcare needs to be multifocal. One survey found that 50% of TGNC reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care (Grant et al.,2011). To overcome the knowledge deficit, there need to be changes in professional school curriculum and continuing education for healthcare providers that includes treatment of TGNC. Additionally, we need to take large steps by politically opposing policies that permit TGNC discrimination from insurance companies and medical providers. Our current understanding supports that TGNC avoidance of the healthcare system can be moderated by adequate access to health insurance (Dickey et al., 2016). Lastly, one small step I encourage everyone to take is introducing yourself to healthcare providers with your preferred pronouns. When gender identity is not part of the conversation, trans folks are excluded. It may feel “strange,” for cisgender people to do this. But by taking on this small amount of discomfort, you are creating space for TGNC in our healthcare system. 

Dickey, Lore M, Budge, Stephanie L, Katz-Wise, Sabra L, and Garza, Michael V. “Health Disparities in the Transgender Community: Exploring Differences in Insurance Coverage.” Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity 3, no. 3 (2016): 275-82.

Grant JM, Mottet LM, Tanis J, Harrison J, Herman J, Keisling M. “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” Education Week 30, no. 20 (2011): 5.

Kattari, Shanna K, Walls, N. Eugene, Whitfield, Darren L, and Langenderfer Magruder, Lisa. “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Experiences of Discrimination in Accessing Social Services Among Transgender/Gender-Nonconforming People.” Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work 26, no. 3 (2017): 217-35.

Kcomt, Luisa, Gorey, Kevin M, Barrett, Betty Jo, and McCabe, Sean Esteban. “Healthcare Avoidance Due to Anticipated Discrimination among Transgender People: A Call to Create Trans-affirmative Environments.” SSM – Population Health 11 (2020): 100608.

Maksut, Jessica L, Sanchez, Travis H, Wiginton, John Mark, Scheim, Ayden I, Logie, Carmen H, Zlotorzynska, Maria, Lyons, Carrie E, and Baral, Stefan D. “Gender Identity and Sexual Behavior Stigmas, Severe Psychological Distress, and Suicidality in an Online Sample of Transgender Women in the United States.” Annals of Epidemiology 52 (2020): 15-22.

Rider GN, McMorris BJ, Gower AL, et al. Health and Care Utilization of Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Youth: A Population-Based Study. Pediatrics. 2018;141(3): e20171683

White Hughto, Jaclyn M, Reisner, Sari L, and Pachankis, John E. “Transgender Stigma and Health: A Critical Review of Stigma Determinants, Mechanisms, and Interventions.” Social Science & Medicine 147 (2015): 222-31.

QAnon, Space Lasers, and Insurrections: How Toxic Masculinity is the Foundation of Right Wing Extremism

By Niko Skaperdas

In recent years, there has been a global rise in right wing conservatism. In regards to America, it followed the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. With the ascension of Trump as a “conservative” icon, there has been a rise in radical conspiracy theories with subjects ranging from Jewish Space Lasers causing wildfires in California, to Democratic fueled media figures consuming the blood of infants and children in anti-aging rituals. 

While these theories are baseless, harmful, and fueled by lies, they also show an insidious divide in the means by which Americans gather and disseminate information. These conspiracy theories are spread through various websites, message channels, and online forums. Many of these channels target young people, specifically boys aged 12 through 15. This process of radicalization that has been dubbed “The Alt-Right Pipeline” has its foundations in conservative politics. However, these ideas move beyond the scope of American Conservatism and into the realms of white supremacy, facism, extreme xenophobia, and deep rooted rejections of institutions. 

In a discussion of any forms of youth radicalization, it is important to understand the methods of extremist groups no matter their geographic location or ideology, and how they are used to attract and radicalize young people. The UN reports two main categories as the cause of young people joining radical groups: (1) personal situations and (2) propaganda fueled answers to difficult questions. The former reason sees those living at or below the poverty line, in unstable domestic situations, and in close geographic proximity to extremist groups as the most vulnerable to radicalization. Factors like these leave wounds open that can be preyed on by extremist propaganda.

This leads into the effect propaganda has on vulnerable youth, often coming in the form of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The path down the Alt Right pipeline is gradual and can happen to any person with an internet connection. The pipeline generally follows this route:

  1. Watching of conservative speakers, liking of “dark humor” memes, usage of conservative leaning apps like iFunny
  2. Joining communities, forums, and message channels to share ideas 
  3. Contributing to extremist ideas and the perpetuation of conspiracy theories

The outset of this process is actually founded in admiration of speech and debate. Figures like Ben Shapiro act as a gateway to radical ideology. These speakers are strong debaters which garners admiration from these young men. The gradual descent to extremism does not happen overnight but the more time spent within these ideological echo chambers, the more radicalized these boys can become. The SAGE journal for Youth and Society explains how extremist groups use social media to gather a massive audience, giving an “in group” to people who would otherwise feel as though they are excluded due to their beliefs. The creation of an “in group” like this also emphasizes a perception of marginalization.

This is extremely relevant in the United States. According to a 2019 American University study, American conservatives see themselves as a marginalized group facing severe societal discrimination. The idea generally follows this line of reasoning: 

1. America was created on the work of white christian heterosexual men. 

2. Men are being pushed out by immigrants and women in professional

and political spheres. 

3.  Society and politics have turned on men in favor of racial and ethnic minorities. 

4. Men are being policed for ideology and language unfairly and people are too “politically correct”. 

This line of logic is understandable once it is broken down to the core issue being men feel as though they are left behind by society. In the past, history, science, philosophy, art, politics (and basically everything else) was controlled in most parts of the world by white men. Studies out of McGill university show that these men have not adapted to a more accepting society and feel as though they have the power to still control all aspects of life. In many situations, these men feel entitled to power they have not earned as they were taught in their own exceptionalism due purely to the fact they were born — a large holdover of the humanist ideologies of the Renaissance. However, when they inevitably realize that they have no power in the larger scheme of the world, they become frustrated by their situation rather than internally reflecting on why they feel they deserve to be in power, as internal reflection is a major point of weakness in American men propagated by societal norms.

Understanding toxic masculinity helps to explain one of the foundations of the Alt Right movement in young american men. They have created an out group for themselves because they feel as though society is shunning them. The reality of the situation sees them in more positions of power, having the highest net worth, and shaping the majority of American policy. The Alt right movement facilitates this ideology by not only emphasizing these male fears of being pushed out but blaming it on racial minorities, the queer community, Jewish people, and immigrants. By uniting these boys under this imagined oppression they have created an in-group for themselves which then leads to a runaway effect of harmful ideas.

Another concerning point in these online communities is the creation of ideological echo chambers. Studies on political fragmentation on social media out of Oxford University found that these echo chambers could be the source of these extremely harmful conspiracy theories like QAnon and act as a serious threat to global democracy. They place a heavy distrust in the ability of the people to be aware of “the truth” in government. This ultimately leads to incidents like the burning of ballot boxes or the insurrection of January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol. This runaway effect causes for conservative ideas to become extremist ideas which leads to the creation of Neo Nazis and the storming of the Capitol to disrupt a presidential election. Individuals become less and less sensitive to extreme ideas and then find themselves in criminal situations.

While this situation seems bleak, there is a glimmer of home in the terrifying events of the past year. The events of January 6 have fueled the removal of applications used by extremists like Parlor and the banning of individuals with extreme ideas from other social media platforms. These communities are now more difficult for young boys to stumble into but they could fuel the feeling of marginalization in extremist groups. However, the majority of Americans and more specifically parents see the events of the past year have encouraged a better understanding of what teenagers are looking at online. The youth trends of androgyny and the rejection of gender norms also help to protect some teenagers from this process of radicalization. For the 2020 election, young people politically mobilized better than they ever have, showing a real trend of understanding politics and being up to date on trustworthy news. 

The Multifaceted Identity of VP-Elect Kamala Harris and its Implications

By Tyler Jett

As a multiethnic, mixed-race woman, vice president-elect Kamala Harris has shattered numerous glass ceilings throughout her political career. However, during her four years, Harris will be under the spotlight for her confrontation of the nation’s deeply fortified racial divide as the Democratic party scrambles to address the entrenched systemic issues in the United States.

Born to an Indian Tamil Brahmin mother and Jamaican immigrant father who met in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Harris is the first female vice president-elect and the first Black, South Asian, and Caribbean person in history to win the second-highest US office. Harris’s remarkable ascent follows the increasingly diverse trend in the Democratic party and suggests a future Democratic ticket of two white men is improbable. The Kerry-Edwards ticket in the 2004 election was the last time the Democrats selected an all-white, all-male suite. The embracement of diversity in such a high position of global power is simultaneously an emblem of American progress and a grim admonition of the looming systemic racial challenges. The Biden-Harris victory was welcomed with palpable relief after four tumultuous years of Trumpism fueled by racially inflammatory rhetoric, provoking division, and encouraging White supremacist-terrorist groups. A monumental 81 million voters secured the election victory for Biden-Harris, exceeding any other presidential candidate in history. Yet, Trump’s 74 million ballots, an increase of 11 million from 2016, underscores the reality that his supporters are apathetic towards his bigotry.

As both Senator and vice president-elect, Harris has championed progressive policies of criminal justice reform; however, her legacy as a career prosecutor begets contention. Preceding her 2016 Senate win, Harris served as California as a prosecutor, district attorney, and attorney general positions in which the self-proclaimed “top cop” ratified a myriad of controversial judicial decisions that impacted the greatest victims of bias in the American criminal justice system — Black males. One in three Black boys born today can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Her record came under scrutiny during her failed presidential campaign in 2019. 

The implications of electing an architect of the prison industrial complex — who endorsed further police financing — and a career prosecutor amid calls to defund the police in the longest and most sustained movement for black lives against police violence unveil the wickedness and grossly performative nature of American politics. Harris’s “tough on crime” politics followed the popular and bipartisan trend at the, yet her stance simply worked to expand the carceral superstructure and harm communities of color. Within her first three years as district attorney, the conviction rate in San Francisco soared from 52 to 67 percent. She spearheaded the war on truancy that led to the prosecution of parents of children missed ten percent of school days https, defended the vicious Three Strikes Law in California which implies a life sentence to many of those convicted of a minor felony. She denied gender reaffirming surgery to trans inmates and fought attempts to hold police accountable for shootings.

Despite their mixed records on criminal justice issues, the Biden-Harris team endorse relatively aggressive criminal justice reform plans. Harris also touts a more progressive record in Congress, especially in criticizing Trump’s immigration policy and cosponsoring police reform bills that won her praise. Unfortunately, her identity as a biracial woman makes her a target for supporters of Trumpism. The former top cop will likely continue to break barriers and fearlessly tackle the obstacles ahead. Harris is an inspiration to young women of color everywhere, yet the question becomes whether their idol will reunite a violently divided America.

Works Cited

Canavan, Eileen J., FEC § (2005). 

https://www.fec.gov/resources/cms-content/documents/federalelections2004.pdf.

Hakim, Danny, Stephanie Saul, and Richard A. Oppel. “’Top Cop’ Kamala Harris’s Record 

of Policing the Police.” The New York Times. The New York Times, August 9, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/09/us/politics/kamala-harris-policing.html.

JACINTO, Leela. “VP-Elect Kamala Harris Ticks Many Firsts, but the Old Problem of 

Racism Still Lurks.” France 24. France 24, November 10, 2020. https://www.france24.com/en/americas/20201110-vp-elect-kamala-harris-ticks-many-firsts-but-the-old-problem-of-racism-still-lurks.

Judicial Council of California. “California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law.” California 

Courts. The Judicial Branch of California, May 2017. https://www.courts.ca.gov/20142.htm.

Kim, Catherine, and Zack Stanton. “What You Need to Know about Kamala Harris.” 

POLITICO. POLITICO, August 24, 2020. https://www.politico.eu/article/kamala-harris-what-you-need-to-know/.

Lopez, German. “Kamala Harris’s Controversial Record on Criminal Justice, Explained.” 

Vox. Vox, January 23, 2019. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/1/23/18184192/kamala-harris-president-campaign-criminal-justice-record.

Oliphant, James. “Kamala Harris Breaks Barriers as America’s next Vice President.” 

Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 7, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-harris-profile-newsmaker/kamala-harris-breaks-barriers-as-americas-next-vice-president-idUSKBN27N0M3.

Staff, ACLU. “Mass Incarceration.” American Civil Liberties Union. American Civil 

Liberties Union, 2020. https://www.aclu.org/issues/smart-justice/mass-incarceration/mass-incarceration-animated-series.

“Understanding the Election: AP.” Associated Press. Accessed December 2, 2020. 

https://www.ap.org/media-center/understanding-the-election.

Wilton, Phil. “Kamala Harris Should Take Bolder Action on Police Shootings, Civil Rights 

Advocates Say.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2016. https://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-ca-harris-police-shootings-20160118-story.html. 

Diversity in Leadership: an Illusion or Reality?

By Krizia Pascuccio

The absence of gender diversity in leadership positions has been a prominent feature of the American mainstream business culture. What has been done to address this issue? Why is it important to stakeholders? How did it become so relevant? 

To answer these questions, let’s break down a few critical initiatives starting from 1964. After President Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson continued to tirelessly advocate for legislation that would address a lack of civil rights enforcement in society and the business arena. Although many groups opposed his ideologies, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, outlawing for the first time in history discrimination based on color, race, sex, religion, and national origin. It also supported substantial efforts to create what we now know as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces laws that make discrimination illegal in any workplace situation, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits. 

Another influential initiative was the Workforce 2000 of 1987, an investigative report that consisted of projecting how the US economy would look like in the early 2000s in terms of demographics, gender, and industry. Although it included different growth scenarios as more central topics, it considered challenging integrating a continually changing workforce. The Hudson Institute coordinated the efforts under the direct supervision of the US Department of Labor to not only comprehend what the new millennium needs and wants would be like, but also to understand the new composition of the workforce. The report accurately predicted that women would become an indispensable part of the American workforce shaping more than 40% of US workers in the 1990s, with a 2% increase by the early 2000s, which indicates that although women’s oppression has come a long way, a woman’s salary will reach its cap earnings of 66% in comparison to what a man earns. The report analyzes that other types of minorities will become more prevalent, including African-Americans and Hispanics, which will make up about 15% of the workforce. Nearly 30 years later, the general population comprises 40% women and 60% men identifying as 78% white, 12.3% black, 6.3% Asian, and 17.3 % Latino. 

After the report Workforce 2000 was written, the US experienced a decline in the advancement of gender equality at work that, according to Harvard Business Review, is mainly attributed to a lack of gender integration initiatives from managers. Workers must have a mirroring image of themselves in a leadership position, whether it is managerial or at the C-suite level, not only because they would gain relatable role models, but also because studies show that women and other diverse groups are the most significant agents of change and growth in the workplace. According to Harvard Business Review, from 1980 until the 2010s, 2.6 million managerial positions were filled by women, with a comprehensive change of nearly 90%. Another hopeful statistic shows that minority groups within women have been growing impressively over the past few years; women of color, historically underrepresented in managerial positions, have been filling 18% of these new leadership positions (Scarborough, 2019). 

The good news is that numbers are growing in favor of diversity. The bad news is that, in some instances, diversity seems to be taking place in a segregated way. 

What does this mean? 

In the 1980s, women were not prominent in any managerial position whatsoever. For example, education’s workforce was and still is considered a female sector, but it was mainly managed and organized by men. Nearly 40 years later, fields such as education, human resources, or real estate are strongly female-dominated, with 70% female managers. Although important but not surprising, fields such as industrial production or transportation services are still led by an overwhelming majority of men (Scarborough, 2019). 

Ultimately, a diverse pool of workers, managers, and executives enrich any given company with a greater degree of talent. According to Forbes, inclusiveness is directly related to profitability; in fact, many perspectives stemming from different cultures, genders, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and so much more tangibly enrich companies by increasing the customer base attracted (Discovery, 2018). Lastly, many of these efforts and positive changes have led to the creation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees (DEI) that are now pilasters of America’s most successful companies. Catalyzing change, educating employees and employers, and leading otherwise absent or difficult conversations all stand at the forefront of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees. 

Breaking down barriers: Diversity and inclusion in the C-suite. (n.d.). Retrieved November 01, 2020, from https://www.financierworldwide.com/breaking-down-barriers-diversity-and-inclusion-in-the-c-suite 

Discovery, R. (2018, August 22). Why Workplace Diversity Is So Important, And Why It’s So Hard To Achieve. Retrieved November 01, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/rsmdiscovery/2018/08/22/why-workplace-diversity-is-so-important-and-why-its-so-hard-to-achieve/?sh=29eb36653096 

Johnston. (2019, May 15). Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century. Retrieved November 01, 2020, from https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/legislation-policy/naappd/workforce-2000-work-and-workers-for-the-21st-century 

 Scarborough, W. (2019, November 22). What the Data Says About Women in Management Between 1980 and 2010. Retrieved November 01, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2018/02/what-the-data-says-about-women-in-management-between-1980-and-2010 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (n.d.). Retrieved November 01, 2020, from https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/title-vii-civil-rights-act-1964 

The Notorious RBG

Since her appointment in 1993 to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been a warrior for gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights. Her passing leaves many cases open to appeal, putting the rights of many at risk of being lost on the national level. While she was a staunch advocate for gender equality and queer rights, her track record in regards to American Black, Indigenous, People of Color was less than ideal. It is important that Ginsberg’s entirety of a character is remembered, not just what fits in with the idea of a liberal justice who constantly fought for the rights of women, and that included the mention of her less than stellar record on cases regarding racial minorities.

Ginsberg has a tumultuous road to becoming the Justice she is remembered as. From family matters placing her career on hold to caring for her husband Martin through his cancer diagnosis as a law student. Her ascension was a unique one, as a woman, and was wrought with gender discrimination and sexism. This later saw her in teaching and advocacy positions, arguing six separate cases before the highest court in the land on the topic of gender discrimination. This notoriety in both the legal and academic worlds saw her appointment to the US Court of Appeals by President Carter in 1980 and her eventual appointment to Supreme Court Justice in 1993 by President Clinton (Oyez).

From the beginning of her career on the bench, Ginsberg maintained the role of advocate. Her most notable cases regarding gender discrimination include United States v. Virginia Military Institute, Ledbetter v. Goodyear, and Obergefell v. Hodges. These cases all included instances of discrimination on the basis of sex. US v. Virginia Military Institute saw a state owned institution deny women from attending, a clear violation of the fourteenth amendment’s equal protection clause, setting a precedent for all state institutions to not discriminate based on gender. Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire saw Ginsberg in the dissenting minority. Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer, Goodyear Tire, for paying her less than her male counter parts. The case was reversed by the Supreme Court as it occurred outside the 180 day limitation period. She criticized the all male majority, stating “The court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination”. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Ginsberg was in the 5-4 majority, voting to allow same sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The case in and of itself was a case on gender discrimination, as the majority opinion by Justice Kennedy states, as the gender of the two individuals who wished to get married was what blocked them from legal marriage. This again was a violation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause (Oyez).

Even when Justice Ginsberg was in the dissenting minority of a case, she was staunch in her opinions and advocacy for gender equality, earning her the nickname “The Notorious RBG”. While she is a hero for feminists, specifically those who identify as Caucasian, Justice Ginsberg held a mixed history on the topics of race. She was a major critic of football player Colin Kaepernick, who chose to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality. Her office, clerking, and general staff lacked much of the diversity that is called for in the modern day. Her decisions regarding indigenous land rights, according to the Ohio State Law Journal, describes how Justice Ginsberg was closed off to the traditions of Native American and their value of the land as a member of the American Civil Liberty Union’s executive committee in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez (The Marshall Project) (Ohio State Law Journal).

Justice Ginsberg is a perfect example appreciating figures in the context of their whole body of work. Was she a warrior for gender equality? Yes. Was she the perfect advocate justice she is often portrayed as in popular culture? No. However, Justice Ginsberg did so much good for the United States, setting precedents that allow for queer people to marry and gender discrimination to be lessened. She was not perfect, but it is impossible to find a player in the production of history that was.

Her dying wish was that she would not be replaced on the bench until after the results of the 2020 election. President Trump has openly stated he will do everything in his power to place a new justice in her place. While the president may not respect Justice Ginsberg’s final wish and legacy, the United States will hold her as an icon of gender equality in its history. May Justice Ginsberg’s memory be eternal and may her legacy never be forgotten.

https://www.oyez.org/justices/ruth_bader_ginsburg

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/09/23/rbg-s-mixed-record-on-race-and-criminal-justice