What Biden’s executive orders mean for Transgender lives in America

What Biden’s executive orders mean for Transgender lives in America



What Biden’s executive orders mean for Transgender lives in America

the transgender flag
deepthi suresh stand news

4th March 2021


On the day Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, he signed a flurry of executive orders that reversed many of the discriminatory policies implemented by the preceding Trump administration. Included in these timely executive orders is the restoration of rights to transgender people and all members of the LGBTQ+ community.


Following on from an administration which stripped away the rights of transgender people, it’s clear that Biden has a real opportunity here to make lasting change when it comes to protecting transgender rights into the future.


From day one Biden has made quite an impact, but there is still a long way to go to address the damage and chaos caused by Trump that directly affected the lives of transgender people in the US over the past four years.


By doing all he could to narrow the legal definition of discrimination on the basis of sex, Trump denied trans people their rights and essential protections across multiple policy areas including military, healthcare and education.


In July 2017, through a series of tweets, Trump announced that the United States Government would no longer allow or accept transgender people serving in the US military. In April 2019 the ban came into effect, despite a number of legal challenges and objections from human rights activists.


What did this mean for aspiring trans military service members? Essentially, any person who had already transitioned to a different gender, was in need of hormone treatment, or was diagnosed with ‘gender dysphoria’ was now banned from enlisting in the US military.


Within one week of becoming President, Biden had already signed executive order 14004 ‘Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform’, reversing Trump’s military ban, meaning that those who identify as transgender will now be allowed to join and serve in the military in their self-identified gender.


According to the White House, ‘‘President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity.’’ The executive order also calls for the immediate identification of any service members who were ‘‘involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity.’’ This executive order will have a major impact on the lives of trans people whose dreams and goals of serving in the military will no longer be put on hold because of discriminatory government policies.


In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a rule was finalized by Trump to rescind protections against discrimination for trans people when it comes to access to healthcare and health insurance. By only accepting that ‘sex discrimination’ refers to discrimination faced for being male or female, protections for transgender people against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity would no longer have existed.


Deputy Executive Director of the National Centre for Transgender Equality, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, explained the precarious nature of this decision to The New York Times, highlighting how ‘‘[t]his rule opens a door for a medical provider to turn someone away for a Covid-19 test just because they happen to be transgender.”


In the historic Bostock vs. Clayton County case in 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights, covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.


While Trump’s Justice Department did little to uphold this ruling, Biden, within less than 24 hours as President of the United States, signed executive order 13988 ‘Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.’


President of the Human Rights Campaign Alphonso David has called this executive order the most ‘‘substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.’’ He also highlighted the undoubtable impact of Biden’s actions: ‘‘By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life.’’


“The Equality Act, which was just passed by the House on February 25th, would officially amend the Civil Rights Act to specifically include protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.”


A massive step towards essential transgender representation in government was also made when Biden announced Dr Rachel Levine as his nomination for assistant secretary of health in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If confirmed, she will become the first openly transgender person to be Senate-confirmed for a governmental role. This is a hugely important development, particularly considering the attempts of the HHS to dismantle healthcare protection for trans people during the Trump administration.


President and CEO of GLAAD Sarah Kate Ellis welcomed the announcement and told The Hill: ‘‘Under Secretary Azar, HHS rolled back healthcare protections for transgender Americans and regularly engaged in policy attacks on other marginalized communities. With Dr. Rachel Levine’s nomination, HHS is now set to be home to the first transgender Senate-confirmed federal official, a truly historic and deserved piece of visibility for transgender Americans.”


Although the executive orders signed by Biden are a welcome first step when it comes to tackling gender identity discrimination in the US, the question must be asked about what can be done in the long-run to ensure the rights of trans people are promoted and upheld?


If Biden is serious about making lasting changes when it comes to the preservation of rights and enhancement of protections for trans people, he will have to work with the Senate and House of Representatives in order to pass legislation through Congress and ensure that the crucial developments being made now cannot be easily revoked by other presidents in the future.


The Equality Act, which was just passed by the House on February 25th, would officially amend the Civil Rights Act to specifically include protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. However, passing the bill in the Senate could prove more of a challenge. Although Vice-President Harris has the tie-breaking vote, both Democrats and Republicans have fifty seats each meaning there is no guarantee that the bill will secure the requisite number of votes to pass.


Something must be done. The rights of US citizens are at stake. Now is the time to push forward and establish universal protections and laws so that the rights of transgender people will never be questioned or invalidated again.



Featured Photo from Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


Why you should watch- It’s a Sin.

Why you should watch- It’s a Sin.



Why you should watch- It’s a Sin.

photo of the characters from it's a sin
deepthi suresh stand news

3rd March 2021


With lockdown continuing, there is an endless list of series and movie recommendations to entertain us in this time of boredom. From murder mysteries to reality houses, we can easily switch off our brains and mindlessly watch. However, lockdown also creates a new-found pressure of productiveness, It’s a Sin is a series that will not only make you laugh but will also educate you on a topic avoided in most mainstream medias.


It’s a Sin is a 5-episode long series found on Chanel 4 detailing the lives of a group of friends in the LGTBQI+ community in London during the 1980s. Their lives are laid out in these five episodes, hitting hard the reality the UK AIDS crisis really had on this community and what they lost. A series with a light-hearted tone, but dealing with such a devastating diagnosis, can be quite hard to pull off, but It’s a Sin really allows you to fall in love with these quirky characters, only to worry about them all when the threat of AIDS comes to London.


“Everyone can contract HIV. Some babies are born with it. But in the 1980s, it was only the gay community who were shamed for it.”


The UK Aids crisis was a period borne from misunderstandings and uneducated rumours. At the time of its arrival in the UK, AIDS ran rampant in the gay community, and those infected were hidden away. Being that it affected mainly gay men, there was an internalised sense of shame and guilt brought onto the homosexual community that excluded them from the rest of the society. This association also led to medical advances and understanding of the condition not being made a priority, as it was believed it only infected the gay community. There is the wide majority of people in our society to this day that still think only people from the LGBTQI+ community can contract HIV.


Everyone can contract HIV. Some babies are born with it. But in the 1980s, it was only the gay community who were shamed for it.


Speaking as an ally of the LGBTQI+ community, I would like to say that this series creates an insightful portrayal of the struggle these characters faced, a struggle to be recognised and cared about in their own society. While watching the series, there is an anger that builds in you. You want these characters to live healthy, fear-free lives, with no worry of this virus, but slowly you realise this crisis was called a crisis for a reason. It is disheartening to watch as the extent of the damage suffered by these communities was also ignored, as it was friends and families from these underrepresented communities that primarily experienced the condition.


The series truthfully reveals to us how excluded and ostracised the community was made to feel in the UK, and sheds light on the treatment received by those infected, where 1980s societal standards could not allow for compassion for a man who slept with another man.


As we live through our own pandemic experience, It’s a Sin should be at the top of everyone’s recommendation list, as although it has its sad moments, it creates such colourful characters, reminding us all of the humanity behind the AIDS crisis.



Featured Photo from @LukeCustardtv on Twitter


Schitt’s Creek: Why Patrick’s and David’s love story is so important

Schitt’s Creek: Why Patrick’s and David’s love story is so important



Schitt’s Creek: Why Patrick’s and David’s love story is so important

poster from the show Schitt's creek
ellen mcveigh

Ciara Phelan

2nd February 2021


Queer representation in mainstream media, especially the portrayal of queer relationships, is limited but growing. Since the 1990s, with the coming-out of Ellen DeGeneres, television producers have included queer narrative in their stories, but have struggled to do the LGBTQ+ community justice in the portrayal of their love and relationships. Although many shows have included same-sex relationships as part of a major storyline, no show, in my opinion, has shown the normality of queer relations like Schitt’s Creek.


Schitt’s Creek is a Canadian sitcom, created in 2015, which quickly rose to fame in recent months, following the winning of a whopping nine Emmy awards in 2020. The series follows the Rose family and their rapid transition from wealthy socialites to bankruptcy – their only asset being the town of Schitt’s Creek, which was bought as a joke. As the family comes to terms with middle-class, small-town life, they come into various, hilarious conflicts. By overcoming these various hardships, the Rose family are all well-respected, active members in their new community by the final seasons of the show. The two adult children, David and Alexis, brilliantly played by Dan Levy and Annie Murphy, both go on to achieve their own successes, as they learn the true value of work, money, and the relationships around them. David, who is openly pansexual from the offset, blossoms from a spoiled man-child to an entrepreneur and a husband in an adoring relationship. David’s relationship with Patrick grows organically in front of the viewers and is one of the most genuinely real queer relationships on television.


In the third season of the show, David is given the lease agreement to the recently closed-down General Store, which he transforms into Rose Apothecary. Although he has an eye for design, he relies on his business partner, Patrick Brewer (played by Noah Reid), for the administration and legality of the business’s endeavours. This business relationship develops into a romantic one in a way that is heart-warming but carefully thought-out. The writers of the show successfully maintained a teenage-innocence to their story, despite both men being in their 30s. Following their first kiss, Patrick reveals that he had never kissed a man before, and was nervous due to his lack of experience. Although David was publicly out as pansexual, and has had relations with men in the past, he never belittles or judges Patrick.  Research by the Pew Research Centre has shown that LGBTQ+ adults are coming out earlier in life, but Patrick’s coming-out story in his 30s is embraced by both the Schitt’s Creek residents, and the viewers. We see all aspects of Patrick coming to terms with his sexuality, including coming out to his parents, which only serves to deepen the viewers’ affection for him.


The two men never shy away from intimacy. Affection between heterosexual couples on television is nothing new, but Schitt’s Creek is slowly changing the way in which homosexual relationships are portrayed on television. A kiss between a man and woman is expected and accepted on television, regardless of the genre of the show, but LGBTQ+ characters are not given the same opportunities to express their love openly and comfortably on the big screen. David and Patrick are not reluctant when it comes to displaying their fondness for one another, regularly holding hands, or sharing a kiss. The most tender of these moments being when Patrick sings “Simply the Best” – an absolute classic – at the Rose Apothecary Open Mic Night. Although singing to a room full of Schitt’s Creek residents, Patrick is undoubtedly singing to David, moving both David and his mother, Moira (played by actress Catherine O’Hara) to unscripted tears.



Patrick and David in a recent scene, from Twitter


The most stable and loving gay relationships on TV, like Mitch and Cam in Modern Family or Captain Holt and Kevin in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, are rarely seen holding hands, kissing, or displaying any sort of physical closeness to each other. Although these shows are normalising the airing of LGBTQ+ couples on television, they fail to feature this vital element of their relationship. On the other side of the spectrum, Orange is the New Black portrays raw, uncensored lesbian relationships. These relationships are fleeting though, with the surviving couples having to tolerate high levels of toxicity in the relationship. Dan Levy told Out Magazine:

“Writers’ rooms and television studios paint gay love stories with a different brush than they do straight love stories. There’s more caution as to how intimate you can be. It was my intention with this relationship to never once question whether we were taking it too far.”

The writers of Schitt’s Creek strike a perfect balance between love and struggle. Their relationship, like all relationships, have their ups and downs – for example, when Patricks ex-fiancée comes to town in an attempt to rekindle their old romance, and Patrick is forced to admit that aspect of his life to David. Although David is upset that he did not know about his previous engagement, he shows maturity by not arguing with Partick regarding the idea of Patrick’s previous heterosexual relationships. More importantly, David neither questions Patrick’s sexuality, nor does he criticise Patrick for coming out later in life.


The writers of Schitt’s Creek, including Dan Levy (in his role as executive producer), were unsure of the relationship at first. When interviewed by EW, Levy admitted that he was unsure if the relationship would work:

“Noah could have come into the show and we could’ve gotten along, but there wouldn’t have been the same spark. Then we would have probably inevitably either written him out or had it die-off at some point.”

However, in letting the characters achieve their happy ending, Levy avoided falling victim to the “Bury the Gays” trope. “Bury the Gays” is a popular trope in television in which LGBTQ+ characters die to add shock value. This trope however, has saturated mainstream media, to the extent that it is unusual when LGBTQ+ characters are given an opportunity to live relatively pain-free lives. Studies by the Journal of Homosexuality has shown that out of the 35 lesbian characters on television in the 2015–2016 season, 10 died in scripted narrative television (Waggoner, 2018). This can be seen in numerous popular TV shows, such as The 100, Pretty Little Liars, and The Walking Dead. During a GLAAD panel discussion in 2017, creators agreed that TV needs to reverse this trope. Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis commented that the deaths of the LGBTQ+ characters are “often in violent ways that benefit somebody else’s story rather than anything contributing to that character’s own arc” (Dibdin, 2017).


The writers of Schitt’s Creek successfully developed a realistic yet warm gay relationship, the likes of which have not been seen on mainstream television before. The portrayal of any relationship, queer or straight, as a human relationship is essential in the process of acceptance in mainstream media and in society as a whole. I hope that these strides towards reducing the stigma of same-sex intimacy in media is mimicked in future series.





Featured photo from Twitter



Straddling the Line Between Party and Protest

Straddling the Line Between Party and Protest

Diversity & Inclusion

Straddling the Line Between Party and Protest
pride wrist band
14th July 2020


On Friday 26th June, STAND had the privilege of taking part a webinar joined by Evgeny Shtorn, Russian LGBTQ+ and direct provision activist, scholar and poet, and Rayann, community organiser, advocate for black queer folk in Ireland and poet. Both agreed that while Pride had accomplished so much, with so many reasons to celebrate, Pride was and still is, first and foremost, a protest.

Although Pride started as a protest, led by mostly black trans women and lesbians; the most visible activism of Pride in the past rested with “privileged, New York, gay cis white men” according to Shtorn, an issue which did not go unnoticed by Angela Davis – she claimed that feminism became white feminism, while the LGBTQ+ movement became fronted by white men.

Even today, Pride is very much still white-washed and run by corporations, resulting in a lack of reflection of many of the community. “Having one or two token gay people at every panel isn’t enough”. Rayann noted that there is a huge amount to combat regarding privilege, race, class and able-bodiedness: “[Pride] has become a corporate party proving that they are inclusive, while the [large intersections of the community] feel disheartened and quite invisible from the movement, but in a social lens, very ostracised and alienated”.

Rayann centred on the black LGBTQ+ intersection, quoting Marsha P. Stewart’s famous line “No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”. They noted that intersections of oppression come extremely close when it comes to black trans folk; as a result of misogyny, race and so on. They are constantly questioning their placement on this world, and are put in a lot of danger – which, according to Rayann, is reflected in the current Black Lives Matter movement, as the lives of black trans folk are often pushed to the side.

Shtorn focused on the LGBTQ+ movement and Direct Provision. At his first real Pride in Dublin in 2017, he joined a small DP column in the parade which resulted in them being the  last group to walk. Surely this is a reflection of how DP residents are treated in Ireland. When people arrive in this country and find themselves placed in DP, they know nobody in the country they often cannot speak the language; and have no one to ask for help. Some of these people are lacking very basic needs. Then, as Shtorn explained, if these people were revealed to be LGBTQ+, they could be left completely isolated and without support – ignored, excluded and even abused. Subtle bullying among other residents of DP can be a problem – although not tangible, as Shtorn clarified, it could have very bad consequences on mental health.

A growing problem is gender-based violence, especially for female subjects who are hosted in a mixed environment and are often in close contact with males expressing sexual interest in them – there is almost no way to control it. A solution to all this for LGBTQ+ folk in DP to be able to go to events, to community centres, to meet people. Due to a lack of transport options, people in the asylum process in rural areas do not have the luxury of simply going to Dublin as many Irish citizens can.

“Not only are LGBTQ+ people often more vulnerable in the Direct Provision system, but Evgeny also highlighted their heightened vulnerability throughout every facet of society”

In terms of allyship to the LGBTQ+ community, both speakers focussed on how when campaigning for wider political or human rights issues, we must always be aware of how different issues and identities intersect. Not only are LGBTQ+ people often more vulnerable in the Direct Provision system, but Evgeny also highlighted their heightened vulnerability throughout every facet of society. He highlighted the fact that in terms of issues such as domestic violence, bullying or isolation; we must be aware of the intersections of vulnerability for those who are victims of homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny. He also reminded us of the fact that the law is not always equatable with people’s lived experiences; in his native Russia, although on the surface they appear to have robust hate crime legislation, in reality it is completely ineffective, and often works against the victims of the crime. It is important to remember that while we have enjoyed access to equal marriage in Ireland since 2015, that does not mean that homophobia no longer exists in Irish society or that we can become complacent.

Rayann also addressed the compounding of issues such as housing and homelessness, which affect so many in our society, but disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ people and particularly Black queer youth. They highlighted the fact that lack of access to affordable housing can lead to many LGBTQ+ people either forced into insecure housing, or forced to live with an unsupportive family, often remaining closeted for fear of being kicked out of their home. Rayann focussed on the issues of who is uplifted in society and who is trodden upon; often it is white, cis people at the forefront of Pride parades and campaigns, but it is Black trans people who shoulder the burdens of financially insecurity, violence and exclusion.

In this current moment, when Black Lives Matter protests are taking place across the globe, Rayann encouraged us to reflect on whose voices are amplified during Pride. Trans people of colour are disproportionately affected by discrimination and violence, but their voices are often the quietest in the movement. Who gets to party whilst others are still protesting??



Featured photo by Eduardo Pastor


Cultural appropriation and misappropriation, why is it important and what does it mean?

Cultural appropriation and misappropriation, why is it important and what does it mean?

Diversity & Inclusion

Cultural appropriation and misappropriation, why is it important and what does it mean?


Picture of a kimono

11th July 2020


Ariana Grande, as well as many other celebrities, are finding themselves under fire due to cultural appropriation. But what does this mean? Cultural appropriation is adopting a certain element of another culture. The reason it is so controversial is due to people being disrespectful in the way they go about this process. 

To get a wider perspective on the issue, I had decided to speak with my African-Irish friend Bongani who had recently encountered a possible case of cultural misappropriation in Galway. “I was walking down Shop Street one night, and I saw these women who were obviously having a hen party. They were wearing these Kimono’s which looked legit, they probably got them online, but still, they looked good. It seemed out of place. The Kimono is a traditional dress which Japanese people wear for special occasions such as festivals related to religion or celebrations of some sort. But like, we know what goes on hen parties and it just didn’t seem right to wear such a traditional piece on a night out especially since that is not the purpose of the piece”. 

“Most people who carry out cultural misappropriation don’t understand what cultural appropriation is”, which could be related to certain celebrities who get themselves in trouble. For example, Ariana Grande is being accused of this trend due to often making herself look darker than her natural skin tone, as well as her manner of speech and dress. This does not mean that she is doing this on purpose to offend people, but she is not honest with her audience.



“Most people who carry out cultural misappropriation don’t understand what cultural appropriation is”

Many clothing brands sell traditional colourful shirts as festival clothes, which also sparks this trend. “Online and in shops they sell anything that is ethnic and different automatically as festival clothes. Anything alternative means “that’s my fit for the night”. It can be quite disrespectful to some people just recognising your tradition as a festival thing without knowing what it is and what it stands for. That can be quite frustrating.”

Many people seem to glamorise themselves by coming out at 15% related to an ethnic group only when it has become trendy to be a part of that ethnic group. Most cultural misappropriation happens in the entertainment industry which is unacceptable. Entertainment businesses should be aware that they are also forms of education and information and if they use their power to influence others in a negative light without acknowledging that, their actions could cause a domino effect.

“When you are a celebrity you have to be self-aware, especially when it comes to your identity. You can get a lot of backlash for things like that. Especially when white rappers start using the N-word… Society functions differently so you always have to be careful with what you say,” says Bongani relating to mainstream celebrities.

I hope after reading this article you feel like you understand what cultural appropriation is and how to avoid cultural misappropriation. We have to be respectful of each other’s backgrounds and be supportive! Being self-aware and informed goes a long way.






Featured photo by mochigome




A Disability Inclusive Response to Covid-19

A Disability Inclusive Response to Covid-19


A Disability-Inclusive Response to Covid-19

Elizabeth Quinn

26th June 2020


Persons with disabilities have been one of the most affected groups in the Covid-19 crisis. The question now is how to rebuild in order to recover from the crisis in an inclusive way.


Covid-19 has thrown into the spotlight the inequalities which persist in today’s world. It has, in particular, highlighted the inequalities faced by persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are both directly and indirectly impacted by lockdown measures, which have been implemented across the globe. Beyond these challenges, there is a fear that measures may become long term for persons with disabilities and prevent them from accessing and participating in society on equal footing as others. How we rebuild and allow for an inclusive society is a question which must be answered. The future is uncertain; plans for the future must have human rights at their core.


The UN has highlighted that a global response which is inclusive of persons with disabilities is needed. The most authoritative text on disability rights is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This convention takes a human rights approach and aligns with the social model of disability. Under this model, the person’s disability is not what disables them but rather the barriers, structures and attitudes present in society. For example, in the Covid-19 response, some countries did not provide access to information in a manner which would be accessible to persons with disabilities. This is society, rather than the impairment itself providing barriers. Ireland ratified the CRPD in 2018; therefore our responses and plans should align with the human rights approach.


In order to create an inclusive response for persons with disabilities, a twin-track approach is needed. This means that persons with disabilities should be included in mainstream policies and specific policies where required. Ireland has one of the lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities in the EU. Latest figures showed that 71% of adults of working age with a disability are not in work in Ireland. Although it is acknowledged that some people cannot work due to the nature of their disability there are social barriers in place also such as lack of government support.


“Persons with disabilities have been one of the most affected groups in the Covid-19 crisis. The question now is how to rebuild in order to recover from the crisis in an inclusive way.” 

Covid-19 has also thrown into light the dangers that institutionalisation causes. We are all aware of the disproportionate deaths in elderly care facilities and residential homes for persons with disabilities worldwide. Although the focus in Ireland has been on elderly care facilities this ignores the fact that worldwide an estimated 46% of older people aged 60 years and over are persons with disabilities. Thus the intersection of age and disability should be accounted for and borne in mind in recovery efforts. The regrettable stark death rate in facilities should encourage a conversation discussing the way forward of deinstitutionalisation and moving together in redefining how long term care is provided. A.19 of the CRPD states that persons with disabilities should be able to live in the community on an equal basis with others and supports need to be in place to enable them to live independently. In Ireland, these supports are not currently in place now and need to be improved upon. 


Accountability mechanisms are needed in order to hold governments to account and to improve future responses. These future responses should align more clearly and robustly with the CRPD.  This includes gathering data and consulting persons with disabilities on the approaches the government has taken. With the lack of data at present, it is very difficult to gauge the precise effects of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities. In the absence of government monitoring, a coalition of seven leading organisations promoting human rights of persons of disabilities has set up an independent monitoring mechanism concerning persons with disabilities in the context of the pandemic. The Covid-19 DRM Dashboard allows people to fill in a survey on how their country has dealt with the pandemic and whether it has been in an inclusive manner. It also allows persons with disabilities to have a voice on the way in which their country is dealing with the pandemic. This resource will allow countries to look at where they failed and how to improve and create an inclusive policy for the future.


The response to Covid-19 will shape our future and must include persons with disabilities voices. In Ireland, the programme for government must take into an account an inclusive recovery and support persons with disabilities. These commitments must not just be words on paper and need also to have financial commitments. Economics cannot and should not outweigh human rights. A financial crisis must not be used as a tool by the government to roll back on rights for persons with disabilities which have been fought hard for. A disability-inclusive recovery is needed for everyone to make our systems more agile and better functioning for all.



Featured photo by Ben Allan