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The pandemic made it even harder than usual for this marginalized group to get affirming care

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Before we get into more numbers, here’s some background on the survey: Between April 16 and Aug. 3, 2020, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan conducted an online survey via LGBTQ+ apps (Hornet and Her) in which they connected with 964 adults from 76 countries. Just over 50% of respondents were between 18 and 29 and just over 40% reported having at least a university degree. Less than 13% said they ever lacked a face mask during the pandemic, and more than three-quarters said their country issued some degree of a “stay-at-home” order because of the virus.

More than one-third of respondents reported having difficulty accessing hormonal therapy and/or related gender-affirming medications, while a similar number reported having difficulty accessing cosmetic supplies and services, like wigs, makeup, and hair removal. Some 36% of respondents said they faced barriers trying to get body modifiers, including, for example, binders and packers.

In terms of mental health, nearly 43% of respondents said they faced a reduced level of access to therapy. While 12% of respondents said their suicidal ideation decreased during the pandemic, 10% said theirs increased. Transfeminine folks were less likely to agree with statements about having sources of comfort or hope and were more likely to report increases in suicidal ideation. More than three-quarters of folks said they anticipated having their income cut during the pandemic, with more than 50% saying they were not able to access financial assistance in spite of need. Of the respondents, 17% reported expecting to lose their health insurance.

In a press release, Brooke Jarret of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health summed up why these results are so important in the big picture, saying, “Transgender communities, who already face a myriad of health inequities, experienced even further health burdens due to restrictions imposed during COVID, like reduced access to gender-affirming treatments and mental health resources.”

Even without considering job loss and unemployment rates amid the pandemic, we know that trans folks report facing discrimination while interviewing for jobs, at jobs, when it comes to finding housing, and, disturbingly, even while seeking medical care. Low-income trans folks may not be able to afford (or access) certain services—whether that’s a prescription for hormones or a custom wig fitting—and may seek them out through other routes, which can be dangerous for one’s health and safety.

And if you’re thinking, “Well, I couldn’t get a haircut, either, so what’s the big deal?” Just remember that for trans folks, gender-affirming care and treatments can have a huge impact on mental health and that for trans folks, not “passing” in a cis, heteronormative world can be legitimately dangerous. 

With this framing in mind, nearly 40% of respondents said the pandemic reduced or completely eliminated their ability to live in accordance with their gender. A full 43% of transfeminine folks said this, while 36% of nonbinary folks felt the same, and 28% of transmasculine folks agreed.

If you’re reading these responses and feel overwhelmed or at a loss for how to help, remember that just being a supportive, affirming ally is already a big step. Part of being a good ally is, of course, using the correct pronouns (including gender-neutral pronouns, like they/them), centering trans and nonbinary voices, and supporting trans and queer creators, like when it comes to the movies you watch, books you buy, and content you stream. We also have a roundup of simple ways you can show up for the trans folks in your life, including some free mental health resources you can pass along or use yourself! 

People can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24/7. The Trans LifeLine offers free support at 1-877-565-8860.


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New energy data shows solar and wind rising as ‘King Coal’ continues an epic crash

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That chart comes from a report issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday morning. And it looks like this:

Renewable sources replace coal as the nation’s second largest source of electricity.

The headline here is certainly worth celebrating: Renewable sources of energy are now the second-largest source of electricity in America, generating 21% of the total. It’s not actually the first time this has happened; back in 1950 when the agency first began, hydro power was the nation’s No. 2 source of electricity. But there are only so many places that can be, or should be, dammed to produce electricity and unfortunately, coal is abundant. The next 60 years were the Age of Coal, with that most destructive of fossil fuels growing ever more dominant. 

But what’s happened since 2005 is genuinely amazing. King Coal was toppled from his throne in a revolution that was one part natural gas fracking and one part increasingly cheap wind and solar. And this is the first time that the EIA has placed production from renewables above that of coal.

The reason natural gas grew so rapidly over the last two decades is easy to describe. Gas is easily used in the same kind of steam-cycle power production as coal, but it has several advantages. First, gas need not be stored in huge stockpiles on the ground—stockpiles that are subject to both weathering and to spontaneously catching fire. Second, burning gas produces a lot of CO2, but in terms of other byproducts, it’s almost infinitely cleaner than coal so there’s no need for expensive “scrubbers” that eliminate things such as the sulfur dioxide from coal that causes acid rain. Third, gas doesn’t leave behind tons of ash that has to be stored in great eroding mounds or slurry pools that constantly threaten to flood the area in toxic sludge.

But more important than any of that, gas plants can be small. Utilities can create gas generators of almost every size, and simply add more when needed. Coal plants range from merely huge to absolutely titanic, and the economies of coal make it difficult to scale them up or down.

So why didn’t companies use gas to begin with? Because before the mid-1990s, the price of natural gas varied widely. That made gas suitable for building small “peaking” plants that could handle extra demand on those days when the grid was at maximum demand, but left cheaper coal to carry the main demand. It was only after fracking became widespread and the price of gas stabilized at a rate that made it competitive with coal that the big switchover began.

What’s striking about the renewables line on the chart is how fast it doesn’t grow until about 2005. That line reflects mostly more hydro power, small-scale solar, and an irregular trickle of wind projects over the span of decades. It’s not until prices for both wind and solar became cost-competitive with coal that things started to change quickly. The decades in which annual changes in renewables could be measured in a fraction of a percentage point charge abruptly into a steady rise, and the rate of that rise is increasing. 

By 2018, the cost of building new solar or wind power from scratch had reached a point where it was less than the cost of simply maintaining an existing coal plant, even ignoring the cost of coal. That’s a powerful incentive to switch. Even as Donald Trump was talking about how he was going to “save” the coal industry, it was plummeting in a near freefall, shedding both capacity and workers.

Overall, what the chart shows is just this: Things can change. With the right motivations, they can change quickly. The one problem with this chart is that it might tempt everyone to just sit back and let the market handle it. After all, the last two decades show that gigawatts of production can change almost overnight when dollars are on the line.

Only there are reasons that the government still has to shove, and shove hard, to make things move rapidly enough and in the right direction.

  • Gas is cheap. Thanks to fracking, there is an absolute glut of natural gas—so much that at several points, all the storage facilities in the nation have been nearly choked with the stuff. How long will fracking allow fields from Texas to North Dakota to Pennsylvania to continue producing at a record pace? No one knows. But right now the use of natural gas is still increasing. That means more CO2 and more spilled methane. 
  • Innovation needs to come home. When Republicans fume about Chinese solar panels, they’re at least half right. Part of the price reduction for solar has come through availability of cheap panels manufactured mostly in China or India. The U.S. continues to make breakthroughs in solar cell efficiency, but needs help in turning those improvements into an industry that sees American panels being shipped around the world.
  • Inequity is a market inevitability. Left to itself, the market will gradually close out coal plants and create more renewables. But it will also leave behind ecological disasters. Coal is a dying extraction industry. What such industries leave behind are unreclaimed lands, crumbling plants, and communities in ruin. Government intervention is absolutely necessary if this failing industry is going to be ushered out the door in a way that gives workers and the surrounding areas a soft landing rather than seeing coal executives wave bye-bye beneath golden parachutes. And the government needs to pay particular attention to both cleaning up and providing jobs to communities of color, which are often right in the zones of heaviest pollution.
  • It’s not fast enough. The chart shows the energy industry can change more quickly than anyone believed. Now it has to change faster. We don’t have more decades to make this transition, not when every wasted year represents more of that drought, fire, and flood we mentioned back at the beginning.

The abrupt change in America’s energy mix should be good news to everyone. Even if much of that production has switched to natural gas, it shows that enormous change is possible. 

Now let’s make it happen again. Faster.


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Latino officer and U.S. military vet says insurrectionists told him ‘you’re not even an American’

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Gonell testified during the hearing that at first he was “not even entertaining” this claim. “I mean, when I heard that, I wasn’t even thinking about any racial stuff.” He was just trying to survive the mob’s attack, which resulted in five deaths and hundreds of injuries. “Two other officers killed themselves after,” the Associated Press reported. Officers were “pulled into the crowd and trampled, assaulted with scaffolding materials, and/or bear maced by protesters,” an Arlington County Fire Department memo stated, the AP continued.

But Gonell said that only with some time did he realize what had been said to him, telling legislators that “it takes time for you to process that, and you only realize what was happening after you go back and see it from a different point in time.” He was just trying to do the job he was sworn to do, he said. “I’m there to stop them regardless. I’m not thinking what they were yelling in terms of my skin color or my race. I know I’m an American former soldier and a police officer. I didn’t take that into account when I was defending all of you guys.”

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The officer’s experience drives home the point that for racists, there’s simply nothing a person of color can do or achieve to be fully accepted as what they believe an American to be. To them, a person who isn’t white simply can’t be an American. Even if they’ve lived here since they were a child, even if they served in the U.S. military for eight years, even if it’s literally there on a piece of paper, or in their heart. Yet the white terrorists trying to overthrow the election dared to call him un-American.

“I was falsely accused of betraying my oath, of choosing my paycheck over my loyalty to the US Constitution, even as I defended the very democratic process that protected everyone in the hostile crowd,” Gonell continued. “While I was at the lower west terrace of the Capitol working with my fellow officers to prevent the breach and restore order, the rioters called me traitor, a disgrace and that I, an Army veteran and a police officer, should be executed.”

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Gonell said during his testimony that even relatives abroad were “frantically” trying to contact him to see if he was safe after watching images of the siege on television. “More than six months later, I’m still trying to recover from my injuries,” he said. “I could have lost my life that day, not once but many times. But as soon as I recover from my injuries, I will continue forward and proudly serve my country in the US Capitol Police. As an immigrant to the United States, I’m especially proud to have defended the US Constitution and our democracy on January 6th.”

Of course, Gonell wasn’t the only officer of color to be assaulted with verbal attacks in addition to physical blows. From the very start of his first campaign, when he called Mexicans criminals and “rapists” and then two brothers took a metal pipe to an unhoused Mexican American man in Boston in 2015, racist violence has been a key tenet of the previous president’s beliefs.

Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn told the committee he has sought therapy and continues to struggle with emotional scars left by the assault, which became racially charged for him as a Black member of law enforcement,” Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld wrote yesterday. “The officer in fact described “a ‘torrent’ of racially offensive epithets,” she continued. “”Boooo! Fucking n****!’ they screamed, recalled Dunn. ‘No one had ever, ever, called me a n***** while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police Officer,’ Dunn added.”

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“I hope that everyone in the position of authority in our country has the courage and conviction to do their part by investigating what happened on that terrible day and why,” Gonell continued. “This investigation is essential to our democracy, and I’m deeply grateful to you for undertaking. I’m happy to assist as I can and answer any question you may have to the best of my ability.” I’d say he’s done more than enough already (and I don’t mean only his service on Jan. 6). The question now is what we’re going to do for him.


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Republican leaders are finally taking vaccination seriously, but is their base listening?

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There’s Republican Rep. Clay Higgings of Louisiana, who announced a couple of days ago that he, his wife, and his son all have COVID-19. “I have COVID, Becca has COVID, my son has COVID,” he wrote on Facebook. “Becca and I had COVID before, early on, in January 2020, before the world really knew what it was. So, this is our second experience with the CCP biological attack weaponized virus …”

He can’t admit that his stupid behavior—refusal to get vaccinated and opposition to common-sense precautions—likely led to his infection. So like so many other conspiracy-minded Republicans, he’s blaming it on the Chinese, who he says have deployed a “biological attack weaponized virus.” 

Higgins can’t actually believe that, can he? If attacked, isn’t the obvious response to, you know, protect yourself against that attack? If he truly believed that, wouldn’t he want to deploy countermeasures such as—just spitballing here—a vaccine

The whole “China attacked us” line is just as ludicrous now as it was when Donald Trump tried to use it to excuse his own inept handling of the pandemic. Because if true, it wouldn’t just damn the Chinese, it would also damn Republicans who have so ineffective worked to keep our country and its people safe. Like Clay Higgins of Louisiana. 

Speaking of Trump, he just had one of his creepy cult rallies in Arizona, and he couldn’t quite bring himself to urge his supporters to not die in the name of who-knows-what. “How about the vaccine? I came up with the vaccine,” he boasted, despite the obvious ridiculousness of the claim. Odds that he even knows what “mRNA” stands for are pretty much zero. Yet instead of begging his people to sensibly take the jab, the best he could manage was to weakly say he “recommended” it before reiterating that he “also believes in your freedoms 100 percent.” Meanwhile, Trump explained conservative vaccine hesitancy by claiming that people “don’t trust the president, people aren’t doing it.”

Of course, it’s clear at this point that Republicans won’t jab out of any sense of civic or neighborly duty to protect themselves and those around them. As Politico blithely declared a few days ago, “Many people are turning down Covid vaccines because they are angry that President Donald Trump lost the election and sick of Democrats thinking they know what’s best.” They’d rather die than give libs the satisfaction of … seeing them live? 

Except that when they start dying, many begin to change their tune. You may have read about the Louisiana doctor who wrote about her patients begging for vaccines just as they were about to get intubated.

I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t.  

Oof. 

We’ve seen this dynamic play out in Tennessee, where conspiracy theorist conservative radio host Phil Valentine is fighting for his life in a COVID-19 ward. All of a sudden, the whole family’s tune on vaccination has changed. “If Phil were able to conduct this interview, he would tell you while he has never been an anti-vax person, he has always been a pro-choice person,” his brother Mark Valentine said. “What he regrets is not being more vehemently pro-vaccine, and when he gets back on the air, that’s exactly what he’s going to tell people.”

Right. “Pro-choice.” Women not need apply. And of course, no one has to look hard to see that the radio host was, indeed, anti-vaccination. But hey, having his brother beg people to vaccinate isn’t a bad thing, and we should all be glad they’re beginning to change their tune. But how to explain away a year of vaccine craziness? See how his brother did it in this Facebook post: 

Remember it was Trump who caused this vaccine to be available. For the record, I don’t believe there is a chip in the vaccine and I don’t believe 5G is gonna trigger some sort of mass casualties or any of that stuff. The reason roughly half of the population hasn’t taken it is because they (formerly me) assumed we were being lied to for any number of nefarious reasons. The reason I assumed that was because we have been lied to relentlessly for the past 5 years…about everything, so yes I was hesitant.

He’s so close to admitting that he’s a f’n moron! But of course, his stupidity is not his fault. It’s because he was lied to the last five years. Not by Trump, mind you. Rather, the Deep State, science, the media, and all that other conspiracy bullshit conservatives have built in their alternate-reality bubble. So how do they back themselves out of that corner they’re in? You blame people. You blame others. It’s everyone else’s fault. And even that isn’t enough, because Trump must enter the narrative. So it’s everyone’s fault, and oh yeah, Trump is the savior. 

Former Trump lickspittle and White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, currently running for governor in Arkansas, pulled those same threads together to construct the ultimate Trumpian argument for vaccines. 

A few months ago, I decided to take advantage of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed and get vaccinated.

Hopefully she didn’t take the Pfizer, which took no development money from Operation Warp Speed. She also called it the “Trump vaccine.” So having given proper deference to their Lord and Savior, Sanders set out to find people worthy of blame. Because remember, the “party of personal responsibility” never takes any. 

[N]o one did more to undercut public confidence in the vaccine than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden doubted that the vaccine would be “real,” while Harris said in a nationally-televised debate that she would not take any vaccine the Trump administration had a hand in creating.

You see, conservatives haven’t taken the vaccine because they’ve been listening to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris all along! Had those two Democrats not criticized Trump’s pandemic response efforts, all those conservatives would be happily jabbing! 

Who knew that conservatives were taking their cues from liberal Democrats? Sanders has discovered a new, hitherto undiscovered American political dynamic! 

Of course, that’s not what Harris or Biden said at the time. They very clearly said that they would trust science and the scientists, not Trump’s endless stream of bullshit and lies. Even Trump has happily admitted that he is full of crap, telling Bob Woodward that “I wanted to always play [the pandemic] down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.” He even admitted to flat-out lying, contradicting his public utterances to the contrary by admitting: “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.” 

Of course, Sanders still has to walk that “freedom” tightrope, saying “I believe in freedom and personal responsibility” and “I have many friends who have expressed sincere concerns about being vaccinated, and it isn’t my place to tell them what to do.” But then she spends several paragraphs explaining the data, and how effective the vaccine is at protecting not just individuals, but the communities around them—which is exactly what “Dr. Fauci and the ‘because science says so’ crowd of arrogant, condescending politicians and bureaucrats” have been saying all along. 

Will it work? Will branding the vaccine the “Trump vaccine” and blaming the Black woman in the White House finally get conservatives to vaccinate? Can conservative opinionmakers shift base sentiment away from refusing to vaccinate to own the libs, to vaccinating to own the libs? 

Let’s look at some data:

Woah, it’s working! Or at least, something is. Whether it’s this new messaging, or Sean Hannity changing his tune, or Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey bluntly saying, “Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” or stuff like Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt holding a press conference and reading news clips of people who regretted not getting the vaccine, something is finally moving numbers. Or maybe all of the above.
 
In the last week alone, per Civiqs, we’ve gone from 47% of Republicans saying they had been vaccinated and a stubborn 44% saying “nope,” to 52% being vaccinated and the “no”s inching down to 39%. Amazingly, those Republicans are not moving them to “unsure,” but straight to vaccination sites. If that trend maintains, all those conservative arguments—the smart ones and the stupid ones—will all be worth it. We need to stamp out this disease, stop the unnecessary funerals, and get back to normal life. And we can’t do that as long as 40% of our population remains unvaccinated.


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