Joy is Resistance

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What does gender affirming care have to do with abortion? It’s all about bodily autonomy. And the forces that brought down Roe are going after Trans rights next. We stay in Tennessee this week as we break down the anti-trans, anti-abortion playbook and meet a group of young people who are navigating their state’s attacks on LGBTQ rights.

Learn more about OUTMemphis at

Gloria Riviera and Samantha Bee are our hosts. Muna Danish is our supervising producer. Lisa Phu is our producer. Isaura Aceves and Tony Williams are our associate producers. Ivan Kuraev and Natasha Jacobs are our audio engineers. Music by Hannis Brown with additional music by Natasha Jacobs. Story editing by Jackie Danziger, our VP of Narrative Content. Fact-checking by Naomi Barr. Executive producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs

This series is supported by Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Levi Strauss Foundation.

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To follow along with a transcript, go to shortly after the air date.



Rebecca Kockler, News 3, L, Charlotte, Taylor, Samantha Bee, News 2, Anu Iyer, David Hawke, News 1, Koi, Gloria Riviera, Julian, Molly Quinn, Gillian Branstetter, Terry Schilling, Paul, Cheryl, Daniel

Gloria Riviera  01:24

This episode contains content about suicidal ideation. Please take care while listening.


Koi  01:31

My name is Koi, I use daisy at pronouns and I just come here to kind of just hang out and socialize and I get to see my partners, this one.


Charlotte  01:42

I’m Charlotte and I’m just kind of here to hang out with all the gay.


Gloria Riviera  01:48

Here is the weekly LGBTQ plus youth group at OUTMemphis in Tennessee.


Koi  01:53

I come almost every week you come most weeks, I think.


Charlotte  01:56

Yeah, just as often as I can but.


Gloria Riviera  01:58

Koya and Charlotte are sitting on a couch together. It’s mid May, Koi’s 13, almost 14, and Charlotte is 14, around them, other teens are playing card games coloring, laughing and talking.


Koi  02:10

Oh, I like being able to just kind of be myself and talk about things and I like the chaos. There’s a mannequin walking by. But I like just the atmosphere of it, it’s fun and there’s a lot of times fun things for us to do.


Gloria Riviera  02:25

The two teens met and OUTMemphis in February at the youth group OUTMemphis is an LGBTQ plus organization in Tennessee.


Koi  02:33

I bet her when we met actually. You literally chomp down on her arm to prove a point. And she said hurt for three days. And so I actually have a name tag that says Warning This Creature Bites.


Gloria Riviera  02:45

In my day we just wrote a note with our crushes name on it and pass it to a classmate who passed it to another classmate. Eventually the note made it into said crushes hands. But teens these days are a lot more creative.


Koi  02:58

Hang out in a room over there, and then we started talking we fought with pillows. I bit her and now we’re here, and we’re dating.


Charlotte  03:08

We started dating pretty quickly.


Koi  03:10

Yeah, well, I’m non binary, but they’re transgender. So I call her my girlfriend. But I’m polyamorous so I have two partners. So I actually met my other partner here too.


Gloria Riviera  03:21

Their other partner was the one walking by with the mannequin earlier.


Koi  03:25

Yeah, right there.


Gloria Riviera  03:25

For about two months before this youth group hangout it OUTMemphis, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed HB one into law. It bans trans healthcare in a state for people under the age of 18. Which means that trans youth cannot access gender affirming care, like hormone therapy and puberty blockers in Tennessee. Koi’s first thought about the ban overturned the government


Koi  03:49

In the Declaration of Independence. I believe it says something like, if government is failing, overturn it and create a new government.


Charlotte  03:57

Never that takes a lot of people a lot of power.


Koi  04:00

Yeah, so I choose to ignore it because it causes me a lot of stress. For one I want to punch people. And I would gladly you know and have sharp teeth and I’m willing to put them to use


Gloria Riviera  04:13

Koi does not see themselves choosing to live in Tennessee for the long term.


Koi  04:17

Unless things change. It’s gonna be too difficult for me to live here because if things keep going the way they are, I’ll probably be considered illegal, so.


Gloria Riviera  04:28

Illegal, that is the message Tennessee lawmakers are sending to trans youth. Tennessee has passed more anti LGBTQ plus laws than any other state in the country. 15 laws over the past eight years. All of this is telling Koi and Charlotte and other trans youth we don’t want you here. You don’t belong, that’s why this space it OUTMemphis is so crucial. Out Memphis welcomes them to be whoever they are. It gives them a space where They can simply just be, which in a state like Tennessee is pretty radical.


Gloria Riviera  05:13

This is the defenders a show about the fight for freedom in a post row America. I’m Gloria Riviera.


Samantha Bee  05:19

And I’m Samantha B. This week, we look at how the gender affirming care ban is impacting trans teens in Tennessee. And you might be wondering, what does that have to do with abortion? Isn’t this show about abortion? Yes, but here’s the thing. Healthcare for transgender people and abortion rights are actually deeply connected. It’s not an accident that the state’s most aggressively going after trans healthcare happened to be the same places where abortion is basically banned. These attacks share a playbook one that has been honed and perfected for decades.


Molly Quinn  06:07

We are seeing so deeply on the ground level, what it really feels like to have your public health system be so compromised by politics, it is harder to get people all the different kinds of comprehensive care that they deserve.


Gloria Riviera  06:24

Molly Quinn is the executive director of OUTMemphis, which hosts the LGBTQ plus youth group. She refuses to separate abortion and gender affirming care when it comes to advocacy. Both are about bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy, it’s the simple idea that you should have the right to decide what happens to your body to make decisions that are right for you and your family. Seems fundamental, but that is what is taken away when lawmakers restrict abortion and trans health care.


Molly Quinn  06:58

It’s like a fight for freedom. It’s a fight for dignity. Our organization, our movement has been close to the movement for abortion. We see it as our joint efforts. And right now it’s been this constant kind of war room that we’re in together.


Gloria Riviera  07:12

War Room. That’s a good way to describe it. Because being queer in Tennessee can feel like you’re in a constant battle against time against lawmakers, yet somehow the youth group OUTMemphis manages to be a space to feel free. The LGBTQ plus youth group for ages 12 to 17 meets at the OUTMemphis  community center every Saturday.


Molly Quinn  07:38

Folks are gathering or wandering in. This is mostly our usuals. These are youth that come here every week and participate in our events, folks are coming in getting a nametag their snacks in the kitchen music playing. And then in a few minutes, we have a visit from a therapy dog. I think today.


Gloria Riviera  07:55

Molly greets a teen as they come in


Molly Quinn  07:59

Your hand, it looks so good, I love it.



Yes, a lot better than long hair.


Gloria Riviera  08:04

L is one of the usuals, we’re using only the first names of some people in the story to protect their privacy and safety. L’s  pronouns are they/them but L is thinking of trying out he/him which the group welcomes.



You’re allowed to try out different pronouns here, which is really nice, because feels like if you try to switch pronouns that it will just get so confusing for other people. So it’s nice to be able to come here and try out different pronouns.


Gloria Riviera  08:32

L is eager to begin gender affirming care. It’s a decision they came to after a lot of thought and research.



I started, I guess doing research. When I was 14 did some more when I was 15. And then eventually I kind of got to a place where like I’m ready. And I expressed that to my mom, and then.


Gloria Riviera  08:52

That was several months ago. Then they heard the state was considering banning it.



And I was like why? Because I’m just now starting to look into getting care and it’s being taken away from me.


Gloria Riviera  09:05

Like other teams that the group Tennessee’s ban is impacting L’s life, they won’t be able to get care in Tennessee.



My mom and I are currently trying to figure out going to Illinois and getting treatment for me, since I can’t get it here.


Gloria Riviera  09:22

l wants to talk to a health provider about a couple things including period blockers.



I’m excited to get on care. I’m excited to start the process of talking about top surgery. I’m not ready now. But I know that starting the process now means that I have the ball in my court and that I would be like I could control when I get it.


Gloria Riviera  09:43

L’s lucky they have support from their family, their mom and is also dropping off L’s younger brother at the youth group and how are you and has four kids, two in the youth group The other two are nine year old twins, she is totally on board and supports L starting gender affirming health care, even if it means driving three hours each way to Illinois, and possibly staying overnight if needed. She does worry about juggling this while raising three other kids who also need her.



But this is a huge priority. This is definitely happening. I’m not going to let my child you know, feel constant dysphoria, and I am 100% on plan with whatever it takes.


Gloria Riviera  10:31

Because the alternative is much more difficult.



That dysphoria just watching them on a day to day basis as a parent is really hard, because you just want to see them, your kids to be happy. And it’s you know, it’s an impossible feat when they’re born in the wrong body.


Gloria Riviera  10:48

Gender Dysphoria is this feeling of distress that Ann’s describing which can happen when you don’t identify with the sex you were assigned at birth. Like Ann, parents of trans kids in Tennessee and in other band states are making hard decisions about how to provide the best environment for their kid until they turn 18. Do you move your family? Do you choose homeschooling to avoid bullying and create more flexibility for your family? Do you like and decide to drive them out of state for care. Even before the law went into effect July 1, providers were already canceling appointments with patients under 18. That happened to another teen at the group 15 year old Taylor.


Taylor  11:33

They cancelled it, which was really ridiculous to me, because the lady was like, pardon my French but like you’re shut out of work like that was pretty much it.


Gloria Riviera  11:47

Many of the young people in the room are feeling the impacts of the legislation and are stressed out.


Taylor  11:54

Because it’s just so complicated. And I feel like Brooke kids, we shouldn’t be having to feel all these complicated emotions. It’s not natural to be worrying about your human rights, as a teenager, you should be having fun with your friends going to the mall, whatever kids like to do.


Anu Iyer  12:14

It’s not that heavy of a lift on our end just to like unlock the community center and have it be a youth only space for two hours out of the week. It’s pressure in the sense that like there aren’t other spaces like this that exist.


Gloria Riviera  12:14

And for Taylor that’s coming to OUTMemphis, all the teens that the group we spoke to said something similar. The joy in their lives is centered in this youth group. Anu Iyer knows that. As the Director of Community and Family initiatives at out Memphis, their job is to create this welcoming space. That is no easy task.


Gloria Riviera  12:52

In this time when the trans community is under attack. These teens are still able to meet and laugh together and feel accepted.


Anu Iyer  13:01

They are the definition of joy and joy as an act of resistance, a fact that despite everything that’s happening in their weeks that they can just come here and decompress and know that they can be themselves. That in itself is the antithesis of what our legislators are trying to do to us.


Gloria Riviera  13:21

And those legislators aren’t holding back.


David Hawke  13:24

Ladies and gentlemen, we will now convene the health subcommittee for Tuesday, January 31. The year 2023.


Gloria Riviera  13:32

We’re in Tennessee’s state capitol Republican State Representative David Hawke is the chair of the House Health subcommittee.


David Hawke  13:39

We are now going on to our third bill and final bill on the calendar today that is House Bill one by leader Lamberth leader.


Gloria Riviera  13:50

HB one, the House bill to ban transgender related health care for minors in Tennessee. The subcommittee was the bill’s first hurdle to clear on its quick journey to becoming law. Eleanor mom and had hoped to testify but the schedule changed last minute and no OUTMemphis youth got to speak. L says sitting through the hearing was intense.



The hardest thing about it is that you couldn’t actually say anything. You had to be very, very quiet.


David Hawke  14:18

We will not tolerate any outbursts from the audience. If any of those things do occur, you will be asked to leave and you’ll free up seat for someone else.


Gloria Riviera  14:27

The all male all white health subcommittee along with staffers sat behind the desk in front of a standing room crowd which included trans kids and their parents. What sticks out the most L and N was something Republican Representative Paul Cheryl said.


David Hawke  14:43

Representative Cheryl, you are recognized.


Paul, Cheryl  14:46

Thank you, Chairman. We’ve got to protect our children in some way. Maybe there are children listening in ,you might not know or you might not think you know what you are today. And if you don’t know, and our preacher would say, if you don’t know what you are a boy or girl, male or female, just go in the bathroom and take your clothes off and look in the mirror. And you’ll find that, you’ll find out what you are. If you look in the mirror, you’ll find out.


Gloria Riviera  15:26

As mom Ann again.



You could hear people and take in their breath. Like that, to me, was the story that this man is gross. We know he’s gross, he never should have said that. But the audible gasp from the room of that was beyond inappropriate. And we can’t believe that that was just said that that’s what gives me hope. And I have to remain hopeful. And I have to keep my kids in that hopeful space, because I gotta keep them safe, and I gotta keep them moved.


Gloria Riviera  15:58

Okay, before we move on, Sam, can we pause and talk about why that comment was so gross and inappropriate as ansaid?


Samantha Bee  16:07

Yes, we can. Being born with a certain body part does not dictate what gender you are, sex is not the same as gender, and gender is not binary.


Gloria Riviera  16:19

Totally, yes, he’s acting like trans and intersex people just don’t exist at all. Plus, it’s just wrong to be talking about kids in that way. It reduces people down to body parts. And we’re all more complex than that we are and to L what Representative Cheryl said wasn’t just disgusting. It was scary.



Because representatives, a lot of them tend to deny that they don’t like trans people, or any of that, because they don’t want you know, to seem hateful, even though they put in laws like this, it was very scary seeing someone openly go ahead and say, you know, I hate trans people and, you know, I don’t care about minors at all, I just hate trans people and what ever way, I can make their lives miserable. I am going to.


Gloria Riviera  17:11

To be clear, Representative Cheryl did not say he hated trans kids at that health subcommittee meeting. But that’s the sentiment l heard. That’s what his words meant to them. And reminds L that the lawmakers supporting the bill don’t represent how most people feel.



I tell all and I’ve told all of my kids, most people are all about the love. There are a few people out there that just have hate in their hearts. You know, when your kids are little, that’s how you explain it to them when they first see something that’s just ugly. In this case, that people with that hateful feeling are the ones making decisions. They’re not listening to the community.


Gloria Riviera  17:53

They well didn’t get to speak at the meeting, they really wanted to.



I have been quiet for a while out of fear and going down and actually being able to say something to a lawmaker would have felt like maybe I would have been heard. Even if it didn’t change anything. I know that I tried, and hopefully that maybe they would see like this insight that banning trans healthcare isn’t helping anyone. It’s just spreading more hate.


Gloria Riviera  18:27

Had Ann spoken to the health subcommittee, she would have said how the legislation makes it difficult to parent.



This law is banning the voices and the experts that I need to be able to get the right care for my child. I don’t know how to navigate any of this when it’s all of a sudden become this taboo topic. And my first job is to love my kid, my second job is to protect them and I need medical expertise to do that.


Gloria Riviera  18:59

The bill passed the subcommittee that day, a version of it was sent to the governor’s desk about a month later, despite the law, Ann is determined to get our gender affirming care out of state.



We’re going to pursue this we’re gonna listen to the medical experts. We’re gonna listen to therapists, we’re gonna listen to the people in the know. And most importantly, we’re gonna listen to him.


Gloria Riviera  19:26

Ann he’s approaching this so intelligently and with so much love. She’s following her kids lead, but also understands that she and L aren’t the experts. These health care decisions are not black and white. They require the guidance of trustworthy medical professionals. Unfortunately, in states like Tennessee, that’s hard to do. When politicians are getting in the way of access, much like they have for decades when it comes to abortion care. Coming up, we look at the shared playbook of the anti trans and anti abortion movements.


Gloria Riviera  20:00

The extremist movement we’re facing is an illiberal one, an anti democratic one, and one that is hoping to write your life story for you.


Gloria Riviera  20:07

And we’re back. We are back. So Sam.


Samantha Bee  22:44



Gloria Riviera  22:45

This is a show about abortion. I am wondering if you would do us the honor of explaining why we’re focusing this episode on trans healthcare.


Samantha Bee  22:54

Gloria, I would love to. So we are talking about the fight for gender affirming care in this episode, because it’s actually really closely linked to the fight for abortion rights.


Gloria Riviera  23:07

They share that idea of bodily autonomy Right?


Samantha Bee  23:10

Exactly. Here listen to this.


Gillian Branstetter  23:13

When a transgender person accesses hormones or surgery, they’re exercising the same muscle. As someone who’s accessing birth control or accessing abortion. They are looking to determine their own future.


Gloria Riviera  23:28

That’s Gillian Branstetter.


Gillian Branstetter  23:30

I’m the Communications strategist for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and LGBT and HIV project.


Samantha Bee  23:36

Part of Julian’s job is studying the anti trans and anti abortion movements.


Gillian Branstetter  23:41

The extremist movement we’re facing is in a liberal one, an anti democratic one, and one that is hoping to write your life story for you.


Samantha Bee  23:50

The anti abortion and the anti trans movements have a lot in common, starting with the fact that they’re led by a lot of the same people. It’s all part of the same overall far right strategy. They focus on these issues because they help them win elections. They win elections so they can build political power, and they build political power so they can reinforce patriarchal power structures. Look, I know that was a lot of scary buzzwords, but hear me out. Let’s take a look at one of the groups involved in both the anti trans and anti abortion movements. This little organizations called the Alliance Defending Freedom. They’re kind of like the ACLU is evil twin.


Gillian Branstetter  24:35

So the Alliance Defending Freedom is a conservative legal behemoth I, they have 1000s of lawyers across the country who are members and if you ask them, what they’re dedicated towards his quote unquote, religious liberty,


Samantha Bee  24:51

And when Julian says they’re dedicated to religious liberty, what she means is that they’re dedicated to their very particular very Christian idea of a tradition family.


Gillian Branstetter  25:01

They start from framework that the only proper family is one cisgender man, one cisgender woman, raising the children that they have biologically conceived together.


Samantha Bee  25:16

And beyond that.


Gillian Branstetter  25:17

That everyone with the uterus as a caregiver and everyone with a penis is a breadwinner. And that patriarchal inequality is just a reflection of these biological differences.


Samantha Bee  25:28

So it comes down to power and who has it, and organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom, bake their regressive worldview into law, making it very hard for anyone who doesn’t fit into their idea of quote unquote traditional to exist.


Gloria Riviera  25:45

Oh, boy, wait, the Alliance Defending Freedom, why does that name sound familiar?


Samantha Bee  25:50

Well, probably because they’re the ones who wrote the Mississippi law that led to jobs. They were one of the key forces behind the end of Row. They’re also listed as an anti LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and they are good at what they do. In the years since the election of Donald Trump, they become one of the most influential anti LGBTQ groups in the country. You may know them from hits like the Hobby Lobby case or masterpiece cake shop versus Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and most recently, the ADF represented Laurie Smith, a web designer, she wanted to post a notice saying that she wouldn’t build any websites promoting same sex marriage. Despite the fact that no gay couples had actually ever requested her services. She’s talked about picking a fight, anyways, even more important than the people the anti trans and anti abortion movements have in common is the playbook they share. And that leads us to the American principles project. They’re another one of the key organizations behind the anti trans panic that’s been sweeping the nation. Here’s their leader, Terry Schilling.


Terry Schilling  27:01

It’s imperative that the next presidential candidate recognizes transgenderism for both the threat that it poses to America’s future, but also the political opportunity that opposing this agenda offers to Republicans.


Samantha Bee  27:14

We’re going to be coming back to Terry, but I want to underscore what he just said. They see trans people as threats, but also as political opportunities. This is something they’ve learned from the fight against abortion.


Gloria Riviera  27:29

What do you mean?


Samantha Bee  27:30

Well, these far right strategists use a really simple playbook. It’s the same for their campaigns against abortion and trans people. It’s been battle tested over the course of decades, and it is astonishingly effective. There are three steps step one, identify an issue. Step two freak people out. And step three, change the landscape.


Gloria Riviera  27:53

Okay, I got it. So can you walk us through what that actually looks like in the anti trans movement?


Samantha Bee  27:59

Sure, I’ll just need a little help from our good friend Terry Schilling, he was all too willing to lay out their own roadmap.


Terry Schilling  28:06

The first step is to set the agenda and recruit political support for that agenda.


Samantha Bee  28:12

About five years ago, they identified trans people as a political target. So they started doing focus groups to define the agenda, trying to figure out exactly what anti trans issue would rile up their base the most, but also like pull some moderates to the right. They had already tried bathrooms. Maybe you remember what happened in North Carolina,



Governor of North Carolina signed a controversial law that says bathrooms or locker rooms be designated for use only by people based on their biological sex.


Gloria Riviera  28:43

Oh, yeah, I do remember that. And there was that massive backlash, the NBA relocated the all star game, Bruce Springsteen refused to play concerts in North Carolina.


Samantha Bee  28:54

And ultimately, that backlash led to the law getting repealed, but the far right wasn’t ready to give up on using trans folks as political opportunities. They just needed the right approach, and then they found it.


Terry Schilling  29:07

You win the campaigns and elections by focusing on the issues where the best political opportunities are. The first is women’s sports. This issue works best primarily with suburban and Democrat leaning women.


Samantha Bee  29:20

I just want to emphasize that last part, this is a far right think tank refining their anti trans messaging to sway democratic leaning women. They’re not just preaching to the choir, they’re talking to I don’t know, me, you, our listeners, our friends, and the transports panic gave them away in. Groups like ADF have taken the threat of trans athletes from focus groups and spread the message through ads, like this charmer for the governor’s race in Kentucky.



All female athletes want is a fair shot at competition out scholarship at a title at victory. But what if that shot was taken away by someone who claims to be a girl, but was born a boy.


Samantha Bee  30:11

Now, most liberal leaning people don’t believe that these trans kids are claiming to be girls, they are girls. But there’s something about this idea of fairness that is hitting a nerve with voters across the political spectrum. So let’s talk about it. The idea that all trans girls have a leg up on all sis girls is just wrong. The sexier assigned at birth is just one of a Milligan factors that play into how good you are at a sport. It’s way less important than stuff like your natural talent, how hard you train, what kind of coaching you have access to. I mean, I’d love to see Terry Schilling play one on one with a WNBA player.


Gloria Riviera  30:52

Me too.


Samantha Bee  30:53

There’s also this argument that more testosterone gives an unfair advantage to trans girls. But the connection between testosterone and athletic performance is murky at best, there just hasn’t been enough credible research on it. But it doesn’t matter if it’s true. It just has to feel true and get under people’s skin. Now we could talk about how rare it is for trans athletes to participate in girls sports and try to address every talking point head on. But to do that accepts that this is even a legitimate debate, which it’s not. And I know that’s hard to understand. When the messaging is so potent, it’s very tempting to take the bait. But when we do, we open the door to rolling back people’s rights, just like what happened with abortion. Ultimately, the far right doesn’t actually care about what’s quote unquote, fair. They just want political power, and it is working. Just take it from Terry.


Terry Schilling  31:55

Publicans are beginning to see the political advantages of fighting the trans agenda.


Samantha Bee  32:00

And that brings us to step two free people out. Once you find the issues you can build support around you spread that message far and wide. There’s a massive political machine at work here, organizations, conferences, policy trainings, sharing strategies on what gets voters riled up. And the strategy that works best fear is one of the most powerful political motivators out there. Tennessee actually provides a great example of this with abortion. Back in 2014, the rights agenda was to remove the right to abortion from the state constitution, right.


Gloria Riviera  32:35

I remember this from our last episode.


Samantha Bee  32:38

Again, the ultimate goal was of course, to ban abortions entirely. But if they said that explicitly, they would turn off a ton of voters. So instead, they tried to make it look like they were protecting women from scary abortionists here, listen to this ad they ran.



You’relistening to an actual 911 call. I’m sure she’s in the middle of getting an abortion. Some Tennessee abortion facilities are not regulated like other surgical centers. This has to change and you can help.


Gloria Riviera  33:12

Okay, got it. So they took one example of an abortion going wrong without any context and created the sense of panic around it.


Samantha Bee  33:19

Yes, exactly and there are a lot of people out there who might hear that and say, no, no, no, no, no, this isn’t about banning abortion. This is about protecting women. These abortion clinics are out of control.


Gloria Riviera  33:31

Even though abortions are safer than childbirth and there wasn’t actually a problem to begin with.


Samantha Bee  33:36

Yes, exactly, and it worked. Tennessee got rid of the right to abortion under their state constitution. And piece by piece, the right has been able to use moments like this as inflection points to erode abortion rights across the country. And Terry Schilling and the American principles project realized they could use some of the same strategies around trans people, strategies like manufacturing a controversy and pushing for protections, which are really just restrictions. And right now they’re doing exactly that with gender affirming care.


News 1  34:10

This morning, Idaho and Indiana are officially banning gender affirming care for transgender youth.


News 2  34:15

It is official Florida doctors cannot provide gender affirming care for minors.


News 3  34:20

Governor Greg Abbott and State Attorney General Ken Paxton went so far as to say that this care should be categorized as child abuse.


Gloria Riviera  34:28

Child abuse.


Samantha Bee  34:29

I know it’s wild, but it goes back to freaking people out. The more extreme the rhetoric, the more people start to see something like gender affirming care as controversial, and the more elections they can win, and then.


Gloria Riviera  34:42

Step three changed the landscape.


Samantha Bee  34:44

Yes, change the landscape. 22 states have passed laws making it illegal for doctors to provide gender affirming care to minors. In some states. It’s a felony.


Gloria Riviera  34:57

So they’re criminalizing health care just like with abortion.


Samantha Bee  35:00

Exactly like with abortion, and then, as Terry puts it.


Terry Schilling  35:04

This three step process, we recommend to rinse, wash and repeat and keep moving the ball forward.


Samantha Bee  35:09

So that’s what it’s all about moving the ball forward, identifying new threats, capitalizing on new opportunities, and step by step, you can gradually change what people think is right and wrong.


Gloria Riviera  35:21

So it really is just a playbook. They identify the issue by figuring out what will play best with the electorate. They freak people out by spreading misinformation across the country. And then they change the landscape by winning elections and passing laws.


Samantha Bee  35:37

Anti trans and anti abortion laws. Again, 22 states have passed laws restricting gender affirming care for minors, and 20 of those states also have bans on abortion.


Gloria Riviera  35:49

Wow, that is a huge overlap.


Samantha Bee  35:51

Yeah, and it’s not an accident. Because there’s another advantage to this whole trans panic. It distracts people from abortion.


Gloria Riviera  35:58

But wait, why would they want to distract them from abortion.


Samantha Bee  36:02

Becauseunder Trump and his new Supreme Court appointees overturning Roe was looking more and more like a reality. And that meant they’d eventually need another issue to turn out voters. Here’s Julian from the ACLU again,


Julian  36:17

The American Principles Project and others began trying to fashion this panic around 2018. And it’s important that that happened in 2018. Because one of the other major things that happened in 2018 was the nomination of justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.


Gloria Riviera  36:34

We all remember that.


Samantha Bee  36:35

Yes, people were extremely upset. And that was only the beginning.


Julian  36:40

The conservative movement, I was increasingly aware of the fact that they were likely moving towards a Supreme Court, a surgeon overturning Roe with Wade. And one of the things they knew was that this was going to be disastrously unpopular. And because they knew of all the horrors that we were going to see, that have seen since the Dobsonian last summer, I suspect that one of the selling points for these transphobic narratives was that it could help them hold on to the voters who are now pummeling them over abortion.


Gloria Riviera  37:17

So they needed to get people to focus on something else.


Samantha Bee  37:21

Yes. And as Julian so eloquently puts it.


Julian  37:25

The hope is that they can make people so afraid of transgender people’s freedom, that they won’t mind sacrificing their own.


Samantha Bee  37:36

When we buy into the panic around trans rights, we work against our best interests in preserving abortion rights, because and I can’t emphasize this enough, they are not separate fights. So the next time you’re at a family dinner, and your cousin says, I’m all for abortion rights, but this trans healthcare thing doesn’t quite sit right. Say to them, this feeling that you’re grappling with, it actually comes from right wing propaganda that has been tailor made for you by the same people who overturned Roe. And if you want to defeat them, when it comes to abortion, you have to commit to the fight for trans rights, too. And we’re not going to beat them without understanding what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and most importantly, how they’re doing it. But anyways, I’m gonna get off my soapbox for now, because I’d much rather hear from more people who are living the lives they want to live even in the face of all this hate.


Gloria Riviera  38:36

Agreed. Despite all the fear campaigns and propaganda trans people are still living their lives with dignity. After the break, we’ll meet 21 year old Daniel Simmons as a teen Daniel struggled very much like the teens at the OUTMemphis youth group and they got through it coming up the view from the other side.


Gloria Riviera  39:06

Hi, nice to meet you.


Daniel  39:32

Nice to me you too.


Gloria Riviera  40:01

It’s a Gloria.


Daniel  40:46

My name is Daniel


Gloria Riviera  40:48

Daniel. It’s so nice to see. Daniel Simmons greets me outside their apartment in Memphis. It’s a Sunday May afternoon. Daniel is 21 currently a student at Rhodes College double majoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies and psychology. Their black T shirt says gender is a drag.


Daniel  42:26

I mostly use they them pronouns. Although I’m fine with any identify as trans masculine and like gender queer slash queer in general.


Gloria Riviera  42:37

Daniel has been taking testosterone for the past four years since they were 17. They self administer it at home.


Daniel  42:44

I keep everything just in my bedroom. Daniel


Gloria Riviera  42:48

holds up a large empty laundry detergent container.


Daniel  42:51

You can use any hard plastic container as a sharps container


Gloria Riviera  42:55

written across the container in black Sharpie are the words used needles, exclamation point. Okay, so you just unscrew this is a tide laundry detergent. Alright, and the needle go in there.


Daniel  43:06

Yeah, whenever I made my first one I actually like painted it. And I like decorated it and I wrote van the man’s needle can and I covered it like glittery stickers. I was like if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna have fun.


Gloria Riviera  43:19

Yeah, Daniel injects themselves in the stomach.


Daniel  43:23

So they go anywhere around the belly button. About like an inch away from the belly button on either side. You have to pinch the skin a little bit.


Gloria Riviera  43:34

Okay so you goes it’s about to go in, just


Daniel  43:38

Stick it in and push it down. And you can see that takes a lot. A lot longer to actually push it.


Gloria Riviera  43:43

Yeah, so thick because it’s so thick. It takes manual about 15 seconds to administer the shot. Okay, done.


Daniel  43:50

That mean there’s just a little dab of blood?


Gloria Riviera  43:51

Yeah, do you do it the same day every week.


Daniel  43:58

It’s definitely adviced too and I definitely attempt to, the cue the key word being there is attempt.


Gloria Riviera  44:06

And the whole needle just went into the tide laundry. By little. Daniel started gender affirming care when they were 17. Something teens that age in Tennessee are now banned from doing the anti side says it’s about protecting children. But Daniel was the most at risk when they couldn’t get access to that care, and then became their best self happy, confident and truly living in their body when they got the care. It started with small steps first, when Daniel was about 14 growing up in a small town in Arkansas.


Daniel  44:41

The first ever like affirming thing I did for myself, which I think was actually before I came out to most people was by like a binder. A chest binder. I had got it near the holidays because this was a this was a trick I learned online from Tumblr. They were like buy it near the holidays and whenever it arrives, you can act like it’s a secret, and people will think it’s like a gift for someone, yes. And so I got it, it was a whole thing. And then right after I got it, I signed up for the school play. And I got a masculine role in that. So then I like kind of use that to be like, hey, Grandpa, do you want to like, go to Goodwill and like, help me try to find like a masculine outfit for the school play like not not for any other reason at all, just for the school play. I put a lot more effort into the things that I think was actually necessary. I don’t think my family cared that much.


Gloria Riviera  45:36

Yeah, that’s what I was just saying, like, all these hoops that you’re jumping through are to some degree of your own creation. But they’re also is it fair to say, in your mind, they were keeping you safe?


Daniel  45:48

It was it was definitely like protective. Yeah, it was also just less anxiety inducing.


Gloria Riviera  45:53

At that age, Daniel was still acquiring the language of being trans and learning about gender dysphoria. So they weren’t yet comfortable or confident, explaining it to others. When Daniel did become ready, not everyone else was, Daniel tried to start a gender and sexuality alliance social support group at their school, but was told their ideas were too progressive. So Daniel gave up and just shut down.


Daniel  46:20

I didn’t feel like the environment was like, conducive for me to be a person that was trans. At that point, I had all of the like, right, I had the language, I had the resources even.


Gloria Riviera  46:33

Did you feel stuck?


Daniel  46:34

Very much, I felt very, like trapped in the town I was in Yeah. And it was very much I had, I had made the decision in my head that the only way I could survive was to leave. And I ended up having a conversation with my grandmother. And I looked at her and I actually said, like, I don’t think I’m gonna make another two years of this. I didn’t think I could survive, waiting to get to a place that I could start hormones. I was like, I don’t think like I had come to the conclusion that, like, if I had to wait another two years, like I would have probably got myself, like, I just would have.


Gloria Riviera  47:07

Because it was so painful.


Daniel  47:09

Like every day, like having people that like, couldn’t look at you for who you were having people that were like, making assumptions and like gender is something that dictates every interaction that you have with another person every single day. And so every interaction that I had with another person was just painful, because they weren’t seeing you know, they they they could not see beyond, like, what they perceived as my gender to see who I actually was. And like it starts like with little things, you know, like with waitstaff and stuff, but as always, like, have a nice day, ma’am, have a nice, you know, whatever. And it’s like, do you know how often people say ma’am, and the sounds like Yes, ma’am. No, ma’am, thank you, ma’am.


Gloria Riviera  47:52

It’s like death by 1000 pinpricks.


Daniel  47:54

Absolutely, like every single time I heard that. It felt like like a, like a gut punch.


Gloria Riviera  48:03

When Daniel confessed to their grandmother that they were suicidal, she responded with love.


Daniel  48:08

She was very much like trying to meet me where I was at at that point. I don’t think that she understood how serious it was until that point. And I think that like that was also kind of like a wake up call like to her being like, oh my god, like this is like real. And like immediately after like, she put a lot of effort into like, helping and supporting me and like doing like just like whatever I needed and like that led that literally included moving in with her for like three years.


Gloria Riviera  48:35

Yeah, thank God for Daniel’s grandmother. Seriously, studies show a supportive adult can literally be life saving to LGBTQ plus youth. Daniel transferred high schools at age 16 and moved to a bigger, more liberal town in Arkansas. They were now in a place that offered gender affirming health care for trans youth. But Daniel had to jump through hoops to get it, including seeing a therapist and getting a letter of recommendation. It meant months and months of waiting.


Daniel  49:05

I was already like out living as a man I was like, socially recognized as a man I had already like, hit all the milestones that are like necessary. So that just felt like kind of useless.


Gloria Riviera  49:15

More waiting, more requirements. Another therapists letter from a second therapist, Daniel had to undergo a psychological evaluation at the hospital. So did their mom and grandmother. Yeah, grandma too, when Daniel finally got on testosterone. They felt better.


Daniel  49:33

My mood and things started improving like just knowing that I was able to get it that I’d like the weight was over that the end results were insight.


Gloria Riviera  49:41

Next came top surgery or a double mastectomy venule got the surgery right before starting their freshman year at Rhodes College. They were 18. Six months later, they had a radical hysterectomy. People have called Daniel’s transition fast, but Daniel pushes back on that characterization.


Daniel  49:59

I have already waited so much time like, it doesn’t feel fast, because I’m already put, like, yes, my voice changed in the six months from July to December. But my voice could have already had been changed if I didn’t have that six month waiting period at the hospital. Like I could have been seeing changes a lot sooner. And with those changes came a lot of just like relief and joy for me so I felt like I had to wait for happiness. Like I had to wait in order to like, get to the same level of comfort with myself that like most people are just automatically given at birth.


Gloria Riviera  50:37

Since transitioning Daniel is happier. And it shows, they say their grandmother sees it.


Daniel  50:44

She said that she didn’t think she’d ever seen me laugh, genuinely before, like, before, hormones or before surgery, I was so afraid to take up space in a room because the more space I shake up, the more I’m going to get noticed. And the more I get noticed, the more I’m recognized for someone who I’m not. She said after I had gotten surgery, and I was able to like present myself the way that I wanted to that I was able to like be recognized and seen the way that I wanted to. She’s like, that’s the first time I’ve actually heard you fully laugh. And like, talk to my friends and have fun and be carefree and not like have so much worry and anxiety that’s holding me back.


Gloria Riviera  51:25

Right? It’s that word carefree, right? You found that ability to be carefree.


Daniel  51:31

It’s like I can take up space.


Gloria Riviera  51:33

And that’s what so many queer and trans teens need the allowance, the permission, the comfort to take up space Daniel no longer sees escaping as the solution like they once did, like the youth group teens do. Despite the terrible laws Daniel  has no plans to permanently leave the South.


Daniel  51:55

There’s a very strong rhetoric of like queer flight from the south, and that, like the South will never accept you, you have to leave the South or whatever. And I mean, like I had the same feelings like when I was in the very small town that I grew up in. But like, if every queer person leaves, it never has the chance to get better because you don’t have the queer people fighting to make it better.


Gloria Riviera  52:18

For trans teens who are struggling like those that the out Memphis youth group, Daniel says, Hold on, it will get better.


Daniel  52:27

Having actually experienced like those hard years, if you’re looking at like survival, like, do whatever you’ve got to do to make it to the next day. And like, just wait until you can make it to 18 because like when you make it there, it’ll be okay, you’ll be okay.


Gloria Riviera  52:43

If you can find the social support until the medical support is possible.


Daniel  52:49

And that social support goes a long way being socially recognized for who you are, can also start to tear away some of those, you know, walls that you’re building up. So I would definitely like just save focus on the people around you who are supportive of you focus on like, the ones who are going to like step up when someone misgendered you and focus on making sure that like you have that group of people, someone


Gloria Riviera  53:14

to step up when you’re being misgendered someone who’s got your back, someone like Koi, back at the LGBTQ plus youth group and OUTMemphis koi and Charlotte talk about how Charlotte’s been trying to socially transition. And what that means.


Charlotte  53:30

Is like the pronouns name and stuff like that. Yeah, I’ve been trying at my school.


Gloria Riviera  53:36

Trying to get people to recognize her gender identity.


Charlotte  53:40

Nobody cared.


Koi  53:43

Well, I mean, it is moody teenagers.


Charlotte  53:46

Yeah, they still. Yeah. They just kept going on. Just calling me he the dead name and all that.


Koi  53:56

Yeah. Well, I’ve told you many times I have sharp teeth. I have sharp teeth and human bites are one of the most dangerous bites in the world.


Charlotte  54:06

Okay, speaking of human bites, New Yorkers are more likely to bite someone than sharks.


Koi  54:10

Oh, that’s that makes sense. That checks out.


Gloria Riviera  54:14

Thank God, I love them. I love them so much.


Samantha Bee  54:20

Is that true about New Yorkers? Bite?


Gloria Riviera  54:25

Oh, my God. I just I love their report. Yeah. It’s also you know, we got to acknowledge like that joy that we feel and just listening to them is coming from an intense place between the two of them for sure. Yeah. And this idea of social transitioning. We’ve been talking about what do you do about the lawmakers or what do you do with your family, but what do you do when you got to go to ninth grade?


Samantha Bee  54:53

What do you do when your teacher won’t acknowledge who you really are? calls you bye You’re dead name, then what? When the person of authority in the room won’t even give you the respect that you deserve. It can be very, very intimidating to stand up for yourself multiple times a day, multiple times a week.


Gloria Riviera  55:17

And we’re saying, keep going, hang on, it will get better. And that’s the promise we have to deliver on.


Samantha Bee  55:26

Right? I love that. You just said that, right? We do. We have to deliver on the promise that the world can be a better place.


Gloria Riviera  55:38

Yes, a better place where these teens deserve the opportunity to live with the freedom and euphoria. You can hear in Daniels voice, we can help them get there. We are early enough in this fight to create a world where trans and LGBTQ folks feel safe and embraced. We watched for too long as abortion rights were incrementally chipped away. Roe was hollowed out one petty legislative victory at a time until it was no more. All along there were people raising the alarm, seeing the long game. But not enough lawmakers were willing to take a bold stance to fight for Reproductive Justice. Now, the far right. They’re pulling out the same playbook on trans rights. But we don’t have to repeat our mistakes. Instead of taking the bait and fueling division. We can unapologetically rally for our rights. Because together, there’s really no stopping us.


Samantha Bee  56:48

Next week on the defenders, I get to talk to a writer Rebecca Traister will discuss why talking about access to abortion can be a winning issue across the political spectrum.


Rebecca Kockler  56:58

The numbers are sky high in support of abortion rights and access and that is clearly not just Democratic voters.


Samantha Bee  57:01

And we talk about why some progressives are still afraid to even use the word abortion. Oh my god, people get over it. It’s just a word.


Rebecca Kockler  57:06

I was hearing everywhere like these guys shouldn’t be focusing on abortion and shouldn’t be focusing on abortion. And they insisted and they won by a big margin.


Samantha Bee  57:23

That’s next week on the defenders.


Gloria Riviera  57:28

There’s more of The Defenders with Lemonada. Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like extended interviews with organizers, abortion providers and experts subscribe now in Apple podcasts.


Samantha Bee  57:42

The Defenders is a production of Lemonada Media. We’re your hosts Gloria Riviera, and Samantha Bee. Muna Danish  is our supervising producer. Lisa Phu  is our producer. Isaura Aceves and Tony Williams are our associate producers. Ivan Kuraev and Natasha Jacobs are our audio engineers. Music by Hannis Brown with additional music by Natasha Jacobs. Story editing by Jackie Danziger, our VP of narrative content. Fact checking by Naomi Barr. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. This series is supported by Charles and Lynn Schusterman, Family Philanthropies, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Levi Strauss foundation. Follow The Defenders wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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