Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission. Because victory for Louisiana requires you. I'm your host Lynda Woolard. On this episode, I speak with Corinne Green, who's a policy and legislative strategist for national organization Equality Federation, as well as a longtime activist working within the state group Louisiana Trans Advocates. Our conversation walks through the attacks targeting the LGBTQ+ community, and the transgender community specifically, that we saw play out in Louisiana's legislative session this year, and puts them into a broader context of what's been brewing for many years in America and is occurring across red states today. Corinne recommends that anyone interested in being more engaged should join the Legislative Organizing Coalition for All LGBTQ+ Louisianans, or LOCALL as their acronym goes. And we've included the link to that in addition to other resources we discuss in our episode notes. Corinne Green, welcome to Louisiana Lefty.
Thank you. Great to be here, Lynda.
Well, it's great to see you again. We've known each other for quite a while although, I guess, we lost touch for a little while in there when you left the state, but we met back in the Equality Louisiana days.
That's right. The good old days back when we had both LTA, Louisiana Trans Advocates, and Equality Louisiana. And they were secretly just the same people anyway.
Two organizations with the aligned missions.
Yeah, and we all... As soon as I began getting involved in state politics, your name just came up all the time. So it was very cool to get to meet you back then, and great to reconnect now that I was able to come back home.
And so I mentioned that it was back in the EQLA days. And part of the reason EQLA went away, right, is because when John Bel Edwards got elected, a lot of those folks from Equality Louisiana ended up in his administration.
Yeah, unfortunately, a lot of us from Equality Louisiana and LTA were just too good at what we did. And so a lot of... Several of us got hired into the administration. I actually even worked as a policy intern of the administration for a while, doing drug policy. And then also, the other problem is that most of us have gotten hired out to do advocacy work outside of the state, because they are not many paid positions for queer advocacy work in Louisiana.
That's how we met. But tell me your political origin story. How did you get interested in politics in the first place?
Yeah, so I had always been interested in politics and kind of followed it and developed very strong opinions about politics. But it wasn't until I came out as trans in 2012 that I started paying more attention to state-level politics. Because the kinds of things that were making, you know, the the news around state politics at that time, were, like, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Pastor Protection Act and stuff like that, which obviously, as a queer person, just hit a lot harder than, you know, complex tax policy or budget allocation stuff, which obviously I have opinions about. But what grabs the headlines is that kind of stuff. And so when Louisiana was appearing in political news, it was usually in context like that. And the way that Louisiana Trans Advocates is set up, it's kind of, first and foremost, a network of support groups around the state. And so I began attending those when I came out in 2012. And it was very clever to set LTA up that way, because that allowed the kind of engaged advocacy side, those kinds of folks to recruit and find other, like, actual trans people to bring in and do leadership development with, and try to kind of get hitched up to the cart and pull along with them. And so some really amazing trans and queer activists, among them, Tucker Berry, Matthew Patterson, Micah Caswell, kind of took me in and taught me how to organize and how to do policy work, and actually managed to turn that into a career somehow.
So tell me about from that moment when you got involved in politics, what are the career highlights you've had along the way politically, and what are you doing now?
Yeah, so I think one of my favorite stories to tell kind of about that part of my political development is that when I, you know, joined up to do the advocacy work with LTA and Equality Louisiana we all just kind of did what interested us. And then we made up titles to give ourselves a little more credibility and to put on resumes. And so I was very interested in kind of the dorky, nerdy policy side of things. And so that's where I was allowed to kind of, you know, get put and insert myself. And so I kind of started off working on, like, our long-running, long-suffering Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This year was actually the 30th year that it had been introduced in the Louisiana legislature. So working on, you know, this legislation that had already been written, but kind of working on the conversations around it, and the lobbying and the comms materials and talking about it in technical ways, and talking about what it does, what it did and didn't do. And similarly, to analyze kind of the bad legislation that had been filed to figure out what it did and didn't do, and how to talk about that, and how to figure out how to defeat it or, in certain cases, come up with, like, amendments to make them less bad or potentially, you know, kind of nullify the bad effects. And so I had a really easy entry into doing policy work because I got to start with things that were mostly already written, and I just got to work with them from there. But at the same time, I was also getting involved in harm reduction work. Several of my good friends were doing that kind of work because the queer people are disproportionately likely to experience overdoses and things like that. And so I was working with some friends from a needle exchange in New Orleans, and we had come up with a project that we wanted to do of trying to get Narcan, Naloxone, the overdose reversal drugs. So if someone's overdosing on opioids, you can give them this as either intramuscular injection or nasal spray, and it literally wakes them up and saves their life and prevents an overdose. So we were working on a project to try to, to get that into kind of hotspot areas around the city behind like bar counters or convenience store counters. We had hotspot data from the city Health Department where overdoses were happening, we wanted to target those areas to try to get more Narcan out in the community. The problem we ran into at the time was that it was not actually legal for laypeople, non-pharmacists, to hand Narcan to somebody else or for other people to keep them home. And so no business owners or managers would actually agree to do that. Because unfortunately, they all look at their liability and the bottom line. And so a lot of the folks that I was working with who are, you know, not super plugged in to kind of legislative developments because they've been failed so many times by, you know, law, and we can't blame them for that. But because I was doing... I've been doing that kind of policy work with EQLA and LTA already, I thought, "Well, you know, I know just enough to get myself into trouble here. Let me look up, where, you know, where it says that people can't do this? And let me just see if I could... how much of, like, a lift it would be to change that." And so I actually looked up, you know, the statutes around it, and I saw oh... I can... you know, if there were just like one short sentence here, this would all be fine. And I don't see any reason why I can't just write that sentence and try to find somebody to run it. And to do, like, the lobbying and the coalition building and the driving grassroots kind of calls the same way that I've done for other stuff. And so I just kind of did it. I decided to do it. Nobody told me I couldn't. And so that was actually the first bill that I ever researched and wrote and got passed myself. I found representative Helena Moreno, who was in the state legislature at the time, and kind of talked to her, made the case for it. She agreed that it sounded like something that would be a really good public health measure, and agreed to run it. And so then... She actually handled a lot of the conversations, and I handled a lot of the kind of grassroots organizing for driving calls in support, you know, the comms and social media, shareable graphics and stuff like that. And we actually got it passed relatively easily because that was around the time when, you know, more white people were beginning to experience overdoses as fentanyl penetrated more heavily and began replacing heroin. And so all of these legislators, who can be hard to win over to causes like this, were actually getting pressure from their constituents to be seen to be doing something on overdoses. And so, you know, coming to them with this, like, very common sense, public health measure to get this life saving... to make this life saving drug more accessible was actually, like, a very bipartisan setup. And so we had a really broad support for it. And so that was actually the first bill that I wrote and passed. It was making it legal for folks to, like, laypeople to possess and distribute Narcane. And I'll also... That actually ties in well with kind of another one of my favorite stories, which is that, you know, part of pushing legislation forward is you want to assemble really strong testimony package to get, you know, experts or issue area folks to come in and talk about their lived experience and why this needs to happen. And so I was trying to find someone to represent the medical field to come in and talk about... to be, like, our expert for committee hearings. And one of the folks I was working with kind of in the harm reduction scene was an EMT, nonbinary person named Kasha Bornstein. They're an anarchist, so they were kind of hard to convince. So, like, please come to the legislature and talk about why we need this law. They're like, "This never saves our people." And, like, I know, but what if it could, right? So I convinced them to agree to come testify. And they got to, you know, they came in and supported it, and they got to see it pass out of that committee. And they got to see it pass the floor. And then they came in and helped and on the other committee on the other side, so it passed there. We saw it pass the board there and saw it become law. And then, like, that just opened up possibilities for the things that, like, the actual folks on the ground were able to do with Narcan in Louisiana. And so this actually, like, blew Kasha's mind. They're like, "Wow, we can just, like, write down the words that would make the world a little bit better, and then go in and talk about them? And then good things can actually happen? And you can actually use the legislative process to help people?." And I was, like, "Yeah!" And so this anarchist, when they actually went off to med school in Florida, because of that eye-opening experience of seeing legislation and policy work being used for good at Louisiana, They actually worked on and passed Syringe Exchange Authorization Law in Florida while they were there for medical school. And so just, like, my kind of foundational policy work stories kind of intertwined there.
That's amazing! That's amazing. I love those stories. Well, tell me then from there, like, what took you out of Louisiana? What did you go to do from that point?
Yeah. So from that point I had, you know, been doing the policy side of things for LTA and Equality Lousiana for a while, and had also done that work on passing the Narcan bill in Louisiana, and had done some things for... through the Office of Drug Policy when I was there in JB's administration, and actually got hired by Transgender Law Center to go do policy for them. Transgender Law Center. They're national trans rights organization, they mainly do litigation work, but they have one policy position. And so they hired me to go work for them. They are out in the Bay Area. And so I moved out to Oakland to work for them. And kind of my... the two things that I'm most proud of there are that I got to work on and passed California's Gender Recognition Act, which is the law that passed in California, allowing folks to get non binary gender markers on their identification documents, and actually switching to self-attestation for trans people to update their gender markers. So whereas in the past, you would need, like, some sort of doctor to write a note or, like, sign off on something... this moved it to, you know, you can just go in and sign an affidavit that you were trans and you need... your gender marker needs to be this to reflect who you are, and just makes it a lot more accessible for folks. And so I think that was the single largest expansion of access to non binary gender markers in the country that I got to work on out there. And then kind of the other thing that I'm most proud of from my policy work there was, unfortunately, correctly identifying that trans healthcare access was probably the area of trans rights that was going to need the most attention and support moving forward. And so in 2017, I conceived the Protect Trans Health campaign, which at the time was the first ever joint project of the two kind of national... premier national trans rights organizations, Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality... They've never collaborated on a joint project before. But I was able to get both organizations on board to this roadmap that I dreamed up that started with kind of grassroots advocacy, trying to defend section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which is the Non-Discrimination section, so the part of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination in the provision of health care services on the basis of sex. And obviously, as trans activists, and just civil rights minded folks in general, we interpret that to mean including trans people, including on the basis of gender identity. And so that was actually a part of the Obama administration rule, elaborating on section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, that at the time, the Trump administration was aiming to roll back. And so we wanted to mount a really vocal defense of it, of those protections. And then, ideally, pivot after getting folks engaged on that front with that very kind of headline-getting item, to then try to harness that energy and redirect it to state-based advocacy for trans healthcare access. And kind of depending on the state that would take different forms, you know, in kind of more progressive states that might be like actually trying to enshrine trans healthcare access and law or regulation. In more challenging states, we're doing that kind of policy work, it would be kind of doing corporate advocacy, trying to get them to update voluntarily their their own employee health insurance plans to make sure that trans health care was covered. That, unfortunately, it didn't pan out. The timing was very bad in terms of the kind of overall health of the trans movement at the time. So when the National Center for Transgender Equality wound up losing all except for their their direct leadership staff and kind of a big unionizing incident have the... that project, unfortunately, fell apart. And I still dream to this day, I wonder if the world would be a slightly different place, if we had actually been able to kind of fulfill that, that roadmap of the Protect Trans Health campaign that, unfortunately, we're not able to know... maybe not, but it's nice to dream.
So who are you working for now?
So right now, I work for Equality Federation. And if you haven't heard of them, it's not that surprising. They are not a generally a public facing organization. What we do is, we are a membership organization, and our members are the state-level quality organizations. So here in Louisiana Forum For Equality and Louisiana Trans Advocates are members of Equality Federation. And so at Equality Federation I'm the policy and legislative strategist. So I help with policy analysis, bill development, legislative strategy, connecting to different states who are maybe working on the same issue so that they can share resources. And we're also kind of the membrane, the go-between between state-level groups and the national-level groups. And so state partners will tell us kind of what they need, and we're able to connect them to that, if there are any, hopefully there are, national organizations that are producing or working on the things they can get to those organizations at the national level who can support that.
So you're working for a national organization, you're working not just in the state of Louisiana, you're working with other states.
That's right. But Equality Federation has actually been all-remote for something like 15 or 16 years. And so when, you know, I got a pure work from home job, I just immediately hightailed it back here to Louisiana because I believe very strongly that one of the reasons that the South is so historically under-resourced and under-supported in terms of LGBTQ advocacy is just that, you know, all of the the national advocacy groups are based in... they're either in New York, DC, or in a few cases, the San Francisco Bay Area. And so because there are not many folks at this level of the movement actually in the South, there's just a little bit more distance, a little more disconnect between folks on the ground here and the folks doing that work. And I would love to just have, you know, the majority of national-level queer movement staffers be based in In places like the South and Midwest. I think that would make a real difference. I'm just doing my my little part to try to work on that.
Well and we certainly saw, over this legislative session, significant attacks on the LGBTQ community, on trans community specifically. But anybody watching nationally had to know that was coming, right?
Sort of. I will say, one of the responsibilities of my job in Equality Federation is actually tracking legislation nationally. And so I run our bill tracker. I think I have... I read one of the most wide-reaching bill trackers of any kind of national that does bill tracking. I take a really wide view of what is a queer issue. So I count, you know, like broad criminal justice bills as being relevant to queer people, you know, kind of all this stuff like that, because all of these things disproportionately affect queer people the same way that these kinds of policies disproportionately affect black people and other people of color. And so I try to track as broadly as I can. But what that also means is that I read every single one of these anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills that come in around the country. And so I have... I'm one of the few unfortunate people in the country who actually have a complete picture of, like, how absurd things have gotten. And I wound up having to pull some data for a researcher yesterday, and they were looking for 2022 data. And so I knew this kind of intellectually, but I hadn't had time to breathe this year, to actually, like, really put it in front of me again. And so I had to provide them the number of, for example, health care bans that were filed last year. So around the country, there were 35 health care bans filed last year, total. And this year, there were... I think we're at 103, if not 133, or something like, that filed this year. And not counting Louisiana, 18 have passed just in the last six months, I believe, to pass last year. And so the the sheer proliferation of anti-trans legislation that we've seen this year is completely unprecedented. I've been doing this work for almost 10 years. And it's not just that, you know, the number of health care bans is so much greater than it ever has been, it's also that the number of not, like, completely novel anti-trans attacks that have come in is so much greater. There are more new types of bills doing new bad things, than we've ever seen before. So in my previous... I've been doing this work for almost 10 years, I think about eight or something. And the maximum number of, like, novel anti-trans legislative attacks that the movement has had to, like, figure out and reckon with and respond to... the maximum number of those per year has been one. Maximum number of one of those per year for my entire career until this year, when, depending on how you kind of slice it and partition bills into categories, there's probably somewhere between 18 and 14 kinds of new types of anti-trans bills this year. And this is also the year where I think we're getting a preview of where the anti-trans attacks are going, as they've begun to incorporate TRAPed style language from the abortion field. So TRAP stands for targeted restrictions on abortion providers. So it's the kind of things where they say like, you know, "If you do abortions, your hallways must be this wide, and people must have admitting privileges for here and there." And like all these nitpicky things that don't actually have anything to do with the healthcare services being provided, we're seeing those kinds of things lifted whole cloth from abortion bills directly into to trans healthcare bans. And one of the most alarming ways that that has manifested itself is in the number of bills, trans healthcare ban bills, filed that have implications for basically interstate travel, or just pure information dissemination is really alarming. And, you know, one of the first healthcare bans to pass this year... I think it actually was the first healthcare mandate passed this year in Mississippi directly prohibits aiding and abetting any minor in accessing gender-affirming health care. And of course, we have no case law to guide us on what that means or how that will be applied. And so it's really easy for kind of the policy analysts in the movement to spin our wheels and wind up in some really dark places of thinking about how this stuff could be wielded. If, you know, if, like, Ron DeSantis were going to try to push it to the maximal position. And then obviously, there's some really scary provisions... and the Florida health care ban that passed in terms of child custody, in terms of the state reserving the right to, basically, remove trans children from their parents in certain kinds of custody situations, as well as they also have one of the, like, clearest TRAP-style language provisions in their anti-trans health bill, that requires any provider providing trans healthcare. So even simple, like, maintenance, noncontroversial, very simple, very low side effects hormone replacement therapy, must be an actual physician, can't be like a nurse practitioner or a registered nurse. And what we know from the data is that roughly 80% of trans patients do access their, like, regular hormones through those kinds of providers, rather than an actual full-fledged physician, which is not unusual for people who are on kind of maintenance, low-complication medicines of anytime. So when you're hearing reports in Florida of trans adults losing access to their health care, even though, you know, the bill only specifically, technically prohibited it for minors, it's because of that huge reduction in the available prescribers for providing that kind of care. And then even further, that it mandated that physicians who do provide that care, even if they're just working at a small family clinic in the country, or you know, in the middle of nowhere, they have to maintain hospital, surgeon-level malpractice insurance, which is remarkably more expensive than the level of malpractice insurance that you would normally need to carry if you were just kind of a rural provider in a clinic.
Do you have a sense of who's driving the anti-trans legislation nationwide? And when I say nationwide, I don't mean that. I mean, state. State by state.
Right. Yeah. So what we what we know is that there are a... there has been always, basically, a kind of religious, conservative, national bill, you know, and Alec will contribute to this too. But there are also these other groups that are not as prominent, for whom this is, like, their defining issue for a while. Not necessarily trans health care, but anti-LGBT measures in general. And then, I think, as the visibility of trans people has increased, they have really honed in on on trans people as like their wedge issue that they want to, like, take and propel forward. And so when we first saw healthcare ban bills being introduced a couple of years ago, they were pretty rare, and there was not much juice behind them. But I think what has happened is that just this really unfortunate confluence of events, where these people have been kind of writing this hobbyhorse for a while. And then simultaneously this... I'm just going to say it outright, a kind of fascist wave that has overtaken the Republican Party had been casting about for a while. Or it's, you know, the most effective kind of opponent to be the target of fascist dehumanization. And it started off in kind of the attack on education, the pushback against the teaching of, like, accurate history in American schools. And kind of through that, it kind of metastasized, and then they found that talking about the existence of LGBTQ people in schools was also a winner for them. That kind of branched over into general anti-LGBTQ, anti-trans sentiment, that then these kind of bill mill organizations were more than ready to step in and hand them these kind of ready made, you know, horribly transphobic bills on a platter. And so we have this, like, just perfect storm of stumbling on to this very, very small minority population that... many people still don't know a trans person, so there's not that, like, direct connection that gives people kind of pause to question some of the rhetoric they hear about us. And that has resulted in this, unfortunately, extremely successful wave of anti-trans sentiment that we're now seeing is, like, dragging, kind of... When you poll Americans on how they feel about LGBTQ issues or trans people, and trans policy issues specifically, we're seeing, like, a really scary regression, a pullback of kind of support across the board. I'm not familiar with kind of happening on any kind of, like, identity-based, class-based sort of measure before, in kind of the political history of the U.S. It may have, I'm not sure where. But I've certainly not seen anything like this before.
Well, and we're talking about legislatures across the country, but it's the school boards and PTAs and stuff that are really saying where the rubber hits the road a lot of the times. And obviously, the big gin up they're doing now is the trans women in sports, where they've actually, I don't know if you saw the news article that came out today... it was actually, I think, in Canada... but, I guess, this is also infecting Canada now. But there was a, some grandparents that wanted to check a one of the girls in a track meet.
A nine year old shot putter had a pixie cut. And they they were really, really mad. They thought that, surely, this was a trans athlete trying to steal the athletic glory of the nine year old track competition from, presumably, their child. I assume they have.
Yeah, right. I mean, the the outrage machine, right, it's the same way, like, Youngkin got elected governor in Virginia, as you rightly pointed out, with the CRT issue, where they ginned up that issue for parents and folks... there was that one line where they asked someone why they voted for Youngkin? "CRT." And what well, can you define CRT? "No, I can't. But I know I don't like it." It's that same kind of ginning up of the outrage amongst folks. And I think that's how... I think that's why they're targeting this because they can get that out.
It's really terrifying to see how successful it has been, and how rapidly kind of the national discourse around trans people has deteriorated. You know, I think it was, I think it was maybe the year I came out, or just a couple of years after, when Laverne Cox was on the cover of Time Magazine, and, you know, that the title was "The Transgender Tipping Point." And it really felt like, you know, the visibility was doing us a lot of good that, you know, people were meeting trans people or hearing about trans people from trans people. And, you know, the research shows that when you talk... when someone who's never met a trans person before actually gets to talk to a trans person, that drastically increases their understanding and just kind of general support of trans people, because it's not some constructed stereotype boogeyman in their head anymore. But seeing this... especially this kind of pedophile branding, catch on is remarkably... just really disconcerting and scary. Because I think that there... As it seems like the political content of American political discourse becomes more and more unmoored from, like, kind of actual foundational political policy, you know, like, like how we as a society allocate resources and how we take care of the most marginalized among us, as the discussion kind of moves out of that traditional realm of political discussion and more into this kind of nebulous posturing, us-versus-them rhetoric, it just seems like it's very difficult to reground it. And, you know, actual issues that make a difference to people. Because... I think what, Trump... I hate learning about what Trump says in his speeches, but he gave a speech over the weekend, and I think he kind of said it straight up, he said, you know, "It used to be when I talk about taxes, or this kind of thing, people would go. But now when I talk about transgender, wow, they love it," You know. And I think that...
Difference between the golf clap and a cheers, right?
Right, which is... It's, unfortunately, true that that does seem to be the case because all of these people who are fired up and want to do anti-trans things, they've never met a trans person, they've just learned about us on Fox News, and then decided that something must be done, that Fox News says must be done about us. And that is how they are kind of making their political decisions. And it's really frustrating, as someone who does policy work for a living, to see that kind of separation from, like, real politic work into the realm of symbolism.
But if I understood you correctly, you're you're basically saying the folks who are initially driving this as a culture war issue, are cynically doing so because they see it as something that they can get people upset about? That they don't necessarily believe the things they're saying, they just think this is something they can get people upset about. Is that your understanding? Or no?
So that was kind of... when this wave started, that's a pretty accurate summation of how I felt. But more and more now, I think that even the folks kind of at the top, stirring this up, I think more and more of them, as they have seen how successful it has been for them, kind of have drunk their own Kool Aid, basically, and kind of really do, either... Well, whether they like actually believe it or not, I'm not sure. But they really do, I believe, sincerely want to do the things that they're saying they want to do. So when they get up there on the CPAC stage and say they want to eliminate trans people, like, I actually believe, like, whether that person believes that, you know, we are all satanic pedophiles or not, I do sincerely believe that he really does want to eliminate trans people.
While we try to do evergreen content, I do want to talk a little bit about what happened in our legislative session this year because I believe it's instructive, right? So can you tell me a little bit about the bills that came up in session this year? And how that how that played out?
Yeah, so one thing about Louisiana that I have kind of noticed myself, having kind of started engaging nationally and in a whole bunch of other states, is that it seems to me like Louisiana kind of gets the national wave of conservative legislative efforts, typically, two or three years behind a lot of other states. I think that's because we have a lot of kind of, you know, pride in our state and Louisianans kind of guiding their own agendas and that kind of thing, which is great. But what I think that this year really proved to me is that that might not be the case anymore. And that this kind of national fervor is very, very active here. And so the bills that we've seen in Louisiana this year, the primary ones that I'll mention are HB 648, which was our trans health care ban, that bans trans health care for anyone under 18. It's also very sloppily written, I'll say, as someone who does draft my own legislation, it's remarkable some of the ways in which this seems to have been so hastily put together. But so there's that trans healthcare ban. There is a Don't Say Gay bill, which we... is the term that kind of was coined in Florida to talk about the prohibition on mention, even discussion of LGBTQ people in schools, and certainly the exclusion of any LGBTQ history or topics from curriculum. Or even sex ed. And our Don't Say Gay bill here in Louisiana is actually the worst I've ever seen. And I think that's because of that kind of traditional delay in Louisiana getting things like this, the legislators who kind of put this stuff together, haven't learned the lessons that were maybe learned in other places. So for example, when we first started seeing these, there are just entire, straight up blanket prohibitions on any mention of any sexual orientation or gender identity in school, which, obviously, can be interpreted to mean, you know, a cisgender, heterosexual person, you know, a straight person in a straight marriage, you know, if they have a wedding band on that signals that they're, you know, is that an indication of, you know, their sexual orientation is that allowed? Can you have a picture of your spouse, even if you're straight on your desk? We don't know. And so in a lot of places, when they're filing these now, they don't write them that way. Because that is kind of a really obvious weakness of legislation like this. But our Don't Say Gay bill never, like... our folks didn't learn that lesson. And so they just filed the straight, unvarnished, just that very, very ridiculous version of this. And then the other thing that we've that we've seen a lot of this session alludes to kind of the those schoolboard-level, local-level desktops that you referenced earlier, kind of the fight over what books libraries and schools are allowed to have and make available to students. And so there are a couple kind of library bills targeting sensitive topics, which we know is mostly code for racial history of America, LGBTQ existence, things like that. And what blows my mind is there's even one bill, specifically to enable the takeover of kind of the oversight system of the St Tammany Parish library system, like, it's one bill just for St. Tammany.
So can you tell me, for folks who don't know, the trans healthcare ban for... it's under what age?
That's under 18.
And what does that mean for people under 18? Like, what would that do?
So it's remarkable the way that it... I think it wanders back, it's really unfortunate that there are so few trans people because it means that we just don't have the volume to say what it actually means. And so all of these people who are not trans, and many of whom have never even met a trans person, get to just make up what it means. And so what it absolutely doesn't mean is young children are having, you know, any kind of surgery whatsoever. That's just not what it is. And so what trans healthcare looks like for youth, if they're... before, if they haven't reached puberty, all being trans and supporting a trans youth at that point means is listening to who they say they are, you know, allowing them to present themselves in a way that feels authentic to them. And so in a lot of cases pre-puberty that just means letting a trans kid tell you what kind of haircut they want, and what kind of clothes they want to wear, and what kind of name they feel accurately represents who they are as a person, and trusting them when they tell you who they are. So there's absolutely no kind of medical intervention at all before a trans youth reaches puberty. And then when they do reach puberty, what it looks like is in consultation with their parents and with their health care providers, and talking through what options look like and what that looks like, first, for someone who's reaching puberty starting, what we call, puberty blockers. And so these are medicines that, you know, cisgender children who experience precocious puberty, which is, you know, puberty that happens much too early, for whatever kind of reason, take to prevent that until a more appropriate time. The same medicine is what trans kids take to give them, their family, and their doctors more time to really investigate what they want to do with their lives going forward. And you know, what their gender identity really is, and what they want their body to look like to represent that. And so it's just puberty blockers at first, which just literally places a pause on puberty. And at any point, if they discontinue taking those puberty blockers, kind of the the natural puberty process that their body would have gone through kicks into gear, which is how it works for cisgender children with precocious puberty, and they're on puberty blockers until they reach kind of an appropriate age for a normal puberty and then they stopped them and their body, you know, engages and they go through it. And so for trans kids, though, what that looks like is if after a couple of years on puberty blockers, they're, you know, they maintained and are consistent and that, you know, they they are trans and they want to be acknowledged and move through the world as the gender that they say they are in concert, again, with their parents and their doctor, it looks like is starting testosterone if they're a trans masculine person, or estrogen if they're a trans feminine person. And these are the same, you know, testosterone and estrogen, are the same drugs that, you know, cisgender people take for any reason. So a lot of, for example, menopausal women who might take estrogen. And I take the same estrogen as they do. Men on testosterone replacement therapy, it's the same testosterone that a trans person takes, right? And so, you know, if the kid agrees, and their parents agree, and the doctor agrees that, you know, this is safe, right for them at that point, they will start that sex hormone that aligns with their gender identity. And what that does is allows their body to go through that puberty. And so, you know, I'm a trans woman. And so, you know, I actually got a pretty deep voice for my puberty, I grew a beard, and all these things were really distressing for me, because I didn't identify with them. They didn't, you know... I didn't feel like they represented me at all. And it has created this really horrible and very miserable dysphoria. And so all it does is allow those trans kids to go through the puberty they feel that they always should have been able to go through. And that's all it is. And then eventually, at some point, if they are interested in it, at some point in their lives they might access some kind of surgery. And so for example, if you're, like, a trans-masc person, so there's, you know, you're assigned female at birth, which you identify as a boy or a man. If you did go through puberty before realizing you were trans or you didn't have access to puberty blockers, it's very possible that you would have developed breasts, for example, and that can be really distressing. If you're a man with breasts, you know, just like boys and men who have gynecomastia, which is when boys and men develop breasts due to, you know, hormonal issues, they can have surgery to get it removed. And so sometimes for kids who weren't able to access puberty blockers, they may have developed breasts and for those trans boys, you know, when they're old enough, it might be appropriate to remove those. But that is not routine care for you at all. It's very rare for surgeons to want to operate on folks under 18. And it's also... these aren't, like, it's.... surgery is scary for anybody. And even for trans people. Nobody is, like, very excited and wants to rush into a surgery. And so most of the time, even trans youth and their families aren't like demanding surgery before they're 18. It's just not happening. And so Louisiana Department of Health, at the request of the legislature actually, compiled a report on trans youth Medicaid usage. And from 2017 to 2022, through Medicaid, there are absolutely zero surgeries on trans youth performed in Louisiana. And also, the reality is we just Louisiana just does not have many surgeons who who do trans related surgery anyway. But so it's not something that is happening in Louisiana, it's not something that is happening in large numbers at all. And in most cases, for trans youth who are just telling you who they are, all supporting means is saying "I believe you."
Yeah, yeah. Well, it's ironic to me, for Republicans who are pushing these things, who, on the one hand, will say they don't want the government co-parenting, right? But in the meantime, they're wanting to go between parents and their trans kids' health. That seems quite ironic. That said, we have Democrats who were voting for this stuff as well, in our state.
Yeah, we sat through the House Health and Welfare Committee hearing on the health care ban, and the one who called us rumors the most is democratic state rep. Kenny Cox. Just it's really astonishing how rapidly this narrative caught on and spread. And I think that speaks to the remarkable power of kind of the conservative media machine. That even people that, you know, we could have used to count on as as allies have kind of been tripped up and bought into these kinds of conspiracy theories.
And you alluded to this when you mentioned your own dysphoria, but what are the dangers of these healthcare bans for trans kids?
Yeah so it's really hard to explain to cis people kind of what dysphoria feels like. But it is a profound and often kind of debilitating disconnect between who you know yourself to be, what you see in the mirror, and then what the world sees and how the world treats you. So for me, and I don't want to speak for all trans people, trans people can have all different kinds of experiences... but for me, I basically was able to accomplish nothing in my life until I transitioned. I was profoundly depressed all throughout my childhood. I actually left college on medical leave. I didn't technically drop out, but I left Vanderbilt in 2009 because my dysphoria had just gotten so bad that I couldn't function. Like, I couldn't get up and go to class, I couldn't do work, I couldn't focus on anything other than how it felt. Like, I didn't want to... there was no reason for me to exist in the world because I couldn't envision myself in it the way that I understood myself to be. And so it's really kind of hard to convey that to someone who has never had that kind of disconnect with their gender or with their body. And so they're, like... sometimes people suggest all kinds of body experiments, like, "Just imagine you woke up and you had boobs if you don't have boobs," or you "Woke up thinking about a penis if you don't have one"... I'm not sure how helpful that stuff is. But it's very distressing. If you are a woman and... for me, it was very distressing to be a woman, but to have a beard and to have kind of all these, like, physical characteristics that didn't feel like mine at all. And it's hard to convey kind of the depth of depression that that can cause, like, I was, you know, actively suicidal for a very significant portion of my life until I transitioned. But then I transitioned. And then I was able to, like, live, it feels like... I transitioned at 26, and it feels like I didn't even really start my life until then. And like, it's been so... it's hard to convey that, all right, like, I try to... it's weird that I work in politics, and like, I'm technically a lobbyist, but I have very bad social anxiety. And often it manifests itself as panic attacks. So when I testify in hearings, which is, you know, not an ideal quality for lobbyists to have. But like, one of the things that I tried to share in the Senate Health, I don't think I actually quite got the point across, is that I have been able to be, like... I feel like a very productive, contributing member of, like, Louisiana society. Like, I've been able to, like, work with my friends on these harm-reduction projects and tried to get Narcan more available. And last year, the law that I'm most proud of ever having written and passed was an improvement to Louisiana's overdose Good Samaritan act. And many of these same legislators in these committees have, like, worked with me or... even if they haven't talked with me directly, have talked with the sponsor of my legislation and supported it. And it's, like, I feel like all children should have the opportunity to learn how they want to, and how they're able to contribute to the world and live in it and be validated and accepted as who they are. And so when people say that cutting off access to trans health care will cost lives. I, you know, that's my experience. When I transitioned in 2012 In Louisiana, it was still very, very hard to get access to trans health care. They made you go through this really demeaning process of filling out these, like, really, really retro gray questionnaires about your sexual practices, and all your, like, fetishes and stuff. And I'm asexual, which means that I don't experience sexual attraction, and I don't have any interest in sex. And so you can imagine, like, you're just having to fill this stuff out. It's just bizarre. Then you need, like, these cis people who don't know what it's like to be trans to, like, sign off. And you need to have, like, gone through several months of this and get two letters, and then a doctor will consider writing your prescriptions. And after I, like, I admitted to myself that I was trans in 2009. But I told myself, "Okay, but I don't need to do anything about it." And it was very, very wrong, right? But having, you know, accepted that I was trans... when I eventually accepted that, okay, I'm like, out of options, if I don't try to transition, like, I don't know, I think I might just be done. And so I accessed a gray market, internet hormones. I had... I was in an IRC chat room with a with a bunch of trans women supporting each other. And so we had all done a lot of kind of research on trans health care. And until last year, when I actually got the nonbinary GP, general practiotioner, like, my own doctor was non binary. Until last year, and until I got them, I have never had a doctor that knew more about trans-fem hormone replacement therapy than I did, like, trans healthcare access and just that. And so I just started myself because kind of the rumors that were going around Louisiana at the time were that there was one doctor in New Orleans, God bless him, his name was Tracy Conrad, he since passed from cancer. But there were rumors that you could, basically, bully him into writing you prescriptions. If you showed up and you were taking gray-market hormones with, you know, not under the supervision of a doctor, in the name of harm reduction, God bless harm reduction, no wonder I got into that, you know, in the name of harm reduction, he would actually write you, you know, formal, legitimate scripts just to make sure that you're accessing real medication and and having your levels monitored and stuff. And I... you know, kids aren't stupid. Kids these days are more internet savvy than ever. And so, if you ban this care, I don't see why kids these days wouldn't be able to find and do the kinds of same things that I did. And if you don't allow them to have, you know, real medical advice and supervision from a doctor, they'll take the advice of internet randos.
So our bills, the three bills that came out in Louisiana this year, they all passed. What had hiccup that sort of... a famous hiccup that a Republican in committee killed it with a lot of ado, but ultimately all three passed. As we're recording this, there's, well, Governor John Bel Edwards has said he will 'probably' veto those bills. And so...
So not 'probably'... I think he said that "I expect that's what I'll do," or something. Not the strongest commitment that we would have hoped for. But yes.
There's a push to see that he follows through on that. And then the question is whether or not there'll be a veto session, override session.
It's my hope that they... like, obviously as we talk, they're still uncovering all of these hilarious bundles in the budget they scrambled to pass because they wasted so much time on this anti-LGBTQ stuff. They didn't actually spend as much of the fiscal session, as they should have, doing fiscal budgets.
And let's underscore that it was a fiscal session. They were there specifically to handle the budget. And they spent all this time attacking some of the most vulnerable people of our communities.
Yeah. And so these things passed. I want to touch briefly on how the health care ban passed. Just with a little context. So last year, we had a Don't Say Gay bill that we've managed to kill in the House Education Committee. And then they used this extreme maneuver to pull the dead bill on to the full House floor, kind of over the objection of that committee. And none of us had seen that happen in the legislature before. And most of the legislators and other lobbyists in the building we talked to have never seen that happen before. And so kind of progressives in Louisiana kicked up a big fuss about it because that's ridiculous. And what happened last year is we kicked up such a fuss that they never took the bill up on the House floor, and it didn't move last year. And so, kind of fast-forward to this year, we were able to, first of all it, taking a detour to one of the book ban bills, I think it was SB 7. And the... or maybe it was the House bill. But again, in the House Education Committee, they allowed the three supporters of the book ban bill who showed up to speak in support, and then did not allow any of the at least a dozen opponents to speak before voting it out. And then we kicked up a stink about that. And then they got scared again by how much heat there was, and they recommitted the bill to House Education. And then the Republican Chair of House Education resigned from the committee in protest. And so we kind of had those two instances of them using, like, really egregious maneuvers to try to push these things forward. But then, like, accurately recognizing that there was immense public backlash, a bipartisan backlash. And even, you know, lobbyists in the Capitol, working on kind of all sorts of issues, don't want this to become, you know, a regular occurrence because it makes it really hard to work your schedule and priorities if you can't count on something that is killed staying killed. You know, like, nobody wants it to just be the Wild West all the time where you have to be ready to do everything. Zombie bills. And so what happened this year is in Senate Health, Fred Mills, Senator Mills, who's one of the most respected legislators in the building, and as a pharmacist himself, and so kind of, I'm really appreciative for the way that he still seems to hold to those, like, values that he learned in his medical education out of kind of trusting the doctor patient relationship, and trusting the kind of existing licensing and regulatory mechanisms that we have for that profession for accessing medicine actually voted to kill the bill. And I... My understanding is... I read an article. I have not actually read the procedure to make sure that was right. But I read an article that you didn't actually even have to cast a vote there because the tie supposedly, you know, results in in a bill not moving forward. But he actually did. And I think that the kind of message that he gave about trusting the doctor patient relationship and trusting the mechanisms that we do have to handle any incidences of malpractice that come up. It was really powerful and reasonable. And in a debate that often lacks kind of reasonable discourse. And so I was very appreciative of that. And I know how hard advocates in the state worked to kind of do all this political education front of all legislators, but then especially for committee chair, Mills, I believe that's actually Peyton, who's the president or the executive director of LTAs, I believe. She's in his district. And so I know that she has had like a really productive relationship with him. And I'm really grateful for his leadership there. And then, after that happened, kind of there was a huge national fear. And so all of these kinds of ways that used to feel like Louisiana was something somewhat insulated from these, like larger national trends... we just got word that there was immense national pressure for Louisiana Republicans to find a way to ram this through. And so after kind of some some tantrum, things like attaching really ridiculous amendments to one of Fred Mills' telehealth related goals, that have nothing to do with trans people, to try to, like, punish him for his vote. They voted to recommit the bill to Jud A, Senate Judiciary A, which is, you know, a miserable committee. It's horrible. And even the justification that they used for it, for the recommittal was, "Well, this bill will probably get us sued." And Jud A has done other things (illegible). And then... so they recommitted it. I think it was a Thursday. It was either Wednesday and Thursday or Thursday and Friday, but I think it was a Thursday night they recommitted it. And then Friday morning, they swiftly passed it through Jud A, where it moved on to to the floor and got passed, again, both chambers. So just the... it's really scary and extremely disheartening, the extraordinary measures that they are going to push this agenda because they were actively folding up budget negotiations, budget bills to force the trans healthcare ban forward, which is not in the interests of any Louisianan, like, it's definitely not in the interest of trans Louisianans, but it's not in the interest of any Louisianans for legislators to do this kinds of stuff instead of work on a budget that works for all of us. And so it's really, you know, it's not surprising that the budget is full of holes. And like, they accidentally cut judge's compensation across the board and judge's, you know, it's not surprising that that's the result of this process because they didn't approach the budget like adults because they were doing all this other stuff that people who aren't even from Louisiana were demanding they do. And so if we're kind of in a new paradigm here in Louisiana, where they're taking marching orders from people outside the state, I'm really not excited to see you know, where we're heading.
And what... if there's a veto override, what happens when these bills go into law?
Well, we're going to see, you know, on the education front, with the book ban and the Don't Say Gay bills, we're already seeing in other states kind of the remarkable effect this is having. You know, you might have seen kind of the viral photos of empty library bookshelves in Florida, while all of the books are being reviewed to make sure they don't contain, you know, LGBT... the wrong kinds of LGBTQ or racial content. Where classroom discussions are being stifled. I think I saw a story out of South Carolina yesterday or the day before about how a teacher was told to shut down kind of the discussion of Ta-Nehisi Coates's memoir that the class had been doing because it's talking about race made a white student uncomfortable. It's... we're not setting our children up for success if we can't teach them the truth. If we can't equip them to move through the world and understand the world and communicate with each other in sincere and truthful ways. And one of the scariest things is that if we can't talk about the existence of LGBTQ people, then young queer youth who maybe have not found a queer community yet, or who don't know any other queer person, yet, like, I felt like I was alone, literally the only person in the world who felt what I now know as dysphoria, and I thought I was entirely alone. And I was a huge weirdo that something was wrong with and then I learned, "Oh, I'm trans, and there are other people like me, and I can connect with them and hear about how they have processed this and we can support each other". It was life saving. And so if we can't, you know, teach or even talk about the existence of LGBTQ people in schools, or we can't even teach about the truth of race in America, then so many kids, so many queer kids are going to feel lonely and desperate for so much longer than they need to. It's just so, so sad. And then obviously, on the health care front, what we would do is what's happening elsewhere across the country. We're seeing 1000s of trans families migrate from states that have passed these bans to states that haven't because the reality of this is that if you are a trans kid, and your parents love you, and you come out to them, they're going... they're not going to have a choice other than to try to find a way to help you access healthcare that you need. And one of the cruelest things about these is that, you know, again, kids aren't stupid and kids are, especially with how hard coming out can be... I remember thinking about... I was 26, when I came out to my parents and I was thinking about, like, what a burden, it would be on them that I was trans, but like, they would have to have a trans child and they would, you know, they could face vitriol and stuff for it, you know. And so that's already enough to think about and to make coming out scary. But if kids know that their parents loved them, and so they know that if they come out to their parents, their parents will try to find a way to afford to uproot their family and move and try to find new jobs elsewhere and try to find housing that they can afford elsewhere. And if you have siblings, you and your siblings are going to have to find new schools and establish new friend groups, that's a lot. And kids know that that will have to happen. And so that's just a really unfair weight to place on a child's shoulders. And I think that... what it will undoubtedly do is cause more kids to selflessly, valiantly, but stupidly, remain in the closet to try to save their families from that kind of pain. And I personally know how dangerous being in the closet is because it nearly killed me. And I am sure that it will result in that for some children. And then obviously, there are some families who literally cannot afford to move, maybe, you know, they are much too poor and there's just no support services that can help them do that. Or they can't leave for other reasons, like they have to take care of elderly family members, or they have really strong community obligations, and other people are counting on them for care and things like that. And so there's going to be other families who can't, and whose kids will not have any options of working through these things with a doctor and with their their families, and may have to go through these pubertys that feel like nails being driven into all of your body. It's really terrifying. So these are, these are... it's easy for folks who aren't, you know, LGBTQ or trans to think of these things as kind of niche issues that affect a couple of people. But this affects whole families and whole communities in really, really significant ways. Like just imagine if, you know, your state somehow outlawed diabetes health care, and like, it was illegal to get insulin in your state. Because that's what it's like for trans people. And then you would, you would have to fight if you're diabetic, you have to try to find a way to move and if you can't, your health is going to rapidly deteriorate, you know.
Corinne, for... folks are listening, and they are LGBTQ and they haven't connected to community yet. Or if they want to be an ally, and help with the efforts that you're working on. What's the best way for people to connect to the work you're doing?
Well, the best way to connect to the work in Louisiana, is through joining the local coalition. I say it weird because it's still weird. It's LOCALL. Louisiana is organizing for all... Louisiana... I'm not sure, I don't quite remember exactly what stands for but it is the broad coalition that Forum For Equality and Trans Advocates assemble. So you know, ACLU of Louisiana is in there, Step Up Louisiana, all of these great progressive organizers and folks are in this coalition working together. And so joining that coalition is great. We have sessions, weekly calls, I'm not sure what that will move to. But that is a great way to get plugged in.
Do you need to be a part of a group? Or can you just be an individual to join that call?
You can just be an individual, you do not need to be part of a group. It is... anybody who wants to kind of join the fight and learn how to organize and work on this stuff together.
I'll put a link if you'll give me one for that for how people can connect to that in the Episode Notes. And for Louisiana Trans Advocates is there a way for folks to connect to that as well?
Absolutely, latransadvocates.org. And then, I will say, if you are trans or the parent of a trans child, LTA does run support groups throughout the state, and they were, like, crucial for me in finding... For the longest time, you know, I only ever talked... Once I realized that I wasn't alone and I talked to other trans people online. But talking to other trans people in person in my community was amazing. And so, especially if you're trans or you're the parent of a trans child who's just come out and you haven't been able to connect directly with other folks in your community, I would strongly recommend LTA support groups, and then any local PFLAG support groups if you have one near you, for parents especially. So I strongly encourage folks to go to latransadvocates.org and get started working there, too. And then I work for Equality Federation. I would encourage Louisiana folks, if you have cash, to donate to local causes. We're at equalit federation.org.
Well, I will put all the links in the Episode Notes if folks would like to access any of that. Let me go to our last three questions. And I appreciate all the time you've given me today and all the breakdown on all of that. I think we could probably talk for several more hours.
I think it's dangerous.
But Corinne, tell me what you think the biggest obstacle for progressives in Louisiana is?
Ooh, it's like... which of the dozen enormous obstacles to pick? This might be right up your alley, I think that is probably the way that the Democratic Party in this state has kind of withered. You know, I'm a little further left than the Democratic Party, but it is really, really imperative that we have some kind of strong opposition force to kind of this fascist wave that has overtaken the GOP. And I think the, like, most immediate way to provide that is through, you know, if we had a stronger party in Louisiana, to try to organize against this stuff better, and maybe do kind of some of the political education, so we wouldn't have a Democrat in the House calling us groomers when talking about the health care ban, you know, I think that would go a long way. But I mean, I think kind of like, like all of our hurdles. It's a big uphill battle there.
And what's our biggest opportunity?
I think our biggest opportunity is how broad-based our organizing is, you know, I got to be part of... I've been part of so many wonderful coalition's in Louisiana, but the one I kind of I'm most proud of or really, really proud of is the Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition that managed to pass the Youth Justice Reform package a few years back. I think that the South generally and Louisiana specifically, because we kind of have always had to work together as progressives to get things done, and we don't stay siloed, and it's not... It's never been the case that like, it's always just been, "We're working on LGBTQ stuff over here, and you're working on justice reform over here." It's always been, "Alright, I'm going to work with you on your stuff. And you're going to work with me on my stuff." And I think that is, like, going to be the organizing model that the entire country is eventually going to wind up using because it is the most effective. And I think that we have a huge head start here because we have had to move into that model in ways that maybe you don't have to in blue states, we can kind of take a little more for granted and don't have to, like, build together as much.
I think that's right. And Corinne, tell me who your favorite superhero is?
Do the Ninja Turtles count? I feel like we'd be in a lot better shape if maybe the Ninja Turtles were real.
I think that's great. Yeah, absolutely. They're...
I feel like their experience fighting the Foot Clan would be really appropriate to kind of what we're, what we're heading into here.
I think that works. There's no rules to favorite superheroes, so I'll take it. Yeah. Cool. Well...
Thank you so much.
Thanks for joining me, Corinne, and thanks for helping illuminate some issues that folks may not be caught up on.
Yeah, absolutely. I really appreciate you, my dad on appreciate the time.
Thank you for listening to Louisiana Lefty. Please follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you to Ben Collinsworth for producing Louisiana Lefty, Jen Pack of Black Cat Studios for our Super Lefty artwork, and Thousand $ Car for allowing us to use their swamp pop classic "Security Guard" as our Louisiana Lefty theme song.