This simple gun violence prevention measure saves 750 lives each year.

Firearms result in more than 33,000 deaths in the U.S. per year. Many of these incidents, particularly homicides, can be prevented with a simple solution: a waiting period.

A mandatory waiting period is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a delay, anywhere from one to 10 days, between the beginning of a gun purchase and taking ownership of the weapon. This allows stores time to conduct background checks where required and gives the potential buyer a “cooling off” period to potentially prevent impulsive acts of violence.

Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images.

A new study reveals that waiting periods aren’t just common sense, they actually work.

The study’s researchers, faculty members at Harvard Business School, found that the 17 states (including Washington D.C.) that require mandatory waiting periods have reduced gun homicides by approximately 17%, preventing as many as 750 gun deaths each year.

If mandatory waiting periods were extended to the rest of the country, the study estimates an additional 950 gun deaths could be avoided. That’s 950 lives that could be saved every year.

Mark O’Connor fills out his Federal background check paperwork as he purchases a handgun. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Waiting periods also save lives when it comes to preventing suicide.

Multiple studies confirm that firearm access is a risk factor for suicide, and there is a strong correlation between states with high gun ownership and a higher number of firearm suicides than low gun ownership states.

“Many suicides (estimates range from 30% to 80%) are impulsive, with just minutes or an hour elapsing between the time a person decides upon suicide and when he or she commits the act,” wrote Annmarie Dadoly, the former editor of Harvard Health. “Yet the stressful events that lead to suicidal thoughts are often temporary, such as losing a job or having a romantic relationship end.”

Waiting periods allow for those dangerous, confusing, painful moments to pass without easy access to a firearm, keeping temporary feelings from turning into permanent tragedies.

Currently, there is no federal law requiring waiting periods for handgun purchases.

Many states began background checks and waiting periods in 1994, with the introduction of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, better known as the Brady Bill.

The Brady Bill is named for Press Secretary Jim Brady, who was shot and became permanently disabled during an assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981. The bill, in part, required potential handgun buyers (purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer) to undergo a background check and a five-day waiting period to conduct the check. In 1998, the FBI introduced the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system that can return background check results in minutes, leading some states to lift the waiting period.

President Bill Clinton congratulates former Reagan Administration Press Secretary James Brady on the passage of the Brady Bill. Photo by Jennifer Young/AFP/Getty Images.

Other states allow dealers to sell the gun after three days, whether the background check is complete or not. This is how Dylann Roof obtained the weapon he used to kill nine people in the Charleston A.M.E. Church massacre.

Despite the federal Brady Bill, the U.S. still has a piecemeal set of laws from state to state and even from weapon to weapon, with handguns requiring different waiting periods than assault rifles.

The gaps and loopholes in gun laws put everyone at risk, but there’s a lot you can do to change that.

If you’re interested in working toward a national solution for gun violence prevention, contact your legislators and encourage them to support common sense reforms and to put an end to the moratorium on gun violence research. You can also volunteer your time or make a contribution to groups on the ground, working for safer communities, workspaces, and schools.

It’s never too late to start.

A makeshift memorial on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/the-simple-gun-violence-prevention-measure-that-saves-750-lives-each-year

This anti-bullying PSA acts out online comments in real life. It’s an uncomfortable watch.

Bullying is just as wrong when it happens online as it is in person. So why does one seem to be so much more acceptable than the other?

A new anti-bullying campaign and PSA called “In Real Life,” spearheaded by Monica Lewinsky, takes actual insults people have said online and brings them into the physical world. While actors portray the bullies and their victims in the video, the reactions of unsuspecting onlookers are genuine.

A collection of actual insults people posted online that were acted out in person as part of the In Real Life PSA. Screenshot from In Real Life/YouTube.

The PSA opens with a pleasant scene that quickly turns jarring. Two men are sitting together in a coffee shop, when a stranger walks up to their table. “Gay people are sick, and you should just kill yourselves!” he tells them.

This kind of interaction is not something you see that often in the real world (though it does happen). On the internet, however, that type of comment from a stranger isn’t just normal, it’s actually kind of tame.

Later in the video, a woman gets screamed at for being a “fat bitch” and a Muslim woman gets called a “terrorist.” In all of the scenarios, bystanders — who were not involved in the social experiment — look on with horror.

Screenshot from In Real Life/YouTube.

A number of studies show why people who wouldn’t bully someone to their face feel emboldened to do it online.

Anonymity, the ability to say or do whatever you want with little or no consequence for your actions, plays a role, but it’s far from the only reason people engage in cyberbullying. The performative nature of online harassment also encourages others to pile on the target, whether they have a stake in the conversation or not. Mob mentality dictates that the more people go in on the target, the less any single person might feel responsible for negative outcomes. More than anything else, though, the barrier of the internet between bully and victim creates an empathy gap.

On the internet, regular people — your neighbors, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, and even family members — are all susceptible to becoming bullies, making it that much more important to think critically about the effects of our actions and behaviors online.

Screenshot from In Real Life/YouTube.

Online harassment is so much more than being “just the way the internet is.”

“One thing people don’t necessarily realize about being threatened or dog-piled online is how much it can undermine your real-world sense of safety,” author Sady Doyle explains in a Twitter direct message. Doyle has experienced escalating bullying and harassment online for years, especially during the 2016 election season, in response to her writing on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Threats of physical violence and stalking across online platforms became normal to Doyle. Once an influential Twitter user took aim at her, to win that account’s approval, their followers would engage in a game of one-upmanship harassment. Doyle began to worry more and more about how it would end. Scheduled book readings brought on a new sort of anxiety, as she feared that any of her online tormentors would be able to easily confront her in person. Thankfully, it never happened.

“I think that lost sense of safety is really what the impact is,” she writes. “There’s mental health stuff, obviously — anyone with a tendency to depression, which I have, will internalize certain mean comments and play them back in a low moment — but it’s mostly the realization that there are people out there that want to hurt you, or your loved ones, and that you can’t necessarily recognize those people on sight, that is so damaging.”

People shouldn’t have to live in fear, and that’s why campaigns like “In Real Life” are so important.

“It’s a stark and shocking mirror to people to rethink how we behave online versus the ways that we would behave in person,” Lewinsky told People magazine about the project.

Saying that while “there are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions” of insults that have been written about her online and in print, personal confrontations were much, much less common. “When you are with someone, when you see someone face to face, you are reminded of their humanity.”

Lewinsky’s powerful 2015 TED Talk on “The Price of Shame” helped establish her as a major voice in anti-bullying activism. Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/AFP/Getty Images.

Unlike Doyle, you probably don’t have to worry about online harassers showing up at scheduled appearances, and unlike Lewinsky, you probably aren’t an internationally known political lightning rod of the late ’90s. Even so, the lessons contained in this video — not to say things online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, to remember that real people are on the receiving end of every online comment, and more — are applicable to all of us. Online bullying isn’t the exact same thing as the physical playground-style bullying we’ve heard about all of our lives, but its effects on the target’s sense of well-being is every bit as real.

Whether you’ve been the bully, the bullied, or just a bystander, there are lessons we can learn from this powerful PSA, which you can watch below.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/this-anti-bullying-psa-acts-out-online-comments-in-real-life-its-an-uncomfortable-watch

Is that viral Obamacare Facebook status accurate? Will it help save the law?

Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images.

The fight to save the Affordable Care Act has migrated to a new battleground: Facebook.

Since early September, a viral Facebook status has been making the rounds, claiming that the Trump administration is attempting to sabotage the law by making enrolling in a health plan on Healthcare.gov confusing and difficult.

The wording varies from post to post, but the message is largely the same. It urges users to “copy and paste” and to employ a linguistic trick meant to boost the post’s prominence on the social network:

CONGRATULATIONS! The White House is trying to stop you from enrolling in Obamacare. Fortunately, your friends (like me) are posting this and using the word “CONGRATULATIONS” so that Facebook’s algorithm shows this to more people. Enrollment for 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) starts November 1 and ends December 15. Snopes verified that the enrollment period was shortened and GOP has cut by 90% the funding to advertise these deadlines. Administration is also taking the website down for “maintenance” for 12 hrs at a time on weekends for most of the enrollment period when working people might most likely need to use it – doing what they can to sabotage ACA. (Please leave a comment saying, “Congratulations!” to influence FB’s algorithm to increase the visibility of this posting.) THEN, PLEASE COPY AND PASTE ON YOUR OWN TIMELINE.

“[It] sucks when I’m told I don’t deserve affordable health care and when it’s implied it’s my fault I have a pacemaker or need pain meds,” says Jackie Todd, a filmmaker who posted the status to her page in September. She believes her chronic heart condition would make her uninsurable, should the Affordable Care Act be repealed.

The “congratulations!” Facebook status offers users the twin satisfactions of doing one’s civic duty and hacking Facebook’s mysterious “algorithm.” And the accusations of sabotage jibe with recent reports that claim the Trump administration is rolling back its support for the law.

At the same time, it’s hard not to be skeptical of a random post that appears in your feed.

Should you believe it? Should you share it?

That depends on a few things. And I looked into those things.

Is the information about the ACA in the post accurate? Broadly, yes. Let’s break it down:

“Enrollment for 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) starts November 1 and ends December 15.”

True, according to Healthcare.gov. That’s six weeks shorter than the 2016 open enrollment period, which ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31.

“Snopes verified that the enrollment period was shortened and GOP has cut by 90% the funding to advertise these deadlines.”

Also true, with a caveat. On Aug. 31, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would allocate $10 million for its ACA promotional budget, down from $100 million in 2016. The agency claimed that despite doubling advertising funding from 2015 to 2016, “first-time enrollment [declined] by 42 percent,” justifying the deep cuts.  

As for the caveat? Snopes did verify the information — though the claim that the “GOP” is responsible is not exactly right, as the adjustment was made by the Trump administration, not any particular political party.

“Administration is also taking the website down for ‘maintenance’ for 12 hrs at a time on weekends for most of the enrollment period when working people might most likely need to use it.”

Again, true. In late September, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would be taking Healthcare.gov offline on five Sundays during the open enrollment period, from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Is the “congratulations” tactic an effective way to “hack” Facebook’s mysterious algorithm?

Unfortunately, probably not. At least no more so than simply posting the information to Facebook without the “congratulations” attached.

The claim that including “congratulations” in a status boosts a post’s ranking on Facebook comes from from a 2014 Wired article, which reported that Mark Zuckerberg proposed the idea himself, after noticing that a post about a colleague’s birthday appeared higher on his own feed than a post about the birth of his own niece.

That’s not the case today. A Facebook spokesperson said that including highlighted words like “congratulations” (which trigger delightful special effects when clicked) do nothing to improve a post’s ranking on the news feed. He noted that posts that feature the word do “tend to get more engagement from people on the platform,” which does increase their reach.

So should you post it yourself?

“Anything and everything is helpful in spreading the word,” says Lori Lodes, co-founder of Get America Covered. A former director of communications at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Lodes was responsible for outreach efforts during Healthcare.gov’s second and third open enrollment periods. Get America Covered was founded to fill the gaps left by the administration’s cutbacks, in part by putting together resources to help individuals encourage those in their social networks to enroll.

In the meantime, Lodes supports sounding the alarm on Facebook.

“The most important thing people can do right now is to get the word out — whether that is talking to friends, sharing on social media or hanging up signs in their neighborhoods,” she says.

The next few months will help determine whether the Affordable Care Act thrives or merely survives.

Can anyone really help replace the well-funded, coordinated effort of a large federal bureaucracy?

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

That part remains to be seen. But it’s up to you, regardless.

Congratulations!

Please copy and share?

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/is-that-viral-obamacare-facebook-status-accurate-will-it-help-save-the-law

While you weren’t looking, the Senate started trying to fix Obamacare for the first time.

On July 25, 2017, as Congress’ zillionth (or so it seemed) attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare was careening gently off a cliff into a bed of spikes, Sen. John McCain rose to the Senate floor and delivered a clarion call for bipartisanship.

“Let’s trust each other,” the maverick Republican legislator cried. “Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.”

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

It was a stirring speech. A vital speech. A speech that, coming directly on the heels of McCain’s vote to advance a bill that was being written by a group of Republicans in secret, seemed kind of like bullshit.

But now, not two months after the dust from the GOP’s last, best shot at the law finally settled, it actually might be … happening?

For the first time in seven years, Democrats and Republicans are trying to figure out how to patch up the Affordable Care Act. Together.

The result of the effort, if successful, would be the first major bipartisan change to the law since it was passed in 2010.

At least one Republican senator — Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander — is trying to make it happen by next week, according to the Washington Examiner.

OK, but just because it’s bipartisan doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. What are they actually trying to do?

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Something very minor, but hey! Under the current law, the U.S. government pays health insurance companies to keep individual premiums down. President Trump has repeatedly threatened to stop these payments.

Alexander, Sen. Patty Murray, and others on the HELP Committee are trying to come up with a “stopgap” package that can continue the funding without having to rely on Trump, preventing premiums from spiking.

That sounds nice! But … they must disagree on some stuff?

They sure do!

Alexander wants to roll back some of the ACA’s essential health benefit requirements, which dictate what plans have to cover. Murray, meanwhile, hopes to properly fund reinsurance, in order to help insurers pay out claims to the sickest individuals.

They do, however, seem committed to reaching a deal.

Great, so everything’s good now!

Not exactly. The same John McCain who righteously urged bipartisanship just two months ago? He just announced his support for a new “repeal and replace” bill that would “block grant” Medicaid to the states, potentially amounting to huge cuts to the program.

The Arizona senator told The Hill that, despite his earlier words, crafting the bill without Democratic input “doesn’t mean I wouldn’t vote for it.” That doesn’t just put the current bipartisan effort in jeopardy, but it potentially provides another last-ditch avenue to gut the law completely.

Still, for the first time in what feels like forever, it seems Congress might take July John McCain’s advice and start working together again.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee). Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Working, that is, to try to make things better, not worse, for sick people.

Sound good to you? Give ’em a call and make sure they stick to it.

Fingers crossed, knock on wood, throw salt over your shoulder, punch a Komodo dragon they don’t get any ideas from September John McCain.

Update 9/6/2017: McCain later clarified his position on the Graham-Cassidy proposal through a spokesperson, noting that while he endorses the “concept,” he is waiting to see a bill before committing his support.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/while-you-werent-looking-the-senate-started-trying-to-fix-obamacare-for-the-first-time

Older, out, and infinitely proud: a look inside a lifesaving LGBTQ senior home.

As a transgender woman, 65-year-old Eva Skye knows firsthand that living her truth means living in danger too. Three years ago, the only home she had was at a single room occupancy housing facility, or SRO, for those living in poverty. There, she often chose to trek up several flights of stairs to her fifth floor room instead of taking the elevator out of fear she’d be trapped and assaulted by other residents.

When I talk to Skye, her brightness fills the room with color. She’s rocking a hot pink top, flashy blue fingernails, and a rainbow bracelet wrapped around her left wrist. “I’m a 65-year-old trans-queer punk mom,” she explains in a gentle voice, brushing back hair dyed the color of rosé wine.

Eva Skye. Photo by Robbie Couch/Upworthy.

It’s amazing what a difference a few years can make. Skye’s quality of life has improved dramatically since 2014, when she moved out of the SRO and into Town Hall Apartments on Chicago’s north side, one of the country’s few LGBTQ-inclusive affordable housing centers for seniors.

But not every LGBTQ senior is that lucky.

Pushed back into the closet

In contrast to young Americans — a demographic coming out as LGBTQ earlier in life and in larger numbers — data and discouraging anecdotal evidence suggest LGBTQ seniors are retreating into the same closets they once escaped years prior to avoid discrimination today — whether it be at the hands of their peers, as in Skye’s case, or at the hands of a senior care industry that carelessly erases them.

An alarming 2010 study discovered just 22% of LGBTQ seniors felt comfortable being “out” to health care workers. Many respondents had been harassed or refused basic services because they were LGBTQ; some, incredibly, reported being told that they were being “prayed over” or that they’d “go to hell” because of who they loved or how they identified. Instead of facing these abuses, many LGBTQ seniors said it was easier to simply blend in — even if it meant becoming invisible.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Elderly LGBTQ people are far more likely to live alone and far less likely to have adult children they can rely on as they age compared with their straight, cisgender peers. There’s a greater chance they’ll end up in nursing homes, where this type of discrimination can take place. Staff members at such care centers often don’t even believe they have LGBTQ residents — not because that’s actually the case but because residents often choose not to come out in such uncertain conditions.

A safe place to grow old

Walking through Town Hall’s cafeteria during lunch, the nurturing, jubilant atmosphere feels worlds apart from the findings of that 2010 study.

The cafeteria in the Center on Addison. Photo by Robbie Couch/Upworthy.

Through the Chicago Housing Authority’s Property Rental Assistance Program, Town Hall has been providing studio and one-bedroom apartments to low-income seniors — most of whom identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer — for over three years.

“Seniors, as they get older, tend to want to go back into the closet,” confirms Todd Williams, senior services manager at the Center on Addison, which provides many programs to Town Hall residents. “They suffer from isolation, and they feel as though they can’t necessarily be themselves in their own communities.”

Eugene Robbins, another Town Hall resident, understands that struggle well. Before moving in three years ago, he’d been living in a housing project a few miles away where being gay and black had its challenges to say the least.

As a proud man of color born in Selma, Alabama — where, he recalls, white supremacists threw bricks through his family’s home windows — he avoids trudging through too much past heartache. But Robbins acknowledges the stains discrimination has left on his life: “As the old saying goes, when your back is against the wall, you’d be surprised at what you can do,” he reflects on his time in the housing project.

“I’m happy here,” he says of Town Hall. “I feel good here.”

Eugene Robbins (left) and Marti Smith (right). Photos by Robbie Couch/Upworthy.

At Town Hall, residents gush about their improved lives as if the apartments were their grandchildren’s straight-A report cards. Skye says living in her top-floor studio apartment, with Lake Michigan just beyond view, makes her feel like Alice in Wonderland. Marti Smith, a 72-year-old “card-carrying lesbian,” considers herself “extremely lucky” to have landed there and credits Town Hall and its programs with saving her life.

Smith survived throat cancer in the late 1990s. It wasn’t just a health setback, it was a financial one too. The cancer’s many lingering effects were considered pre-existing conditions and — long before Obamacare — deemed her uninsurable. Smith racked up credit card debt to pay for the necessary care.

The apartments’ affordable rates, along with a bevy of center services that help residents manage external costs, are invaluable. Smith has used almost every program offered through the center, she says — free of charge, of course. Residents with ailments like Parkinson’s disease and juvenile diabetes — even 30-year AIDS survivors — have benefited greatly from the Center on Addison, Smith notes. “There’s no way that I could ever pay back what I have gotten,” she says.

Books line the wall at the Center on Addison. Photo by Robbie Couch/Upworthy.

The building’s refurbished hallways, where rainbow flags and smiling faces welcome you around most corners, makes Town Hall feel like a queer oasis, safe from the systemic challenges waiting outside. The Center on Addison, which operates on the building’s first floor, offers innovative programs and experiences to residents, from those more focused on socializing and well-being — like yoga, trips to the theater, and genealogy classes — to less fun (but certainly just as critical) services — such as help managing health care benefits and job readiness workshops. Programs at the center are open to LGBTQ nonresidents who live in the Chicago area too.

Scaling success beyond Chicago

Outside groups have toured Town Hall and the Center on Addison in hopes of replicating its success elsewhere, Williams says. Locally, the apartments have become astoundingly popular among seniors hoping for a coveted studio or one-bedroom: “We no longer have a waiting list,” he notes. “The waiting list was so long, we actually couldn’t [continue it].”

That’s the sobering punch that complements touring Town Hall: There’s overwhelming demand for more places just like it and nowhere near enough facilities to accommodate. Queer seniors, with their unique needs, are more likely to live in poverty; in Chicago alone, roughly 10,000 LGBTQ seniors could potentially benefit from affordable, queer-inclusive housing. With its 80 apartment units, Town Hall simply isn’t enough.

Town Hall’s outdoor terrace overlooks Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood. Photo by Robbie Couch/Upworthy.

Fortunately, more doors are opening for people like Skye, helping queer seniors close the closet doors for good. Along with Town Hall, facilities in cities like Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and San Francisco are blazing trails for the often overlooked demographic within the LGBTQ community; New York City is in the midst of building its first two queer-inclusive centers as well — one in Brooklyn, one in the Bronx.

“Pandora’s box has been opened,” Skye says of her new take on life after moving into Town Hall. “Look out world, here I am.”

If only every LGBTQ senior could say the same.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/older-out-and-infinitely-proud-a-look-inside-a-lifesaving-lgbtq-senior-home

Watch trans military veteran Laila Ireland make a powerful case for equality.

Retired Army veteran Laila Ireland isn’t about to let President Trump kick trans people out of the military without putting up a fight.

Ireland, a trans woman herself, took the stage at GLAAD’s San Francisco Gala to give a speech rejecting the administration’s plans to ban people like her from serving openly in the military. While she’s retired, her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland, is still on active duty.

Ireland’s speech took aim at Trump’s unfounded claim that letting trans people serve in the military is some sort of burdensome expense (the estimated total cost of providing health care for trans service members is between $2.4 and $8.4 million per year, or roughly one-fifth of what the military already spends on Viagra), and highlighted a number of the key roles that trans service members are currently filling. To remove these patriotic Americans from their posts and to deny trans people the same right as everyone else to serve their country is not only harmful for the trans community, but for the military and country as a whole.

In her speech, Ireland called on military leaders to speak up and voice opposition to the ban before it’s too late.

“It is my hope that our military leaders will quickly acknowledge that transgender troops should get the same freedoms and integrity we so courageously protect,” said Ireland. It’s a message that extends beyond just military service.

Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps a strong show of support from military leaders and veterans for the role trans service members play in keeping our country safe could change the course of the plan to re-institute a ban on trans service, expected to be put in place by March 2018.

Sadly, though, the ban on military service is just one of several ongoing attacks against trans people in America.

The Trump administration has adjusted how it interprets civil rights legislation and nondiscrimination policies when it comes to employment, health care, housing, public accommodations, education, and so much more. Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, has shown himself to be brutally anti-trans — as have a number of other members of Trump’s administration. Though it’s easy to conclude that whatever progress for trans rights Trump undoes can simply be redone by the next administration, it’s nowhere near that easy.

Laila hugs her husband, Logan, in this image from The New York Times’ “Transgender, at War and in Love” documentary. Image from The New York Times/YouTube.

Allies are needed now more than ever before to help hold the line on the progress that’s been made before it’s too late.

There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender people living in the U.S., which in the larger sense, is still a pretty tiny sliver of the population, making the group easy to pick on. Sadly, since the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was now the law of the land, many of the organizations and politicians that had been fighting against the push for marriage have since turned their focus to trans people.

The good news is that a majority of the public doesn’t agree with efforts to discriminate against trans people. It’s great to have those allies, but it’s even better if they’re willing to speak out against anti-trans hate, push back on politicians who support discrimination, and use their voice to fight for equality whenever possible. It’s a long battle, but if allies can help win over hearts and minds, there’s a good chance we’ll all come out on top.

Watch Laila Ireland’s powerful speech below.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/watch-trans-military-veteran-laila-ireland-make-a-powerful-case-for-equality

20 thingsMike Pence did while you weren’t looking and why it matters.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

With the exception of an infamous trip to see Hamilton last November and a controversy about whether it’s OK to dine with women other than his wife, we’ve heard relatively little about Vice President Mike Pence since the election. In May, CNN even ran a story with the headline, “Mike Pence’s Disappearing Act.”

He’s a heartbeat away from the presidency and seems interested in following his own political ambitions beyond this administration, so what exactly has Mike Pence been up to lately? A lot, actually.

Here’s 20 things Mike Pence has done since taking office:

1. In January, Pence and others lobbied Trump to take hard-line positions on abortion, making good on some of his anti-choice campaign pledges.

Just days after taking office, Trump signed a slew of executive orders. Among them was the reinstatement of the so-called “Mexico City policy,” restricting foreign aid from going to groups that offer abortion services.

The Independent wrote about the decision to reinstate the policy, saying that pro-choice activists “feared [Trump] would reintroduce the policy as a gift to Vice President Mike Pence, known for his staunch opposition to abortion rights.”

2. Pence has led the charge to advance Trump’s policy agenda.

You may have seen him popping up on the Sunday morning political talk shows to push Trump’s agenda items. This has especially been the case when it’s an issue where Trump himself may not appear to have a total grasp of the policy being discussed, such as health care.

3. He’s been very vocal about supporting the use of tax dollars to fund religious schools.

Under the guise of “school choice,” Pence has been a long-time supporter of using tax dollars to fund charter schools and religious schools. As governor, Pence expanded Indiana’s charter school program and opted out of the nationwide “Common Core” standards. One of the side effects of Pence’s reign in Indiana was an uptick in the number of publicly funded schools teaching creationism. Pence, himself, hasn’t given a clear answer on whether he believes in evolution.

Trump was short on specifics about education policy during the campaign. In office, he’s rallying behind Pence’s ideas.

4. In January, Pence met with anti-abortion activists at the White House and delivered a speech at the annual March for Life.

During his address at the anti-choice march, Pence riled up the crowd with a pledge to “work with Congress to end taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers,” along with promises to support Supreme Court nominees who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

5. Pence spent much of February selling the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as “mainstream.”

Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat on Jan. 31. Gorsuch, who had a record as a far-right, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ judge, would face an uphill climb. That’s where Pence came in.

Rather than nominate someone who could receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, Trump picked Gorsuch, and Pence immediately began work urging Republican leaders in the Senate to blow up the filibuster. They eventually did, and Gorsuch was sworn in on April 10.

6. Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, the first time a vice president has done so on a cabinet pick.

In February, DeVos was under immense scrutiny from Democrats and moderate Republicans. The billionaire heiress had zero education-related qualifications to run the department, but she did have a history of donating to far-right causes and championing the use of public money to fund schools that would “advance God’s kingdom,” in line with Pence’s own views on education.

With Republicans Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) voting against DeVos’ confirmation, the 50-50 vote went to Pence to break the tie. He voted to confirm her.

7. In May, Pence was named the head of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

This commission was established based on Trump’s unproven and unfounded claim that there was widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election. Pence was named commission chair, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chair. Together, Pence and Kobach have begun making requests for extensive voter information from states, with many voting rights groups worried that the commission will lead to widespread voter suppression.

8. Pence invited anti-abortion activists to the White House to discuss how to merge their agenda with that of the administration.

On March 9, Pence met with anti-abortion activists to discuss what sort of provisions they would like to see in the American Health Care Act bill, later pitching it to conservative members of the House of Representatives.

9. Later that month, he would cast the tie-breaking vote to nullify an Obama-era rule allowing that Title X funds be used for family planning services.

In his eight years in office, Joe Biden never cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Pence, just months into the job, has broken four ties (confirming DeVos, the motion to proceed on blocking the Title X rule, the final vote on blocking the Title X rule, and the motion to proceed on the Senate’s health care bill).

Gutting the Title X rule is bad news, especially for low- and middle-income women across the country.

10. Pence has met with members of the financial industry and championed efforts to roll back Dodd-Frank consumer protections.

Shortly after taking office, Pence addressed the GOP retreat, promising to dismantle the legislation enacted in the aftermath of financial collapse and its “overbearing mandates.” In May, he spoke out in favor of Republican Rep. Hensarling’s (Texas) CHOICE Act, which would deregulate the financial markets once again.

11. In May, Pence addressed the Susan B. Anthony List “Campaign for Life” gala.

Touting the administration’s successes when it came to curtailing reproductive rights, Pence declared, “For the first time in a long time, America has an administration that’s filled top to bottom with people who stand without apology for life.”

To cheers, he would later promise to ensure that people receiving health care subsidies would not be able to purchase insurance coverage that includes access to abortion.

12. Pence played a role in urging Trump to sign a “religious liberty” executive order during a National Day of Prayer ceremony.

While the final order was viewed by many conservatives as simply being one step in the right direction and not everything they wanted, the move showed just how much pull the extremely religious vice president has over his boss.

13. Pence addressed the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians on May 11.

The speech bolstered the administration’s narrative that Christians are the true victims of terrorism in the Middle East. The truth is that people of all faiths have been targeted by ISIS, and messages about how Christians are the most persecuted only help advance some of the inherent Islamophobia in actions such as the travel ban — which only helps ISIS.

14. At the University of Notre Dame, Pence delivered a fiery commencement address, targeting “political correctness.”

The idea that college campuses are suppressing freedom of speech is a popular talking point, especially among conservatives. Pence used his platform to stoke that fire, saying, “Far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to nothing less than the suppression of freedom of speech.”

15. In May, Pence started his own political action committee called the “Great America Committee.”

Marking another first for a sitting vice president, the formation of a PAC signals that maybe he has some larger political ambitions that go beyond the Trump administration and his role as VP. Coupled with outgoing White House press secretary Sean Spicer saying that he’d be on board with a Pence run in 2024, this is worth keeping an eye on.

16. In June, Pence was put in charge of U.S. space policy.

Pence, being someone who likely doesn’t really believe in that whole “evolution” thing and once claimed that “smoking doesn’t kill,” seems like an odd choice to dictate anything related to science. But that’s what President Trump did after signing an executive order bringing back the National Space Council.

It’s still unclear what sort of direction Pence will take, though he has made promises to put people on Mars.

17. He’s raised money for his own PAC and other political causes.

What’s the point of having a PAC if you’re not going to raise money for it, right? In July, The New York Times reported that Pence has been playing host to “a string of dinners held every few weeks at the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington,” courting “big donors and corporate executives.”

18. On June 23, Pence addressed Focus on the Family, a powerful anti-LGBTQ organization, for its 40th anniversary.

Speaking about the administration’s commitment to helping “persecuted people of faith” and protecting their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious liberty,” Pence told the crowd, “This president believes that no American, no American should have to violate their conscience to fully participate in American life, and he has taken action to protect the expressions of faith by men and women across this nation.”

This is the same organization, mind you, that has called homosexuality “a particularly evil lie of Satan” and has called transgender people “mentally ill” and “like Cinderella in a fantasy world.”

19. As special elections have popped up across the country, Pence has been hitting the campaign trail in support of his fellow Republicans.

It’s not so surprising that Pence is getting out there. A little curious, however, is how little Trump has done comparatively — and how little coverage Pence’s presence has garnered. This once again shows Pence for the shrewd politician he is, able to help prop up other candidates. Trump, on the other hand, is mostly good at promoting one person: Trump.

20. Pence has been pressuring Congress to implement anti-transgender policies in the military.

Days before Trump tweeted that he was banning trans people from serving in the military, Foreign Policy reported that Pence was lobbying hard to fight back against trans inclusion in the military. Pence was reportedly putting pressure on members of Congress to hold the 2018 defense authorization bill hostage unless it included a rider barring funds being used on transition-related health care.

According to Politico, Trump was motivated to outright ban all trans people from the military for fear that the defense bill would stall and he wouldn’t receive the funding he requested for his wall. In the end, however, Pence got what he asked for and more. Though the Department of Defense is holding on implementing the tweeted policy until Trump formally submits a plan, it’s nearly a done deal.

This matters because Pence might not always be in the background.

It’s pretty clear that Pence’s political ambitions don’t end with being Trump’s vice president. With scandals rocking the White House on what seems like a daily basis — including calls for investigations and even some for Trump’s impeachment — it’s pretty important to take a long hard look at the man next in line for the position.

During the campaign, Pence’s extreme positions were largely whitewashed. His extreme anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion views were rarely talked about. As vice president, Pence has shown himself to be the man he’s always been: a smooth-talking politician with far-right social conservative views. So let’s keep a watchful eye on what he’s doing now because he might just be president one day.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/20-thingsmike-pence-did-while-you-werent-looking-mdash-and-why-it-matters

13 tweets about last night’s health care vote that should be in history books.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) tried to pull a fast one on America, putting crucial health care legislation up for a vote in the early hours of July 28. Unfortunately for McConnell and other supporters of the so-called “Skinny Repeal” bill, it was struck down in a dramatic moment with 51 senators voting against it.

“Trumpcare,” at least in its current form, was dead.

Joining 48 Democratic and Independent “no” votes were three Republicans: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), and in a dramatic last minute pivot, John McCain (Arizona).

From left, Murkowski, McCain, and Collins. Photos by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Though Murkowski and Collins have maintained their opposition to the bill from the start, McCain has been getting what miiiiiiight be seen as a disproportionate amount of credit for killing it.

For example:

Watching a man getting more credit than women for the same amount of work seemed a bit familiar to many Twitter users, who were quick to make sure Murkowski and Collins get the place in history they deserve.

After all, it was McCain’s “yes” vote earlier in the week that led the Senate to the precipice in the first place while Collins and Murkowski were steadfast in their opposition. Collins and Murkowski spent the days in between the two votes getting threats from members within their own party while McCain received praise from the president himself.

McCain’s decisive “no” vote on Friday places him solidly on the right side of history, protecting health care for millions of Americans, but watching him place his two votes was a bit like watching someone light a house on fire, help others put it out, and then get all the credit.

In many ways, Collins and Murkowski’s votes were tougher than McCain’s. While Collins isn’t up for re-election until 2020 and Murkowski until 2022, it’s likely that they’ll both seek it, meaning that this vote could come to define them for better or for worse. Additionally, President Donald Trump threatened to retaliate against Murkowski if she voted against the bill. McCain, on the other hand, now 80 years old and recently diagnosed with brain cancer, has probably run his last campaign.

Add in the fact that separate House Republicans appear to have half-jokingly threatened Murkowski and Collins in the past week, and it’s clear that the senators won’t exactly be seen as popular with certain segments of the party moving forward.

Beyond McCain, Collins, Murkowski, and the other 48 “no” votes, it’s important to remember the real heroes of the health care fight: regular people doing extraordinary things.

Activists played a huge role in shutting down the effort to gut the Affordable Care Act that shouldn’t go overlooked.

The ACLU shared some stunning numbers from its push to stop the bill, noting that 89,000 supporters e-mailed members of Congress, made nearly 19,000 phone calls, and attended hundreds of in-person events.

And organizations like disability rights activists ADAPT kept sustained pressure on senators of all stripes to do the right thing.

Three of our tough women leaders of Atlantis ADAPT (Denver, CO) in DC at the Senate healthcare vigil at the US Capitol….

Posted by National ADAPT onThursday, July 27, 2017

In the end, blocking Trumpcare was a group effort. Senators, representatives, and ordinary everyday Americans came together in the name of what’s right.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/13-tweets-about-last-nights-health-care-vote-that-should-be-in-history-books

She fought to get a mat on the sand so her wheels could take her to the sea.

The day Gabrielle Peters started using a wheelchair was the day she started learning how to fight.

Peters is prickly, and it’s earned. For years, she clammed up in the face of condescending stares from strangers, platitudes from politicians, and second-class treatment from doctors. Now, when people try to “fix” her, she recommends they “take a good, long look in the damn mirror.”

When the housing complex where she lives in Vancouver was sold to a Mennonite group that forced residents to participate in prayers in the communal dining hall, she told Canada’s largest newspaper.

She doesn’t want to be saved, humored, or, worst of all, anyone’s “inspiration porn,” that flat, familiar treacle where a disabled person “overcomes” the odds to run cross-country, throw a javelin, or juggle a dozen chainsaws behind their back stories told mostly to remind able-bodied people how “good” they have it.

Peters wants equal health care, equal access, and equal rights. She also wants to go to the beach.

Until Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, it had been more than 10 years since Peters had been on the sand. “The world I exist in was not designed for me, and the people I exist with have all sorts of messed up ideas about me,” Peters says.

A self-proclaimed “city person,” the water is her favorite place to be. The forest is a close second. When Peters was discharged from the hospital after rehabbing from the autoimmune disease that required her to begin using a wheelchair, she was determined not to let her new mobility arrangement reduce her quality of life.

But, without a flat surface, determination means squat.

She tried hiking the “accessible” trail in the city’s expansive Stanley Park to no avail. The surface was uneven, the paving was intermittent, and the grade was too steep.

A photo Peters took of the trail in October, showing pebbles and pine needles over uneven dirt. Photo by Gabrielle Peters.

Accessibility, it turns out, is subjective.

At the beach, she would sit as close to the water as she could by a paved seawall far from the tideline while her friends lounged on on a sandy section nearby. When she left, her friends would get up and move closer to the water.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a major federal law mandating equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities.

While many Americans, particularly those who lean left, tend to view the country as a sort of “America Plus” what we could be if only our self-involved, short-sighted politicians rolled up their sleeves, delivered a killer Aaron Sorkin-style speech, and started working for the common good on disability, Canada largely relies on a vague statement of principles laid out in documents like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, which calls for “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on mental or physical disability.”

Efforts led by groups like Barrier Free Canada, Every Canadian Counts, and others to establish concrete, nationwide standards for accessibility, have thus far failed to produce legislation.

In the meantime, many disabled Canadians are forced to rely on the generosity of local governments and the tenacity of their fed up, pissed off peers like Peters to safeguard and expand their right to access public spaces.

In summer 2016, Peters (@mssinenomine on Twitter) began tweeting at the Vancouver Park Board, the agency responsible for the city’s beaches, demanding access to the shore.

The solution, she discovered, was 2,700 miles away, in Northern Bruce Peninsula, Ontario where the town had installed a flexible mat on the sand, allowing wheelchair users to glide all the way up to the waters’ edge.

If a tiny Lake Huron community of fewer than 4,000 people could get its disabled residents and visitors to the shoreline, Peters argued, her wealthy global city had no excuse.

The Park Board replied with a “survey of a plan of priorities for some time in the future.”

It felt insulting.

It turns out Vancouver city officials were indeed working on a solution having spent the previous two years searching for a way to open up the shoreline.

Park Board Chair Michael Weibe, who also sits on the Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, spends a lot of time on the road.

When he travels with his mother, who uses a wheelchair, he keeps a running note of “what works and what doesn’t,” based on her feedback as well as the feedback from residents who write and call his office with suggestions.

“Its always great to have such a healthy user group thats willing to share the information with us,” he says.

Part of the solution, it turned out, was in Vancouver’s own backyard.

The Park Board purchased a single MobiMat dirt cheap from an event company eager to sell it.

The low cost turned out to be a warning sign. The mat didn’t come with all the required parts, which required money the board hadn’t budgeted for and then had to find.

There was another problem too. Unlike Northern Bruce Peninsula, Vancouver has 14-foot tides. If the MobiMat was rolled all the way out to the water’s edge, parts of it would quickly be swallowed by the sea.

As a result, the mat sat in storage for the first few weeks of the summer.

Peters didn’t think she should have to wait for something able-bodied residents already had unlimited access to.

On June 23, she emailed a representative from the Park Board who had contacted her after her earlier tweets. She explained the feeling of dependency that comes with having to call in and request a beach wheelchair which are not self-powered in order to get on the sand. She explained the fear of leaving one’s wheelchair unsecured, and that many people have no desire to be pushed. She explained the longing she and others experience standing or sitting by the seawall, squinting at the waves meters away.

“I want on the beach now,” she wrote.

A member of the board followed up with a phone call a few days later. The hold up, he explained, was the missing parts, which were awaiting delivery.

For the first time, it was evident that someone was listening.

On Aug. 9, the city finally rolled out the mat at English Bay Beach.

Peters had been having health complications and had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that day, but was determined to “soak in this tiny little win in a sea of inequality.”

And, of course, to “try it out and get close to my water.”

This time, her determination was met with the right piece of equipment.

She was nervous wheeling to it. As her chair edged on, the artificial surface slowed her pace, but did not leave her feeling “tippy or off balance.” She found that it wasn’t difficult to maneuver. A small gap in one section turned out to be easy to navigate.

A few minutes later, she caught the sunset.

“You’re a trailblazer,” an older woman told her.

Peters explained that she didn’t work for the Park Board, and she left to go get a hot dog. Back near the seawall, her former high water mark, she saw a man in a motorized wheelchair and told him about the mat. She watched him power over and down the path, stopping at the edge.

As she was leaving an hour later, she noticed he was still there.

“I never spoke to him, but I think I know how he feels about it,” she wrote on Twitter later that day.

Still, years of delayed promises have left Peters feeling anxious about the mat’s prospects.

“What if no one uses it?” she wonders. “What if it turns into an excuse to not make something else accessible because it wasn’t popular enough?”

The current setup is not perfect. Right now, there’s only one mat and the beach gets crowded. Also, it can’t really get that close to the shoreline because of the extreme rise and fall of the bay.

But there are signs the tide is turning. One of the first things Peters noticed was that there was no sign alerting beachgoers to the presence of the mat. If you didn’t already know about it, she realized, you would have no idea it was there.

Peters wrote the Park Board on Twitter. This time, they replied immediately.

Weibe notes that other residents have recommended creating more sitting areas adjacent to the mat to make it a social space. Recently, the Park Board purchased nine new wheelchairs with inflatable tires that can travel over sand to the water line, though they still require the aid of a friend or lifeguard.

A beach wheelchair. Photo by the National Park Service.

“Our goal is to have them at every beach because the call in [to get a beach wheelchair] is just another barrier,” Weibe says.

Peters agrees and has a million more ideas for what the city can do next.

She wants Vancouver’s beaches to get waterproof wheelchairs powered by compressed air for use in the ocean. She wants the Park Board to install a ramp by an area of stairs near the water. She wants adapted versions of the dozens of adventure activities in the city.

“I don’t get people who see this accessibility innovation as burdensome,” she says. “It’s fucking amazing and cool and requires the best kind of integrating of tech, design, ideas, and people.”

Gabrielle Peters knows how to fight. She fought to go to the beach and won. She’ll keep fighting until every space everywhere is accessible for everyone.

Until that happens, she’ll celebrate the small victory the way she prefers. By soaking in the salt air.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/she-fought-to-get-a-mat-on-the-sand-so-her-wheels-could-take-her-to-the-sea

Trans people react to the opening of a new clinic for trans kids and teens.

A new clinic geared toward St. Louis transgender teens hopes to be a sort of one-stop shop for supporting trans youth.

After opening the first week of August, St. Louis’ Transgender Center of Excellence is already booked through mid-September. It’s one location complete with mental health, hormones, and other essential services, and it’s getting rave reviews from patients already.

“Having support and acceptance is extremely important for this patient population,” Dr. Christopher Lewis, physician and founder of the clinic, told WGN News. “Transgender patients already deal with harassment and discrimination within the medical community and that is a barrier to them accessing care.”

A supportive medical environment is a big win for trans kids take it from others, like myself, who wish those resources existed when we were growing up.

On Twitter, I reached out to my trans followers to find out what this type of clinic would have meant to them when they were younger. A few common themes emerged.

For many, it would have meant help and support for themselves and their parents.

Others remarked on how a supportive environment would have encouraged them to stop hiding, sidestepping some traumatic early-life experiences.

It would have provided a sense of identity for those who felt alone and isolated, who never saw accurate reflections of themselves in the media.

Then, the emails started rolling in. “If I’d had the words, if I’d known the concepts, if I had a supportive and professional environment to turn to. I would have been able to live without a dysphoria that came close to killing me, repeatedly,” writes Alvhild Sand, a trans woman from Norway, about what a difference a resource like this would have made for her.

“It would have been fantastic if such a place had existed,” writes Gwyn Ciesla, another trans woman, who grew up in a “highly Catholic town in the 1980s” where she was “not exposed to LGBTQ ideas or openly LGBTQ people.”

“The only tools available were in the context of education, religion, and mental health, and were ineffective because they were incomplete,” Ciesla explains. “If I had known then what I know now, and a clinic like this had been available, it would have been life-changing.”

“Given what I did and didn’t know at the time, I might not have been able to get to the point where I could take advantage of the clinic’s services,” Ciesla admits, expressing hope that “the presence of the clinic might have at least increased the information available to me and helped me to understand and begin to accept myself years earlier.”

“I only survived my youth by a narrow margin, and I think this clinic might have widened that margin a lot. I hope this clinic can do that for youth now and in the future.”

The new clinic in St. Louis joins a handful of other trans-specific children’s medical programs across the country.

One of the most notable is the gender development services at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. The sad fact is that even though the Affordable Care Act effectively banned discriminating against people on the basis of their gender identity, many trans people continue to face either discrimination or confusion from their health care providers.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 33% of trans people who saw a health care provider in the previous year had at least one negative experience, were denied care, or had to actually teach their provider about trans patients. In other words, there’s a lot of work to be done, and taking steps to ensure trans people have competent, knowledgeable medical care is a work in progress.

The new clinic in St. Louis is a big step in the right direction, providing care and benefits for years to come.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-new-clinic-opened-for-trans-kids-heres-wha-it-means-to-the-community