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Thriving, Not Just Surviving: Centering the Needs of Transgender and Non-binary Students at School

Thriving, Not Just Surviving: Centering the Needs of Transgender and Non-binary Students at School

Date of the Event: June 29, 2021 | Marianna Stepniak, Michelle Nutter, Preston Heldibridle, Shiwali Patel, Ash, Clarie, Esmée, La' Tavia, Nic, Noah, Noe'aah, and Reed
Show Notes:

As anti-trans laws clash with Pride month, trans and non-binary students need advocates at school now more than ever. Following a brief introduction of gender identity terminology, and an overview of the recent Title IX regulations, this webinar focused on a discussion with our trans and non-binary youth panelists on what educators and administrators can do to create and maintain positive, supportive school climates where LGBTQIA+ students can thrive.

Marianna Stepniak:

We’re really glad to have you here today. As you’re coming in for our webinar, could you please put in the chat your name and where you’re coming from. So I’m Marianna and I am calling in from near Boston, Massachusetts right now. I’m so excited that you all are here. We’ll give a couple of minutes as folks are rolling in. And if you can just add to the chat your name and where you’re coming from, so we can g...

Marianna Stepniak:

We’re really glad to have you here today. As you’re coming in for our webinar, could you please put in the chat your name and where you’re coming from. So I’m Marianna and I am calling in from near Boston, Massachusetts right now. I’m so excited that you all are here. We’ll give a couple of minutes as folks are rolling in. And if you can just add to the chat your name and where you’re coming from, so we can get a sense of who’s here with us today in the room and where everyone is, track across the country. And I’ll open up the chat. Oh boy, we have folks from all over. This is very exciting.

Welcome everyone who’s joining us today. As you hop on, if you can add your name and where you’re coming from into the chat box. We’d love to have a sense of who’s here with us, where you’re coming from. And thanks for those who are adding in their pronouns, that’s really great too. We’ve got Philly by way of Texas, I love it. Washington, Arizona, New York, Maryland, North Carolina. Welcome to everyone who is hopping in now. I can see we’re up to 112 participants. This is so great. We’re really excited for this conversation today.

We’re going get started, I think, at 2:03. I’ll give us just one more minute as folks are hopping in. And if you could just add your name and where you’re coming from into the chat, that would be great. Wow, we have all across the country. California, Colorado, Philadelphia, this is fantastic.

Michelle Nutter:

Washington state.

Marianna Stepniak:

Yes. All over. Washington DC.

Michelle Nutter:

Arkansas.

Marianna Stepniak:

Wow, this is great. Thanks so much for everyone who’s adding their name and where they’re coming from into the chat. Please keep doing that as you’re hopping in. And I think we’re gonna get started. I’m going to move to the next side, but we are so glad to have you here with us today. And for folks who are just arriving, add your name and where you’re coming from into the chat box and we’re gonna get started.

So welcome to MAEC’s webinar, Thriving, Not Just Surviving: Centering the Needs of Transgender and Non-binary Students at School. I’m going to click on my screen, there we go. So just some webinar etiquette points, if you can use the chat box to engage with other participants as many of you are doing right now. We recommend that you click on the chat box icon which should be on the bottom or the top of your screen. We’re going to have one poll at the end of this webinar, at that point the poll will just appear on your screen. Click the appropriate button, whatever your responses and it says here that results will be read. We may not actually read them out loud because the question is to inform us and our work moving forward.

There will also be a Q&A with the audience towards end of the webinar, so that’s all of you. If you have questions for our student panelists, please add those questions to the Q&A box which you’ll see is different from the chat box. It’s right next to it though. And for those of you who are using our interpretation services, we have Spanish and American Sign Language available today. You should see the ASL person signing on screen and if you want to access Spanish interpretation services click the interpretation icon on your webinar controls. It looks like a little globe, you should see that image there on your screen. And then just select the language and it should pop up.

All right. And many of you will probably see that there are live captions on your screen as well. They show up by default. If you want to turn them off, you can use the webinar controls at the bottom and click the CC live transcript or the closed captions. But if you want to show them after you turn them off… Or sorry, and click hide subtitle. And if you want them to show again, go through the same process. Click show subtitle.

So that’s some housekeeping right there. If he needs support with any of this, you can talk to our team. So our web team sport for today is Nikevia Thomas. Sorry, Nikevia Thomas, who is our live program director. She’s on top of our tech support. Next, we have Jessica Lim, who’s our finance and bookkeeping assistant, who’s in charge of the chat box support. And if you have any technical issues, you’re wondering about raising hands, you have different questions, whatever it is, you can reach out to her and Nikevia. And Jess is in the chat as MAEC chat box support. We also have Kathleen Pulupa, who is our communications coordinator and is monitoring Facebook live. So people who aren’t watching this webinar through Zoom can watch this webinar through Facebook live thanks to Kathleen.

Moving on to the next one, and we have two moderators today. I am one of them. Hello everyone, my name is Marianna Stepniak. I’m a program and communications associate with MAEC, and I’ll let my colleague introduce yourself.

Michelle Nutter:

Hey everyone, Michelle Nutter. I’m a senior education equity specialist with MAEC, welcome.

Marianna Stepniak:

Welcome indeed. Thanks Michelle. We’re going to hop over to the next side. We are your guides for this webinar today, but the real stars of the show are our presenters and panelists. So we have two presenters before we move into the student panel, and our presenters are Preston Heldibridle, who is the executive director from the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. We have Shiwali Patel, who is the Director of Justice for Student Survivors and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. And they’ll both have longer bios before they speak, don’t worry.

We also have, I believe it’s seven or eight students with us. We have Ash, an incoming 9th grader from Pennsylvania, Claire, an incoming 11th from Maine, Esmée, an incoming college freshmen for Massachusetts. LaLa’ Tavia, who goes by La’ Tavi, an incoming 11th grader from Maryland, Nic, an incoming 12th grader from Maryland. Noah, an incoming college freshmen from Pennsylvania, Noah as well, an incoming 10th grader in Maryland and Reed, an incoming 11th grader in Maine.

We are so excited to hear from all of our speakers today and we look forward to engage with them soon. Before that, we wanted to give you some background information about who we are and what we do. So MAEC was founded in 1991 as an education non-profit, dedicated to increasing access to a high quality education for culturally diverse, linguistically and economically diverse learners. We envision a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. And our mission is to promote excellence and equity in education, to achieve social justice. We believe that all students deserve feel welcome, respected and safe in school, and provided with the opportunities to thrive.

So one of our biggest projects is the Center for Education Equity, or CEE, which we partnered with WestEd and the American Institutes for Research, or AIR to do. CEE is one of the four regional equity assistance centers across the country funded by the US Department of Education, under title four of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And on this next side, you’ll see I’ve said it’s one of four equity assistance centers. We cover region one which goes all the way up to Maine and all the way down to Kentucky, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

And our goals, as CEE, are to improve and sustain the systemic capacity of public education systems, to address problems caused by segregation and equities, as well as to increase equitable educational opportunities for all students, regardless of race, gender, religion and national origin. So we serve state education agencies, local education agencies, schools and community based organizations within our region by providing technical assistance and training at the request of the school board or other responsible governmental agencies.

We’ve done our brief introduction right there. I’m going to move us in to our objectives for the webinar today, some norms and then we’ll pass it over to our two excellent presenters, the student panel and audience Q&A, and then we’ll wrap up at the end. And again, if you have any technical questions add them to the chat. If you want to chat with each other, that’s a good place too. If you have any questions for the student panelists, you can add them to the Q&A.

All right, so the objectives for this webinar. This webinar is responding directly to the recent legislation targeting transgender and non-binary students and you see that in our first objective. We are raising awareness of the harmful impacts of recent proposed an enacted state legislation targeting transgender and non-binary student’s rights. Our second objective with this webinar is to identify helpful strategies for educators, administrators and caregivers to protect and advocate for trans and non-binary students. We’re also working to increase the understanding of the scope of Title IX state laws and local ordinances that protect trans and non-binary students. So that’s what we’re here to do today.

And before we really get started, we want to set some norms for our group. We want to recognize that our audience is diverse in its understanding, beliefs and opinions on gender identity and that for some our conversation today might be difficult. And the norms that we list here essentially ask that you engage with our panelists today with respect, curiosity and a willingness to learn. So the first norm here is to listen with respect as an ally and to understand. The second norm is to embrace discomfort, seeking to learn and grow. And if you feel uncomfortable during our conversation today, that’s okay. That’s probably good. Change and growth are about feeling uncomfortable and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

We are so glad you are here today and as you are here today, you are signing up for these norms just as we are too. We’re excited to hear and learn from our presenters and panelists about what we can do to create and maintain more supportive school environments where are trans and non-binary students can thrive. So with that, I’m going to pass it over to Michelle who will introduce us to our first speaker. Michelle…

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Marianna. And thank you everyone for joining us today for this important webinar, for us all to learn how we can best support non-binary and transgender students in our schools. So our first presenter is Preston Heldibridle.

Preston is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, Pennsylvania’s statewide youth led LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. Formed 10 years ago, Pennsylvania Youth Congress is a network of young leaders from across the Commonwealth, working to advance responsible laws and policies in state and local government and has worked directly with many school districts to implement LGBTQ+ inclusive school policies and practices. Preston is a 2017 graduate of Dallastown Area High School, located in southern York County in Pennsylvania and is currently a student at the Harrisburg Area Community College. Preston is based in Harrisburgh. Preston, take it away.

Preston Heldibridle:

Hi, can everyone hear me okay?

Marianna Stepniak:

Yes.

Preston Heldibridle:

Awesome. So, good afternoon everyone. I’m so happy to be speaking with you all today. So we’re going over some basic terminology that’s commonly used in the LGBT community that you’ll probably hear from the student panelist today. However, I’m not here to simply give you a list of gender identities and definitions. You’re more than welcome to learn about terminology, but I found in my experience as a trans student and as an advocate that knowing the lingo without having a framework of background knowledge for such terms can lead to frustration.

So we’ll be revisiting the very nature of gender and perhaps expanding our understanding of the way we think about and perceive gender, especially when interacting with trans students and when making policy decisions. So if you’ve ever interacted with queer teens, you may be familiar with the phrase, “Gender is a social construct.” Gender is a socially constructed identity, but that does not mean it is not real. Language is also a social construct and is a pillar of society. What this means is that gender only has meaning that is given through social interactions.

Like language, gender has always evolved throughout history. It is not innate or immutable. Even in today’s society, gender has a huge impact on how we perceive each other in regards to appearance, temperament, abilities and so forth. I think it’s a common misconception that gender only has a few areas where it really affects us. But as a trans person, I have found that things I didn’t need to worry about when I was perceived as girl now I do, whether I like it or not, after I transitioned and vice versa. Trans and non-binary people… I’m sorry, could you move to the next slide?

So trans and non-binary people are not a new phenomenon. We’ve always existed and we were woven into the very fabric of societal organization in many cultures throughout history. The only reason the gender binary is considered the default today is because of the violent enforcement of colonial power’s own cultural norms, when really we have a very rich history. Sorry, could you move to the next slide? Thank you.

So I really like this visual which was made by a trans online community because often gender is referred to as a spectrum. But it’s important to note that gender identities don’t exist on spectrum from male to female with non-binary identities in between somewhere. In reality, there are many folks whose gender identity is based on the fact that they don’t want to participate in society’s gender roles whatsoever. And it’s important to recognize that non-binary genders are whole in and of themselves. So a feminine non-binary person is not just basically a girl and vice versa for a androgynous or masculine non-binary person. These are their own gender identities.

So just to go over some common terms, the definition of transgender or trans is when one’s gender doesn’t align with the sex or gender assigned at birth. This is also a common umbrella term for anyone who is not cis gendered, so non-binary people, intersex folks. They might not necessarily identify as trans, but whenever we’re talking about trans issues those identities are also affected in the same ways.

So non-binary identities, sometimes referred to NB when referred to in text, is any gender that is outside the binary of boy or girl, or man or woman. There are many non-binary identities such as agender, gender fluid, some people simply identify as non-binary like myself. Again, if you would like to look at all of these terms, I think it’s very helpful. But non-binary identity is the umbrella term for all genders outside the gender binary.

And gender non-conforming is not a gender. It is when one’s gender expression, so the clothes someone might wear, the way they might do their hair, what their interests might be, doesn’t necessarily comply with societal norms. And we know that gender non-conforming people often face consequences to policies or social prejudices that affect trans people. For example, that when trans people are stigmatized for using certain bathrooms, women and girls who might not look as feminine as they might supposed to will also face those consequences.

And then the term cisgender or cis just refers to people whose gender does not align with the sex or gender assigned at birth. So anyone who does not identify as transgender or non-binary would be cisgender. And intersex people are people who are born with physical sex traits that don’t fit the male or female binary. This is as many as 2% of the population in America.

Some other terms that you might hear are dysphoria, which is the distress and anxiety that can occur when someone is at risk of being perceived as a different gender. Now, for a long time… Trans people are often at risk for higher mental health issues, this is not because they are trans. It is because of the stigma they face. And dysphoria can be a result of that stigma, or just because the way they see themselves does not line up with how they want to be perceived. And this is not unique to trans people, everyone has a need to be seen for who they are.

Dead naming is when a trans person’s legal name that they don’t want to use is used. This can lead to outing which can be dangerous, social pressure and again, that feeling of dysphoria. So trans students are often treated differently based on whether they were assigned female at birth or male at birth. Since adults retreat routinely patronize, infantilize and view trans students who were assigned female at birth with severe disregard for their agency and autonomy. They often believe that they know better and that they should have control over this student’s gender identity.

Cis adults routinely view trans students assigned male at birth with disgust, hostility or suspicion. These are internal biases often held by the very well-meaning adults that say they want to help us. So it’s important to analyze when you’re interacting with trans students, or even when you’re thinking about them to check those biases. It’s not that faculty’s job…

Marianna Stepniak:

Preston I saw you were frozen, but it looks like you’re back. Is it working?

Preston Heldibridle:

Oh, I’m sorry.

Marianna Stepniak:

That’s okay. Sorry, did you finish reading that slide?

Preston Heldibridle:

Yes.

Marianna Stepniak:

Okay.

Preston Heldibridle:

And most of all, it’s important to remember that trans kids are still kids. They are going to say things that don’t make total sense all the time. They might change their name and pronouns several times as they experiment with what’s best for them. We can’t let their legitimacy questioned if they act out or act less than perfect. They should not have to be above approach to earn legitimacy. They are still going to be teens and kids. They will figure it out as they grow and they still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Thank you all for your time and I hope you enjoy the rest of the presentation.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Preston. To the audience, if any of you have any questions for Preston, please put them in the Q&A feature at the bottom of your screen or you could put them in the chat feature. Just want to give a little bit of wait time in case there are any questions for Preston before we move to our next presenter.

So no questions are coming in at this point, but a whole lot of gratitude and thanks to Preston for that wonderful presentation. So let me go head and introduce our next presenter. In the meantime, if you do think of questions, feel free to put those into either the Q&A or the chat features on the webinar.

Our next presenter is Shiwali Patel. Shiwali is the Director of Justice for Student Survivors at the National Women’s Law Center and leads advocacy addressing sexual harassment in schools. Previously, she was at the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights where she worked on policy and guidance, interpreting Title IX protections including schools responsibilities in responding to sexual harassment and civil rights protections for transgender students. Shiwali was also an administrative judge at the US Department of Energy, a special assistant US attorney in DC in the sex offense and domestic violence unit, a judicial law clerk and a community educator at the DC Rape Crisis Center. Shiwali…

Shiwali Patel:

Hello. Hi. So thank you so much for including me for this presentation. And Preston thank you so much for your presentation, I thought it was very informative and really important information, so I really appreciate your work. So I’m just going to talk a little bit about my organization, the National Women’s Law Center and then share some information about Title IX and its anti discrimination protections. And then talk about what’s happening with States, and then some other developments that are happening on the federal level. So I guess next slide please?

So the National Women’s Law Center was founded in 1972 which is the same year that Title IX was enacted. And we advocate for women and girls in all spaces, in education, in healthcare, in the workplace with regards to income security and childcare. And we don’t just do it through litigation, but also through policy advocacy and culture change. And in our education work, where I focus, we’ve been doing more work in the States. Next side.

So what is Title IX? So as I mentioned… Actually, I don’t know if I mentioned this. Actually, I did. So it was passed in 1972 which is the same year that NWLC was created, so next year will actually be the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Last week was the 49th anniversary, on June 23rd. And it’s an extremely critical civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs or activities that are funded by the federal government. So this includes most K-12 schools, it doesn’t include a lot of K-12 private schools if they don’t receive federal funding. And it includes most colleges and universities, even private colleges and universities because they receive federal funding through federal financial aid.

And Title IX covers a lot of different issues. It protects employees, it protects students, it protects applicants to schools. It covers admissions, housing, scholarships, financial aid, athletics, grievance procedures, meaning procedures that schools have to use to respond to complaints of sex discrimination including sexual harassment and just different treatment in general based on sex. And it also protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity which I’ll talk about more later. Because discrimination based on sex includes discrimination based on those basis, which is why we have issued guidance. OCR has issued guidance in the past addressing civil rights protections for transgender students. And earlier this month and last week, there have been a number of pronouncements made by the federal Department of Education which I’ll talk about later addressing these protections. Next slide.

So I just wanted to cover a little bit of information, talk about the data about the disproportionate rates of harassment and discrimination that unfortunately trans students face in schools. That has such a devastating impact on the ability to stay and succeed in school, which is why it is a civil rights matter to protect trans students from discrimination, because that is that Title IX does. It’s supposed to ensure equal educational opportunity, that no student is pushed out of school or denied equal access to education because of their sex, or because of discrimination based on sex.

So in 2015 there is was study that was done of more than 27,000 transgender adults. And 77% of those who were out or perceived as trans while in K-12 schools indicated that they face some sort of mistreatment due to their gender identity. 50% indicated they were verbally harassed, 24%, so almost quarter, were physically attacked and 13% sexually assaulted. In higher education, there are reported 23% of transgender and non-binary students were sexually assaulted during their time in college. And unfortunately school policies that discriminate against trans students are linked to higher rates of sexual assault among transgender students.

So in a recent study of more than 3600 transgender and non-binary students in grades 7 to 12 that was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, students who were banned from using locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity were significantly more likely to have been sexually assaulted during the previous 12 months. And so there is a link between discrimination and sexual harassment and assault, and providing access to students to restrooms and other facilities based on gender identity.

And I wanted to spend a few minutes to talk about what some of these extreme measures that many state legislators and governors are unfortunately going through to harm trans students, which is really troubling and upsetting. And I know many of you have heard about what’s been happening in the States, they’ve been introducing and passing legislation prohibiting doctors from providing gender affirming care including puberty blockers and hormones.

There have been bathroom bills and pronoun laws which tell school districts and institutions of higher ed which pronouns they may use for which people. Identification bills that have prohibit trans individuals from changing sex on birth certificates. Sex education bills that require schools to notify parents before starting instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity, or allow parents to opt out.

And especially popular this year, that we have been engaged in at the National Women’s Law Center, the spate of these state women’s sports bills which aim to specify who may play on which sports teams based on their sex assigned at birth. And these bills ban transgender girls from participating on teams consistent with their gender identity, or requiring students to verify their gender by undergoing invasive testing which can include a gynecological exam or blood work, and/or chromosome testing. And they typically target transgender girls and women, with transgender boys, non-binary and gender nonconforming youth and intersex youth who are impacted as well.

And many who oppose the inclusion of trans athletes wrongly claim that allowing trans athletes to compete will harm cisgender women and girls. That couldn’t be further from the truth because we’ve been very clear at the National Women’s Law Center, as well as many other organizations that advocate for women and girls in sports, that excluding women and girls who are trans hurts all women. And it invites gender policing that could subject any women to invasive tests or accusations of being too masculine or too good at their sport to be a real woman.

And this type of policing is not only dangerous to transgender and intersex athletes, but also to cisgender women and girls that may fall outside of stereotypical notions of femininity. And we’ve especially seen this for black and brown women and girls who are already subjected to scrutiny due to racist and sexist stereotypes that consider their bodies as less feminine. And we’ve also been very clear that there has been no dominance by transgender girls and women in sports in states that have trans inclusive policies.

And so it’s been really frustrating but we see it as particularly important for groups like ours to rebut of the misinformation that is out there that is specifically used to target transgender students and individuals. And the Progressive Caucus Action Fund has a tracker, there have been about… As of, I think, this weekend, 171 bills total. 24 have been enacted in 10 states and a bulk of these laws are in Tennessee and Arkansas. I see someone mentioned Arkansas in the chat. Most of them address sport bans, others are about healthcare, bathrooms or religious freedoms, basically religious reasons to justify discrimination.

These bans are in Alabama, Arkansas as I mentioned, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee as I mentioned, and West Virginia. And all 10 of these states of Republican controlled states. And as I mentioned, and I’m happy to share resources that we’ve written up about these issues, these bills are not addressing any real problems. And there’s some groups that have done some deep research as to who is driving these bills which are a lot of national far right organizations, including some conservative Christian groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom. There’s some really important, as I mentioned, research kind of linking those organizations that these anti trans efforts. Next slide. Next, sorry.

So I just wanted to talk a bit about… Oh sorry, can you go back? What we’re expecting from the Biden administration because I think for those who have been paying attention to what’s been coming out of this administration with respect to civil rights protections for transgender individuals, I think we’ve been hearing a lot in the education space over the last month. So last summer, as you know, in Bostock the Supreme Court held that discrimination based on sex under Title VII, which is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in workplaces, that sex discrimination under that law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s something we’ve always known and have said about Title IX and it’s an explicit affirmation of that in the workplace by the Supreme Court.

And so on March 26, 2021, earlier this year, the Department of Justice issued a memo informing federal agencies that Bostock applies to Title XI. And the memo supports the decisions of many federal courts, that Title IX prohibits discrimination against transgender students. Now this is important because the Department of Justice is the main federal agency that coordinates how other federal agencies like the Department of Education, or Health and Human services, or HUD, how they enforce civil rights laws. So their memo with their interpretation is guiding to other federal agencies as to how they should be interpreting the same law.

And so earlier this month, on June 16th, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, it should have noted some interpretation basically indicating that they’re going to enforce Title IX consistent with the Supreme Court decision in Bostock, recognizing that discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is prohibited.

And then a day later the Department of Justice weighed in on two separate lawsuits challenging some of these anti trans laws that were passed in states, which is a good sign that the federal government is going to come after these states that are passing these harmful laws. One with a sports law ban in West Virginia, the Department of Justice said that the West Virginia law violated Title IX and the US constitution.

And then they also weighed in an Arkansas law that bars doctors from providing gender firming care to trans youth, saying that it violates the equal protection clause on the 14th amendment. And then last week on the 49th anniversary of Title IX, on June 23rd, OCR, the Department of Education’s office for civil rights issued a Dear Educator letter and the DOJ and OCR issued a fact sheet. I have the links there in the slides, but I can also drop it into the chat afterwards if that would be helpful.

It provides clarification and examples as to the kinds of discrimination that can be investigated by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice for discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. And what you can do if you experience discrimination, and how you can turn to the federal government to help enforce your rights. And notably, it also includes an example of discrimination for when a student is not allowed to use a restroom or to participate on a sports team consistent with their gender identity.

And the Department of Education is anticipating issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking, so this means actually changing the Title IX at the earliest by May 2022. So that will be an opportunity for you all, for students, for the public, for the families to weigh in and to urge the department to make it explicit. They have already through the notices of interpretation which is important. But to also make it explicit through the Title IX rule, if they are proposing to change the rule to include these protections, that it is inclusive of protecting trans students against discrimination. Next slide please.

Oh, this is a slide of a fact sheet, I just wanted to show you an image of the fact sheet that was issued last week from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, just so you can get an idea of what it looks like. Next slide.

And I just wanted to briefly also talk about the Equality Act which is a federal bill that if passed would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other key federal discrimination laws to provide clear protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That would also apply to education, as well as housing, public accommodations, federal jury service. So while the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock technically only applies in the employment setting… So it’s important to have the Equality Act because no other federal law explicitly and comprehensively protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in other sectors.

And then yesterday, the Supreme Court… So this was also pretty big. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case in the Gavin Grimm versus Gloucester County School Board case which was a decision that had come out of the 4th circuit. The 4th circuit covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The 4th circuit had a decision that supported trans students in holding that the school board in Gloucester County violated Title IX and the equal protection clause when it prohibited Gavin Grimm from using the same restrooms as boys and forcing him to use separate restrooms.

And so this means that courts have held that students should be allowed as a civil right to use their bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, that those decisions still stand. And with the interpretations by the federal government as well as the Equality Act that hopefully will move forward, that will have a significant impact on what’s happening with the states. Hopefully to preempt or to block the states from moving forward on their harmful actions to discriminate and harm trans students, as well as non-binary, intersex and gender nonconforming students. Thank you. Oh, the last slide.

And this is my contact information for anyone who has any questions. And I will go ahead and drop a link to some of these resources that I mentioned into the chat. Thanks.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Shiwali. I think we could spend an entire week just on the topic of Title IX and all the changes that have been coming down, and all the implications that those have. If anyone has any questions for Shiwali, please feel free to put them in either the Q&A or the chat features of the webinar.

And at this time, we want to move to highlighting our student panelists and the reason that all of us are here today is to hear from the students. So I invite our student panelists to go ahead and turn your cameras on if you are comfortable doing so. And then we’re going to ask each one of our student panelists to go ahead and introduce yourself. So I’ll call on the first person and then the first person will call on someone else until all, I believe, eight of our students have been able to. Just tell us a little bit more about yourselves, whatever it is you want us to know that would be helpful as we move forward in our conversation together.

So I’m going to go ahead and start with Esmée.

Esmée:

I was hoping I wouldn’t get called on first, but oh well. Hi, I’m Esmée. I use she/her pronouns. I am based on [inaudible 00:42:13] in Massachusetts but I am going to Reed College next year, I’m starting there as a freshman in Portland, Oregon. And I am probably the weirdest activist you’ll ever meet. I love Comic Sans, I love just putting up random pictures of possums whenever I do activism work. And overall, I am really excited to be here, and meet everyone here, and talk about these experiences that we have. I’m also a transgender girl. I played sports for a decent bit in high school and I really love GSA’s, like they’re my favorite thing. I am going to pass it along and over to Nic.

Nic:

Hello everybody, my name is Nic. Pronouns he/they and I’m based out of Baltimore, Maryland. I am a student organizer and activist, and identify as non-binary and bisexual. And I’m happy to be here today and hopefully I can share some information with you all. Okay, I’m going to pass it on to Reed.

Reed:

Hello, I’m Reed and I use they/them pronouns. I’m non-binary and asexual. I’m going into my junior year. I’m super excited for this. [inaudible 00:44:14]-

Marianna Stepniak:

Reed, your connection is a little bit shaky. Oh boy.

Reed:

[inaudible 00:44:30]. Noe’aah would be [inaudible 00:44:34].

Noe’aah:

Hello, I’m Noe’aah. I am in [crosstalk 00:44:46] and I use he/him pronouns. I’ll pass it onto other Noah.

Reed:

Can you hear me now? Is-

Noah:

Yeah, we can hear you.

Reed:

It’s not good.

Noah:

Hi, I’m Noah. I use he/him pronouns. I like in South Western PA, in a tiny town called Charleroi, it’s in Washington County. I’m an incoming college freshmen and identify as FTM trans. And I’m bisexual. And I will pass it onto Claire.

Claire:

Hi, can everyone hear me? Great. I’m Claire, I use she/him pronouns and I’m asexual, aromatic and gender queer. And I am the president of my school’s reducing sexism and violence program. I really love to read, I really love to write. I have a speech impediment. And I’m really excited to participate in the panel. Who hasn’t gone? Ash?

Ash:

Hi, my name is Ash. I’m non-binary and use they/them pronouns. I’m from Pennsylvania and just like glad to be here and stuff. I’ll pass it onto La’ Tavi.

La’ Tavi:

Hi, my name is La’ Tavi. I am a non-binary lesbian. I’m based in Carolina county on the Eastern Shore side of Maryland and I’m really glad to be here because of issues with my school. I’ll pass it onto… Has everybody went?

Marianna Stepniak:

Yeah, I think we’ve got everyone. Thank you to everyone for introductions. And it looks like Reed is frozen maybe, I see slow motions. Reed, do you want to try unmuting yourself and introducing one more time in case that works.

Reed:

[inaudible 00:47:20].

Marianna Stepniak:

The sound quality still isn’t really working Reed.

Reed:

Here, I can try going on different WiFi I guess.

Marianna Stepniak:

I think it’s working better with your camera off actually, Reed.

Reed:

Oh, cool. Awesome. I’m good with that. Okay. Hi, use they/them pronouns. I’m from Maine. I am AFAB, non-binary, and asexual. I’m going into my junior year. I’m part of my school’s GSA and I can ride a unicycle. Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you for sharing that especially important fact about the unicycle and thank you everyone else for the introductions. So we’re going get us started and the way that this is going to work is Michelle and I will take turns posing questions to the students and we’ve sent the questions out in advance. We’ll take about three or four responses each time before we move to the next question. And students will respond by raising their hand if they want to respond. We’ll call on them and that’s how it will go.

So the first question is a fill in a blank sentence. If my school could just pay attention to blank, my day or my school year would be so much better. So basically, what’s that thing that you wish your school would just pay attention to that would make things better for you?

All right. I see Reed’s hand is up, so I’m going to call on Reed first.

Reed:

Awesome. Okay, so this one doesn’t actually directly affect me but it does directly affect one of my good friends. If my school could just pay attention to neopronouns, that would make school a lot better. So if teachers and staff could know what neopronouns are. Neopronouns are pronouns that aren’t she/her, they/them and he/him. So if teachers could know what those are and how to use them, that would be awesome. And just showing basic respect to people who use neopronouns and people who use two or more sets of pronouns, that would be awesome. And I think that would make a lot of people’s days a lot better. Thank you.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thanks Reed. I saw La’ Tavi, your hand was up next.

La’ Tavi:

If my school could just pay attention to the usage of student’s pronouns, for example I had a teacher that I had the first semester. He wouldn’t follow my pronouns and call me by my birth sex. And it’s really dysphoric, and so if they focused on that more, the bullying towards trans students and resources for trans students, my day would be very better.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you for sharing that, La’ Tavi. And I see we have two more hands up, so we’ll take Noe’aah and other Noah. I think Noah with the apostrophe, you’re first please.

Noe’aah:

Not to go on a dark side of it, but it is an issue in my school because not only are some of the other students in my school hateful to other people that are in the LGBTQ+ community, but also some of the teachers. So I think they should pay more attention to actually doing something about it, instead of like brushing it off their shoulder like it was nothing.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you, Noe’aah. And Noah, can you share as well?

Noah:

Yeah, so I agree with the previous people with pronoun usage. Personally I’ve had times where pronoun usage goes sour in the classroom, and especially when like teachers find out about my gender identity and everything. I’ve actually had a teacher give my entire class a lecture about how you are what you are and you can’t change that, and so on and so forth. Just because my administration was too cautious to inform teachers and change names fast enough, for teachers to be able to use the correct name and pronoun inside the classroom. So I really hope that nobody else would have to go through that if schools would just pay attention to what would make the student comfortable, because in the end of the day, you’re teaching the student. You aren’t teaching the teacher. You don’t really have to attend to the teacher.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you Noah. I want to stay on this topic a little bit longer around pronouns. So I’d love to hear from our student panelists, does the school that you attend, do they have a policy or some set procedure on how you go about informing them of name or pronoun? And that’s part A, and Part B, was there someone like a principal or a guidance counselor, or someone who could help you with that process? La’ Tavi, I saw your hand first.

La’ Tavi:

So my guidance counselor allows us to come talk to her and discuss if we have a name change or pronoun change. And if a teacher refuses to follow it, we have to let her know so she can make sure that our teachers will actually follow our pronouns and our preferred name.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, La’ Tavi. Ash?

Ash:

I’m an incoming freshman to high school but I know that my middle school’s policy was if they find out that there is a student who identifies differently than what is in school records, the guidance counselors bring them in and talk with them about it. And we have this entire procedure as to how do they want to be referred, their pronouns, things like that, stuff with locker rooms, bathrooms and all that.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Ash. And Noah, I see your hand.

Noah:

My school did not have any kind of policy. I was the person who pushed for that. So now we have a policy where they will change your name, your sex marker and everything so that in the system, the barebones system itself, it will come up however you want. It took a lot of time. Also now, it went from… I helped change it from trans students having to go to the bathroom assigned to their assigned sex at birth, to actually them being able to choose whichever bathroom they would like. That’s what my school has and I feel like a lot of schools can kind of learn from that.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Noah.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you. Yeah, and you touched on part of the… Our biggest goal from this webinar is that folks who are listening to this webinar will really truly listen and take into consideration what each of you are saying and change, update what they’re doing in their school settings to make it better, listening to what you’re saying.

So the next question which some of you have touched on in little different ways, what are the LGBTQIA+ friendly supports that your school has or you wish they had that you appreciate? So this could be community organization like Esmée talked about in her introduction, or extracurricular group, or a specific policy, bathrooms… Okay, I saw Esmeé’s hand first. Passing it to you.

Esmée:

Oh, this is a really good one. I’m a firm believer are that one of the most powerful and crucial resources in helping LGBT+ kids in any school environment is having a gender sexuality alliance, or GSA for short. What these clubs do is they foster a sense of community, they bring together all of the kids and all the people who may just be questioning, or all the trans kids, or all the people who identify as lesbian. And they combine all these identities to create a space where people can meet each other. People can make friends, people can connect with each other and people can feel safe and supported in an environment.

It’s a lot like in a way when you walk into your school and you’re wearing like a Halloween costume and nobody else is. And you’re like, “Oh my God, I feel so out of place right now.” That’s what many LGBTQ+ kids might go through at school is they may feel out of place, or they may feel excluded. These clubs help that, these clubs make people feel that they have a place in school because when you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who are just like, it really touches you in terms of making you feel like that you’re not alone, and that you’re supported, and that you’re valued as a person. So like a GSA is one of the most crucial resources that I could say in terms of any school having that.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you, Esmée. And Nic, I saw your hand up next.

Nic:

Yeah, so my school has a few different LGBTQ+ supports and I’m actually fairly familiar with them because one of them is one that I actually started. So towards the end of my freshman year, I founded my school’s diversity council and this is a group that wasn’t there before. But it was essentially just a group where we coordinate events and create materials to help support LGBTQ+ students and educate the student body and staff about how they can best stand in solidarity with LGBTQ+ students. But in general, there is also… If your school doesn’t have an organization like that, there is also support groups like mental health support groups that some schools offer that are more LGBTQ+ specific.

As Esmée said earlier, there’s GSA’s. There’s also, as far as policies go, LGBTQ+ inclusive health education and sex education which is a really big deal, making sure that LGBTQ+ issues are incorporated into those curriculums and those topics. As well as teachers sometimes making sure that as a policy, on the first day to ask all students pronouns. And even ask if these pronouns can be used when talking to parents as to avoid outing, as some folks were talking about before, which is really important for a lot of LGBTQ+ youth.

And I think that these policies are really helpful to foster an environment where all students, regardless of gender identity and sexuality, can feel comfortable in their learning space. And we should be doing everything we can to make sure that they are standard across the board, across all schools across this country.

Marianna Stepniak:

Really well said Nic, thank you. And Claire, over to you.

Claire:

So my school has a GSA which I am a part of. My school also has a civil rights club that I’m not a part of, so I’m not entirely sure how much they touch on LGBT topics. Like I mentioned before, we also have a reducing sexism and violence program, which this year I’m going to work on introducing activities we talk more about transgender issues because sexual violence and transgender issues are linked in a lot of ways. And I think it’s really important for us to talk about those issues. And my district has a diversity council, I think, which is cool. That’s been instituted very recently, so they haven’t gotten a lot done. But I think that they are working hard to really help out.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you, Claire. And Noe’aah, I think could be the last person on this question.

Noe’aah:

My school has a GSA as well, I’m actually a part of it. I’m the parliamentarian this year. So I feel as though that is very helpful to the school and the kids. This year we were working on fixing the… So sex ed in health class had some incorrect stuff and things that should be added into it for the gender and sexuality part. And we were working on getting that fixed with the Board of Ed this year, so I think it’s very helpful and beneficial to the students and the staff.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Noe’aah. So a couple questions in the Q&A box are pretty much linked in a way. They’re asking about, is there any kind of policy with regard to having a pronoun and name conversations with parents if the student is not out at home? And so students, in your perspective, what should schools be doing so that they’re not outing students and they’re being respectful and supportive of students with regard to this issue? Reed, you want to go there first?

Reed:

Yeah, I have seen before on the Internet like sheet that says like what’s your name and pronouns, can I use this in front of the class? Can I use this in front of your family? Can I use this… Like etc. Which I think is a really cool idea so then whenever it becomes relevant, you can just pull that out so you know how to talk about your student. And then I saw that question specifically about parent-teacher conferences. I’d say your best bet every single time is to just ask the student what they want you to do because they’ll know. Like they know what they don’t want to happen. So that would be my best advice for you.

Michelle Nutter:

Awesome.

Marianna Stepniak:

I’ll move us forward with the questions too. So the next question on this list I’m going to is, if you could tell a teacher one thing that they can do to help you feel respected and safe in school, what would you say? So I’ll read it one more time. If you could tell a teacher one thing that they could do to help you to feel respected and safe in school, what would you say? All right, and I’ll start with Ash.

Ash:

Something that I wish my 8th grade teacher had done at the beginning of the year was to give us all some sort of form to fill out about our pronouns, name and identity. She didn’t. I did email all my teachers before the year started to inform them so I was not misgendered. But I think it would be very helpful and beneficial if teachers in my school had like at the beginning of the year just something that we can fill out. And maybe some sort of conversation with the entire class about how we need to be respectful of others’ identities.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you, Ash. I’m going to go to Noah.

Noah:

Yeah, I agree with Ash. To expand upon it a bit, especially in high school, I feel that teachers should agree that there’s some mutual respect and that even if they don’t agree with something, or even if they just don’t like something, they shouldn’t just not do it. Because I have had teachers who do the forms and everything but they only did it because it was recommended by admin. And then if they don’t find something that they like on the form, they just won’t stick to it. And so, I feel like that and just treating people like normal human beings would be great. That’s all we want. That could just fix everything. But yeah, just mutual respect is a really big part of it.

Marianna Stepniak:

Yeah, really well said Noah and Claire.

Claire:

I think something that would be really helpful that teachers could do would be to use non-gendered language in classrooms. So instead of saying like boys and girls, you could say students, you could say kids. Maybe in like gym classes, instead of splitting kids up based on gender, you could split them up based on other stupid groupings, like just point at them and be like, “You’re team watermelon. You’re team apple.”

And then it really doesn’t have to be about gender, which can put a lot of kids into uncomfortable situations, especially non-binary kids who won’t fit into girl or boy, and transgender kids who don’t want to out themselves but may feel dysphoric by putting themselves in the team that goes with their gender assigned at birth. So I think that would be really helpful for a lot of trans and non-binary students.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Claire. And this next question, I’m hoping all of our students panelists would like to answer this one. But if not, that’s okay too. But we want you to just take that hypothetical, like pretend it’s the year 2050 and we’re in a new world. What would it look like or feel like to be in a school that is supportive, inclusive, that every single student feels safe and valued, and respected, and empowered? What would that school look like? Esmée, you’re first.

Esmée:

I was thinking about this one for a long time honestly, just about what we would look like in the future. And my future is seeing every single school having a GSA that wants one, and that comes in just the form of every school being able to have adequate support and adequate guidance for LGBTQ+ students. I see a world where people don’t need to be afraid for being different and where that difference and that uniqueness is embraced.

I see this as a world where people do not get judged based on the basis of gender, or sexual orientation, or gender identity. I see it as a world where everybody is treated as humans first and foremost and with that same level of respect that everybody deserves. What I envision is I am creating a giant network of GSA’s up in New England and I’m starting to gather up names. I’m envisioning that will be running and it’ll still be running, and that every single school in New England and every single student in New England will be able to have access to that. And see in the 50 years these groups going across the United States and forming, and being able to provide that support.

I see trans people being able to play in sports and I see many more awesome things. But it’s all going to start right now. And the fact that you all are here right now is just absolutely amazing because you are helping push our change forward. We are all making a change right now and everybody here who is attending this and listening to us is going to help us make that change in the future. So the future is now, I guess. I know that sounds cheesy, but the future is now.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Esmée, that is awesome. Reed?

Reed:

Hello again. In 50 years, I would hope that LGBTQI+ kids get to walk into school with the same amount of confidence that the cis, straight, able bodied white boys get to. Like, there’s no fear of like, “Well, what if something happens today?” Or like, “Oh God, not again.” And just being able to walk around with the same confidence that everybody else does.

In 50 years, I would like to see kids worrying more about homework than how their friends and family will react when they come out. And I would really like to see kids openly experimenting with their gender expression and who they like, and not worrying about, “Well, what if I’m wrong?” Or, “What if this is a big mistake?” I’d just really like to see kids like me be able to walk around with confidence that isn’t fake or put on. But I would really like to see it happen before 50 years passes of course. All right, thank you.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Reed. I think Ash had their hand up next.

Ash:

What I would like to see in schools and the community, and just kind of everywhere, by 2050 would be just more open communication about LGBTQ issues and problems. Like in my school, I discussed this with the guidance counselor. And we kind of agreed that my school was not ready to have an assembly trying to get everyone to understand that we need to respect each other, because a lot of the students that I go to school with are not in a good mindset yet to openly talk about issues that affect LGBT students. It’s just one of those things that I hope in the future everyone will be able to respect each other and understand that even if you don’t agree, you have to try and support everyone regardless of your beliefs or anything like that.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you Ash. La’ Tavi?

La’ Tavi:

I hope to see that like teachers are actually respecting students’ pronouns, even if their gender expression does not match what their pronouns are. And I’d like to see more sex ed that is towards LGBTQ+ people and not just one type of relationship, like a straight relationship, and not just discussing that they have these types of condoms. Like I wish there was more explained about same sex or LGBTQ+ sex education. And I hope to see that teachers are actually cracking down on homophobic or transphobic language that is being used towards students who are LGBTQ+.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you. Noe’aah?

Noe’aah:

Well everybody said most of everything that I would want to say, but having people walking into school and being like, “Hey, everything’s going to be great today. Today is going to be a great day school.” Instead of going to school, “Hey, am I gonna get beat up walking home today?” Because kids at school can’t fathom the idea that I’m just trying to be normal. And that teachers and other students are respectful, and just understand that we are just trying to live life just like them. And we can’t change anything about ourselves that happen, we just are what we are and we can’t change that.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you so much, Noe’aah. Claire?

Claire:

For me, it’s like the little things. I’d like to see like in math problems, word problems, like the people using they/them pronouns, neopronouns. I’d love to see that. I think those are like small things that can really like affirm people’s identity. I’d like to see, like I said before, students not being split up into gendered groups for no reason. I’d like to see comprehensive sex education that includes same sex sex education, and also sex education that includes and acknowledges people like me who are asexual, aromantic and who might experience a relationship to sex differently than other people. I’d really love to see that. Yeah.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Claire. Nic?

Nic:

Yeah, I would say that as an LGBTQ+ student who is also a person of color, specifically black, and living with both those identity simultaneously, it’s really hard for me to imagine a liberated future with safe schools without also recognizing not just discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity, but also discrimination based on race, class, religion and all those different identities.

So I think that a liberated future for me looks like getting rid of every policy, every practice and every system that still leads to unequal outcomes between students of different groups. So whether that means we have to look at what homes people are coming in and how we can get everybody the resources that they need when they’re outside of the school building. Whether that looks like abolishing laws that have people not teach about LGBTQ+ sex ed, or have people not teach about LGBTQ+ issues. Whether that means making sure that all students are able to get the accommodations they need, whether that be meals, access to facilities, or whatever they need.

I definitely see a liberated future as being one where all students can have the same experiences that, as was said before, cisgender, straight, white male students are having today. So that’s what a liberated future looks like for me.

Michelle Nutter:

Wow, I am just so impressed with our student panelists. I’m blown away. You are all so wise beyond your years and I think that the information that you have given us just is amazing. And on the one hand, like it’s straight forward common sense, let’s treat everybody with respect. Let’s treat everyone in a way that is affirming. But the nuances that you gave us are so helpful. Marianna, any additional questions? Or Nikevia, are there any questions in the chat box that we want to pose to our panelists?

Marianna Stepniak:

It looks like students have been responding to the Q&A as they’ve been coming in, so thank you so much to the students who have been doing that. Nikevia, have any questions come in the chat? I haven’t really been checking there quite as much?

I can’t hear you Nikevia. Oh, it looks like you’re muted. But in any case, I kind of don’t want to ask any more questions. I mean, that was an incredible place to end and you all put so much thought into answering that question. And like Michelle, I am blown away. And I wish we were all together in a room right now because I can feel this vibe through the Internet with all of you. But I wish we could you know experience this together. I’m feeling it.

But with that, I think we’re going to move into our closing. So we have one question actually for the audience as we move forward and I see Nikevia has a bad connection right now. Oh boy. But I’ll move to the poll and if anything comes up, we’ll do that. So I’m going to share my screen and as I do that, you should see a poll pop up on your screen. Hopefully you’re all seeing my screen.

Michelle Nutter:

Yes.

Marianna Stepniak:

Okay, good. All right, so this question is, would you be interested in any of the following resources? We’ve just heard from a panel of incredible students who have shared what would make their day better, would make their school year better, what educators and administrators can literally do to help. From the most basic, treat me with respect, do some specific things, make sure we have bathrooms, GSAs, use my pronouns correctly. So we have some options here of different resources that we are thinking of creating and would love to put out in the world, but we want to see interest, if there is any interest. And if you click on the option that says other, please add to the chat what you’re thinking of, what sort of things you’d like to see if it’s not listed up here in this multiple choice.

And I see 65% of the folks in the room have responded which is great. I’m going to leave it open for maybe another 30 seconds. And if you could respond, that would be awesome. And while we’re doing that as well, our tech team, if you could plug the survey in the chat. I’ll go to that slide next. But as we close out each webinar, we do a survey of our audience to see what landed, what felt good, what could we do better next time so we can provide better webinars each and every time.

All right, so I’m going to close the polling. Thank you so much to everyone who has responded. It’s really helpful to see your responses. End polling, here we go. And I’m going to go to the final slide which is thank you. Thank you to Shiwali and to Preston for your amazing presentations, for setting the stage. Thank you for all of our student panelists. Let me make you big on my screen so I can see all of your names. Thank you to Noah, to La’ Tavi, to Esmée, to Nic, to other Noe’aah, to Claire, to Reed, Ash. I hope I got everyone, if I didn’t, thank you. Thank you, thank you.

And to everyone in our audience, thank you for choosing to be here today and for listening, and for walking away with a lot of ideas. So maybe panelists if you want to unmute yourselves and say thank you or bye or anything, and we’ll close out this webinar. So unmute. Bye everyone, thank you.

Nic:

Bye.

La’ Tavi:

Bye.

Reed:

Thank you.

Noah:

Bye.

Noe’aah:

Thank you.

Esmée:

Bye everyone.

Claire:

Thank you. Bye-bye.

Ash:

Thank you for giving me a chance to spread awareness about this topic.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you for being here.

Marianna Stepniak:

All right, bye everyone.

 

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