Sunday, May 20, 2012

Drug treatments for transgender kids pose difficult choices for parents, doctors

While no one knows how many American children have gender identity disorder, increasing numbers are being treated for a condition long ignored or denied by parents and pediatricians.

“There’s no question that everybody is seeing more of this now,” said Norman Spack, the director of one of the nation’s first gender identity medical clinics at Children’s Hospital Boston.
And as awareness grows, so does the controversy surrounding the next possible steps in gender transition — first treatments to suspend puberty, then a rare and radical course of hormone injections to slowly grow a teen’s body into its opposite gender. The hormone injections, which begin at about 16, make the child sterile.

The ethics of that kind of medical intervention are the subject of debate because, as New York psychiatrist Jack Drescher noted in a recent article in the Journal of Homosexuality, “children have limited capacity to participate in decision making regarding their own treatment, and even adolescents have no legal ability to provide informed consent.”
As a result, wrote Drescher and his co-author, William Byne, children “depend on parents or other caregivers to make treatment decisions on their behalf, including those that will influence the course of their lives in the long term.”

Even Spack, a pediatric endocrinologist who champions early gender transitions and who has pioneered the use of hormone injections, acknowledges that only a handful of patients and their parents have chosen to go that route.

“This is heavy-duty stuff for a 16-year-old,” he said. But for those in “horrendous psychological shape,” who are deeply depressed, self-mutilating or suicidal, it can be the key to survival, he argued.

Spack said he gets calls almost daily from hospitals and pediatricians all over the country asking about treatment. But the vast majority are seeking information on puberty blockers, already in wide use for children experiencing premature puberty.

The puberty blockers are given to transgender girls who are 10 to 12 years old to keep their bodies from maturing and menstruating. Boys receive them from 12 to 14 to stave off a flood of testosterone.

Suspending puberty gives the kids more time to decide who they are and whether switching genders is the answer to their problems, psychiatrists say. The effects of puberty blockers are reversible if the treatments are halted. Spack has treated about 140 kids this way in Boston.

The hormone injections — a far more extreme option — are designed to make sex-change surgery less painful and expensive for young adults.

Spack’s most renowned patient, Jackie Green, just became a finalist in the Miss England pageant. Spack began treating her when she was 12. Four years later, she was so certain about being transgender, she had sex-change surgery in Thailand on her 16th birthday.

Most doctors and hospitals don’t offer the controversial hormone injections, and not just because they lead to sterility. What little research has been done suggests that most children who have gender dysphoria — a persistent discomfort with one’s gender and the key symptom of gender identity disorder — eventually outgrow it, said Margaret Moon, a bioethicist and pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

One of the few studies, done in Amsterdam over the course of a decade, followed 77 children — mostly girls — who came to the VU University’s department of psychology and neurosciences because they’d received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. About 10 years later, 27 percent of them were still gender dysphoric and went on to live as transgender adults, 43 percent said they weren’t and the rest didn’t respond or couldn’t be located.

“Most children with gender dysphoria will not remain gender dysphoric after puberty,” the researchers concluded.

That jibes with what Edgardo Menvielle, who been treating transgender kids at Children’s National Medical Center in D.C. for about a decade, has seen among his patients. About 80 percent switch back to the biology they were born with. The other 20 percent remain transgender into adulthood.

Transgender people murdered as world resists change

A transgender prostitute waits for clients on a street in Tegucigalpa March 10, 2011. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

LONDON | Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:28pm GMT

(Reuters) - Ever since she can remember, Katherine Cummings knew she had been born into the wrong body.
"I knew I was transgendered as far back as memories go," said the 76-year old, formerly called John, who works at Australia's Gender Center for people with gender issues. "Four years of age or so."
Since her 1930s childhood, the lives of transgender people have improved dramatically in many countries. But discrimination remains widespread. Hundreds of transgender people are killed every year and many live in constant fear of attack.
"Transgenders often suffer violence, physical and social, from their families, including spouses, parents, children and siblings," Cummings said.
She spoke to Reuters ahead of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20 which commemorates those who have been killed because of their gender identity.
Founded after the 1998 murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Massachusetts, the day now has a global following.
In the first nine months of 2011, 116 transgender people were murdered globally, according to Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM), a project coordinated by non-profit association Transgender Europe.
Their research indicates there have been at least 681 reports of murders in 50 countries since 2008.
It was at the age of 51, after marrying and fathering three children, that Cummings was finally ready for gender reassignment.
Despite the pervasive discrimination, she says gender activists are winning some battles. Cummings points to significant developments over the last decade, such as the recent ruling that Australians can change their gender on passports without surgery - to male, female or indeterminate.
"I feel, on the whole. looking back over the past few decades, that matters are slowly improving," said Cummings, whose book about her transition, "Katherine's Diary," won the Australian Human Rights Commission's 1992 non-fiction award.


Seven of this year's murders were in the United States, TMM said. Washington D.C. hit headlines this year after a series of attacks against transgender people - one of them the fatal shooting of 23-year-old transgender woman Myles Mclean.
"I look forward to the day that no one has to hide or be killed, or bullied or teased or rejected simply for being the person they believe themselves to be," said Eva-Genevieve Scarborough, 56, who is helping organize a remembrance event in Riverside, California.
"Society needs to be made aware that atrocities such as the murder of trans folks are still happening all around the world."
Many transgender people seek surgery or hormones to change their physical gender. Others don't, some by choice and some because discrimination or lack of means stop them accessing medical help.
Discrimination also damages their employment opportunities. And activists worldwide are battling to remove 'gender identity disorder' from lists of officially recognized mental illnesses.


Most of the murders of transgender people TMM recorded this year occurred in Latin America - 29 in Brazil, 22 in Mexico, 11 in Venezuela and 10 in Columbia, as well as murders in 10 other Latin American countries.
TMM also noted murders in Turkey, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Poland.
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said in May that hate crimes against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people are on the rise around the world.
"Transgender people face the worst challenges, regardless of which country they are coming from or situated in," Liesl Theron, executive director of Gender dynamiX, an organization supporting transgender and transsexual rights in South Africa, told Reuters.
"Usually trans people are on the fringes of society, and the most marginalized."
In a 2008 paper on transgender people in Africa, she cited examples of transgender women across the continent being beaten and imprisoned.
"Most African countries still have some form of legal action, legislation and laws against homosexuality and sodomy (which includes all forms of being a trans person)," she wrote.
Poor access to medical services is the number one challenge in much of Africa, she added.
Theron quoted one Ugandan activist as saying that doctors often refuse to treat transgender people and even sometimes tip off police, leading to arrests.
Trans people in Uganda have been forced to resort to self-medication with dangerous long-term implications, the activist added.
In South Africa, the transgender community has won some victories - the Department of Home Affairs agreed this October to change the gender and forenames of a transgender woman. Yet people awaiting gender-reassignment surgery still join a seven-year waiting list.
Slowly, gender rights are improving in many countries. But the discrimination is proving hard to stamp out.
"Humanity has an ingrained need for a 'pecking order,' that sets some people up as superior to others," said Cummings of Australia's Gender Center. "Transgender (people) will be a target for bigots for a long time."
On the other side of the world, British children's charity Mermaids works to help children who, like Cummings nearly eight decades ago, feel they were born in the wrong body.
Testimonies published on the charity's website, written by children with gender identity issues, bring home the confusion and harassment faced by so many.
"As a child, I acted as my real self, but then the bullying started," reads an extract from a poem that one of these children, Sophie, wrote at the age of 15.
"Why was I born a lie?" the piece ends.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)

From Tim to Kim:

German pop star, 16, becomes world's youngest transsexual after sex change op

By Mail Foreign Service

German teenager Kim Petras who became the world's youngest transsexual after undergoing an operation at the age of just 16 says she can't wait for the summer so she can try out a whole new wardrobe of tight fitting clothes.
The pop singer - born Tim - is well known in Germany for having started hormone replacement therapy as part of her gender transition by the age of 12.
Now 16, she completed Gender Reassignment Surgery in November, according to a posting on her blog.

Girl in a boy's body: Pop singer Kim Petras, 16, may have become the world's youngest transsexual after completing gender reassignment surgery last November
Girl in a boy's body: Pop singer Kim Petras, 16, may have become the world's youngest transsexual after completing gender reassignment surgery last November

Dr Bernd Meyenburg who heads the Psychiatric Special Outpatient Clinic for Children and Adolescents with Identity Disorders at the University of Frankfurt Hospital said: 'Very few youth psychiatrists have any experience with transsexual developments. The families wander from one psychiatrist to the next.
'I was always against such operations on children so young but after seeing how happy one of my patients was and how well adjusted after returning from having the operation abroad while still a teenager – I realised that in some cases it is the right decision.
'Kim is such a case – she always knew what she wanted.'
Kim herself said: 'Everything has changed because of this operation. I just can't wait to put on my favourite bathing suit and go swimming like I've never done before.

'I had to wait until my 16th birthday but once that was past I was able legally to have the operation.

Kim Petras
Kim Petras pictured as a young boy
'I know that because of my past people will always bring up the subject, I can't get away from it. But I hope that one day I might be better known for something else like my music.'
In Germany, such operations are not usually allowed until the patient is 18.

However Kim managed to convince doctors when she was just 12 that she should have the surgery.

By 14 she was officially registered as a girl - and was already famous for her choice.

The costs of her procedure were covered by health insurance as her condition was officially diagnosed as an illness. 
Dr Achim Wuesthof, an endocrinologist specialising in children and adolescents, who was treating Kim at a clinic in Hamburg, said that he and his colleagues felt that in this case it had been best to start earlier.

He said: 'To the best of my knowledge, Kim is the youngest sex change patient in the world.

'According to German law, two independent psychiatrists must confirm that the child is indeed transsexual and approve the sex change. Once that has been done, it is best to start as early as possible.
'Transsexuals experience the onset of puberty, and the physical changes it brings, as a serious trauma.

'But there is a general lack of empathy with cases like Kim's, mostly because people know little about the condition. Imagine a man that suddenly starts growing breasts or a woman that starts growing a beard against their will – that is how Kim and people like her experience puberty.
'They are not freaks, nor do they suffer mental illness. They are simply trapped in the wrong bodies. That is why it is best to help them as early as possible and reduce the trauma for them and their families.'
Last year Kim was signed to Joyce Records and released online her first single 'Last Forever'.
It became a YouTube and MySpace hit.
In September - just weeks before the cosmetic surgery finalising her transition from a male to a female -she released her first commercially available single 'Fade Away' into the German market.
Kim said: 'I was asked if I feel like a woman now – but the truth is I have always felt like a woman – I just ended up in the wrong body.
'I had a problem because I couldn't wear skinny stuff, but now I can wear whatever I want to. I really am looking forward to going swimming like everyone else and to wearing tight jeans that show off my figure. They are so tight, I always felt quite uncomfortable in them until now.
'Now I can go as tight as I want to. I used to wear mini skirts too, but yes, now even the tight ones can be part of my wardrobe.
'I can enjoy swimming, and bikinis, go in the changing rooms without a problem, everything has changed because of this operation. I just can't wait to put on my favourite bathing suit and go swimming like I've never done before.'
Kim, who is now studying fashion design, began calling herself a girl when she was just two years old.
Her father Lutz said: 'I suppose it took me longer than my wife to accept it, but Kim is a very persuasive girl, she knows what she wants and how to get it.
'I am very proud of what she has achieved, how she has managed to get there and how she sticks to her dreams no matter how hard and painful they are to follow.'

Transgender at five

By , Published: May 19

She first insisted she was a boy at the age of 2. "I am a boy" became a constant theme in struggles over clothing, bathing, swimming, eating, playing. Eventually, a psychologist diagnosed gender identity disorder. Now Tyler 's parents allow him to live as a boy, and the 5-year-old is reveling in his new identity. (The Post is using the name his parents would have given him if he had been born a boy to protect the family's identity outside their community, where their situation already is widely known.) (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post) 

Kathryn wanted pants. And short hair. Then trucks and swords.
Her parents, Jean and Stephen, were fine with their toddler’s embrace of all things boy. They’ve both been school teachers and coaches in Maryland and are pretty immune to the quirky stuff that kids do.
But it kept getting more intense, all this boyishness from their younger daughter. She began to argue vehemently — as only a tantrum-prone toddler can — that she was not a girl.
“I am a boy,” the child insisted, at just 2 years old.
And that made Jean uneasy. It was weird.

 Tyler revels in his identity as a boy. He began insisting he wasn't a girl at the age of 2. Eventually, a psychologist who specializes in treating the transgendered diagnosed gender identity disorder. The psychologist recommended that Tyler be allowed to live as a boy.
/The Washington Post

“I am a boy” became a constant theme in struggles over clothing, bathing, swimming, eating, playing, breathing.
Jean and Stephen gave up trying to force Kathryn to wear the frilly dresses that Grandma kept sending. Kathryn wanted nothing to do with her big sister Moyin’s glittery, sparkly pink approach to the world. (Moyin attends school with my son, which is how I came to know the family. The Washington Post is using the family’s middle names to protect their identity beyond their community, where their situation already is widely known.)
Kathryn didn’t even want to be around other little girls, let alone acknowledge that she biologically is one.
Jean tried to put her daughter’s behavior to rest. She sat down with a toddler-version of an anatomy book and showed Kathryn, by then 3, the cartoonish drawings of a naked boy and girl.
“See? You’re a girl. You have girl parts,” Jean told her big-eyed daughter. “You’ve always been a girl.”
Kathryn looked up at her mom, incomprehension clouding her round face.
“When did you change me?” the child asked.

The questions begin

Was something wrong with Kathryn?
Her little girl’s brain was different. Jean could tell. She had heard about transgender people, those who are one gender physically but the other gender mentally. Who hadn’t caught the transgendered Chaz Bono drama on “Dancing With the Stars”?
“But this young? In kids?” Jean wondered. She had grown up in a traditional family in the Midwest, with a mother who’d gone to medical school after having children. Jean considered herself open-minded, but this was clearly outside her realm of experience.
She went online to see if a book about transgender kids even existed. It did — “The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals.” Its summary read: “What do you do when your toddler daughter’s first sentence is that she’s a boy? What will happen when your preschool son insists on wearing a dress to school? Is this ever just a phase? How can you explain this to your neighbors and family?”
When it arrived at their Maryland home, Jean ripped through it, soaking up every word. But she couldn’t bring herself to share what she’d read with her husband.
Jean, 38, and Stephen, 40, had met at a Washington area gym, where both taught classes. They married in 2001.
Jean eventually quit teaching to stay home with her kids and continue her education. Stephen, who comes from an immigrant family, teaches science at a public high school, where he is beloved by many of his students. His Facebook page floods with their hellos and happy birthdays. He is vocal about encouraging girls to buck the stereotypes in science.
Still, Jean wasn’t sure how he’d react to her suspicions that Kathryn might be transgender. She decided she wouldn’t voice them unless she was totally convinced herself.
She went back online and watched videos of parents talking about their realization that their child was transgender. They all described a variation of the conversation she’d had with Kathryn: “Why did you change me?” “God made a mistake with me.” “Something went wrong when I was in your belly.”

Tyler, 5, gets a haircut in March in his family's Maryland home. His parents allowed him to present himself as a boy when he was 4, after he was diagnosed with gender identity disorder. The Washington Post took a number of steps to protect the identity of Tyler and his family, including not publishing details about where they live and go to church and school in the Washington area. We used only the middle names of Tyler's parents and sister to protect their privacy outside their community, where their situation is widely known.Tyler's name in the story is the one his parents would have given him if he'd been born a boy. We are publishing photos of Tyler with his parents' permission.
Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post

Many talked about their painful decision to allow their children to publicly transition to the opposite gender — a much tougher process for boys who wanted to be girls.
Some of what Jean heard was reassuring: Parents who took the plunge said their children’s behavior problems largely disappeared, schoolwork improved, happy kid smiles returned.
But some of what she heard was scary: children taking puberty blockers in elementary school and teens embarking on hormone therapy before they’d even finished high school.
All of it is a new and controversial phenomenon.
In the United States, children have been openly transitioning genders for probably less than a decade, said Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist who is a leader in the field of gender orientation. There is very little to go on, scientifically, to support that approach, and the very idea of labeling young children as transgender is shocking to many people.
But to others, it makes perfect sense.
“In children, gender solidifies at about 3 to 6,” explained Patrick Kelly, a psychiatrist with the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
That’s about the age when girls gravitate to girl things and boys to boy things. It’s when the parents who ban baby dolls or toy guns see their little girl swaddle and cradle a stuffed animal or watch in awe as their boy makes guttural, spitting Mack truck sounds while four-wheeling his toast over his eggs, then uses his string cheese as a sword.
And it’s the age when a child whose gender orientation is at odds with his or her biology begins expressing that disconnect — in Kathryn’s case, loudly.
The American Psychiatric Association has an official diagnosis for this: gender identity disorder in children.
Those who have it, according to the association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, experience “a persistent and intense distress about assigned sex, together with a desire to be (or insistence that one is) of the other sex. There is a persistent preoccupation with the dress and activities of the opposite sex and repudiation of the individual’s own sex.”
And, it adds, “mere tomboyishness in girls or girlish behavior in boys is not sufficient” to warrant the diagnosis. It requires “a profound disturbance of the normal gender identity.”
The manual is being updated this year, and a task force that Drescher sits on is studying whether to remove the word “disorder” from the diagnosis and instead call the condition “gender incongruence.”

Tyler rejected the frilly pink dresses his grandmother sent when he was younger. When he was 3, his mother sat down with a toddler-version of an anatomy book and showed the cartoonish drawings of a naked boy and girl. "See, you're a girl. You have girl parts. You've always been a girl," she explained. Incomprehension clouded the preschooler's round face. "When did you change me?" the child asked.

Whatever it’s called, it can’t always be solved by letting girls wear pants or boys wear dresses, psychiatrists say. Many of the kids have gender dysphoria, a persistent dislike of their bodies. They may shower with their clothes on, so they don’t have to see themselves. Or demand to know when their penises will grow in. Or, in extreme cases, try to cut their penises off.
Parents who ignore or deny these problems can make life miserable for their kids, who can become depressed or suicidal, psychiatrists say. Outside their homes, the transgendered are frequently marginalized and scorned, pushed into an underworld, outside of the mainstream. More often than the rest of the population, transgender teens and adults are harassed, assaulted and even killed. Remember that beating caught on video at a Baltimore County McDonald’s last year? Or the off-duty D.C. police officer who was accused of standing on the hood of a car and shooting a transgendered woman through the windshield?
Jean didn’t want Kathryn to hate herself or be subjected to hate from others. Maybe allowing her to declare herself a boy in preschool would make life easier in the long run.
Yet not everyone who treats gender identity disorder in children believes in allowing them to transition to the opposite sex when they are young.
Kenneth Zucker, a child psychologist in Toronto who is serving on the psychiatric association’s task force, advocates neutrality for kids struggling with their gender identity.
Children who see him get the Barbies or toy soldiers replaced by puzzles and board games. His theory is that kids should be allowed to grow into a gender and not be categorized.
There’s some evidence — most of it anecdotal because so little research exists — that gender dysphoria is a phase many children outgrow.
In the U.S., it’s impossible to know how many children have gender identity problems because the condition usually goes unacknowledged by parents and pediatricians, said Edgardo Menvielle, who counsels transgender kids at Children’s National Medical Center in the District. About a dozen children from the area belong to his support group, and hundreds of families around the country are part of his online support network.
In the decade that Menvielle has been counseling such children, he estimates that about 80 percent end up switching back to what their biology tells them. The other 20 percent remain transgender into adulthood.

‘Not just a tomboy’

Tyler rides his bike in his neighborhood. If he wants to return to living as a girl down the road, his mother is fine with that. "I just want my child to be happy," she says.
The Washington Post

Was Kathryn going through a phase? After many hours of research and another full summer of bathing suit fights, Jean didn’t think so.
Kathryn was 4 when Jean finally broached the subject with her husband.
“Have you noticed that Kathryn wants to be a boy?” she remembered asking one night as she and Stephen were washing the dinner dishes after putting the kids to bed.
“She’s just a tomboy,” Stephen replied.
Jean shook her head.
“No, Stephen, I’m pretty sure Kathryn is transgender. She’s not just a tomboy,” she said. “And I think maybe we should start letting her call herself a boy.”
Stephen thought she was nuts. “I told her she was making too much of this,” Stephen recalled.
As a teacher, Stephen knew how cruel kids could be. He imagined his child walking into the social battlefield that is school, insisting she was a boy when under her clothing, she wasn’t.
What about bathrooms? P.E.? The prom? How would all that go?
Despite his resistance, Stephen promised his wife that he would pay closer attention to Kathryn’s behavior and really listen for her “I am a boy” anthem.
It didn’t take long.
“We were in the car; I was driving,” Stephen told me.
Kathryn was in the back and grabbed a book off the seat.
“Daddy, I’m going to read you a story, okay?” Kathryn said, opening a random book and pretending to read. “It’s about a little boy who was born. But he was born like a girl.”
Stephen nearly slammed the brakes, then listened as the story unfolded about how unhappy the little boy was.
“Okay. I’m listening, Jean,” he said after he got home.

The diagnosis

They took Kathryn to a psychologist outside of Philadelphia who specializes in treating the transgendered. Michele Angello confirmed what Jean had long suspected: Kathryn had gender dysphoria. She recommended that Kathryn be allowed to live as a boy, a prospect that filled Stephen with dread but his 4-year-old with elation.
Kathryn wanted to be called “he” right away. And Kathryn wanted to be called Talon, then Isaac, but finally settled on a permanent boy’s name in the fall. (The Post is using Tyler, the name his parents say they would have given him if he’d been born a boy.)
“When we finally let Tyler shop in the boys’ clothing department, it was like the skies opened up,” Jean said.
They switched to saying he/him/his and stopped using the name “Kathryn” at home.
It was a huge upheaval, a change Jean and Stephen had to remind themselves of every day. Then came the next challenge: telling family, friends, teachers and other parents that their daughter had become their son.

The reaction

 Tyler spins in a turtle shell during a recent visit to the Baltimore Zoo. His mother doesn't believe he is going through a phase, although doctors say many children with gender identity disorder eventually switch back to their biological gender.
/ The Washington Post

Tyler made his public debut at Sunday school at their Presbyterian church.
The teenagers who help out in class laughed that it took Kathryn’s parents so long to figure out they had a Tyler.
The pastor there was so supportive of the family that she invited a panel from a transgender support group to come just before services one Sunday in January and explain what Tyler and his family were going through. The room was packed.
“We’re so happy to be here. They usually put us in the basement,” said Catherine Hyde, the leader of the group and the parent of a transgender teenager with a tough story.
At 4, Will told his mom: “Something went wrong in your belly. I was supposed to be a girl,” Hyde said.
She and her husband wheedled the Barbie dolls out of Will’s hands, told him over and over again that “You can’t wear tutus!” They put all their parental might into erasing his behavior.
In response, Will threatened suicide when he was 6. He hated the five years of relentless karate lessons they insisted on to toughen him up. Given the chance to decorate his own room, he came up with “the pinkest, pom-pomiest bedroom in Howard County,” Hyde said.
They went to therapists, who said Will was probably just gay. Hyde and her Marine husband could live with that.
“You can be as gay as you want, but if you go trans on me, it’s on your own money, your own time and out of my house,” she remembered telling her son, then 15. Hyde gives lots of speeches and presentations about her journey. Each time I’ve seen her speak, she still tears up a bit when she recounts what she told her child.
It was years before Hyde and her husband acknowledged their child’s agony. They finally asked Will if he wanted to take puberty blockers. He said yes. And eventually, a whole new child, now 18, emerged.
All those years of pain, therapy, suffering and strife, that is what Jean wants to avoid.
She hoped the people at the church would understand. Between cookies and coffee after the presentation, many came over to hug her.

The constant nagging, fighting, obsessing about being a boy is gone, his parents say. Tyler is just Tyler, a high-energy kid with a love of Spider-Man.
The Washington Post

When it came time for Tyler to make the switch at preschool, Jean and Stephen had to write a very uncomfortable letter to all the parents explaining what was happening.
“If I had a child with autism, I wouldn’t have to do this,” Jean sighed.
They struggled with whether to include the words “gender dysphoria.” “I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with our child. Just something different,” she said.
They kept the medical term in there so other parents wouldn’t think this was just loose and creative parenting. “I don’t want people to think I’m just indulging a phase. That’s not what this is.”
Tyler’s sister, who’s 8, was much more casual about describing her transgender sibling. “It’s just a boy mind in a girl body,” Moyin explained matter-of-factly to her second-grade classmates at her private school, which will allow Tyler to start kindergarten as a boy, with no mention of Kathryn.
Staff members recently had a training session on gender identity disorder to prepare not only for Tyler but also for other transgender kids who may be arriving. This year alone, at least two other families have contacted the school about enrolling their transgender kids, according to its director of admissions.
Not everyone has been accepting of what Jean and Stephen are doing. Some members of Stephen’s family were incredulous when he sent them letters about Tyler’s transformation.
Jean and Stephen got into a huge fight with Tyler’s gymnastics coach, who insisted he keep wearing a leotard to practice because his registration form said “female.”
Tyler was miserable pulling on a leotard when the boys in class all got to wear shorts and a T-shirt.
“Finally, we just got someone to change F to M on the paperwork,” Jean said angrily. “Why does the coach care so much about what’s in my child’s underpants anyways?”
Jean has come home from the gym more than once infuriated because someone was gossiping about her child. Just the other day, she spotted a co-worker and another adult pointing and laughing at Tyler, who finally got to wear just swim trunks at the pool.
Jean marched over to them and said, “I can provide you with a lot of information about transgender children if you like.”
They clammed up.
“You never meant to, but you become this advocate. All day, every day,” she told me, clearly exhausted.
A recent family trip to Disney World raised the issue of how to handle the plane tickets. What if they booked the ticket in Tyler’s name, but the TSA did some kind of a full-body scan and saw that Tyler’s biology is female?
Like a peanut allergy mom with her EpiPen, the transformation of Kathryn to Tyler means the family always travels with a “Safe Folder.” It has birth records, medical records and the all-important diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the doctor recommendation that Kathryn be allowed to live as a boy. Jean never knows when an encounter with Tyler could result in a grown-up freak-out or even a call to Child and Family Services. It’s always a fear looming over the family.

Difficult decisions

 Tyler, seen posing in a Batman costume, doesn't really like to talk about his earlier existence as a girl. "I'm not transgender," he fumes when he hears the word, often spoken by his mom as she explains things. "I. Am. A. Boy."
Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post
Tyler doesn’t really like to talk about Kathryn or even acknowledge she existed.
“I’m not transgender,” he fumes when he hears the word, often spoken by his mom as she explains things. “I. Am. A. Boy.”
During one of my visits a few months ago, he showed me their family picture wall, full of pictures of two girls in lovely dresses.
“No Tyler,” he pouted.
Those are issues that are easy for Tyler’s parents to fix.
But in about five years, they will have to decide whether to put Tyler on puberty blockers to keep his body from maturing and menstruating. Using those drugs represents a leap of faith, psychiatrists said, though the effects are reversible if the puberty blockers are halted.
The much tougher call comes when kids are about 15 or 16. At that age, they can begin hormone injections that will make them grow the characteristics of the opposite biological sex.
That’s a method being pioneered by Norman Spack, the director of one of the nation’s first gender identity medical clinics at Children’s Hospital Boston and an advocate of early gender transitions. Those hormone treatments essentially create a nearly gender-neutral being, making sex-change surgery far less painful and expensive for young adults. But the hormones also make people infertile — a daunting and irreversible decision for parents to make when a child is 15 or 16. Only a handful have opted to do so, Spack said.
Jean e-mailed me an article about the drug controversy late one night, the time that many parents stay up and fret about their kids. “See what we’re facing?!” she wrote.
She acknowledges anxieties about what lies ahead. But Jean and Stephen aren’t harboring doubts about what they are doing now.
“If Tyler wants to be Kathryn again, that’s fine,” she said. “But right now, this works. He’s happy. I just want my child to be happy.”
As for Tyler, he is reveling in his new identity. The constant nagging, fighting, obsessing about being a boy is gone. Tyler is just Tyler, a high-energy kid with a Spider-Man-themed bedroom.
On my last visit, he took a brief break from playing with my boys and their endless supply of space cruisers to show me a new addition to the family picture wall. It now features a prominent photo of Tyler in short hair and a red polo shirt. He is smiling.

More on this Story

The young woman who dared to defy the Taliban:

Afghan, 22, rebuilding her life in the U.S. after having her nose hacked off in her homeland

  • Aesha Mohammadzai was horrifically disfigured and left for dead for trying to flee abusive forced marriage
  • The 22-year-old fled to America, aged 18, for reconstructive surgery and won political asylum
  • Aesha now battling to put traumatic past behind her and adapt to her new life
By Tom Gardner

It was the image that woke up the world to the shocking horrors faced by women in Afghanistan.
The photograph of Aesha Mohammadzai, whose nose and ears were hacked off as punishment for attempting to flee an abusive forced marriage, came to embody the appalling abuse suffered by many at the hands of the brutal Taliban regime.
And her story of survival and resilience despite that harrowing ordeal captivated and enchanted the world.

Brave: Aisha, now 22, pictured wearing a type of prosthetic nose often used by film actors. 

Her nose and ears were hacked off by brutal in-laws after she was promised in marriage aged 12. But now four years on, Aesha faces a new battle – a struggle to put the disturbing experiences behind her as she attempts to make a new life for herself in America.
Aesha, won political asylum in 2011, having fled to the U.S. a year earlier, aged just 18, after being promised reconstructive surgery.
 She arrived without speaking a word of English and illiterate in her mother tongue of Pashto.
Since then she has undergone pioneering reconstructive surgery to give her a prosthetic nose and been given the education denied women back in her homeland under the Taliban.
However, it appears the psychological scars from her ordeal have proven harder to heal.
Those who have become close to Aesha have spoken of her displaying volatile mood swings – oscillating between violent tantrums and displaying deep affection to people around her.
New beginning: Aisha has a prosthetic nose fitted using a special adhesive. She will eventually have reconstructive surgery

Her plastic surgery had to be delayed because it was thought she was still not yet emotionally stable to cope with the painful and lengthy surgery required.
Psychologist Shiphra Bakhchi, 31, who has helped treat the 22-year-old for post-traumatic stress disorder believes the trauma of her disfigurement may have caused deeper mental scars than physical ones.
‘I really hope at some point she’ll be a functioning young lady that had a terrible trauma,’ the private practitioner told CNN.
When Aesha was 12, her father promised her in marriage to a Taliban fighter to pay a debt. She was handed over to his family who abused her and forced her to sleep in the stable with the animals.
The UN estimates that nearly 90 per cent of Afghanistan's women suffer from some sort of domestic abuse.
When she attempted to flee, she was caught and her nose and ears were hacked off by her husband as punishment.
'When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out. In the middle of the night it felt like there was cold water in my nose.
'I opened my eyes and I couldn't even see because of all the blood,' she told CNN reporter Atia Abawi.

Bibi Aiesha has received counselling following her traumatic experiences
Recovering: Aisha has received counselling following her traumatic experiences

Left for dead in the mountains, she crawled to her grandfather's house and her father managed to get her to an American medical facility, where medics cared for her for ten weeks.
They then transported Aesha to a secret shelter in Kabul and in August 2010, she was flown to the U.S. by the Grossman Burn Foundation to stay with a host family.
She was taken in by a charity in New York called Women for Afghan Women who supported her and helped pay for her eduction.
But Aesha soon became unhappy and her behaviour gave rise to concern. During one outburst during, she threw herself to the floor and slammed her head against the ground, grabbing at her hair and biting her fingers.
Her primary guardian figure at the centre Esther Hyneman, who witnessed the tantrum said no one was able to prevent her from inflicting the injuries and they had to call 911 for help, Ms Hyneman  said during the CNN interview.
Aesha was admitted to hospital for 10 days following that episode.
Those who knew her said Aesha craved the close-knit family environment the centre was unable to provide.

Aiesha's photo was on the front cover of Time Magazine in August 2010
Facing reality: Aisha's photo was on the front cover of Time Magazine in August 2010

She left in December 2011, to live  with Mati Arsla and Jami Rasouli-Arsala, from Fredrick, Maryland - who are relatives of a Women for Afghan Women former board member - where she now appears to be adapting to home life.
Ms Hyneman - who Aesha affectionately used to call 'grandma' - told CNN: ‘When she first came to us, she was an emotional wreck.
‘By the time she left, she was a different human being... So we’re all happy if she’s in the right place to further her development, but we miss her.’
During the momentous few years since arriving in America, Aesha has had a prosthetic nose fitted at the non-profit humanitarian Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital in California as part of her eight-month rehabilitation.
Dr Peter H Grossman said they hoped to give Aesha a more 'permanent solution', which could mean reconstructing her nose and ears using bone, tissue and cartilage from other parts of her body.
Dr Grossman's wife Rebecca, the chair of the Grossman Burn Foundation, said Aesha was just one of the thousands of women who are treated with appalling harshness.
She said: 'Aesha is reminded of that enslavement every time she looks in the mirror. But there are still times she can laugh. And at that moment you see her teenage spirit escaping a body that has seen a lifetime of injustice.'

Transgender India: Banned in Bombay?

Prominent activist Laxmi Tripathi suffers the very discrimination that she fights.

Transgender activist Laxmi Tripathi, who was recently kicked out of an elite Mumbai club, sits outside a dubbing studio in Andheri on April 8, 2010. (Hanna Ingber Win/GlobalPost)
MUMBAI, India — Laxmi Tripathi stands tall and proud. She — who used to go by he — wears her hair long, her eyes decorated with thick black eyeliner and a low-cut top that reveals a hint of cleavage. Bangles adorn her wrists. Hailed as a success story in India, Tripathi has spoken at the United Nations and addressed conferences around the world on the rights of the transgender community.
And yet, being somewhat of a celebrity activist did not shield Tripathi from the very discrimination she has denounced.
Last week, officials at the Bombay Gymkhana in South Mumbai interrupted a dinner party there to kick Tripathi out of the exclusive club.
“I could never believe this could happen to me. I have been to so many places in the world, treated with so much dignity,” Tripathi said as she took a break from dubbing a new Bollywood film on the transgender community. And yet this incident happened “in a town where I’m more famous than anywhere in the world.”
While gradual progress has been made to garner more rights for and reduce the stigma against India’s transgenders, the episode at the club illustrates that the community still faces serious discrimination — even among the elite, said Tripathi and other activists.
A certain segment of Mumbai’s middle and upper class thinks of itself as cosmopolitan, said Parmesh Shahani, author of "Gay Bombay," who was at last week’s dinner party. However, if one scratches below the surface, he said, there are many undercurrents at play.
“Over the past two decades we've been very wrapped up in this whole ‘India Shining’ [idea],” he said. “But I think true modernity lies in having a plural and accepting mindset and really embracing diversity in all its forms.”
The transgender community in India, known as hijras, number up to a million people and occupy a unique role in society. On the one hand, they are called upon to offer blessings during auspicious occasions like weddings and at births. The rest of the time, they are not only ignored but often ostracized from society.
Discrimination has prevented most hijras from obtaining decent education, jobs and housing, say transgender and human rights activists. The vast majority live in slums and, with limited job opportunities, resort to sex work or begging. They weave in and out of Mumbai’s traffic or come onto the women’s compartments of local trains, clap loudly and take money in exchange for a blessing.
The “life of transsexuals or transgenders is not miserable simply because of club prejudice,” Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch wrote in an email. “What is much harder is rejection by community, by relatives and the police abuse they suffer.”
She added that many are HIV positive and face difficulty getting medical treatment. The hospital staff cannot determine whether they should be placed in the male or female wards.
While hijras continue to face discrimination, they have also made significant social and legal gains in recent years. Last July, the Delhi High Court decriminalized gay sex, and in November, transgenders won the right to be listed as “other” rather than “male” or “female” on electoral rolls and voter identity cards.
A Bollywood film called “Queens!," scheduled to be released later this year, will feature professional actors as well as hijras themselves and present the community in a “dignified” and thereby new light, said David Atkins, the writer and director of the film. The movie could not have been made a decade ago, he said, because both Indian society and the hijras were not ready for it.

The Threat To Marriage

The threat to our state’s definition of marriage is real. In fact, North Carolina is the only remaining southern state that has not protected the definition of marriage in its constitution. As we have seen happen in other states, the first of what will be many lawsuits was filed in North Carolina challenging our marriage laws in December of 2011.  Each of these lawsuits demands that the definition of marriage for everyone be permanently changed to suit the needs of just one same-sex couple. The lawsuit filed in Guilford County, is just another example of why the Marriage Protection Amendment is needed and should be passed by North Carolina voters in May.  If activist judges or politicians were to succeed in redefining marriage in North Carolina in the future, there would be profound consequences for religious organizations, individuals, medical professionals, and small businesses—and for society itself.
Contrary to what some people think, same-sex ‘marriage’ would not exist in the law alongside traditional marriage; as if it were a different expression of the same marriage institution they have always known. Marriage will be redefined for everyone. Our historic understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman would be replaced by a new paradigm for  marriage as the union of two adults, regardless of gender.
This new, redefined version of marriage as a genderless institution would be the only legally recognized definition of marriage in North Carolina. Such a radical change in the definition of marriage will produce a host of societal conflicts that government, exercising its broad enforcement powers, will have to resolve. Citizens, small businesses and religious organizations whose own beliefs, traditions, morals or ethnic upbringing are at odds with the new definition of marriage will find themselves subjected to legal consequences if they  do not act according to the new legal orthodoxy.
Legal experts on both sides of the marriage debate agree that the issue has profound impacts on society. Scholars from some of the nation’s most respected law schools have written that the issue implicates a host of issues, ranging from religious liberty, to individual expression of faith, to education and the professions.
For example, these legal scholars predict “a sea of change in American law,” and foretell an “immense” volume of litigation against individuals, small businesses and religious organizations.
Those who do not agree with this new definition of marriage as a genderless institution existing for the benefit of adults will be treated under the law just like racists and bigots, and will be punished for their beliefs. This is already occurring:
  • Religious groups who have refused to make their facilities available for same-sex couples have lost their state tax exemption.
  • Religious groups like Catholic Charities in Boston and Washington DC have had to choose between fulfilling their social mission based on their religious beliefs, or acquiescing to this new definition of marriage. They have, for example, been forced to close their charitable adoption agencies.
  • Nonprofit groups are faced with abandoning their historic mission principles in order to maintain governmental contracts (for things like low-income housing, health clinics, etc.)
  • Whenever schools educate children about marriage, which happens throughout the curriculum, they will have no choice but to teach this new genderless institution. In Massachusetts, kids as young as second grade were taught about gay marriage in class. The courts ruled that parents had no right to prior notice, or to opt their children out of such instruction.
  • Wedding professionals have been fined for refusing to participate in a same-sex ceremony. Christian innkeepers in Vermont and Illinois are being sued over their refusal to make their facilities available for same-sex weddings despite offers to refer the couples to other providers and in spite of the deeply-held religious views of the inn-keepers.
  • Doctors, lawyers, accountants and other licensed professionals risk their state licensure if they act on their belief that a same-sex couple cannot really be married. A counselor, for example, could not refuse “marriage therapy” to a same-sex couple because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage. She’d put her licensure at risk.
  • Those people – a strong majority of North Carolinians – who believe marriage is between one man and one woman, would be the legal equivalent of bigots for acting on their heartfelt beliefs. Refusal to accommodate and recognize same-sex “marriages” would be the equivalent of racial discrimination. Not only will the law penalize traditional marriage supporters, but the power of government will work in concert to promote this belief throughout the culture.
accentPerhaps most importantly, shifting the focus of our marriage laws away from the interests of children and society as a whole, and onto the desires of the adults involved in a same-sex relationship will result in the most profound long-term consequences. Such a paradigm shift says to children that mothers and fathers don’t matter (especially fathers) – any two “parents” will do. It proclaims the false notion that a man can be a mother and a woman can be a father – that men and women are exactly the same in rearing children. And it undermines the marriage culture by making marriage a meaningless political gesture, rather than a child-affirming social construct.
When marriage ceases to have its historic meaning and understanding, over time fewer and fewer people will marry. We will have an inevitable increase in children born out of wedlock, an increase in fatherlessness, a resulting increase in female and child poverty, and a higher incidence of all the documented social ills associated with children being raised in a home without their married biological parents.
Ultimately, we as a society all suffer when we fail to nourish a true, thriving marriage culture founded on the truth experienced by virtually every civilization in every nation since the dawn of time – marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Why Marriage Matters

In recent years, the definition of marriage in our country has become a passionate topic of debate at both the state and federal levels.   Although on its surface, the debate may seem straight forward, the issues and subsequent consequences surrounding the definition of marriage are much more complex than many of us may think.
This May, North Carolina voters will have the opportunity to forever preserve the definition of marriage in our state by voting YES on the Marriage Protection Amendment.
What is the Marriage Protection Amendment and what is at stake for North Carolinians with the amendment vote this May?
While many people would like to believe that proposals to allow same-sex marriage are simply about allowing a different form of marriage to coexist alongside traditional man/woman marriage, they are wrong.   The impact that same-sex marriage will have on society is much deeper and far-reaching then a modest change in the word’s definition.
What is at stake in this debate are two competing definitions of marriage. One definition – advocated by same-sex “marriage” activists – would define marriage as the union of any two people regardless of gender, with the law treating the parties’ genders as irrelevant to the meaning of marriage. The other definition, contained in the proposed constitutional amendment and reflective of North Carolina’s current law and the collective understanding of virtually every nation throughout recorded history, is that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Under the law, one definition of marriage would not exist alongside the other. Only one of the competing definitions of marriage would legally exist. As noted in a scholarly review published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, “…once the judiciary or legislature adopts ‘the union of any two persons’ as the legal definition of civil marriage, that conception becomes the sole definitional basis for the only law-sanctioned marriage that any couple can enter, whether same-sex or man-woman. Therefore, legally sanctioned genderless marriage, rather than peacefully coexisting with the contemporary man-woman marriage institution, actually displaces and replaces it.”
accentWhy has virtually every society throughout history defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman?  The answer can be summarized in one word: children.
Protecting the interests of children is the primary reason that government regulates and licenses marriage in the first instance. After all, government does not license or regulate any other form of intimate relationship – not friendship or dating. People are free, under the law, to live as they choose, and engage in sexually intimate relationships with whomever they choose – all without any governmental recognition or regulation.
But marriage is a special relationship reserved exclusively for heterosexual unions, because only the intimate relationship between men and women has the ability to produce children as a result of that sexual union.
Marriage serves a vital and universal societal purpose – to channel biological drive and sexual passion that might otherwise become socially destructive into enduring family units that have the best opportunity to ensure the care and education of any children produced by that biological drive and sexual passion.  Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has said that marriage is, “fundamental to the very existence and survival of the [human] race.”  The noted British philosopher Bertrand Russell (hardly a conservative – Russell was a liberal anti-war activist and socialist) said, “But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex…It is of children alone that sexual relations become of importance of society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”
By encouraging men and women to marry, society helps ensure that children will be known by and cared for by their biological parents. Whenever a child is born, her mother will almost always be nearby. But the same cannot always be said of her father. Men, especially, are encouraged to take responsibility for their children through the institution of marriage.  Marriage is society’s mechanism of increasing the likelihood that children will be born and raised by the two people responsible for bringing them into the world – their mother and father.
While death and divorce too often prevent it, the overwhelming body of social science evidence establishes that children do best when raised by their married mother and father. Simply stated, children need both a mother and a father. No matter one’s view of homosexual “marriage,” it is undeniable that every child born into a same-sex relationship is intentionally denied the love and affection of one of her biological parents.
David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values and a self-described liberal Democrat, said of marriage, “[M]arriage is a gift that society bestows on its next generation. Marriage (and only marriage) unites the three core dimensions of parenthood – biological, social and legal – into one pro-child form: the married couple. Marriage says to a child: The man and woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and father, accountable to the child and to each other.”
accentFundamentally, same-sex marriage advocates propose to shift the marriage paradigm away from what definition of marriage is best for society – especially for children – and squarely onto the desires of the individual adults who seek to marry. Under a definition of marriage that is genderless, the interests of children – and therefore society’s intrinsic interest in marriage – is eliminated entirely. Only the wishes of the two adults in question matter.
When a court or a legislature adopts a genderless definition of marriage, legal experts warn (and actual experience from other states and countries confirms) that there will be profound consequences for society. Those people who refuse to accept this redefinition of marriage will be punished by the law. Churches and religious organizations can lose their tax exemptions and be forced to abandon their core moral principles or face punishment. Individuals, small businesses and groups will be subjected to lawsuits and regulatory action if they refuse to condone the “new” understanding of marriage. Perhaps most profoundly, children at a very young age will be taught in school that marriage is between any two adults, no matter what they have been taught at home, in church or in their ethnic traditions. Under the law, those who believe otherwise will be treated as the legal and moral equivalent of bigots. [To learn more about the consequences of redefining marriage, click here.]
What is at stake with the outcome of the vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment this May?
First, of course, is which of the two irreconcilable and conflicting definitions of marriage will be the only form of marriage legally recognized in North Carolina:
  • The amendment preserves North Carolina’s historic and traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman – the same definition adopted by voters in every state to consider the question (30 of 30 states have voted to amend their state constitutions to define marriage in this way), adopted by a bi-partisan majority in Congress and signed into law by President Clinton, and adopted by virtually every society in every nation to ever live, from the ancients to current times.
Additionally, passage of the marriage amendment ensures that the people of North Carolina themselves, and not activist judges or politicians, decide how our state will define marriage in the future.
  • Without a marriage amendment in our constitution, activist judges can substitute their values for those of the people of North Carolina. This is exactly what happened in Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California. Similarly, legislators can redefine marriage without the permission of the people, as was done in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The marriage amendment ensures that if activists want to redefine marriage in the future, they must receive the approval of voters to do so.
Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is in the public good. It serves the interests of men and women, of children, and of society itself. The marriage amendment on the May 2012 ballot gives voters the opportunity to preserve this special and timeless institution.

About Vote FOR Marriage NC

Vote FOR Marriage NC is a bi-partisan, broad coalition of leaders, including leaders of various faiths as well as people outside the religious community, who support the North Carolina Marriage Protection Amendment and asked the Legislature to place it on the ballot. These leaders have assembled a campaign to ensure this amendment passes. Learn More.

Vote Against Amendment One

The Harmful Truth About Amendment One

While the language of Amendment One seems simple, the consequences of this dangerous constitutional rewrite are anything but. We ask that you:

What North Carolina’s primary ballot will say and what it asks of you: 

  •  Ban civil unions & strip domestic partnership benefits.
  •  Eliminate health care, prescription drug coverage and other benefits for public employees and children receiving domestic partner benefits.
  •  Threaten protections for all unmarried couples in North Carolina.  

  •  Protect health care for families and children.
  •  Protect domestic violence protections for unmarried women.
  •  Protect hospital visitation and end-of-life directives for unmarried couples.
  •  Protect seniors from losing survivor benefits.
  •  Protect All NC families.

Amendment One protects no one. Instead it automatically strips North Carolina families and children of basic health care, threatens parental rights, and throws basic protections like domestic violence laws into what many are calling  “legal chaos.”
A child of an unmarried parent could lose their health care and prescription drug coverage, putting the child’s health at risk.
A child could be taken away from a committed parent who has loved them their entire life if something happens to the other parent.
Amendment One threatens existing child custody and visitation rights that are designed to protect the best interests of a child.
Amendment One bans all other legal relationship recognitions—prohibiting North Carolina from ever recognizing civil unions and domestic partnershipsThousands of North Carolinians rely on these legal protections. Removing these rights creates far-reaching and long-lasting harms for families from all walks of life.
Amendment One would interfere with protections for unmarried couples to visit one another in the hospital and to make emergency medical and financial decisions if one partner is incapacitated.
North Carolina is committed to protecting domestic violence victims whether they’re married or not. Under Amendment One, that could all change. 


Our existing domestic violence protections extend to single as well as married women – but that protection may conflict with Amendment One’s limited definition of what constitutes a family, leaving many unmarried women and children at risk.
In Ohio, the passage of a similar amendment meant relationships other than marriage were no longer recognized under domestic violence statutes. Ohio’s choice to enshrine a similar amendment into their constitution meant that domestic violence statutes protecting unmarried women were unenforceable until the state’s Supreme Court unraveled the legal mess some three years later.  
In the meantime, dozens of batterers were released from jail, and cases were thrown out of court simply because abusers were not married to their victims. This put unmarried women and their children in danger.
“Ohio voters who approved a constitutional amendment…probably didn’t envision the measure being successfully used as a defense in domestic violence cases.” 
- Cleveland Plain Dealer
Amendment One’s language is even more broad and overreaching than the Ohio amendment, leaving our constitution open for an even more dangerous result. 
Even Sen. Dan Soucek, an Amendment One sponsor, acknowledged the possibility that the far-reaching constitutional rewrite could threaten North Carolina’s domestic violence laws. "There is some question in the courts as to how that will all work out,” he told The Huffington Post, one month prior to the primary vote (April 9, 2012).
If Amendment One passes, North Carolina faces a lengthy legal fight to define the consequences of the amendment’s vague, untested language. While lawyers and judges are busy determining the fate of unmarried victims of domestic violence across the state, many will be forced to live through the immediate consequences. Protective orders could be invalidated. Batterers released from prison. Women and children placed back in harm’s way. Even housing and employment opportunities for victims of domestic violence could be threatened.
"I know there were instances of people who went back into violent relationships and were battered again and injured again because they had no legal protection." - Nancy Neylon, Executive Director, Ohio Domestic Violence Network.
As a result, attorneys across the state are now preparing for increased caseloads, representing countless new domestic violence victims, with the possibility of dangerous results.  
During an April 2, continuing legal education teleconference hosted by Legal Aid North Carolina, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Amily McCool told statewide attorneys charged with protecting some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, that with Amendment One the state is encouraging " the public policy that you have to marry your abuser to get domestic violence protections."
We need to step up for our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, and our friends.
Amendment One has the power to undo all that we’ve worked for to protect North Carolinians from domestic violence. We must protect all unmarried domestic violence victims and their children by voting AGAINST Amendment One.
Early voting begins April 19.  The final vote is cast May 8. VOTE AGAINST [ X ].

Who We Are

On September 13th, the North Carolina Legislature proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would ban legal recognition for all unmarried couples, strip protections and benefits from families across our state, hurt our business climate and economic development and put our children in danger. We are a coalition of groups, individuals and families dedicated to defeating this amendment at the polls on May 8 and protecting North Carolina from the harms it represents. Join us.