Although 27-year-old transgender woman Josephine June still gets misgendered at coffee shops or when meeting someone new, such mistakes are very minor, she says.
She's been through worse. When she came out as trans to her fiancée and close friends, June had to rebuild her support system from the ground up. "When you come out... you very quickly get to see people's true colors, the sides of themselves that they don't show every day," June said. "Their opinions become very obvious... (on) who they think actually deserve to be treated like a person."
Still, she's had it better than most, she says. And now she's been in Austin for over a year and feels more "accepted" than when she lived in a military-focused part of San Diego.
In the workplace
Though strides have been made toward equality, transgender individuals, in particular, are still fighting for certain rights. It is legal in 32 states to terminate someone based on gender identity, including in Texas. The Lone Star State leads the nation in violence against those who make up the "T" in LGBTQ, according to a 2019 report from the Human Rights Campaign.
Since June works remotely for the San Diego LGBT Community Center, a nonprofit, she doesn't face the issues that sometimes arise when transitioning in the workplace. For instance, trans individuals are four times more likely to earn less than $10,000 annually.
"From my experience and experience of a lot of my friends, employment and transitioning in employment is always very challenging and risky," June said. "A lot of places will change their logo on social media to a (pride) flag while continuing to donate to politicians who are actively trying to take away our rights."
Activists call the phenomenon "rainbow washing," a type of performative activism to increase social capital in which municipalities, corporations or organizations use a rainbow logo or promote pride during Pride Month without actions to back it up.
Take Walmart, for example, which is currently sporting a rainbow logo but recently donated to senators who are actively blocking the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Woah, CUTE Pride logo 🏳️🌈!
What's not cute is giving more than $150,000 to Mitch McConnell and other GOP Senators who are actively blocking the Equality Act from becoming law. pic.twitter.com/dev9T6KYw5
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) June 10, 2021
"If you don't change your policies, if you're not stopping immediately all donations to politicians who are actively working to take away our rights, if you're not actually supporting the charities that are helping LGBT people, all you're doing is saying, 'look at me, I put a rainbow, so I'm accepting,' without doing any of the work," June said.
In the doctor's office
Treatments for gender transitioning, gender reassignment or gender dysphoria and hormone blockers have been hot topics for Congress, despite cries from Austin's queer community.
There are 22 states that are currently considering restricting or banning gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth and Texas had the most proposed bills of all of them: six; none of which passed.
June said this type of legislation not only harms trans kids but also puts pressure on their families.
"(The parents) that are accepting of their kids are going to try and relocate, which is expensive," June said. "Hormone blockers are used on cis(gender) kids who have early-onset puberty, (so) 10% of 1% of the population is being sought out to be harmed by removing access to something that in a lot of cases, is life-saving and suicide prevention."
There is some light at the end of the tunnel—June said she is proud of the U.S. Senate for voting in Rachel Levine, the first openly trans federal official, in March, and the proliferation of trans people reaching prominence in media: Laverne Cox, Nicole Maines and Kim Petras to name a few.
So what can you do? June says to raise up trans people in the community.
"If you have a platform, especially during Pride Month, use that platform to raise up LGBTQ people who might not get a voice the other 11 months of the year. When someone comes out to you, listen to them and... take the time to listen to what they tell you, and who they are, and realize how difficult it is for them to come up to you," she said.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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