TW: suicide, depression, transphobia, transgender genocide, forced detransitioning, abuse, deportation, kidnapping, coercion and grooming
Transgender people deserve to live a full life. Unfortunately, Eden Knight, a 23-year old Saudi Arabian transgender woman who was trafficked and forced to detransition, will never be able to.
Eden’s friends have published a document telling her story, including her final message where she described the events leading up to her passing.
Eden was living in the US while she was attending school, and came out as transgender while she was living here. She was contacted by a man named Michael Pocalyko and his associate Ellen, who claimed he could “fix” the relationship between herself and her family, who she describes as “strict conservative Muslims”, who disagreed with her transition.
Over time, Michael and Ellen connected her with a Saudi lawyer named Bader, who groomed her to detransition, to hide that she was transgender, and to get her to be, in Eden’s words, “normal”. At some point, Eden realized that she was reliant on Bader for food and shelter, and that since she was still seeking immigration status, that he could easily have her deported.
Bader booked her a flight back to Saudi Arabia, and Eden returned to her family who then revealed that they had hired Michael, Ellen, and Bader to bring her back. She was entrapped, verbally and religiously abused, and searched daily, with her gender-affirming healthcare taken away from her. As a result of this, Eden ended her own life to escape from it. Her family put up a post on social media confirming this, complete with misgendering and misnaming Eden. She didn’t get to be her true self to her family, even in death.
Eden was loved. Eden was full of purpose. Eden was worthy. Eden deserved better than this, to live a full life and to grow old. And yet, none of that saved her from the people around her that harmed her.
Transgender genocide is real. It’s even more real to our most vulnerable communities, including transgender people of color and transgender immigrants like Eden. There have been 465 anti-transgender bills introduced this year alone. These bills primarily target transgender people in areas such as healthcare, nondiscrimination laws, free speech, sports participation, public accommodations, and education. This legislative assault seeks to erase transgender people from society, taking away legal protections, medically necessary care, and breaking up families.
This is why gender-affirming healthcare can be lifesaving for transgender people. Eden is heartbreakingly a representative of the catchphrase, “death before detransition”. For many transgender people, forced detransition is a death sentence. Transgender people deserve respect – not laws, contracted entities, and systemic violence forcing them back into the closet and denying them access to crucial and life-saving medical care.
We remember the transgender people our society has failed, but we will not let their deaths be in vain. May this be the catalyst that sparks your righteous fury, prompting you to mobilize, to resist, and to rally others.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY on HB0329
Public Health-Commission on Universal Healthcare
Madam Chair and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for your work and consideration of a number of important healthcare matters during this current legislative session. At Progressive Maryland we appreciate your efforts to expand healthcare coverage and access, to address the growing crisis of medical debt, and to reign in soaring drug prices.
Many of the problems that everyday Marylanders face when it comes to getting medical treatment, buying prescription drugs, and finding a provider stem from our hard to navigate, confusing and ever changing healthcare system. As you know our system relies heavily on the insurance industry and employer provided insurance. But healthcare costs are skyrocketing for employers and individual policyholders while insurance company profits and CEO compensation are breaking records. This unfortunately has been the case for many years during, coming out of, and well before the global pandemic.
The high cost of premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket costs are draining individual and family budgets. The number of insurance company claim denials is mounting every day, putting a growing number of patients and families at great risk. It’s time for a change.
Progressive Maryland, along with our community partners in the End Medical Debt campaign held a speakout on Lawyer’s Mall. Most of the stories that people shared about their struggles with getting healthcare came down to being denied care somewhere in the system(even when having a “good” policy) and/or being unable to afford health insurance. It’s time to look at moving away from our reliance on private insurance. HB 0329: Public Health-Commission on Universal Healthcare gives Maryland a way to explore just how we can do that.
HB 0329 will give us a chance to look at alternatives and options by studying how a single payer system might work and be organized. Hundreds of favorable studies, reports, and reviews,including from government agencies, exist about a single payer model. It’s time to harness that data and information to examine the benefits we could realize and to explore what’s possible. There’s little expense required to engage a Commission and this process. Any time and resources spent on the Commission and its work will be well worth it given the positive outcomes we could see.
Relying on a more efficient single payer model to deliver healthcare to folks makes sense. It means a much greater percentage of the money we spend as a state would go to the actual care and treatment people need, and not to pay for all the bloated costs and inefficiencies in the private insurance sector.
On behalf of Progressive Maryland’s thousands of individual members across the state, our regional chapters and our Healthcare Task Force I urge you to pass HB0329. We believe that healthcare is a fundamental human right. It’s time to make a real commitment to guaranteeing that right and the Commission’s work is a critical way to get started.
Please vote yes for this bill.
Progressive Maryland Lead Healthcare Organizer
Takoma Park, MD
The people, the stories, the chants, the energy! We brought it Monday to Annapolis at our healthcare justice rally on Lawyer’s Mall. Thanks to you and our coalition partners we showed our strength as patients, organizers, and everyday community members who want healthcare for all. Thanks to EVERYONE who helped make this speak out so successful! On the virtual side Mike was our camera man, live streaming the event. Bee, Erica, and Ashley created a welcoming space for the virtual participants.
At the State House PM’s Healthcare Task Force leaders shared their stories, talked to the press, bonded with other attendees, and led our lobby visits with our lawmakers before the event. Thank you Crystal, David, Syl, Peter and Susan.
Crossover Day is one week away, and it's a crucial day in the Maryland Legislature. Crossover Day is the deadline by which bills introduced in one chamber of the legislature must cross over to the other chamber in order to remain eligible for consideration during the current legislative session. In other words, if a bill doesn't make it through one chamber and into the other by the end of Crossover Day, it's unlikely to become law this year. We have 7 days to ensure progressive legislation continues moving forward this session!
We’ll be working hard this week to urge lawmakers to support bills that will benefit working Marylanders and we want you to join us! Today, we’re hosting a Healthcare Justice Rally in Annapolis and virtually. Check out our event’s section for more information.
Now is the time to make your voice heard! Contact your elected representatives and let them know which bills matter most to you, and urge them to support these bills before Crossover Day arrives. You can find easy tools to contact your representatives and more calls to actions in our task forces and local chapters sections of the memo.
Let's make sure that the most important issues facing our state get the attention and consideration they deserve during this year's legislative session.
The bill pileup in the Assembly, House and Senate both, is getting kind of outrageous as "Crossover Day" approaches. Sure, the legislators are trying to hold on to their perks and power as having a Dem governor seems to make everything smoother, maybe too much smoother. If some bills are being held hostage for other purposes, well, it will be hard to get an admission on that for the record.
We are prioritizing bills on Healthcare, the minimum wage, environmental action to match the climate crisis, and others. Read more below, in News You Can Use.
Happy Monday and Happy Women's History Month! This month is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women, femmes and non-binary people throughout history and recognize their ongoing struggles for equality. Presently, women are still fighting for basic rights such as equal pay, reproductive justice, and an end to gender-based violence. However, we must also celebrate the powerful grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts that have led to progress and continue to pave the way for change. Let's honor the women who have paved the way before us and commit to continuing the fight for a more just and equitable world.
Read on for important upcoming events, hearings in the legislative session and updates on all of our issue campaigns and taskforce work!
New Governor Wes Moore swore in a remarkably diverse cabinet last week. What's really remarkable, observers say, is he has not picked people who are experts on navigating Annapolis. This could be interesting.
"Crossover Day" is a sorta-deadline for bills to get out of at least one Assembly chamber by March 20 to stay alive (unless the leadership is totally down for the bills, in which case anything can happen). So progressives who need to nurse these bills across the finish line are nervously pushing the noodle. What bills are teetering? We have some info.
It's News You Can Use for the all of us. Read on.
As Maryland pushes for a cleaner energy regime, some solutions look obvious in retrospect. Imagination has been slow to catch up. In this deeply reported article, Maryland Matters founding editor Josh Kurtz checks out the slow growth of a great idea.
"As officials at the state and local level scramble to meet Maryland’s ambitious goals for combating climate change, expanding the use of solar energy is clearly a key part of the solution. But emotional and politically charged debates abound over where to place large solar arrays.
"Schools can be part of the solution. With expansive rooftops and situated in areas that are often largely devoid of trees, school buildings in many ways seem like the ideal locations for placing solar panels."
See what's being done and what more could be done.Read more
Environmentally overburdened communities call for the passage of Reclaim Renewable Energy Act Bill:
Maryland is fighting for the environment in a way that many states have been unable to match. Maryland Legislators announced the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act (RREA) of 2023 (SB590/HB718), which seeks to fix environmental injustices caused by fossil fuel companies and make renewable energy more accessible.
The goal of RREA is to clean up Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by removing factory farm gas and trash incineration from being listed as “renewable.” This will help reduce the negative effects of air pollution, improve public health outcomes, and address the climate crisis.
Notably, the bill seeks to repair long-standing environmental injustices that have disproportionately burdened communities of color with support for the vulnerable communities.
This announcement was met with deserved enthusiasm from local residents who have long suffered from air pollution caused by nearby facilities that burn fossil fuels and dump pollutants into the surrounding environment.
“As a child I never considered that a tall smoke stack that welcomed me to Baltimore, spewed so many dangerous chemicals into the air and contiguous to the community I live in. This particulate matter, even emitted at low levels, can cause neurological dysfunctions, preterm births, and lung cancer. My community should no longer be a “dumping ground” and suffer at the hands of power holders who pander to “greenwashing” utility companies. At its core, this is environmental exploitation, and it's time for decision-makers to pass the RREA.” Said Godwin Kennedy, a 35-year-old black resident of Cherry Hill in South Baltimore.
Progressive Maryland remains committed to helping those affected most by environmental racism. Low-income black communities are often situated in “sacrifice zones'' due to racist worldviews of inferiority as they are seen as less politically viable. The reality is, on a monthly basis, these communities are paying Baltimore Gas and Electric to one day give their children cancer. Trash incineration is not clean, it's a slow death and power holders should pass the RREA bill NOW.
With this act, Maryland sets a powerful example for other states around the country in how they can begin healing environmental injustice and transitioning away from dirty fossil fuels towards a more sustainable future powered by renewable energy sources so that our communities can thrive.
- SirJames Weaver, Progressive Maryland's Environmental Justice Organizer
Testimony on Maryland Senate Bill 803
Labor and Employment - Payment of Minimum Wage - Tipped Employees
Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony in support of SB 803. Progressive Maryland is a grassroots nonprofit organization with regional chapters from Frederick to the Lower Shore and more than 100,000 members and supporters who live in nearly every legislative district in the state. In addition, there are dozens of affiliated community, faith, and labor organizations across the state that stand behind our work. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families in Maryland. Please note our strong support for SB 803.Read more