TIME safety

FOMO Is Making Teens Terrible Drivers

The pressure to be "always on" is leading young people to take their eyes off the road

A frightening amount of drivers will fess up to texting while driving. One recent survey found that 70% of people will admit to using their smartphones at the wheel. Now a new study goes beyond bad behaviors to investigate the motivations behind them. When it comes to teen drivers at least, it appears the culprit is an ascendant cultural plague: FOMO.

FOMO, an acronym for fear of missing out, is not just another cloying bit of slang, report Liberty Mutual Insurance and the non-profit SADD, an acronym for Students Against Destructive Decisions. In their study of 1,622 high school juniors and seniors around the country, teen drivers said they feel pressure to respond immediately to texts even while driving and that they can’t help but peek at their phones when notifications pop up in their apps. The expectations of their “always on” lifestyles, the researchers say, have “potentially deadly consequences.”

“Today’s hyper-connected teens … may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” says William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in a statement. Teens may struggle to attend to everything they should on the road even without a smartphone, he says, because they are less experienced drivers. Once a device is thrown into the mix, messages and updates and videos and tweets become additional competitors for their attention, along with the radio, the climate controls or the hundred things happening outside the car.

In the study released Tuesday, more than half of teens said they text while driving in order to keep their parents updated and about one-fifth of them said they believe their parents expect a response within a single minute, even when they are at the wheel. (For their part, nearly 60% of 1,000 parents also surveyed for the study said they do not have a set expectation for response times.) About half of teens said they text more when they’re in the car alone than when others are in the car with them. The most popular apps they said they used while driving break down as follows:

  • Snapchat: 38%
  • Instagram: 20%
  • Twitter: 17%
  • Facebook: 12%
  • YouTube: 12%

The list highlights that, like older drivers, teenagers aren’t just texting while driving. They’re watching videos and taking selfies.

The feeling that they must like an Instagram photo or reply to a Facebook comment the moment it’s posted not only makes teenagers distracted, the researchers say, but may contribute to their general fatigue. In their survey, 58% of teens said they had either fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel, and about half of them said they get only three to six hours of sleep per night during the week, often because they’re up staring into their smartphone screens. The effects of driving while sleepy, the researchers point out, are similar to those of driving under the influence; 24 hours without sleep can be the equivalent of three cocktails.

SADD was founded to stop young people from drinking and driving but has expanded its mission to combat an array of things that undermine young people’s health and safety. Their experts suggest parents act on data like this by talking to their kids, making it clear that it’s fine not to respond while they’re en route somewhere and making sure they get a decent amount of shuteye each night. “Today’s parents are juggling their own busy schedules, and too often young drivers’ risky habits go unrecognized,” says SADD’s Stephen Gray Wallace in a statement.

It appears they should also continue to pound away at the message being trumpeted by everyone from trauma centers to wireless carriers: It’s dangerous to use your phone while driving, and despite how you might feel at the time, whatever it is can wait. Nearly 90% of the teens who said they use apps on the road also said they consider themselves “safe” drivers, the study found, as did 60% of those who make calls. While many said they’re texting with purpose—to coordinate an event or update a friend—nearly 20% say they text while driving “just for fun.”

“It’s critical that parents focus on pinpointing these dangerous driving habits early on,” says Wallace, “and have frequent conversations with their children about what safe driving really means.”

TIME People

Uber Wants Your Parents to Be Drivers If They Can Use a Smartphone

senior woman hands on steering wheel
Getty Images

The new economy is welcoming older Americans with open arms

“Companies don’t hire 50-year-olds. They just don’t.”

So says 50-year-old Sherry Singer. After decades of being a professional matchmaker, Singer wanted to change gears and start a non-profit, but still needed to pay the rent in L.A. Feeling she had few places to turn in the traditional job market, she looked to a more disruptive space: the booming on-demand economy led by Uber. Singer, who has now worked several of these freelancing jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago, found she could land a gig within a week.

Agism might be rampant in Silicon Valley, but some of the Bay Area’s leading companies are now actively trying to engage the senior crowd, recognizing the huge potential of experienced workers and responsible adults.

On Thursday, Uber announced a partnership with Life Reimagined, an organization under the AARP umbrella that exists to help older people figure out “what’s next?” after life transitions. The same day, Airbnb released data aimed at “celebrating” older hosts and guests, amid their executives attending summits on aging around the country.

“To overlook them participating in new activities would be really short-sighted,” says Airbnb’s Anita Roth, who attended a recent conference on aging hosted by the White House.

When these companies were startups that didn’t know how long they might survive, being short-sighted may have made sense. New tech companies have been started by young people who hire their young friends to help create solutions to problems they’re encountering in their own young lives. Their first customers are often their young, early-adopting friends who live in the Bay Area. But with valuations north of $25 billion, these “startups” are focusing on expansions into a more untapped demographic, which also happens to be huge and growing.

By 2032, Americans over the age of 65 will outnumber those under the age of 15. While bands of young companies are starting to pay more respect to the buying power of this demographic, Uber’s new effort is about recognizing their potential as workers. Life Reimagined bills itself as a helping hand for any adult in need of some direction—whether that person is a 42-year-old divorcee, 55-year-old empty nester or 66-year-old retiree bored nearly to death. Their mission isn’t just about helping people find new jobs or careers, but that’s often involved for participants who range from their late 30s to early 70s.

“The reality is there are far more adults looking for work than venues that are seeking to hire them,” says Emilio Pardo, Life Reimagined’s president. Their effort with Uber is explicitly targeting the “40-plus” crowd. The rideshare company said they don’t have a particular goal for how many drivers they hope to recruit.

Uber already has hundreds of thousands drivers coming onto their platform worldwide every month and expects perhaps another hundred thousand join their ranks in the U.S. over the next few years. Still, says Uber executive David Richter, they need to actively recruit. “We have the high-class problem of ever-increasing demand,” he says.

Uber previously engaged in targeted demographic outreach by trying to sell veterans on becoming drivers. The theory was that many veterans are task-oriented, disciplined and also looking for a healthy outlet “to bring those traits to bear,” says Richter. Those drivers turned out to get higher-than-average ratings; Uber hopes to repeat those results by capitalizing on older drivers who might provide a “more cautious, reliable ride.” According to a white paper released in January, Uber drivers are more likely to be young, female and highly educated than taxi drivers or chauffeurs. Still, about half of them are already over the age of 39.

What about the stereotype that grandma is a haphazard driver who goes everywhere with her blinker on and can operate a smartphone about as well as nuclear submarine? Ken Smith and Martha Deevy, experts from Stanford’s Center on Longevity, generally have a positive attitude about older people driving for Uber, saying that the flexibility those jobs provide will likely be attractive to retirees who need income but want flexible schedules. They also point out that if age 40 is the starting point, that means “there are 30 unambiguously safe years there.” If you look at fatal crash statistics, they point out, you could argue that getting into a car with a 65-year-old is safer than doing so with a driver who is less than 30.

Smartphones are required to do the job of being an Uber driver—as well as most new jobs in the on-demand economy—because it involves accepting and completing requests for rides through the Uber app. Just over half of 50- to 64-year-olds own smartphones, according to Pew, but those numbers are going up. In 2012, only 34% of them did. And, Richter says, new drivers can always lease a smartphone from Uber if needed.

The Center on Longevity is a leading organization dedicated to trying to figure out how Americans can all lead better, longer lives, a crucial mission given that our life expectancies have jumped 20 years since 1925. Airbnb worked with the group to develop a survey to learn more about their older users. Turns out, about one million of Airbnb’s guests and hosts are over 60. Considering 25 million people used Airbnb to find accommodations in the past year, that leaves a lot of room for growth, especially among a demographic that is more likely to own their own home. Like Uber’s veteran drivers, Airbnb’s older hosts also tend to get better reviews than the general population, Airbnb says. The majority of those hosts are either retirees or empty-nesters who start renting out rooms for the extra money; according to Airbnb’s survey, 49% of them are on a fixed income. But, Roth says, many people who come to the platform for the money end up staying for the social engagement and “renewed sense of purpose.” Isolation among older Americans, Life Reimagined’s Pardo says, “is fatal.”

Of course, the sharing and on-demand economies are not without their uncertainties and pitfalls. Lawsuits are alleging that companies like Uber are exploiting their workers, and cities like San Francisco are hotly debating how much home-sharing to allow. Though 50-year-old Singer continues to work for an on-demand ride company, she’s also a lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Postmates, an on-demand delivery service for which she used to be a courier. The business models of these companies may have to change, but the fact that companies can benefit from giving older Americans more opportunities and attention will remain. “People are in a moment in America where either they can’t retire, don’t want to retire or they’re retired but they’re not done yet,” says Pardo. “It’s all about using the latest technology to actually open up a new opportunity, to give you options.”

TIME LGBT

Everything You Need to Know About the Debate Over Transgender People and Bathrooms

Peter Dazeley

This is the latest civil rights fight over America's restrooms

This week a judge in Virginia district court will consider a question coming before lawmakers and school principals across the country: should transgender Americans always be allowed to use the restrooms where they feel the most comfortable? And is it discrimination when they’re forced to do otherwise? Here is a primer on why the bathroom question is such a hot-button issue and why it’s likely to show up our newsfeeds in coming months.

Bathrooms and fights for civil rights go hand-in-hand. In the Jim Crow era, bathrooms—along with water fountains and lunch counters—were places that might be marked with “white only” signs. The bathroom has also been a battleground for women and handicapped workers fighting for equal treatment in the workplace. Because of the nature of things people do in the bathroom, it can be a space where they feel exposed or vulnerable and therefore resist change. It is also, as transgender icon Janet Mock says, “the great equalizer for all of us.”

Transgender people have to fight for authenticity as well as equality. The average person might have their age questioned when buying liquor or their ID checked at the airport, but people doubt transgender people’s true identity on a much more regular and deeper level. For transgender kids, that might take the form of parents insisting that they’re going through a phase or putting them in conversion therapy. For adults, that might be people questioning whether Caitlyn Jenner is really just doing it all for the publicity. “There is still this reluctance to accept trans people for who they are,” Mock says.

To opponents, “bathroom bills” suggest that what transgender people feel isn’t valid. So-called “bathroom bills” introduced by social conservatives in states such as Arizona, Maryland, Kentucky and Florida typically mandate that people use the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificate. That’s a marker that is difficult for most transgender people to change, as well as one that, for them, is a bureaucratic indicator decided by someone else that should not be weighed against their innate sense of self. Just a handful of states have “modernization” processes that make it easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates. Some in the community have protested by taking selfies in the bathrooms that they would have to use under such laws, highlighting how those spaces don’t jibe with their appearance or their feelings.

Conservatives argue that such bills are necessary to protect people’s privacy and public safety. Some social conservatives will say that they think transgender people are deluded. “I don’t want men who think they are women in my bathrooms,” testified a Maryland woman in a 2014 hearing on an LGBT non-discrimination bill. But a more common argument is that allowing transgender women to use the women’s room would open the doors up for sexual predators or peeping teenage boys to use those protections as a dangerous ruse to get into female spaces. GOP politician Mike Huckabee made this point in a much-talked-about joke that made the rounds earlier this summer.

No evidence has been uncovered showing that such fears are warranted. Several states, school districts and corporations have adopted their own policies affirming transgender people’s right to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity and have not reported problems, opponents of bathroom bills say. Progressive media watchdog Media Matters called up the 17 largest school districts governed by such policies and asked them if they had experienced any incidents of harassment or inappropriate behavior; they reported none had. Liberal lawmakers and activists say such rhetoric is just fear-mongering cloaking LGBT phobias.

Bathroom policies affect transgender people in serious ways. Transgender students have reported being told that they needed to use a unisex nurse’s office or staff restroom—missing out on class time, being teased and feeling “quarantined.” More than a quarter of transgender adults say they’ve been denied access to “gender-appropriate facilities.” In a study from UCLA’s Williams Institute, nearly 70% of transgender people said they had experienced verbal harassment in a situation involving gender-segregated bathrooms, while nearly 10% reported physical assault. Transgender people will often seek out unisex bathrooms to avoid conflict that makes them feel like they don’t belong in one space or the other.

More political fights about this issue are coming. Members of Congress recently introduced the Equality Act, a non-discrimination bill that would help protect LGBT Americans in spheres from the workplace to the jury box to the bathroom. Currently, there is no federal law that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Most states also lack such statutes. Social conservatives in California, meanwhile, have vowed to get a “Privacy For All” initiative on the ballot that would require people to use school and government facilities that correspond with the marker on their birth certificate.

In the meantime, courts will continue to help decide the issue. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice have found that discrimination against transgender people—including denying them bathroom access—is a form of sex discrimination covered under the Civil Rights Act. While some have said this proves that additional protections are not necessary, advocates for explicit non-discrimination laws say that they’re important for enforcement, educating the public and making sure a person doesn’t have to go to court to make their case. The decision from Virginia’s district court will add to the precedents, spurring on the debate as LGBT activists choose their next battles after marriage equality.

TIME Education

Meet the Mother-Daughter Team Set on Saving Cursive

It's not as loopy as it may sound

A mother-daughter team is fighting a battle that should inspire bands of ruler-wielding teachers to join them in the fray—and will lead others to accuse them of being out of touch with the modern student. Linda Shrewsbury and Prisca LeCroy want America’s future generations to learn cursive, and they’ve just finished publishing their first book on the subject, which Kickstarters gave them over $33,000 to design and produce.

It’s easy to make the argument that class time would be better spent teaching kids to type 80 words-per-minute (or to code for that matter). In this digital age, isn’t giving cursive pride of place in the curriculum the didactic equivalent of teaching teens to ride horses instead of drive cars? After all, the Common Core standards being adopted by states around the country don’t waste any space on laying out penmanship goals.

Courtesy Linda ShrewsburyLinda Shrewsbury, left, and her daughter Prisca LeCroy are on a mission to preserve cursive.

The ladies have plenty of retorts to this line of thinking. Chief among their scientific missiles are studies that show cursive fires up areas of the brain that tracing, typing or even printing letters does not. “They’re doing some studies that seem to suggest there’s something special about cursive,” says 34-year-old LeCroy, who was home-schooled by Shrewsbury before becoming an attorney and is now a full-time stay-at-home mom in Dallas.

Teaching kids old-fashioned penmanship, proponents like her argue, helps refine their fine motor skills and their visual cognition, while beefing up the lobes known to underline successful reading. One study found that students who handwrote rather than typed on writing assignments tended to write more and come up with more ideas.

Then there is the cultural ammunition. Only kids who can read cursive will make a jot of sense out of the original copy of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.—where the two of them recently gave a presentation on this very topic. “Do we want them to actually have the capacity to be historians?” says LeCroy. “Or do we want them to be lemmings?” For Shrewsbury, cursive is a proud old vehicle for fostering artistry and individuality in people, as well as a line the ties us to the past.

“My strongest feeling about cursive is the idea you can capture individuality and personality in a signature and have it be preserved for generations,” says Shrewsbury, a 63-year-old who has taught government to students in Tulsa and English to students in Africa. “I think about the fact that I know the handwriting of members of my family. The idea of throwing away a tradition that powerful and simple makes no senses to me.”

Shrewsbury got started on this mission while volunteering to tutor a 23-year-old student named Josh in a local literacy program. He had learning difficulties, but as they bonded over improving his reading skills, he confessed to her that he had never learned cursive and wanted to be able to sign his name. While it might not make a difference in a legal sense whether one prints or loops their autograph on a contract, to him there was a sense of dignity that he was missing (and, it’s worth noting, printed signatures are easier to forge). So Shrewbury tried to figure out a simple way to teach him the letters and noticed patterns in how the letters are formed—four patterns to be exact: an oval, a loop, a swing and a mound.

These, for instance, are letters that are all formed using a move they call “over oval, back trace.” If you trace the movements, you’ll see what they mean:

CursiveLogic

Using these insights, Shrewsbury says she was able to get Josh writing in cursive in about 45 minutes. “I hear all around me that cursive takes too long to teach and is too hard to learn,” she says.

Unfortunately, TIME cannot reveal all their secrets because rather than tackle this issue through lawmaking—as many would-be saviors of cursive have—these ladies are trying to win the battle through business. The book on their method is called CursiveLogic, and in Shrewsbury’s dreams, these guides will sell like such hotcakes that she can eventually use the proceeds to start local education programs in Tulsa for African-American boys and men who, like Josh, “have fallen through the cracks” of the educational system.

The ladies aren’t arguing that teaching kids cursive should displace typing classes, but not be lost in the dust of progress. LeCroy says that with even the suggestion that it might have benefits—in an era when we’re making more things with pixels and fewer with our hands—cursive is a craft worth preserving. “Wouldn’t it be bad if a generation if kids didn’t learn it?” she says. “Why would we want to strip away that little bit of creativity?”

TIME Congress

Lawmakers to Introduce Historic LGBT Non-Discrimination Bills

Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Same-sex-marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage in Washington on June 26, 2015

After marriage equality, the fight for full civil rights begins

On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. David Cicilline are set to propose historically broad non-discrimination bills that will protect Americans from losing their jobs—or from being evicted from their apartment or other forms of discrimination—because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporters of the bills are using the fact that marriage is newly legal in all 50 states as both a springboard and justification for this next battle to win civil rights for the LGBT community.

The Equality Act will cover the areas of employment, education, housing, public accommodations, jury service, federal funding and credit. “You can be married on Saturday, post your wedding pictures on Facebook on Sunday and be fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment on Monday,” says Cicilline, who became the fourth openly gay member of Congress in 2010. The legality of same-sex marriage, he says, “creates a sense of urgency,” because it will lead to LGBT people living more openly but consequently expose them to the possibility of more discrimination.

There is a vast misconception that it is already illegal to discriminate against gay people—one poll put the number at 87% who believe so—but there are no federal laws that set out protections for LGBT Americans. Twenty-one states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 18 of those, as well as the District of Columbia, also include gender identity. “There is a huge hurdle our community needs to overcome to convince people that this kind of discrimination is—A—perfectly legal, and—B—actually exists,” says Winnie Stachelberg from the Center for American Progress.

In December, that progressive think tank put out a report to refute the notion that protections for LGBT Americans are “unnecessary,” as conservatives such as House Speaker John Boehner have argued. One in ten lesbian, gay or bisexual people say they’ve been fired from a job because of their sexual orientation, they reported, while nearly one in three transgender people reports being treated unequally at a retail store.

A lesbian couple in Michigan, where a GOP lawmaker tried but failed to pass a non-discrimination law last year, says a pediatrician recently refused to see their six-day-old baby after she “prayed” on the matter. There was no statute under which the couple could file a complaint, says report author Sarah McBride. But, she adds, non-discrimination laws aren’t just about recourse. “They’re also about preventing bad behavior,” she says. “They’re also about making clear what our values are as a country and what we expect our citizens to do, and that’s to treat everyone fairly and with respect.”

A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people when it comes to hiring and firing has been introduced in some form—and then failed to become law—in nearly every Congress for the past two decades. But rather than have another go at passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or even a broader bill that creates a new law, Merkley and Cicilline are trying a different strategy: amending existing statutes like the Civil Rights and Fair Housing acts so that those long-established protections are extended to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race, sex, religion or national origin.

“The only way that we can achieve full equality for the LGBT community,” says Cicilline, “is to make them part of this well-accepted civil rights construct.”

The move is designed, in part, to make it harder to object to the bill—because the Equality Act will “literally be extending the exact same protections” other classes already have—and to stymie the inevitable objections about religious freedom, which almost always crop up alongside debates over such non-discrimination bills.

“It has the value of saying, Look, whatever religious exemptions currently exist in these other protected categories—race, religion, gender, ethnic origin—those same religious exemptions would exist in the context of the LGBT community,” Cicilline says. “Not a single person’s right to exercise their religious tradition or to honor the practices of their own religion are compromised by this legislation.”

Critics of such bills say that legally obliging, say, a pizzeria to cater a same-sex wedding, violates a person’s right to oppose such unions based on religious or moral beliefs. With the battle over same-sex marriage lost, many conservatives are turning their efforts to pushing “religious freedom” or “First Amendment defense” bills to give people legal arguments for such refusals. A poll released earlier this month found that a small majority of small business owners—55%—believe businesses should not be allowed to deny wedding-related services to a same-sex couple based on religious beliefs.

Republicans Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Raul Labrador introduced companion bills in June aimed at “protecting religious freedom from Government intrusion,” stating that “conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberty are real.” While they say their bill is aimed at making sure organizations like religious schools can’t lose their tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage, progressives say it threatens to “undermine” protections Obama extended to millions of LGBT workers with an executive order, as well as the future of a broad non-discrimination law.

Merkley announced in December that a big proposal was coming. The scores of lawmakers he and Cicilline expect to co-sponsor the bills are rehashing this old fight in a time when there are new levels of awareness and acceptance for LGBT Americans, particularly among young people. According to Gallup, a record high 60% of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 50% in 2012 and 40% in 2009. Once people learn that protections for LGBT people don’t exist federally or in many states, “they overwhelmingly support the basic idea that LGBT Americans should be judged only on their merits, just like everyone else,” Merkley tells TIME. “It’s time to act.”

TIME People

The Case for Allowing Transgender Athletes in Youth Sports

Students don't always get to pick their team

In a poignant speech at the ESPYs Wednesday, former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner called for transgender youths to be “given the chance to play sports as who they really are.” That was not something that Jenner, who competed as a man, was able to do.

It was a high-profile moment that may help a broader movement to allow transgender athletes to compete on the teams where they feel most comfortable, a policy that has been pushed at the state level by proactive lawmakers, activists and students lobbying state athletic associations.

Transgender boy athletes—students assigned the female sex at birth who identify a male—don’t tend to cause as much of a stir as their counterparts. Critics often argue that transgender girl athletes might have unfair advantages because of the strength or height that comes with testosterone. But supporters say that’s not really relevant in youth sports. And they stress that the benefits to transgender youths struggling to find their place far outweigh concerns about a slightly taller-than-average girl on the volleyball team.

One of those youths is Mac, a 12-year-old in Washington state. Before and after coming out as transgender, he suffered through bullying, pushing and shoving and name-calling. Some of the bullies’ parents didn’t even make an effort to stop the behavior, his mother says. Mac’s transition hasn’t been easy on his family, including a father who was stationed abroad in the military when he found out, or two older sisters, one of whom said at one point she doesn’t “believe” in being transgender.

But both his family and school officials have supported him on the basketball court. When Mac wanted to play on his middle school boys’ team, school officials were thoughtful and accommodating, even though the state’s policy allowing transgender athletes to play on the team that aligns with their gender identity only officially applies to high school sports.

“You have to have an outlet. Mac’s outlet has been sports,” says his dad Joshua, “To let oneself go and let it out. Because on playing fields, basketball specifically, everybody’s equal and there’s no pointing and name-calling. It’s all about teamwork. And Mac’s embraced that.” His coach says that he’s sometimes a step behind the bigger kids, that he has to work harder than they work. “He always persevered. He never gave up, no matter if he was dead-beat tired. He’d still keep going,” she says. And she saw No. 23 getting camaraderie in return: “The whole family-feel, like, I’m in this with these guys. We’re in this together.”

Once Mac gets to high school, he’ll have to go through a “Gender Identity eligibility appeal process” set out by the Washington state athletic association if he wants to continue to play. That involves appearing at a hearing before a committee—which must include a mental health professional—to prove with sworn statements that he “has a consistent gender identity different than the gender listed on [his] school registration records.” The committee will decide if he gets to play, though he can appeal if they don’t come down on his side.

Many states still don’t have policies, but at least a dozen others have some process on the books. In Colorado, for example, a student doesn’t have to sit through a hearing but is advised to submit documentation so the school can “render a decision,” like written statements from parents or friends or evidence of hormone therapy. In California, the language of a law passed in 2013 suggests the student need only say what their gender identity is and which team they want to play on, an approach that has drawn controversy. (Conservatives who believed this would give boys’ license to sneak into girls’ locker rooms tried and failed to repeal the law that makes this the policy for all K-12 students in the state.) In New Mexico this week, a transgender student was told she could not play on the girls’ volleyball team because her birth certificate says she is male.

Opponents also sometimes voice fears that more lenient policies will be abused. In a speech earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued that the country was “forcing little children to be a part of this social experiment.” He added, in a mocking tone: “I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E. I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.'”

Despite these claims, there has been no evidence of foul play in locker rooms or bathrooms in the school districts that have had such policies on the books for years. And, on the other hand, there are abundant stories to be heard from transgender adults about they often found it traumatizing to be forced into the girls’ line when they felt they belonged in the boys or pushed down the pink-toy aisle when all they wanted was a truck. Affirming students identity by allowing them to play on the team where they feel they belong, experts say, can be one of the earliest feelings of acceptance they get as “one of the boys” or “one of the girls.”

When it comes to the competition question, experts say the Olympics and ninth-grade basketball need to be considered separately. Such levels of competition can hardly be compared in terms of demands, what a win means, what people are getting out of it, or how much a small advantage or disadvantage matters. At elite levels, officials may need to set out strict rules to account for genetic or hormonal advantages.

But Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer who leads Champion Women, an advocacy organization for girls and women in sports, says the debate over hormones misses the point when it comes to kids. “We have tons of research that looks at what the benefits of sports are, and what we find is for both boys and girls, that it provides this lifetime of benefits,” she says. “They’re going to be more likely to employed full-time. They’re much more likely to be in STEM activities. And the health benefits are enormous and not just for this person, but when you think about big-picture society. Sports are a social good and we need to make sure there’s inclusion.”

Hogshead-Makar argues that it simply isn’t a material consideration—especially given the natural variety in height that males and females can have. “High school sports are high school sports,” she says. “What you want is as many kids as possible to be doing this endeavor. … It’s like math class. This offers too many benefits to keep people out.”

The first openly transgender NCAA Division I athlete, Kye Allums, played on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University after coming out as a transgender man. He argues that being athlete transcends gender. “Strength is not a measure of hormones or testosterone. A lot of the strength comes from your heart and what you work for,” he says. “Sports is about winning. It’s about competing. It’s about respect. It’s about heart. It’s about teamwork. And it’s about playing the came. It’s not about what’s underneath your jersey.”

TIME housing

San Francisco Revamps Airbnb Regulations

Investors love Airbnb, but the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The hometown of accommodation-sharing website Airbnb has come to a tentative resolution in a long fight over how often people can rent out their houses and apartments online.

After multiple rounds of debate over 60-day, 75-day and even 120-day caps on rentals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to keep the current 90-day cap in place when the host is not present and allow unlimited days when the host is present.

The fight is far from over, however, with one supervisor even calling the vote “somewhat moot.” Earlier this week, a measure qualified for the November ballot that would cap both hosted and unhosted rentals at 75 days per year. The initiative would also require platforms to list only hosts who have registered with the city, a tenet of the current law that has been largely ignored by local hosts. The measure has been labeled as “anti-Airbnb.”

The debate is not just a local skirmish. Airbnb has faced concerns from lawmakers in New York as well, while cities across the country have debated limitations and even bans on companies like Uber, a ride-sharing app, as local governments struggle to update long-standing regulations in light of new technology.

The new San Francisco ordinance, which passed in a 6-5 vote, will create what supporters call a “one-stop-shop” office to handle issues related to short-term rentals, whether that’s getting through the registration process or handling neighbor complaints.

While investors love Airbnb, the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The city is in the midst of a housing crisis. While some locals have been evicted from their homes by landlords hoping to rent them out on Airbnb full-time, others have testified that they’ve only been able to stay in their homes because of the extra income home-sharing has afforded them. An extensive report on the issue by the San Francisco Chronicle found that more than 150 homes seemed to be rented full-time on the platform, suggesting that might be stock taken out of the strapped rental market.

During the meeting, supervisors debated when private companies should be asked to share data and when participation in new economic opportunities turns an activity like driving or sharing an apartment into a business. “I do believe that home-sharing is here to stay, and we should support appropriate and responsible home-sharing in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who sponsored the new ordinance with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “But we must protect our city from turning into a city solely of short-term rentals.”

Farrell, and other city lawmakers, cautioned against deciding this issue by ballot, because after a law is put in place that way, officials must return to voters in order to make any changes to it. He said that the economy and business models are changing too rapidly to put such a high bar in place for updating related laws. “We’re in the top of the first inning here,” he said.

TIME Television

Meet TV’s Newest Transgender Star

Teenager Jazz Jennings is redefining gender for young Americans

Actress Laverne Cox doesn’t like to be called a role model. She prefers the term “possibility model.” And TV is giving 14-year-old Jazz Jennings the platform to be one, too.

In case you’re not the type to follow TV lineups, Cox is the transgender woman playing a transgender inmate on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black—which is quickly becoming just one of many shows with a prominent, ongoing storyline about gender identity.

Netflix has another show, Sense8, a sci-fi drama about people around the world who become telepathically linked, one of whom is a transgender hacktivist in San Francisco. Amazon’s Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman who transitions late in life, was recently renewed for a third season to air in 2016. Meanwhile, there will be three new reality series that follow transgender leads: I Am Cait, an E! docu-series about former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner; Becoming Us, an ABC family show about two transitioning dads and their adapting children; and I Am Jazz, a TLC show that premieres Wednesday about Jennings’ tale of navigating the world as a transgender teen.

MORE The Transgender Tipping Point

While some may feel like transgender issues are being exploited or overexposed by (reality) show producers, putting people like Jennings on TV can serve a vital purpose for other young people who are questioning or grappling with their gender identity—that innate sense of being male or female that doesn’t always match up with what the doctor proclaims in the delivery room.

Many transgender people, especially older ones who had to come to terms with their feelings in a world before the Internet—much less a Netflix series—will say they didn’t have the courage to be honest with themselves and come out until they encountered another transgender person in real life (or, as Cox might say, a possibility model).

“What made the difference for me was being in San Francisco and meeting a transgender man,” says Masen Davis, former executive director of the Transgender Law Center. “And seeing that he was healthy and well and had a job and had good friends.” At the time, Davis says, “We all just assumed that if you were transgender, you were going to lose your family, you were going to lose your friends, you were going to lose your job. You would have to start all over.”

Nina Chaubal, a transgender woman who immigrated to the U.S. from India and worked at Google before helping to found Trans Lifeline, says that moment came for her at a conference where she saw a transgender woman featured as a speaker. “When you see someone you identify with who meets your definitions of success, it gives you the hope that you’ll be successful,” she says. “And that matters. That matters a lot.”

Part of the reason it matters is that discrimination and family rejection can still be daily, traumatizing issues for transgender people, particularly young ones. This new era of shows touches on transgender issues with more dignity than the pitfalls of previous decades, like salacious chair wars on the Jerry Springer Show and dismissive “Tranny Hooker” credits on Law & Order. But even a more respectful media spotlight is no magic wand fixing the much higher-than-average rates of homelessness, poverty and harassment they experience as a demographic. A staggering 41% of transgender people interviewed for a National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study said they had attempted to commit suicide.

And so examples like Jennings—while they might seem like a network’s attempt to cash in on the zeitgeist as much as a thoughtful exploration of America’s margins—have the potential to make a big difference for viewers who need an example to live by (that might make life seem more livable) and to provide some basic education about LGBT issues for others.

“There are more media representations that young trans people can look to and say, ‘That’s me,’ in an affirming way,” Cox told TIME last year. They’re also giving people chances to talk about important policy issues, like how in the majority of states, it is legal to fire someone or deny them service or kick them out of their apartment because they are gay or transgender.

At the tender age of 14, Jennings seems aware of how valuable it can be to see a transgender teen just being a teenager. So is the example of her accepting, loving mother, regardless of whether this TLC treatment ends up being tasteful. That’s not to say the content of the show does not matter, but that a silver lining will remain. “The main thing that really keeps me motivated in continuing to share my story,” Jennings tells TIME, “is the fact that I know change is being created when I see people who tell me that I’ve really affected their lives. It’s just a beautiful thing.”

Read next: The 25 Most Influential Teens

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com