Dr. Margaret Flowers LGBTQ+

Fighting the Rise in Attacks Against Transgender People’s Rights

We must stop the attack on transgender people in the United States before it is allowed to escalate further.
[Andrew Dallos / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

By Dr. Margaret Flowers / Popular Resistance

A growing and coordinated attack on the rights of transgender people is taking place through state legislation and sadly it is receiving support from people across the political spectrum. The attack is successful because its proponents are using myths about transgender people to cloak their efforts under a veneer of feminism and concerns about children’s health. In reality, this attack is anti-feminist and threatens the well-being and lives of not only the transgender community, particularly the youth, which is one of the most vulnerable communities in our society, but also of all of us.

It is necessary to understand where this attack is coming from and the facts that dispel these myths so we can all take action to protect the rights of transgender people. The media is largely silent about what is happening. We need to raise awareness and halt these bills. Solidarity is critical to stop the assault and protect us from being divided against each other at a time when we need to struggle together for our People(s)-Centered Human Rights.

This week, I interviewed Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the ACLU who is a national leader in the fight for the rights of transgender people, on Clearing the FOG (available Monday night). We discussed the state bills, the impact they will have if they are made into law and how to stop them.

A coordinated attack on transgender rights in the states

The number of states that have introduced bills restricting the rights of transgender people has increased from 20 states in 2020 to 26 states so far in 2021. The bills range from those that prevent transgender people from participating in sports, using gender-appropriate facilities or obtaining identification documents to ones that make providing health care to transgender youth a felony and allow religious discrimination. You will find a list of the states, the bills and their current status here.

One bill that is imminent in Alabama would make it a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine for health professionals who provide hormone therapy, hormone blockers or surgery to transgender youth. The bill also requires school staff to inform parents if a student has the “perception that his or her gender is inconsistent with his or her sex.” A version of the bill recently passed in both the Alabama House and the Senate. Sixteen other states have introduced similar legislation.

Both of these measures put transgender youth at a serious risk of lifetime harm or suicide if they are not able to receive appropriate medical therapy during puberty or are outed to parents who may not support them. A study from 2018 finds that suicide, the second leading cause of death in teenagers, and self-harm rates are higher in transgender adolescents than cisgender teens. In the Minnesota study of teens aged 11 to 19, nearly a third of transgender girls and more than half of transgender boys had attempted suicide, two-thirds had suicidal thoughts and more than half had injured themselves. The National Center for Transgender Equality finds that of the 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States, 20 to 40% of them are transgender youth while transgender people are less than 1% of the overall population. They face family rejection, denial of access to spaces in homeless shelters that are consistent with their gender and discrimination when they seek to rent or buy a home.

The bills also run counter to standard medical practice. After more than 100 years of work to provide gender-affirming health care to transgender youth and adults, this area of medicine is well-documented and supported by major institutions such as the American Association of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society and the American Psychological Association. At a time when the medical establishment is working to improve care for transgender people in all settings, these state bills would be a huge impediment to that progress.

Another major set of bills currently present in 26 states would prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports on the same teams as their cisgender peers. As the ACLU writes, these bills are less about sports and more about “erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life.” The fight to exclude trans people from restrooms that are consistent with their gender failed, so this is the new tool to attack their rights.

Transgender girls and boys and women and men already compete in sports all over the world and their participation is supported by major institutions such as the Women’s Sports Foundation, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education and the National Women’s Law Center. Nearly two dozen organizations signed onto a letter supporting the full inclusion of transgender people in athletics. Depriving transgender youth of the right to participate in sports harms their physical, social and emotional well-being. Transgender youth already face obstacles to being accepted in society and not being allowed into sports worsens that while preventing them from crucial areas of their development such as being part of a team and discovering their physical capabilities.

Creating barriers to participation in sports harms everyone, but especially women who as a group already face discrimination over their gender and attempts to control their bodies. In order to exclude transgender people from sports, all participants will be required to ‘prove’ their gender. As the National Women’s Law Center states, “The law allows anyone, for any reason, to question whether a student athlete is a woman or girl, and then the student has to ‘verify’ her gender by undergoing invasive testing.” They add that by “allowing coaches, administrators, and other athletes to become the arbiters of who ‘looks like’ a girl or a woman,” the  laws “will rely on and perpetuate racist and sexist stereotypes.”

Chase Strangio and Gabriel Arkles dispel four of the common myths about transgender athletes. They point out that the effort to exclude transgender women from sports is being done in a way that “reinforces stereotypes that women are weak and in need of protection. Politicians have used the ‘protection’ trope time and time again, including in 2016 when they tried banning trans people from public restrooms by creating the debunked ‘bathroom predator’ myth.” These myths are being spread widely, so it is critical that we understand the facts so we can stop them.

The groups behind the attacks on the rights of transgender people

There are a host of right-wing and conservative groups behind the attacks on transgender people. The major players involved in the state legislative efforts are the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation and ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). The Alliance Defending Freedom is a conservative Christian group formed in 1994 that does legal advocacy against women’s right to an abortion and for discrimination against lesbian, gay and transgender people. It is a well-funded ($35 million budget) and powerful group that trains “future legislators, judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and other government lawyers.” It is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its support for the criminalization of same sex marriage, sterilization of transgender people and bigoted beliefs.

One way that conservative groups have gained credibility with liberals is by portraying their work as in the interest of women’s rights. They project a zero sum view that somehow advocacy for the rights of transgender women takes away from the long struggle for ciswomen’s rights, as if transgender women and men have not struggled for recognition and for their rights for a long time too. They falsely argue that transgender women spent part of their life as ‘privileged’ males and so they either cannot understand what women have experienced or they are bringing patriarchal views into women’s spaces. This view conflicts with the reality that transgender women experience greater discrimination and violence than cisgender women. They are hardly a privileged group. Similarly, they falsely portray transgender men as ‘victims of patriarchy.’

This bigotry has entered some radical feminist spaces that actively exclude transgender woman and portray them as threats to their safety. Left Voice provides a history of the rise of what is called “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” or TERFs,” their violence against transgender women and their alliances with the alt-right. Katelyn Burns explains who some of these groups are and their attempts to dominate political space in the United Kingdom. Fortunately there is not much support for them in the United States, but it does exist.

Trans-exclusionary groups use fear as a weapon against transgender women by portraying them as threats to the physical safety of cisgender girls and women without solid evidence to back this claim. The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence finds that around half of transgender and nonbinary people have been sexually assaulted and more than half have experienced domestic partner violence. This is far less than the 18% of cisgender women who are victims of sexual violence. This use of a concocted threat of violence to discriminate against transgender women is similar to that used to justify repression against Muslims, immigrants and Black people.

Building an inclusive society

The increasing attacks on the rights of transgender people in the United States needs to be a concern to all of us. We cannot create an inclusive society that supports the healthy development and rights of all people if we remain silent as the most vulnerable among us are targeted with damaging and deadly discrimination. We cannot teach our children tolerance if they see their friends being prohibited from basic childhood activities such as participation in sports. We cannot deny people the right to determine who they are and to live in ways that support them. Transgender people are our neighbors, our friends and our family members.

Chase Strangio describes five specific ways we can take action to end discrimination against transgender people and to affirm them as members of our communities. There is something for everyone to do no matter where you are. We can all strive to point out and correct bigotry where we see it, work to educate people around us and donate to groups doing this work that are led by transgender people. If you live in a state where these bills are introduced, contact your state lawmaker and let them know of your opposition to them. You can also join local groups to advocate for the rights of transgender people.

Let’s stop the attack on transgender people in the United States before it is allowed to escalate further.

Dr. Margaret Flowers
Dr. Margaret Flowers

Dr. Margaret Flowers is a Maryland pediatrician and mother of three. After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1990 and completing her pediatric residence at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Margaret worked first in hospitals in Carroll County and and then in private practice. In 2007 she stopped practicing medicine to start advocating full-time for a state and federal single payer health care system.


  1. I have to stop all that I am doing to give my 2 cents, for what it’s worth. Disclosure: This is a general comment, I have only read a wee-bit of this, but … Self realization is the biggest achievement any one individual can accomplish. It does come down to the snowflake comparison, sadly because that is so over worked but true. I am not you and you surely do not want to be me. I have a deep respect for you, now return it in kind. “All of our shadows are the same”. No, I’m not trans, no, I’m not gay, I’m just a man. One size fits all does not work. We must all start to ask the question, am I just a cookie-cutter of what you think I should be? My answer is, no, I am me. “First they came for….”, the culture war(s) have got to stop. The world is too crowded and too small. These wars are destroying the Planet because we focus on them and not healing our life support systems.
    Sorry for the rant.

  2. I see Dr. Flowers has fully signed-on to the cult of Gender Ideology. Sad to see. Please look up Keira Bell and her case against Tavistock in the UK for rushing to trans her. r/Detrans is also a great resource for why transing under-18s is a terrible idea. The Left has committed a massive Own Goal against itself by refusing to address the human refuse left behind by this insane push to be on the #RightSideOfHistory.

    1. Tavistock has a history. Ewen Cameron. On it goes.

  3. It’s remarkable to me that trans folks have any rights at all in the context of a society that’s willing to kill anyone for profit — of any race/ethnicity/gender-identity. To call this “society” (apologies to genuinely ecological societies) anything but dog-eat-dog is to vastly underestimate its cruelty and injustice (with apologies to canines).

  4. Margaret, you are wonderful and so is most of your writing and thinking, but this is bullshit … the Liberal/Progressive/Left equivalent to evolution denial, global heating and climate crisis denial, science (biology) denial, creation science affirmation and QAnon.

    Worse it is anti-feminist and anti-female and anti-woman. It takes the worst stereotypes of corporatized, sexualized, market used and monetized “women” and reduces and reifies them all into a ridicule ad absurdum essentialism in which some dick-wagger in a skirt, pumps and wig “feels”himself to be more of a woman … than you !

    Shall we add to the term “people who menstruate” the additional stupid euphemism of “people who ejaculate”?

    Gender Dysphoria is the problem but junk cutting plus a lifetime of hormones and other medical/pharmacological interventions — all provided for FREE , of course, by the Big Pharma / Medical Industrial Complex is not the answer.

    Neither is pretending and make believe. Leave that to Disney, willya?

    Check out what Canadian journalist Meghan Murphy had to say at Feminist Current.

    Another non-solution is criminalizing medicine which seems to be the primary issue in Alabama which, like most Confederate states, has a long history of white and male supremacist interests in mutilating and commodifying human bodies and denying both abortion and birth control to “people who menstruate” …

    Worse this is direct gay reparative therapy, using the same sort of drug/chemicals used to chemically castrate Alan Turing !!’

    If these questioning kids were just left the fuck alone they would probably turn out to be well-adjusted Homos, lesbians, bisexuals, cross dressers and even a few Happy Hets.

    Because, Margaret, gay, lesbian and bi ARE sexual *orientations* and Ts just aren’t…don’t want to leave Gender Dysphoric kids twisting in the wind without affirmation and psychological support, but also don’t want them to be stampeded into Mengele-style bodily mutilation BEFORE they are even able to legally buy a beer.

    1. This is a super complicated issue, with a lot of room for tragedy in every direction. I certainly can be concerned for children and families who are rushed by biological clocks into making life-altering/risking decisions in the swirling chaos of this fucked up culture, health system, etc. I can also see that the left, like other groups of humans, is capable of “virtue signaling,” bandwagon jumping and just being flat-out wrong.

      I am confused, however, by those who bring such anger, really edging into apparent hatred, and dismissiveness at transgender people from some who argue they are here to protect women. Examples here: “dick-wagging,” “Mengele-style,” “Leave that to Disney,” “cross-dressers” and so on.

      The whole tone of your response is so smug, so arrogant, so mocking. Never mind that you endorse the corporate DSM/APA view of the trans expereince while blaming corporate healthcare for creating a monstrous trend. But what makes you so confident of your understanding of what is in the young trans person’s mind and heart? Are you close to any children going through this? Adults that have experienced it?

      For that matter, how are you even so happy to mock “cross-dressers” and “dick-waggers” who have for centuries been beaten, arrested and even killed, whether because their sexuality or gender was re/oppressed or they were sexually compulsive, likely from a child abuse they suffered?

      I am and have, and I am baffled at how you can consider yourself a defender of the oppressed without at least balancing your strong opinions with a even a tremor of humility and care for all others who may also be suffering.

      I guess I should model the same and say that women who have been oppressed and abused in a patriarchy are of course within their rights to be angry, defensive, loud and aggressive in response to what they see as more of the same. Are you a woman? I have no idea…


      1. A rather defensive response, Margaret.

        Let’s invert the target of the questions:

        how can *YOU*, Margaret be so confident?

        How can *YOU,* Margaret claim to speak for the oppressed while your cognitive dissonance permits the, yes, Mengele-style medical and pharmaceutical disfigurement of children before they are even able to legally buy a beer,

        Children can *not* give informed consent by definition to any of this medical manipulation and disfigurement.

        Informed consent arose post WWII as a result of Mengele’s and other Nazi experiments on humans. That is why neither you nor I nor any PH.D. Candidate can do *any* research on *any* human without prior Human Subject informed consent.

        As to my anger, you sound like a numbed Harry Truman economist on Xanaz w the on the one hand on the other hand tragedy-pronouncing. Obama was forever saying things were “a tragedy” and *never* getting outraged over things like the murder of Treyvon Martin.

        The Left requires outrage because without outrage about violations of human rights — like medicalization and pharmacization solutions for children with gender dysphoria — or Korea, Vietnam or Iraq and Afghanistan snd Yemen —there is no Left … indeed there is no possibility for Left without getting outraged.

        White supremacy, imperialism, global financialized capitalism, class and world wide slave labor to produce iphones snd plastic crap for American consumers plus the interminable suffering of victims of US snd Israeli bombing, invasions, sanctions, manipulations andoccupations should provide outrage for anyone claiming to be a persons of the Left. If we should be outraged about bombing children in wedding parties and disfiguring them for life without their informed consent, we Should also be outraged at the essentialism snd reductivity which green lights disfiguring children who can neither legally buy a beer nor give informed consent.

        Your ad hominem attack is pretty juvenile and, as noted at the beginning, a rather defensive response.

        As for my experience, at times in those ages especially young ages, I often thought that I would rather be a girl. After navigating Nixon Hoover McCarthyist Puritan Christian snd John Birch lavender and red scare pressures as a teen abd adult to be straight I finally came out as a male Homo … and glad I did.

        You, however, would had had me cut off my junk and live out life as a piece of human debris from a capitalist patriarchal West US eugenocide Mengele experiment.

        At that age kids question anyhow and should be encouraged and be supported to question damn near everything, including sex, orientation and gender… with no permanent body mutilations.

        I still love you Margaret and respect your work. Just not on this issue.

        As Pink Floyd sang: “Leave those kids alone!”

      2. The fact that you call me Margaret multiple times because you assume I am the author means I did not read this except to scan it for crap I need to moderate.

        And no, for the record, I don’t want to cut off your junk.

        [THIS IS NOT BOB SCHEER nor “Margaret”]

  5. what a bunch of bilge. #1 no one is born in the wrong body — to tell children this equals child abuse. #2 feminists are fighting back for our sex based rights and those of our children and grandchildren. #3 this is the most well-funded men’s rights cult in the history of the country.

    1. I can tell you have never known a trans child since birth. The experience is transformative to one’s understanding and you would know that what you are spewing is ugly, ignorant and cruel.

      Please look for some humility and compassion.

      1. Humility and compassion are not the issue.

        This IS the issue: Subjecting kids to body disfiguring hormone treatments and surgeries snd psychological behavior conditioning via social and other media … kids who can’t vote or legally buy liquor or drive a car or give informed consent because their brains are still growing into adult form even at age 21 … is a Gross Aggressive Invasive Intrusive violation of their civil, constitutional and human rights.

        Of COURSE people with gender dysphoria — both those who do or will menstruate and those who do or will ejaculate …are entitled to love, empathy, comfort, support, and affirmation.

        The hormone treatments and surgeries of people under the age of 21 to make them transsexuals should be prohibited.

        The tragedy is that it is right wing Christian fundamentalists and Trumper Thumpers pursuing this issue, not the so called Left feminist human rights crowd more worried about the Kurds and the Uighurs than retaining the bodily integrity of kids in the US.


    “Dick waggers” from one; “well funded men’s rights cult” from another right here on a left wing site. Those able to break free of their own narrow reality tunnels even for an instant can imagine what’s being tossed around elsewhere.

    The critics above have failed to realize that trans people aren’t all privileged white men. I know because I am neither, nor have I ever been, yet I’m trans! I am an FtM, a female to male transgender and a two-spirit. Since I’m also over 70, it was decades before I could transition. I experienced 53 years as female–including the usual demeaning treatment. Thus I was an activist for all sorts of rights, including women’s liberation and gay rights, way back when.

    Can these critics match my first-hand experience? While still presenting as female, I worked in the engine rooms of ships and despite the rarity of this, managed to get elected to the union bargaining committee. I’ve also held poorly paid blue collar jobs (union activist there, too.) I know how little the male privilege of the underclass is worth in terms of income and social power compared to that of the women of the upper middle class managerial and educated elites. The type the centrist Dems actually represent.

    For the last decade, I’ve been very active in support of trans women of color. Truly “the least among us,” to use a phrase Chris Hedges would understand. Their murder rate should be a big hint, even if their extreme difficulties finding jobs and housing are invisible to the critics. To think that these people, the ultimate Other, marginalized apparently even by leftists, are in any way “privileged” is flat out hateful bigotry.

    As to the issue of what’s best for children, there are a few scientific studies. Looking them up might help dispel uninformed personal opinions . However, little of science is ever conclusive since it builds cumulatively. But certainly forcing us trans and non-binary people to conform to expectations, whether based on the either/or of conservatives or the anger of exclusionary feminists, cannot be healthy. I date back to the era when FtMs weren’t thought to exist. I had no external validation for what I felt internally. But as soon as I got home from grade school, off came the girl’s clothes. I KNEW I was a boy! Thousands and thousands of us have reported the same experience–we knew as early as 4 years old what we were. Despite what the entire rest of our worlds insisted. If you cannot understand that, you have no right to criticize. Let alone to determine our realities.

    Sincerely, Rafi—TRANS FtM TWO-SPIRIT.

  7. Well if you are not the editor nor Margaret, then who the fuck are you then?

  8. Maybe unsigned anonymous posts by someone who claims to be neither editor nor the author of the post are cowardly attempts to avoid accountability and responsibility and score cheap shot gotchas and should be prohibited by Editor…noted that no matter who you are you were cowardly and snakish enough to avoid engaging me in the substance.

    1. Let it go, man, let it go. I have a day job which demands I remain anonymous when posting. I don’t have time for this unfriendly convo, and I never implied I was the author, that’s on you.

      As I said, I am an editor here. Everybody who posts here is anonymous or perceived to be, so I am not sure what your point is.


  9. Interesting that the editor bashers are not engaging with me–someone who actually has some expertise and certainly first hand experience with what it’s like to be trans. And I signed my actual name.

    Instead, we see ad hominems aimed at a nameless editor. Given the tone of the exchanges, I can understand why the anonymity. Why risk harassment? Not that a regular may be very likely to do such a thing, but there are right wing lurkers here.

    As for that “not until 21” groundless assertion, to me that is a tip off as to the writer’s underlying feelings. Seems like possession by prejudices not amenable to considering the possibility of error. Like other biased people. Who are certain that their point of view is common sense; anything else is just plain wrong.

    Look at the evidence. 21? Really?! So then age of majority for voting and being in the military are less scary to this claimant. Which is more than a little odd.

    How about his unquestioned assumption that a cis person with at least some privileges like class, income, the credentials of education, probably race and for sure gender, has the right to determine the rights of others? This isn’t a situation like COVID, with ultra conservatives opposing masks as the right to do what they want with their own body, a twisted application of the argument about abortion. Ignoring the difference that their behavior is a threat to the health of others.

    What we trans people do with our bodies is no threat to those who oppose us. I’m not asking that any of you get chopped. Although I might personally prefer that bigots be spayed and neutered before the age of breeding.

    Speaking of reproduction, not being able to is the only harm that kids transitioning early might face. Well, the planet doesn’t need so many humans anyway. Unfortunately, though, since we trans are a tiny minority, that won’t have much of an impact.

  10. So not only is it ok for people to have hormone and surgical intervention if they are old enough to drive or sign up to kill people with drone bombs in the military, it is also ok for medical intervention on five year olds, ten year olds and fifteen year olds as patriarchal state gay reparative therapy that pushes lesbians out of their own movement let alone private spaces and totally ghosts women’s issues off the radar and mains abd mutilates their bodies for life

    You are a fine human being !

    1. From the overwrought and aggressive tones that run through this whole thread of “replies” it’s likely any attempt at dialogue will elicit more of the same. They’re not rebuttals, they’re monologues meant to be intimidating, and thereby eliminate any recognition that I (or any defender of trans people) might have a point or two.

      There’s also the deliberate twisting of my words into false equivalencies and another nasty ad hominem. Oddly similar to the tactics of right wing trolls. Apparently, I or anyone considering transgenders as legitimate, should be judged a priori to be bad, inhuman, and having no rights a white man need respect. As someone reservation raised, I know how that feels. That our culture may have different customs, for example respect for two-spirits as people specially blessed, is simply more evidence of our inferiority.

      You know as well as I do that those who are the loudest about opposing gay rights are often trying to cover up their their own inner conflicts. Who else would be so obsessed? Feels to me like the same somehow applies here.

      In no way did I say that the military is admirable, nor that for some unfathomable reason this would legitimate being trans. Only that insisting on 21 for trans people but nothing else is such an intense extreme. For example, no concern that teens have the right to vote. Again, oddly obsessive.

      Having spent 53 years as female, I know something about what that is like. As I said, I have been an activist for all sorts of rights since the early ’60s, including women’s liberation. To say that this “ghosts women’s issues off the radar” is nothing but an unsubstantiated assertion. And a deflection. To understand why that is unfair, please look up a list of logical fallacies on one of the sites about philosophical terminology.

      It’s also a baldly emotional appeal, meant to by-pass reason. Essentially insisting that the rights of one group would mean denying them to another group. Same tactic used by white supremacists and incels.

      By the way, I’m also gay. Gay reparative “therapy” is not the same. There, LGBTQ children are forced to violate and deny their own sense of self. Didn’t you know at a very young age what you were? I’ve been active with trans causes for many years (especially those of BIPOC trans women) and the vast majority of us report knowing our identity from a very early age. We’ve all been through therapy, often to dissuade us when young, and as a legal and medical requirement for transitioning. We are confirming what we are.

      All of this before considering the scientific evidence that supports our claims. Of which there is now quite a bit. How about this from 6/2019 https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/stop-using-phony-science-to-justify-transphobia/
      Or the entire issue of Scientific American Mind Jan/Feb 2016 the theme of which is: Young and Transgender (How Best to Help Them Thrive) A rather large hint that the category of trans child is considered scientifically legitimate.

  11. Bless you for your wisdom and compassion, Dr. Flowers. You make me proud to be a Green Party member. Transphobic bigotry will NEVER prevail in our party !!!

  12. It’s quite interesting how some people can claim to be awake and a friends of the oppressed can so easily spew transphobic vitriol. Trans people have been victims of violent hate crimes for decades and still are viewed as second class citizens in a good deal of the world today. Just decades ago homophobia was rampant in the west, and still is in many areas of the world. Anyone who can so quickly slander and neglect the abuse of any group of people should really do some self reflection. As a gay man I know what it took to get to a point where we are relatively accepted in the developed world today and trans people are going through the same struggle.

    1. Homophobia is STILL rampant in the West ESPECIALLY in the USA and England.

      Gay marriage didn’t make it go away overnight any more that the JFK/LBJ civil rights acts made racism or structural white supremacy go away.

      WAKE UP. The patriarchal and male supremacist Trans big pharma medical industrial complex is smashing women’s rights by relentless attacks on feminism and running lesbians out of their own movement.

      There is nothing in the rigid, censorious trans ideological blitzkrieg that is not a direct steal from the gay rights movement.

      Worse medical intervention advocated by trans ideologue brown shirts is gay reparative therapy.

      Slander? So sue me!

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