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Issues "Know Your Rights" Resources for Transgender Workers
July 21, 2014
Today, President Barack Obama signed an executive order protecting transgender federal workers from discrimination and prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination for employers that work with the federal government as contractors or subcontractors. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes the executive order extending gender identity and sexual orientation employment protections to 28 million workers across the country. In response to the signing, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:
"With President Obama's signature today, millions of LGBT Americans now have explicit workplace protections that ensures they and their families aren't cut out of a job because of who they are. Though Congress must act to extend explicit LGBT nondiscrimination protections to all Americans, NCTE celebrates this advancement as one step forward in the ongoing fight to end anti-transgender bias and prejudice in the workplace."
The executive order aims to fill gaps between Title VII sex discrimination protections and a handful of state laws that ban anti-LGBT discrimination. Today, only 18 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have gender identity employment non-discrimination laws on the books.
In light of the signing, NCTE reissued two resources to help transgender workers understand their employment protections. The first is "Employment Discrimination and Transgender People," a broader employment guide for transgender people that outlines existing workplace protections —including the new executive order for federal contractors— and explains how transgender people can advocate for their employment rights through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The second is "Transgender Federal Employees: Your Workplace Rights," which explains how the executive order bolsters their Title VII sex discrimination protections."Though the House of Representatives continues their record of inaction on any legislation and, in particular, continues to allow federal job protections like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to languish, some transgender people have some legal recourse under these new protections. NCTE hopes that our know your rights resources help transgender people better understand these protections so they can better advocate for their own rights," said Keisling.
NCTE applauds today's action and will continue to press for nationwide employment protections.To speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-631-9640.
President will sign Executive Order Protecting Trans Federal Workers
Tonight, at the White House LGBT Pride Reception, President Barack Obama announced that he will sign an executive order barring gender identity discrimination for federal employees. Earlier this month, President Obama said he would sign an executive order to prohibit all anti-LGBT bias for federal contractors, which would apply to private entities that contract with the federal government. The newly announced order would build on the executive order signed by President Bill Clinton banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for federal workers.
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling celebrated the announcement saying:
"It was with great honor to be able to witness President Obama announce this order from the White House Pride reception tonight. In addition to the federal contractors nondiscrimination order, President Obama's action to ban gender identity discrimination stands to protect countless numbers of transgender federal employees who have, for too long, had to hide who they are at work. Though this administration has previously interpreted existing law to cover transgender federal employees, updating the language of this executive order makes it 100% clear that transgender federal employees must be treated equally at work.
While this Administration has been second to none on transgender rights in education, health care, and housing—this executive order provides concrete protections for the transgender federal workers who have been on the front lines implementing these changes, and the many more transgender public servants who are working daily to improve the lives of all Americans.
Significantly, this new order gives transgender advocates new tools to advocate for further protections in the face of a gridlocked U.S. House of Representatives that refuses to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. While NCTE welcomes and celebrates this federal workers executive order, we also call on Congress to heed the demand of a majority of Americans who are pressing for these protections nationwide."
Tonight's announcement creates additional momentum for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) just as over a hundred transgender advocates prepare to descend on Congress for the 2014 Transgender Lobby Day on June 14th-15th. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), alongside our partners at the Transgender People of Color Coalition, the Trans Latin@ Coalition, Black Transmen Inc., Black Transwomen Inc., the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and PFLAG National will continue to advocate on ENDA's passage in Congress.
To speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / email@example.com / 202-631-9640.
June 16, 2014
Today, President Obama announced that he would sign the long-awaited executive order barring LGBT discrimination in federal contracting, bringing explicit LGBT job protections for federal contractors in line with eighteen states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, several federal agencies, and countless cities and municipalities nationwide.
For years, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has been engaged in public education and advocacy on this effort and we applaud the Obama Administration for ensuring no transgender person working for a federal contractor loses their job because of bias.
National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling celebrated the announcement saying:
"This Executive Order will be a very important piece of the comprehensive anti-discrimination protections our community has been working for and winning. Title VII sex discrimination protections have been helpful, passing state and local laws have been helpful, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will be helpful, and, very soon, this Executive Order will be helpful. This has been a remarkable month of win after win, both culturally and politically, for transgender people."
Though NCTE welcomes this important development, the signing of the Federal Contractors Executive Order highlights--as President Obama said in his announcement today--the need to continue legislative efforts to protect LGBT workers by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
To speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-631-9640.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo aligns process for changing gender markers on New York State birth certificates with existing State and Federal policies
June 5, 2014
The Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, along with a network of partner organizations, today welcome a policy change from New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and his administration that removes the surgical requirement for New Yorkers to obtain a gender marker change on their birth certificates.
The policy, which hasn't changed since the 1970s, reflects current medical best practices and federal precedent, and brings the process up to speed with existing New York State agencies protocols.
This change comes as welcome news to the many New Yorkers that remain vulnerable without matching identification documents. The amended policy will allow a change of gender markers on birth certificates for applicants who provide a certification from a licensed medical provider stating the applicant is undergoing treatment and removes the need for invasive requirements like operating room reports of surgery - which not all transgender people opt to undergo whether for financial, health, or personal reasons - in order to match their documents with their gender identity.
"This is tremendous news for New York and especially for the transgender community, and a great step forward to ensuring many transgender New Yorkers no longer need to undergo a process they not wish to in order to receive an identity document that truly reflects who they are," said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan M. Schaefer. "This is an issue we’ve been advocating for the past several years and are grateful for Governor Cuomo’s leadership and the Department of Health for moving us closer to equality and justice for all New Yorkers."
"Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is reclaiming its rightful place as the progressive capital of the nation and made significant progress to advance the rights of all New Yorkers, including members of the transgender community. Much work remains and this administration is committed to promoting laws and policies that are fair and just for all," said Alphonso David, Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights for New York State.
New York joins a number of Federal agencies and states that already offer similar guidelines. In 2010, the U.S. Department of State updated its policy regarding Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (a federal birth certificate for U.S. citizens born abroad) and U.S. passports to require that a person’s treating or evaluating physician write a letter certifying that the person has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. No proof of surgery is required. The Social Security Administration has also eliminated its surgical requirement for amending gender markers. Other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Veterans Health Administration and the Office of Personnel Management have adopted similar policies.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 40% of transgender people have faced harassment when presenting identity documents that did not match their gender identity/expression. In addition, 15% report being denied entry or asked to leave because of gender mismatches, and 3% report facing physical assault due to mismatched ID.
"New York has joined several other states that have already modernized their birth certificate policies in the past several years (District of Columbia, Oregon, Washington and Vermont) as well as the federal government, which started updating its gender marker policies in 2010 to reflect modern understandings of transgender people. Not having an updated birth certificate, or having different genders listed on different pieces of ID, can cause problems in getting a job, enrolling in school, obtaining housing or public benefits, and can cause suspicion from public authorities," said Deputy Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality Lisa Mottet. "This modernized policy makes it more likely transgender people are able to live their lives on an everyday basis without facing or fearing harassment in everyday transactions."
"Transgender New Yorkers face discrimination everyday just trying to be who they are," said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "We applaud the Department of Health for taking an important step toward a society where the everyday business of being yourself is easier."
In New York State, the Department of Motor Vehicles has been providing gender-appropriate identification cards since 1987, when it eliminated its surgery requirement in favor of a medical certification from a physician, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist attesting to the individual's affirmed gender. Other states that have amended their policies include: California, District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. More information, including further instructions about the process can be found at the Department of Health's Bureau of Vital Records at: health.ny.gov/vital_records/birth.htm.
This news comes on the heels of Rochester's recent announcement that it will extend transition-related healthcare to transgender municipal employees, making it the third city in the U.S. to offer inclusive coverage. The Empire State Pride Agenda continues to fight for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) to bring New York up to speed with the more than one third of the country that already provides protections on the basis of gender identity and expression. The Pride Agenda commends the New York State Assembly for passing GENDA for each of the past several years and will continue to work with the Governor and the State Senate to pass GENDA into law.
May 30, 2014 - An independent board within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today ruled that a Medicare policy from 1989 that categorically excluded transition-related medical procedures, regardless of medical need, is unreasonable and invalid based on today's medical science.
Learn more about how this ruling affects transgender people in our Fact Sheet on Medicare Coverage of Transition-Related Care.
In response to this development, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:
"Today's ruling represents the medical community's clear understanding that gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition, and the government should not stand in the way when doctors recommend treatment. This ruling comes from an independent panel who've studied the science on transgender healthcare. Today, this panel ruled that Medicare cannot flat-out exclude medically-supported treatments for transgender people."
Keisling added, "Science and fairness are winning over outdated biases. NCTE will continue to advocate for access to medically necessary care for all transgender people."
NCTE applauds the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights for their zealous advocacy in this suit.
To speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / email@example.com / 202-631-9640.
May 10, 2014
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's statement on ABC's This Morning that the Department of Defense should review the military's policies that prohibits open transgender military service. "We look forward to working with the Pentagon to end these outdated rules that harm our military," said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling.
Thousands of transgender service members currently serve bravely and competently in all branches of the military, but are forced to hide who they are or risk losing their careers. Currently, military medical regulations disqualify transgender recruits require the discharge of service members found to be transgender. Keisling said, "These regulations are based on prejudices and stereotypes about who transgender people are and need to be updated to comport with modern medical science."
The military prides itself on the modernity and scientific basis of its medical regulations. Transgender service is one area where arbitrary and archaic regulations belie that pride. To be scientifically sound and retain the best qualified individuals, transgender service regulations should treat transgender recruits exactly the same as others and judge each person on their fitness to serve.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told ABC News that he believes the ban should be reviewed. "I do think it continually should be reviewed," he said. "I'm open to that. I'm open to those assessments, because—again, I go back to the bottom line—every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it," he said.
According to NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, "This willingness to evaluating changes to the medical regulations is overdue but very welcome. If the Secretary were able to meet and talk with the trans service members I've met, he'd understand the answer is self-evident. These are amazing people who serve even though they must hide a basic part of who they are."
Our National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by NCTE and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, showed that about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military.
We look forward to working with the Pentagon to end counterproductive and discriminatory policy.
To learn more or to speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-631-9640.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes the news that the City of Philadelphia has finally settled a federal anti-bias lawsuit brought by city library worker Bobbie Burnett. Ms. Burnett was subjected to years of workplace harassment and other discrimination after she transitioned on the job in 2002. Managers allegedly restricted her use of women's restrooms on the job, gave her undesirable job assignments, limited her contact with the public, and disciplined her for frivolous reasons.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief in federal district court supporting Ms. Burnett's case and arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on transgender status or gender transition.
Learn more here.
Today, the U.S. Senate blocked a key vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act (S. 460), a bill that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by 2015. Provisions in the bill would have also tied minimum wage increases to cost of living increases, and eventually, raised the wage for tipped workers, which has remained frozen for the last 20 years.
National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said, "The Senate's failure to move the minimum wage bill forward is a disappointing blow to transgender and LGBT Americans who are more likely than most to scrape by on poverty-level wages. Transgender people are four times more likely to be living in extreme poverty on less than $10,000 per year."
Read more here.
April 29, 2014
NCTE welcomes guidance issued today by the U.S. Department of Education which makes clear that the federal Title IX law prohibits discrimination against transgender students. The guidance, from the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), states: "Title IX's sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation."
"This announcement is a breakthrough for transgender students, who too often face hostility at school and refusal by school officials to accept them for who they truly are," said NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin. "It is now clearer than ever that schools nationwide are responsible for ensuring that transgender students are respected and safe, and students can seek protection from the Department of Education and the courts if schools fail to do so."
Recent research indicates that 80% of transgender students feel unsafe at school because of who they are [GLSEN 2012]. While the guidance does not address specific forms of discrimination against transgender students, recent actions by the Departments of Justice and Education make clear that schools must provide equal access to all school facilities and programs consistent with a student's gender identity. A 2013 federal settlement with the Arcadia, California school district, on behalf of a transgender boy excluded from school restrooms and field trip accommodations, requires school officials to treat the student as male for all purposes. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued guidance stating the nondiscrimination based on gender identity requires domestic violence shelters and other grantees under the Violence Against Women ACT (VAWA) to provide equal access consistent with a person's gender identity.
This historic statement on gender identity is embedded in a larger guidance document on the responsibilities of schools to prevent and respond to sexual violence against any student—part of a package of guidance and resources announced by the Obama Administration today to address this widespread problem. Also being launched is a new website, NotAlone.gov, collecting resources for students and schools and reporting settlements with schools related to sexual violence on campus. NCTE applauds the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the federal agencies involved in this effort.
"Sexual violence in schools is shockingly common in the U.S. and needs to stop," said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. "That the Federal Government is addressing sexual violence is so important. And it is also important, and honestly a relief, that the Department of Education is clarifying Title IX in a way that will make schools safer for transgender students."
While the Department of Education took the opportunity of issuing the sexual violence guidance to also clarify that transgender students are protected under Title IX, this protection is not limited to the context of physical or sexual violence and extends to all forms of discrimination in education. NCTE has long pressed for this guidance along with other LGBT advocates, and now urges the Department of Education to issue further detailed guidance on the rights of transgender students.
To ensure compliance with Title IX, NCTE urges schools to use our Model School District Policy on Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students, developed by NCTE and our partners at GLSEN, to update their own policies. Students or anyone aware of discrimination based on gender identity can file a complaint with the Department of Education at https://ocrcas.ed.gov/.
To learn more or to speak with Mara Keisling or Harper Jean Tobin, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / email@example.com / 202-631-9640.
April 28, 2014
The Pentagon today released the Human Goals Charter, a document that outlines the guiding principles for the treatment of Department of Defense uniform and civilian workforce that, for the first time, affirms gay and lesbian military service members.
In response to the absence of the inclusion of transgender people in the document, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:
"While this is a positive step, it's very disappointing that the Department of Defense (DOD) missed this opportunity to make clear its commitment to equal opportunity for transgender civilian workers. Transgender civilian workers at the Department of Defense are protected under sex discrimination laws because EEOC precedent makes clear that sex discrimination law protect transgender workers in all federal civilian contexts including the Department of Defense. We hope the Department will make this explicit in its civilian EEO policy, and will soon review the outdated rules, and remove the prejudice from those rules, that prevent transgender service members from serving openly and safely.
Another obvious deficiency in federal employment policy that can and should be addressed immediately is the President should sign the Executive Order that will explicitly disallow job discrimination by federal contractors including military contractors."
LGBT Advocates Commend New VAWA Non-Discrimination Guidance, Urge Other Federal Agencies to Follow Lead
April 24, 2014
As advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, we applaud the Department of Justice for issuing strong implementing guidelines for the historic non-discrimination provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), ensuring that LGBT survivors of violence receive equal services and treatment free from unlawful discrimination. The recently released Frequently Asked Questions about the new provisions are precedent-setting and will be a guide for other federal agencies on how to implement LGBT non-discrimination provisions. These provisions mark the first ever explicit protections from discrimination for LGBT people under federal law.
This guidance is a significant step forward because it makes clear that federal tax dollars under VAWA can't be used to discriminate against LGBT people. If a grantee receives any funding under VAWA, all activities of that entity are covered by the non-discrimination mandate (including employment), as well as activities that aren't related to or funded by the Department of Justice. This is hugely important because VAWA funding is disbursed to many agencies and programs around the country, including many rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, legal services, housing programs, education and prevention campaigns, courts, prosecutors, police and sheriff's departments, as well as state agencies that administer VAWA funds.
As part of this guidance, the Office of Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice (OVW) announced a framework for analyzing the limited conditions for services that are segregated or specific to gender and prohibited justifications based on overbroad assumptions or past practice. In the limited case where gender-segregated services are proven to be essential, meaningful comparable services must be provided. The policy is also historic because it is the first time a federal agency has clearly stated that non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity means that all transgender people are to be housed and provided with other services according to their self-identified gender. The guidance makes clear that transgender people can't be turned away or treated differently just because another client complains about being around a transgender person, and that staff cannot ask invasive personal questions to get a transgender person to "prove" their gender.
We urge the Department of Justice to formalize this historic guidance in binding regulations, as is standard practice with other major civil rights laws. We look forward to other federal agencies following the lead of the Department of Justice and applying similar interpretations of other laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
New York City Anti-Violence Project
212.714.1184 x 26
National Center for Transgender Equality
Vincent Paolo Villano
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project
Human Rights Campaign
April 14, 2014
Washington, DC - This week the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner, Joette Katz, transferred a 16-year-old transgender girl to an adult prison despite the lack of any criminal charges against her.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) issued a letter today urging Commissioner Katz to seek immediate removal of this youth from an adult prison.
In response to this development, NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin released the following statement:
"There just doesn't appear to be any reason for DCF, which has custody of hundreds of traumatized and troubled youth every year, to do something it has not done in this century: sending a girl who is neither an adult nor a criminal to an adult prison."
"Minors in adult prisons are extraordinarily vulnerable, and transgender youth are extremely vulnerable. We hope the Department of Corrections will do the right thing by keeping this young woman in the York women's institution and not isolating her so long as it has custody, but ultimately this youth belongs with girls her own age."
A publication released last week by the National Center for Transgender Equality aims to help LGBT groups around the country advocate for transgender people in jails and prisons, including young people. The resource, "Standing With LGBT Prisoners: An Advocate's Guide to Ending Abuse and Combating Imprisonment," is the nation's most comprehensive publication on how advocates and allies can address the harms faced by LGBT prisoners.
To speak with Harper Jean Tobin, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-631-9640.
April 8, 2014
Washington, DC - The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) lauds President Obama's effort to close the gender gap in wages by signing two executive orders and commemorating Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 as "National Equal Pay Day." President Obama's actions reaffirm executive authority to help end pervasive discrimination among federal contractors and highlights the need to extend similar protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, who attended today's signing, said, "The wage gap has been a persistent problem for trans women whose skills and contributions in the workplace are often under-valued by their employers. Partially, this is because they're trans and partially because they're women. Today's executive orders works to end half of these inequalities for some people, but a holistic view of the problem demands President Obama sign the executive order banning LGBT discrimination in federal contracting."
Issuing the LGBT nondiscrimination executive order would protect 16 million workers and stresses the significance of passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). After bi-partisan passage in the U.S. Senate in 2013, ENDA awaits action in the U.S. House. ENDA would ensure that transgender and LGB Americans would not have to hide who they are or who they love to earn a living and support their families.
"NCTE lauds the Obama Administration's orders on the minimum wage and overtime pay earlier this year and on the gender gap today. However, these orders also serve to draw attention to the inaction on nondiscrimination in federal contracting," said Keisling. "The Obama Administration should adhere to their commitment to helping all Americans thrive by banning LGBT workplace discrimination."
To speak Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / email@example.com / 202-631-9640.
NCTE thanks the Social Security Administration for issuing updated guidance that will simplify benefits applications for many transgender people and their spouses, and better ensure correct eligibility determinations.
Until now, all benefits applications involving couples with at least one transgender spouse required legal review by one of SSA's chief regional attorneys, often adding significant delays. Without clear guidance on applicable law, many benefits applications also received incorrect denials and had to be appealed. With this new guidance, most claims now can be evaluated under the normal application process, without additional and inappropriate scrutiny of the marriage.
Read more here .
March 27, 2014
Washington DC - Today, with passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act through the House of Delegates, Maryland is poised to join 17 states plus DC and Puerto Rico in explicitly banning workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. The Senate passed the bill previously and Governor O'Malley is expected to sign it.
According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey transgender Marylanders faced high rates of discrimination in everyday life. Because of their transgender identity, 71% of transgender Marylanders faced harassment or mistreatment at work, 17% reported being denied a home or apartment, and over half were verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation or service.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) applauds state and local advocates as well as allied legislators in Maryland for this important step forward for transgender Marylanders.
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling welcomes the bill's passage, "With each new state joining the side of fairness and equality, we move closer to explicitly banning job discrimination against transgender people nationwide. After years of advocacy and organizing in Annapolis, Maryland's choice to stand behind transgender people is a reminder to our elected officials on Capitol Hill that it's overdue for them to take action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act."
Washington, DC - The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) express disappointment in the final standards published today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address the severe problem of sexual abuse in immigration detention. While the final standards contain some valuable provisions, they fall short of the minimum steps needed to address the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse in immigration detention. In particular, the standards--which are, in key respects, weaker than those adopted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2012 for prisons and jails--lack critical protections for transgender immigrants, who are among the most highly vulnerable to sexual abuse.
"The rules released by DHS today are not adequate to protect the safety of tens of thousands of real people who are at risk in detention every day," said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. "While NCTE will work with our allies to see that the positive steps that did make it into the DHS rules are fully implemented, far more needs to be done to reform and ultimately end mass detention." Olga Tomchin, Soros Justice Fellow at the Transgender Law Center said, "It is a cruel irony that trans immigrants who flee persecution and believe they will be safe in the U.S. are then often met with state violence and further retraumatized by horrific treatment based on their trans status."
The weakness of the final rule is deeply concerning in light of the recent findings by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that as many as 40% of allegations of sexual abuse are not reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters, that barriers to reporting abuse exist, and that compliance with existing sexual abuse standards is not consistently monitored. Notwithstanding these systemic failures, 20% of substantiated allegations of abuse found by CRS involved transgender victims--a percentage far exceeding their representation in the detained population.
NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin said, "This is a tremendous missed opportunity which adds urgency to ending our multibillion dollar mass incarceration of immigrants. The lack of adequate protections for transgender immigrants in particular makes it clear that these vulnerable individuals are not safe in detention facilities and should no longer be detained."
Among many other protections left out of the final rule, DHS refused to add provisions prohibiting retaliatory deportation of those who report abuse; refused to strengthen protections from abusive searches or from excessive discipline of civil detainees; and refused to require facilities to use objective screening instruments. The standards fail to end long-term solitary confinement as a means of "protection," stating a presumptive limit of 30 days--twice the time period studies have shown can have lasting medical harms--and providing no real assurance that isolation will not go on even longer. Perhaps most concerning, the rules will not apply at all to many ICE contract facilities until "substantive contract modifications" with ICE occur. In other words, many facilities could remain unaffected for years to come.
Tomchin added, "Detained transgender immigrants, including our clients, frequently experience such intolerable conditions in ICE custody that they desperately agree to give up their cases and risk persecution and death after deportation rather than remain in solitary one day longer. ICE is clearly incapable of detaining trans people with even minimum levels of dignity and safety and thus must no longer detain trans immigrants."
With regard to transgender detainees, the final standards remain inadequate. DHS weakened protections provided by the DOJ PREA rule, and refused to include protections already routinely provided by many corrections and law enforcement agencies around the country. The result is that transgender detainees are left unprotected from abuse when taking showers or being searched by staff, or from being subject to punitive and discriminatory conditions on the pretext of protecting them from abuse. Moreover, the final rules permit facilities to automatically relegate detainees to restrictive "LGBT pods," which the DOJ rules banned and which the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission called "demoralizing and dangerous."
Notably, section 115.42(b) of the final rule codifies language that already existed, but which DHS has completely failed to implement, in its 2011 detention standards. This section requires that housing decisions for transgender detainees never be made solely on the basis of identity documents or physical anatomy, and instead be made on a case-by-case basis that considers a detainee's self-identification and self-assessment of safety. By its plain language, this provision applies to all housing decisions, including the decision of whether a detainee should be placed in female or male housing. This means that transgender women must be housed with other women in appropriate cases, genital anatomy notwithstanding. Although this requirement already exists in its standards, DHS has continued to house all transgender women with men based on their anatomy. Now that this rule has been codified in a binding regulation, NCTE and TLC will look to DHS to ensure it is following the law by making these placements in a meaningful number of cases for those transgender women who continue to be detained.
"We are deeply disturbed by how these regulations fail our community and clients. In particular, instead of 'protecting' transgender immigrants, placing them in solitary confinement based solely on their gender identity causes real psychological and emotional damage, especially for those asylum seekers who are already suffering from PTSD and have a history of bias-motivated arrest and detention in their birth countries," said Tomchin.
Ultimately, the numerous shortcomings of the final rule underscore that the mass incarceration of nearly 400,000 people a year in immigration detention is a failed and dangerous policy, and that immigration detention continues to be unacceptably harsh, hazardous, and unnecessary for transgender people in particular. To make matters worse, most transgender immigrants are asylum-seekers, and face unusually long periods of detention. NCTE and TLC call on President Obama and Secretary Jeh Johnson to ensure that vulnerable transgender immigrants are paroled or placed in alternative forms of custody to the maximum extent allowable by law. NCTE and TLC further calls on the President to abandon the $2 billion-dollar "bed quota" in his 2015 budget proposal, which requires incarcerating an arbitrary number of immigrants at all times.
To speak with Mara Keisling or Harper Jean Tobin, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano at firstname.lastname@example.org / (o) 202-903-0112, (c) 202-631-9640. To speak with Masen Davis or Olga Tomchin, please contact Mark Snyder at email@example.com / 415-865-0176 x310
The Associated Press reported today that the social media giant, Facebook, will provide 50 different terms for people to use to identify their gender in addition to three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them. The changes go into effect on Thursday, February 13, 2014 and the options in the list will evolve based on user input.
Learn more here.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a new rule that will extend protection from discrimination, in programs and activities conducted by the Department, on the basis of gender identity and political affiliation. Last revised in 1999 to add sexual orientation, this amendment to the USDA's non-discrimination regulations will protect transgender and gender nonconforming people seeking loans and assistance in agriculture and rural communities.
Learn more here.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and the Williams Institute, released new analysis from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), which was released by NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011. This report uses the 6,456 accounts of discrimination from transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) adults (compiled in NTDS), to find unprecedented links between experiences of discrimination, and suicide attempts among transgender people.
Learn more here.