On this page:

New Housing Regulations

DADT Report: Impact on Transgender People?

Transgender Travelers
and new TSA policies

Setbacks and
Victories at the Polls


Changes to Abstinence-
only programs

NCTE and SLDN on
the dangers of coming out

HUD issues new guidance

New Passport Policy


Organizations call to
pass ENDA now!

President Broadens
Hospital Visits

Health Care
Reform Signed

IRS Rules in Favor
of SRS Deduction

DOJ Takes Stand


News 2010

View our Email ARCHIVE

Pentagon Releases Report, Transgender People Still Cannot Serve Openly

(Washington, DC: November 30, 2010) The Pentagon today released results of a nine-month-long study that concluded that the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy will be repealed with little impact on the military’s preparedness. The authors noted that many of the objections to service by openly gay men and lesbians were based on stereotypes, not facts, and that the majority of members of the armed forces had already knowingly served with lesbians and gay men without adverse effect.

Within the report’s Frequently Asked Questions section, the Department of Defense reiterated that a change in DADT would not permit transgender servicemembers to serve openly. Transgender people are currently considered medically disqualified for service and can face other roadblocks if they come out while serving. These policies have to change to allow transgender people to serve openly; a number of United States allies have already repealed similar policies in their own armed forces.

NCTE applauds the Department of Defense for recognizing the unfounded basis for discrimination against lesbian and gay servicemembers.  We call on the military to also take action to repeal the policies which bar transgender servicemembers from enlisting or serving openly.  Like the policies that currently limit service based on sexual orientation, the bans on service by transgender people are also based on stereotypes and a lack of accurate information. It is also important that the report recognizes that the creation of separate bathroom and sleeping facilities only exacerbates the problems of discrimination, by stigmatizing certain troops.

It is also important that transgender servicemembers recognize that even though, if DADT is repealed, they will no longer run the risk of being falsely caught up in an investigation about their sexual orientation, but they still remain at significant risk for discharge if they reveal their gender identity. NCTE encourages all transgender servicemembers who have concerns or are considering coming out to contact the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: 202-328-3244 x100. Early this year, NCTE and SLDN released information for transgender servicemembers, which we urge you to consult.

The Senate is due to consider DADT repeal in hearings on Thursday and Friday this week. Advocates for DADT repeal are urging people to call their Senators to end this discriminatory policy. Read the action alert from SLDN here: http://www.sldn.org/content/pages/2313/ or contact your Senator by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Transgender Travelers and New TSA Policies

As transgender people and our families prepare to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, many have expressed concern about the various new invasive equipment and procedures at the airport announced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

NCTE opposes the routine use of full-body scanners and the new invasive patdown procedures. We have and will continue to work with the TSA to minimize privacy intrusions and ensure respectful treatment of transgender travelers.

We want all of our members and friends to have safe and uneventful travel this season; here are some ideas and information to help you do that.

First, it is important that you KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Even if TSA personnel are not always familiar with travelers’ rights, such as the right to decline a full-body scan, you should know them. You may need to politely inform the officer of your rights and choices.

Second, calmly and clearly expressing your choices is very important. This makes it easier for the TSA agents to understand what your needs are and may help you get through the checkpoint more quickly.

Here’s what is new:

Airports are increasingly using full-body scanning technology to screen passengers, as a primary or secondary method of screening. These machines reveal intimate contours of travelers’ bodies. [For a fuller understanding of whole body imaging and transgender people, see NCTE’s resource.]

You have the right to choose whether or not to be screened in this way. If you choose not to be screened with a full-body scan, which shows TSA personnel an image of your unclothed body, you will patted down instead.

New, more invasive, patdown procedures will be used for passengers who decline a full-body image scan, set off a metal detector, or are randomly selected for additional screening. They are not to be used on travelers under the age of 13.

The new procedures are much more intrusive than in the past. They involve TSA officers using their palms and fingers to touch underneath and between breasts, inside thighs, and in the groin area and buttocks. While the TSA has said these new procedures are intended to improve safety, many travelers find the techniques extremely uncomfortable and inappropriately intrusive.

The new policy presents transgender travelers with a difficult choice between invasive touching and a scan that reveals the intimate contours of the body. Unless and until NCTE and our allies can get these unreasonable policies fixed, NCTE encourages transgender travelers to think through the available options and make their own decisions about which procedure feels least uncomfortable and less unsafe.

Travelers should keep the following points in mind:

  • Both travelers and TSA personnel have the right to be treated with dignity, discretion and respect. If you encounter any issues, politely ask to speak to a supervisor immediately. Remain polite. Do not raise your voice or threaten TSA staff; this only results in additional delays.
  • You have the right to opt out of a full-body scan in favor of a manual patdown. It is your choice.
  • You have the right to choose whether a pat down is conducted in the public screening area or in a private area, and, if in a private area, whether to be accompanied by a travel companion.
  • You have the right to have manual search procedures performed by an officer who is of the same gender as the gender you are currently presenting yourself as. This does not depend on the gender listed on your ID, or on any other factor. If TSA officials are unsure who should pat you down, ask to speak to a supervisor and calmly insist on the appropriate officer.
  • You should not be subjected to additional screening or inquiry because of any discrepancy between a gender marker on an ID and your appearance. As long as your ID has a recognizable picture of you on it, with your legal name and birth date, it should not cause any problem.
  • Foreign objects under clothing such as binding, packing or prosthetic devices may show up as unknown or unusual images on a body scan or patdown, which may lead TSA personnel to do additional screening. This does not mean that you cannot fly with these items, only they may lead to further screening. Be prepared to give a brief description of what they are or check them in your luggage so that you can minimize scrutiny and delays.
  • Items containing liquid, gel or powder substances will trigger additional security screenings and therefore we strongly recommend that you pack these items in your checked luggage or leave them at home.
  • Wigs or hairpieces may require additional screening if they are bulky or not form-fitting. If you have gone through a metal detector or body scanner and TSA personnel want to do additional screening of a wig or hairpiece, you may request that a patdown be limited to your hairpiece or that you be permitted to pat the area down yourself and have your hands swiped for chemical residue.
  • If you are carrying medically prescribed items, such as syringes for hormone injections or vaginal dilators, it is very helpful to have proof of the medical necessity of the item(s). Ask your doctor for a letter stating that he or she has prescribed the item or keep medical devices in their pharmacy packaging that includes a prescription label. Be prepared to briefly explain the purpose of the item if asked.

If you encounter a problem

  • Calmly state the problem and ask the TSA to take the appropriate action. If TSA personnel are unaware of your rights, there are sometimes placards with general information, such as the right to refuse to enter a full-body scanner, in the screening area. You can politely refer TSA screeners to them.
  • We strongly encourage you not to get in a confrontation with TSA personnel if at all possible. Threatening the TSA or other passengers or acting violently can result in very serious criminal charges. However, this does not mean that you cannot assert your rights, just that you should do so as calmly and positively as possible.
  • If you encounter a problem, you have the right to file a complaint about any incident with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. We encourage you to do this immediately after the incident, or as soon as you are able, and to also let NCTE know of the problem. This helps both us and the TSA know of the problem and hopefully resolve and prevent future problems.

Changing the Policy

NCTE is working hard and has spent considerable time and resources with the TSA to address the concerns of transgender travelers, and we will continue to do so. Realistically, the policies outlined above are not going to change because they are invasive to transgender passengers but because they are intrusive to everyone subjected to them. In this instance, joining our voices more generally with other Americans may be the most effective way to bring about change.

If you would like to take action as well, here are some suggestions:

  • Complete a feedback form on the TSA’s website as part of their “Talk to TSA” program. This sends your feedback directly to the agency.
  • Join together with other Americans who are protesting this policy, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, privacy groups and others. You can visit the ACLU’s Take Action and Tell Us Your Story pages.
  • Contact your members of Congress and urge them to take action. You can reach both your Representative and your Senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
  • If you decide to participate in other actions, such as the “Opt Out” day proposed for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, consider carefully any additional challenges or risks that might be present for transgender people when making your decision.

Setbacks and Victories at the Polls

(November 3, 2010) Yesterday, Americans went to the polls and made significant changes as Republicans took the majority of the US House of Representatives and many of the state legislatures. This shift will make it more difficult to pass anti-discrimination legislation on both the federal and state levels. 

But there is also positive news for transgender people: Victoria Kolakowski has become the nation’s first elected openly transgender judge and Kim Coco Iwamoto won reelection to her seat on Hawaii’s Board of Education.  LGBT candidates won their races in record numbers yesterday and David Cicilline of Rhode Island was elected as the fourth openly gay member of the House of Representatives, joining Reps. Barney Frank (MA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), and Jared Polis (CO) on the Hill.

“We are really delighted by the election of two openly transgender candidates. But the changes in Congress are definitely a setback to our work on federal legislation to counter the discrimination transgender people face,” noted NCTE’s Executive Director, Mara Keisling, “We will continue educating elected officials about who transgender people are and why it is so important to pass laws that protect us from discrimination. Some politicians are obviously harder than others, and the new Congress will certainly be much more difficult than the last one, but we know for sure that education and information will eventually turn the tide.  We are going to pass non-discrimination laws in the future and we are going to continue to secure policies that are fair to transgender people.”

Transgender Candidates Win!

NCTE is particularly excited about the number of transgender candidates who won their primaries and were on the general election ballots yesterday. Each of them—all openly transgender— worked hard to communicate with voters about why they were qualified for office. Congratulations to each of them for their courage and hard work this election season that raised the visibility of transgender people in the electoral process.

We are delighted to announce that both Victoria Kolakowski and Kim Coco Iwamoto won their races:

Victoria Kolakowski, a lawyer and administrative law judge with over 20 years of legal experience ran for Superior Court Judge in Alameda County, California and is now the nation’s first openly transgender trial judge.  She competed yesterday in a run-off election against John Creighton, the Deputy District Attorney for the county. Kolakowski was one of this year’s Victory Fund candidates and ran a strong campaign, noting both the historical nature of her campaign and her legal qualifications. http://kolakowskiforjudge.com/

Kim Coco Iwamoto, currently serves on Hawaii’s Board of Education, in an at-large seat representing Oahu, the state’s most populous island, and secured a second four year term. She first became involved in the schools as a foster parent. She has also worked as the Managing Attorney for Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, which provides free or affordable legal services to low income residents of the state as well as to the non-profits that assist them.  Voters returned her to her seat; she placed second out of a slate of six candidates competing for three open seats.  http://kimcoco.com/

Two other transgender candidates in the general election worked hard in their races, making a strong showing.

Brittany Novatny, an attorney who specializes in employment and civil rights law, challenged incumbent conservative Sally Kerns for her seat in the Oklahoma state House of Representatives. Kerns is perhaps best known for her March 2008 statement that gays pose a bigger threat to the nation than terrorists. Novatny campaigned hard and continued talking to voters up until the time the polls closed yesterday. She garnered 34.11% of the vote in a heavily conservative district against an incumbant.  http://brittany4hd84.com/

Theresa Sparks ran for San Francisco City Supervisor in District 6. Sparks is the former CEO of Good Vibrations, a woman owned and run sex toy business, and she has co-chaired the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club in San Francisco. Her background includes the development and management of several environmentally focused businesses.  She serves on the city’s Human Rights Commission and has been on the Police Commission.  The results are not yet final for this race, but Sparks is currently 3rd among the candidates running for the seat.  http://www.sparksfor6.com

Among other transgender candidates who competed in primary elections, former NCTE Board member Dr. Dana Beyer ran for a seat in the state legislature in Montgomery County, Maryland.


New study findings show pervasive bullying of and violence toward transgender and gender non-conforming people, alarmingly high rates of suicide attempts

“… my suicide attempt had a lot to do with the fact that I felt hopeless and alone in regards to my gender identity.” — Survey respondent

 “[I was] harassed in public during high school, rocks thrown at me in the parking lot of high school, harassed in restaurants, drug-seeking behavior, suicide attempt, nothing about my gender identity is a conscious choice — this is the way I came out.” — Survey respondent

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 — More than half of transgender and gender non-conforming people who were bullied, harassed or assaulted in school because of their gender identity have attempted suicide, according to just-released findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality.

“From our experience working with transgender people, we had prepared ourselves for high rates of suicide attempts, but we didn’t expect anything like this,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.  “Our study participants reported attempting suicide at a rate more than 25 times the national average.”  Forty-one percent of all respondents reported that they had attempted suicide, compared with a national estimated rate of 1.6 percent.

“These shocking and disheartening numbers speak to the urgency of ending bullying in our nation’s schools and ending discrimination in our nation’s workplaces. We know from the recent rash of suicides among young people who have been bullied just how critical it is that we act now and act decisively to save lives,” says Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Among those who had been bullied, harassed or assaulted while they were in school, half reported having attempted suicide. Most notably, suicide attempt rates rise dramatically when teachers were the reported perpetrators: 59 percent for those harassed or bullied by teachers, 76 percent among those who were physically assaulted by teachers and 69 percent among those who were sexually assaulted by teachers. 

Of those who reported that they had to “leave school because the harassment was so bad,” 68 percent said they attempted suicide. Fully 61 percent of respondents who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in school reported significant abuses in educational settings. From elementary through graduate school, the survey showed high levels of harassment and bullying (59 percent), physical assault (23 percent), sexual assault (8 percent), and expulsion from school (5 percent), all on the basis of gender identity or expression. 

Other findings include:

  • Thirty-five percent of the participants who had been bullied, harassed, assaulted or expelled because of their gender identity or expression while in school said that they used drugs or alcohol to cope with the effects of discrimination, compared to 21 percent of those who had not had similar experiences in school.
  • Twenty-five percent reported that they were currently or formerly homeless, compared to 14 percent of those who did not report mistreatment in schools.
  • Those who reported they had to “leave school because the harassment was so bad,” had an HIV infection rate of more than 5 percent, which is more than eight times the HIV infection rate for the general U.S. population.

These suicide statistics are part of broader findings related to health care and health for transgender and gender non-conforming people that will be released next week. Preliminary findings related to employment and economic insecurity, which describes employment discrimination and unemployment rates, were previously released late last year and are available here.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey is the most extensive survey of transgender discrimination ever done. It includes responses from more than 6,400 people from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups calls HHS changes to abstinence-only programs a significant step forward

(July 30, Washington, DC) A coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organizations commended the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today for announcing important changes to the way in which the “abstinence-only-until marriage” program will be administered. The coalition includes national LGBT organizations working on youth issues, including the Family Equality Council; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); National Center for Transgender Equality; National Coalition for LGBT Health; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; and The Trevor Project.

The changes, which roll back the draconian and profoundly anti-LGBT ways in which the program was run during the Bush administration, will allow states to choose which sections of the program they will highlight and allow them to fund programs utilizing mentoring, counseling and adult supervision programs. In addition, the changes highlight the unique impact these programs have on LGBT youth so that states can work to lessen the harm caused, and they require programs to provide information that is “medically accurate,” meaning it cannot be based on unproven or false information.

“This is a major step in the right direction for all families. We applaud HHS and urge Congress to finally end destructive abstinence-only programs. All children deserve science-based education programs that are inclusive of everyone, including our LGBT loved ones,” said PFLAG Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby.

“The abstinence-only program was resurrected from its well-deserved grave during the fight over the passage of health care reform, but today HHS has taken the sour lemon it was handed and is doing what it can to limit the damage,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The “abstinence-only-until-marriage” program was created by Congress in 1981 and since then more than $1.9 billion has been allocated to states to implement it. Repeated studies have shown the program to be counterproductive at worst and ineffective at best. The program has been particularly harmful to LGBT youth and children with LGBT parents because the Bush administration interpreted the law to require programs to teach each of the eight definitions of “abstinence-only” contained in the law, six of which hold that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong and has harmful psychological and physical effects.

Family Equality Council Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler said, "During the Bush administration, the children of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents were invisible at best and demonized at worst. Abstinence-only education programs either did not include them or discussed their parents as ill. They were marginalized and degraded simply because of who their parents are. By respecting all families and all children and ensuring all who need it get the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their health, these proposed changes will actually save lives.”

Under the laws of 45 of the 50 states, same-sex couples cannot marry and young LGBT people have been, in effect, taught they can never have sex or fulfilling relationships. Children with LGBT parents have been marginalized and have been taught that their families and their parents are not valued. As a result of this and other deficiencies, a growing number of states have refused to participate in the program; 23 states and the District of Columbia declined to do so in 2009.

 “These programs have sent young people ill-prepared into the world by denying them accurate information about their health and relationships,” said Rebecca Fox, executive director of the National Coalition for LGBT Health.

“GLSEN is encouraged by this announcement and the positive effects these changes will have for LGBT youth,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “Not only do many abstinence-only curricula provide misleading and medically inaccurate information about health matters such as the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, they also explicitly ostracize and may even harm LGBT students. GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey found that LGBT students in schools with abstinence-only curriculum reported higher levels of harassment and assault, were more likely to feel unsafe and miss school, and had fewer supportive educators than in schools without such curriculum. We owe it to our youth to make sure that our school policies are inclusive of all students.”

Under the HHS funding announcement released today, states will no longer be required to teach all eight elements of the law — reverting to the Clinton administration interpretation — but must affirmatively demonstrate that all programs are “medically accurate” and must make a distinction between what is opinion and medical fact. For the first time states will also be obligated to consider the implications of their proposal for and the needs of LGBT youth. Finally, states will now be allowed to use these funds for mentoring counseling and adult supervision.

“The Trevor Project is heartened by this move toward the eventual end of abstinence only education and recognizes the Department of Health Human Services for their commitment to better education for LGBTQ youth. Abstinence-only education, which is medically inaccurate and misleading, far too often leaves LGBTQ youth in the margins and at increased risk for health disparities,” said Charles Robbins, executive director of The Trevor Project. “Fostering an environment that is inclusive for all sexual orientations and gender identities is integral to promoting healthy outcomes in this community and reducing the risk of suicide.”

Advocates said their goal continued to be getting the abstinence-only statute re-repealed. Both houses of Congress moved to do so in 2009, but it was reinstated in the passage of the Health Care Reform Act, which included an appropriation of $250 million over five years to continue it.

“From the beginning, abstinence-only programs have been harmful for LGBTQ kids and their families because these programs ignore the realities of adolescent sexual behavior and put adolescents’ health at risk by denying them accurate information about their health. We urge Congress to eliminate abstinence-only programs once and for all,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.



As you know, Congress may repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) soon. But you should remember two things: 1) even if Congress votes to repeal the law, actual repeal is contingent on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the President taking some additional steps to finalize the change;  and 2) DADT only applies to service members who are gay, lesbian or bisexual—not to transgender service members.  Even if DADT is repealed, you can still be discharged for being transgender.

The military can discharge you for being transgender in two ways:

  • You may be considered medically unfit because of Gender Identity Disorder;
  • You may be considered medically unfit if you have had genital surgery.

Transgender people are sometimes impacted by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

Even though DADT doesn’t directly apply to you, transgender people have been discharged under DADT in the past and will continue to be until it is repealed. Investigators may not know the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. If you are serving as a woman, but wear men’s clothing or have a masculine appearance, military investigators may assume that you are a lesbian; likewise, if you are serving as a male, but wear women’s clothing or have a feminine appearance, investigators may believe that you are gay.

Transgender people are also impacted by other rules and regulations:

It can be considered prejudicial to good order and discipline to act or dress in ways that don’t meet stereotypes of men and women. For example, service members can be court-martialed for cross-dressing.

There is also a duty to report any change in your medical status.  If, for example, you take hormones, or if you have top surgery, there is a duty to report that “change in medical status” to the military.  That information could lead to your discharge for being transgender.

Warning about talking to medical professionals and chaplains:

You should also be aware that DoD recently made changes to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that allow lesbian, gay and bisexual service members to make confidential statements about their sexual orientation to mental health, medical and religious professionals. These protections, unfortunately, do not apply to you. It is not safe to reveal that you are transgender or that you have questions about whether you may be transgender.


  • Service members should NOT come out as transgender[1].
  • Transgender service members still cannot openly serve within the military.
  • Transgender service members will still be discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" until the law is repealed, even though it doesn’t directly apply.
  • You should not share information or questions about your gender identity with medical doctors, psychologists or chaplains [2].
  • Contact SLDN to schedule an appointment with an SLDN attorney if you have questions about your status.

What we’re doing about it

Because Congress created a separate law, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that singles out service members who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, it is important to remember that work on repealing that law is important but different than the work being done to address the right of transgender people to serve openly. The military will need to update its understanding of the medical and mental health treatment of transgender people before you can be open about your gender identity.

Both of our organizations will continue to work until all LGBT service members, including transgender people, can serve openly, without fear of discrimination or discharge because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

As you know, changing military policy takes time. We are building the arguments—based on modern medicine and mental health care—to address the wrong and outdated way that the military considers transgender people as unfit to serve and strategizing about ways to address the military’s policy of discrimination.
SLDN continues to provide much-needed legal services to transgender people caught up in DADT or being discharged because of their transgender identity.  If you need help, call 202-328-3244 x100 or email legal@sldn.org to schedule an appointment with an SLDN attorney. If you have concerns about your status, please contact them right away.

We know that this situation is unfair and wrong and we will keep working to change it. But until those changes come down the road, we want you and your family to be safe.


[1]We respect the fact that some servicemembers may feel they need to come out for a variety of personal reasons. However, you should be aware that coming out as transgender will almost certainly end your career in the military, may lead to disciplinary action, and can have other very negative outcomes for you and your family. If you feel you need to come out, we urge you to speak to SLDN first so that you are fully informed and understand the discharge and/or discipline processes that will begin after you come out.

[2] You can speak confidentially to a civilian religious professional, provided that you are specifically seeking spiritual services, such as confession or pastoral care. However, if you seek civilian medical or mental health care, you are required to report this to the military, and so discussing your gender identity with those types of providers puts you at significant risk.

HUD Takes Action to End Housing Discrimination Against Transgender People
New guidance issued today by HUD

(Washington, DC, July 1, 2010) Today the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided new guidance on the Fair Housing Act, instructing HUD staff that discrimination against transgender people can be addressed under the existing federal law’s ban on gender discrimination. The new policy offers additional help to transgender people who experience discrimination.

“Ending discrimination in housing is absolutely vital. Everyone deserves to have a safe home where they do not have to worry about eviction or harassment simply because of their gender identity,” noted Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Many thanks to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, his department, and the President Obama for their leadership working to ensure fairness in housing for LGBT people and for this important step forward.”

While sexual orientation and gender identity are not specifically named in the Fair Housing Act, HUD notes that transgender people are often covered by the ban on gender discrimination, and that discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may sometimes be covered by other aspects of the law. For example, discrimination against a gay man who has HIV, or is thought to have HIV, could be a violation of federal laws banning disability discrimination, while a woman who is discriminated against because she wears masculine clothing may be covered under the provisions that bar gender discrimination. In addition, HUD today re-stated its commitment to work actively with state and local jurisdictions that do include sexual orientation and gender identity in their laws to be sure that people are aware of their rights.

Last October, HUD announced a series of initiatives to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the country’s housing. These commitments included requiring all applicants for HUD grants to comply with state and local nondiscrimination laws, developing regulations to clarify the inclusion of LGBT families in HUD programs, and planning a groundbreaking national study of anti-LGBT housing discrimination.

Along with the new Fair Housing Act guidance, HUD launched a web page which provides information for Americans who may be experiencing housing discrimination and lists states which offer protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The web page tells individuals how file a complaint with the federal government as well as with state agencies. 

Housing discrimination remains a dangerous and prevalent part of life for transgender people. In a survey that NCTE conducted last year with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 19% of the respondents had been homeless because of their gender identity, a staggeringly high number.  While the work that HUD has done so far has been very important, much remains to be done. NCTE continues to call for the inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation in the Fair Housing Act.  

If you have experienced housing discrimination or believe that you may be about to be discriminated against, we encourage you to call HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 for assistance.

VICTORY: State Department Changes Passport Policy

(June 10, Washington, DC) Last night the US Department of State announced new guidelines for issuing passports to transgender people. Beginning today, applicants for a gender marker change on their passports will need to submit certification from a physician that they have received "appropriate clinical treatment" for gender transition. Most importantly, gender reassignment surgery is not required under the new policy.  

The new rules will also apply to changing a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) for US citizens who were born outside of the United States.  CRBA’s are the equivalent of a birth certificate.

For years, NCTE has been advocating with the State Department to change their rules about gender markers on passports and CRBA’s.  Previously they had required proof of irreversible sex reassignment surgery before the gender marker could be changed, although there were exceptions for temporary, provisional passports to allow someone to travel for surgery.

NCTE and other advocates have stressed with the State Department that this policy unnecessarily called attention to transgender travelers whose appearance and gender marker were at odds. In some destinations, this had the potential to create an extremely dangerous situation when a traveler is outed as transgender in an unwelcoming environment or in the presence of prejudiced security personnel.

Fortunately, the new rules represent a significant advance in providing safe, humane and dignified treatment of transgender people.  There are details in the guidelines about what information a physician must provide and we will communicate those to you as soon as possible. However, the State Department notes that applicants will not need to supply any additional medical documentation and that there is no SRS requirement.

“We want to extend our thanks to the Obama Administration, and particularly to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, for understanding the need for this change and then responding to make travel safer for transgender people,” commented Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE.  “This shows how changes in government policy directly impact people’s lives, in this case, for the better.”

In the next few days, NCTE will be issuing a definitive resource that fully explains the new guidelines and outlines the ways in which transgender people can make changes to their passports and CRBAs.

Many people—from elected officials to LGBT advocates—have worked for years to change these policies and deserve credit and thanks. Particularly important work was done by Rep. Barney Frank as well as Rep. Steve Israel in the House of Representatives; Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), which represents LGBT employees and their families working in foreign affairs offices for the US government; all of our allied LGBT organizations who have been committed to this work, including the Council for Global Equality, The Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign; and those working on medical policies, including the American Medical Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).

The full policy can be read on the State Department website.

Calling on all Trans People & Allies: Send your Resumes to Congress

(April 28, 2010) Are you or a friend looking for work? Do you only have a part-time or temporary job? Are you afraid of coming out at work and would like to have a job where you don't have to worry every day about being fired? Are you being harassed at work and wish you had a better job? If so, this important action is for you!!

Because we are in the final push to get ENDA passed in the House of Representatives, we are calling on transpeople to go look for work-at your member of Congress' office. We need you to demonstrate to Congress that we need jobs and we are determined to get them. Whether you are a carpenter or a physicist, a politician or a factory worker, ask them for a job and for your rights!

We've included a sample cover letter to send to your Congressional office that calls on your member of Congress to support your job search by supporting ENDA. Personalize the cover letter as you see fit, print out a copy of your résumé, and go down to your Representative's office that is closest to your home and hand it in.

Here are some tips:

  • You can find out who your member of Congress is and where their offices are located at http://www.house.gov.
  • You can find help on how to write a résumé and other job search tips at:
  • Congress is a formal white-collar institution, so put on the best business clothes that you have (for example, a suit, pantsuit or blouse and skirt) so you'll be taken seriously as a Congressional job applicant
  • Print out your cover letter and résumé neatly
  • If you absolutely can't travel to your Representative's district office, fax or e-mail your information.

Take your letter to your Representative's office whether or not they support ENDA-the purpose of this action is to demonstrate the need for jobs for transgender and other LGBT people. And, you might get work as well! We hope so.

Please also send a copy to NCTE and we will deliver the resumes and this important message to the White House and your state's Senators, asking for their active support in putting transgender people back to work.

We need your help NOW to reach every transperson who is unemployed or underemployed and ask them to take action. Will you please help us bring this message home to Congress?

We need people in each and every Congressional district in the country to demonstrate the urgency of ENDA for transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

With a trans unemployment rate twice the national average, we need Congress to act now.

And if you have a job, support those in our community who are out of work by calling your member of Congress right now and urging them to support ENDA, HR 3017.


To let your members of Congress know how you feel about ENDA, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to speak to your Representative (have your zip code handy and they'll help identify your member of Congress).

When you are connected with your Representative's office, give your name and your city and then let them know:

I am calling in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H. R. 3017/S. 1584), which will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from job discrimination. No one deserves to be fired from their job because of who they are. Please vote yes for ENDA.

If you get voicemail, feel free to leave a message-the messages are listened to and count just as much as if you reach a staff member. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you've called in the past, no problem ... call again or write or visit. And if you really can't call tomorrow, call on a different day.

And please, forward this message to your friends, family members and allies.


There are many ideas about how you can take action on NCTE's ENDA webpage. Visit it today. The more we all do, the more likely we are to pass this vital legislation. It is up to us.

It's time to demand a vote on ENDA

(May 17, 2010) "We've worked and worked and gotten sufficient votes to make sure gender identity stays in the bill," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, "but the bill is not being prioritized."
Bay Windows, May 13, 2010

A fully-inclusive ENDA now has the votes to pass the House of Representatives. We believe that Congress has failed to prioritize this important LGBT bill and so, despite all of the education, despite the fact that the American public supports workplace equality, despite all of your efforts and ours-the bill is has not yet moved.

People around the country are taking action. Folks in California, please scroll down and see about the actions specifically happening in your state. A big push is underway and we urge you to take part.

We need each and every person to take action to get ENDA passed-whether you've been calling your member of Congress every week or whether this is your first action-please, please, please, call them now. We need every member of Congress to hear from constituents who want this bill to pass. For the first time that we're aware of, we're holding our own-and even surpassing-the right wing on phone calls. But that won't last unless we act; we're hearing that anti-LGBT form letters are starting to pour in. We must keep the pressure up.

Employment rights are simply basic rights. Further delays on ENDA are unacceptable. Transgender people's lives are in the balance because people must have jobs to live and support their families. Currently, there is no federal law giving us any job protections; under ENDA, we'll gain the rights to be free of harassment and discrimination. It's time to pass this bill.

Here's what we're asking you to do:

  • Call your Representative by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected to their office. When you reach the office or their voice mail, tell them you support HR 3017 and ask them to pass it now, without amendments, and ask your member of Congress to call their leadership to bring ENDA up for a vote;
  • Continue our direct action by taking your resume to your Representative's district office. Ask them to support you and to support a fully-inclusive ENDA;
  • We're burning the midnight oil here and pulling out all the stops to pass ENDA. We need your financial support to help us keep the pressure on Congress. Any amount you can contribute will make a difference in this effort.

All of the work we've done to secure these votes shouldn't be wasted .... Let's get that vote to happen!

President Broadens Hospital Visitation Rights
Transgender people able to designate our visitors, decision makers

(April 16, 2010) In a very personally worded memo yesterday, President Obama instructed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure that all patients have a right to designate their visitors while they are in the hospital. This would apply to any hospital in the country that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, which means it would impact the vast majority of US hospitals. The President also called for policies that would ban discrimination against visitors based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the first mention of gender identity ever in a Presidential memorandum.

This is a major step forward for the rights of patients to designate the people in their lives who they wish to be present with them during times of illness and to make critical health care decisions for them if they are unable to do so. It represents an important sign of respect for an individual's freedom to make their own choices about issues that matter most.

In his memorandum, after giving examples of people who had experienced discrimination in the past, the President remarked,

For all of these Americans, the failure to have their wishes respected concerning who may visit them or make medical decisions on their behalf has real consequences. It means that doctors and nurses do not always have the best information about patients' medications and medical histories ... that friends and ... certain family members are unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate patients' needs. It means that a stressful and at times terrifying experience for patients is senselessly compounded by indignity and unfairness.

When the new rules are issued, people in same sex relationships will secure the ability to visit their partners-an important victory for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Transgender people will also benefit, regardless of sexual orientation, by the right to choose people in their lives who accept and understand their identities and are therefore best equipped to support them in times of need. Unfortunately, transgender people may still have family members who fail to respect the person's gender identity and may therefore make choices that would run counter to their wishes. By calling for a ban on discrimination based on gender identity and allowing individuals to choose whomever they wish to make decisions for them, the President is helping to ensure that transgender patients are treated with dignity and respect.

The President went on to call on HHS to deliver additional recommendations to him within the next 180 days about ways to "address hospital visitation, medical decisionmaking, or other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families." This policy won't go into immediate effect since new regulations will need to be drafted, but this is the first step of a process which will have a strong and positive impact on LGBT people.

NCTE wishes to extend our heartfelt thanks to President Obama for this groundbreaking step and for his leadership in ensuring that all Americans are able to have our loved ones at our side at the times we need them most.

Learn More

Health Care Reform Signed into Law
How will it impact transgender people?

(March 23, 2010: (Washington, DC) President Barack Obama today signed into law an historic bill designed to increase access to health care throughout the United States. NCTE applauds the healthcare reform bill's passage into law. Through this act, more people, including transgender people, will be able to afford health insurance, be covered by existing plans, and obtain the care they need.

The impact of this legislation will begin this year as insurance companies will be required to cover children with pre-existing conditions, dependent children can remain on their parents' health insurance until they are 26, lifetime caps on coverage will be lifted and Medicare recipients will find additional help in paying for prescription drugs.

Over the next few years, the healthcare reform law will ensure that millions of people in the United States can afford insurance coverage. The law will also subsidize insurance premiums to make insurance coverage affordable. Additionally, Medicaid will now cover every individual up to age 65 (families with or without children, pregnant women, adults without dependent children) with incomes up to 133% of the federal policy level.

NCTE strongly supports the expansion of coverage that this bill provides as well as the provisions that would decrease discrimination. We are, however, disappointed that some LGBT-specific proposals that were in the original House bill were dropped from the final version. We will continue to work to address the ways in which discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity leads to a disparity of health access in our country. There are, however, positive impacts that this legislation will have on transgender Americans.


The Health Care Reform law will impact transgender people through:

  • Increased access to health insurance: Because of rampant workplace discrimination, transgender people are under- and unemployed at significant rates, with an incidence of poverty at more than twice the national average. The reform law's provisions that impact low-income Americans will provide new opportunities for many transgender people to access health insurance.
  • Cannot be denied coverage or dropped: Also importantly, the healthcare reform law would prohibit insurance companies from dropping or denying coverage to individuals or their dependents because of their 1) pre-existing condition, 2) medical condition, 3) claims experience, 4) receipt of healthcare, 5) medical history, 6) genetic information, 7) disability, and 8) any other health-status related factor determined appropriate by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This means that transgender people cannot be dropped or denied coverage by insurance companies because they are transgender or have received transition-related medical care. This is a huge leap forward for the transgender community. However, this provision does not affect insurance companies' exclusion of transition-related care.
  • Ban on some forms of discrimination: Additionally, the law also forbids discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, age, and disability. If an individual experiences discrimination by a medical provider or organization, (s)he may seek remedies under existing statutes that protect the previously mentioned groups. Even though sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are not included in the anti-discrimination provision, current federal, state, and local anti-discrimination statutes that protect the LGBT community are still in force.


Transgender people continue to face barriers to health care that we must continue to address:

  • Discrimination and distrust: Transgender people suffer from multiple barriers to accessing affordable and quality healthcare, including extraordinarily high rates of discrimination from medical providers and organizations. Lambda Legal conducted a survey which found that 70% of transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents had experience some form of discrimination by medical practitioners. Because of this discrimination, transgender people mistrust medical professionals and put off necessary preventive care and treatment. This leads to additional complications and deteriorating health, and adds additional costs.
  • Lack of insurance and denial of coverage: Because of discrimination in the workplace, there is a significant lack of insurance coverage within the transgender community. Even if they do have insurance, transgender people often times cannot access medically necessary care because insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid explicitly exclude transition-related care. Additionally, many insurance companies refuse to cover transgender people at all. Some insurance companies do provide coverage to transgender people but deny claims citing that transition-related treatments can lead to other, unrelated health issues, even when there is no scientifically based link between them.

US Tax Court Rules in Favor of SRS Deduction

In a closely-watched case, the United States Tax Court overwhelmingly ruled on Tuesday in O'Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue that a transgender woman's medical expenses for hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery were medically necessary and therefore tax-deductible under Federal law. After considering extensive medical evidence and testimony from leading medical experts, the court rejected an interpretation of the law that would consider transgender people's medical treatment different than all other medically necessary treatment recommended by major medical and psychological organizations.

"Finally, we have recognition from the courts of what transgender people and our medical providers have known all along-that transition related care is absolutely necessary health care for the wellbeing of many transgender people," said Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "Being able to deduct a portion of costly medical treatments will make it more affordable for transgender people to follow through with the care their doctors prescribe. For the IRS to treat transgender people and non-transgender people differently was discrimination, plain and simple, and now that has ended."

The court's decision does not mean that all medical treatments and procedures associated with gender transition will be tax-deductible. Like all other medical treatments, deductibility will be based on the medical necessity of the treatment as determined by qualified medical providers in accordance with recognized clinical standards of care. The court recognized, as have the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and many others, based on overwhelming medical evidence, that transition-related health care is non-cosmetic, medically necessary healthcare.

The case stems from a decision by the IRS to reject Rhiannon O'Donnabhain's deduction of her expenses for sex reassignment surgery in 2001 from her federal income tax. The case went to trial in 2007. Ms. O'Donnabhain was represented by the Transgender Rights Project of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

NCTE applauds GLAD's groundbreaking and powerful work and perseverance to win this important victory, and thanks Rhiannon O'Donnabhain for her willingness to stand up and challenge the inequity of the IRS's policies. Her courage and determination will have an impact on the health of transgender people around our country for many years to come.

Department of Justice Takes a Stand for Equality

The National Center for Transgender Equality praises the U.S. Department of Justice for joining a landmark federal lawsuit on behalf of a gender non-conforming middle school student who faced a two-year ordeal of harassment and abuse because of his gender expression.  The Department’s action last week marks the first time in a decade the US government has gone to court to combat discrimination based on gender expression.

In 2007 through 2009, Jacob L. of Mohawk, NY, endured an escalating pattern of verbal and physical abuse and threats throughout his seventh and eighth grade years. By the end of this time, Jacob was so fearful of his abusers that he stopped attending school. Shockingly, school officials had long been aware of the abuse but failed to intervene, not even following their own internal policies. Jacob was essentially denied an education by the school’s continual disregard for his safety, and transferred to another district. With the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Jacob filed suit last summer, alleging that the District violated his rights under the Constitution and the federal Title IX statute, which prohibits gender discrimination in education.

On January 14, Justice Department filed suit against the District on the behalf of the United States, seeking an injunction to force the district to take concrete and ongoing steps to prevent any other student from experiencing an ordeal like Jacob’s. The government’s suit recognizes and advances the nation’s strong interest in prevention discrimination based on gender stereotyping. According to recent surveys by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nearly 90% of transgender middle and high school students have expressed have experienced harassment because of their gender expression, and two-thirds reported that they felt unsafe at school. These and numerous other surveys have shown that this victimization has harmful impacts on educational outcomes.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE, commented, “Every young person in our nation is entitled to a public education in a safe environment. Yet evidence consistently shows that transgender and gender non-conforming students face persistent and widespread abuse in our schools, at a serious cost to their learning and their wellbeing.  This case can make a great difference for students in Mohawk Central School District. It also shows the need for legislation to require schools to take the kind of responsible preventive steps the Justice Department is seeking. There’s simply no excuse for tormenting a child like Jacob and preventing him from getting an education.”

NCTE looks forward to working with the Obama Administration to advance measures that will protect all the nation’s students from violence and discrimination.


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