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results of a nine-month-long study that concluded that the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy will be repealed with little impact on the military’s preparedness.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policies have to change to allow transgender people to serve openly; a number of United States allies have already repealed similar policies in their own armed forces.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It is also important that transgender servicemembers recognize that even though, if DADT is repealed, they will no longer run the risk of being falsely caught up in an investigation about their sexual orientation, but they still remain at significant risk for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:
Travelers should keep the following points in mind:
If you encounter a problem
Changing the Policy
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:
Two other transgender candidates in the general election worked hard in their races, making a strong showing.
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:
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.
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.
*** ATTENTION TRANSGENDER SERVICE MEMBERS ***
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
 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
(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:
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.
CALLING YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
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.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
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."
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:
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
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.
Health Care Reform Signed into Law
(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.
WHAT THE LAW WILL DO FOR TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
CONTINUED BARRIERS TO HEALTH CARE
Transgender people continue to face barriers to health care that we must continue to address:
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.
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.
© 2011 National Center for Transgender Equality