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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

VICTORY: Trans Youth Must Be Respected in Federal Job Training Program

Today, the US Department of Labor issued a new policy applying to the 125 Job Corps Centers around the country on ensuring equal access for transgender students. Job Corps, established in 1964, provides free education and job training to people between the ages of 16 and 24, helping an estimated 60,000 youth annually.

“This is a welcome step because transgender young people can benefit so much from what Job Corps provides,” said Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). “Transgender people still face extraordinary barriers in schools and in the workplace. Programs like Job Corps have the potential to help students overcome those obstacles—but only if we can fully participate. And that means their dignity has to be respected. Too many trans youth have no job options, especially those who grow up in poverty or drop out of school because of bullying, and are facing a life of trying to survive on the street; this new policy could literally save trans youths’ lives by helping them into the traditional workforce, as it has for so many other youth.”

Consistent with rulings and guidance from numerous other federal and state agencies and courts, the new Job Corps policy makes clear that all young people must have the opportunity to live, learn, dress, and work in a manner consistent with their gender identity. In the past, some students have been disciplined or threatened with exclusion from the program for dressing consistent with their gender identity. In the past, transgender students had also been humiliated by being required to stay in segregated dorms, to use restrooms for their birth-assigned gender, and to answer to their gender-incongruent legal name. In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that workers cannot be required to use workplace restrooms inconsistent with their gender identity.

The new policy requires program staff to use a student’s preferred name in all situations except paperwork that requires a legal name and to avoid outing transgender youth to peers or family members without their consent. It also makes clear that hormone medication and other medical needs of transgender students should be treated like other medical care that is typically provided for students. These protections apply to all transgender students, regardless of whether they identify as male, female, or in some other way; the policy states that students with non-binary gender identities should generally be able to stay in dorms and use facilities that are most comfortable for them. Critically, the policy also makes clear that while job discrimination against transgender people is very real, Job Corps staff should not discourage students from presenting themselves consistently with their gender identity out of fear of discrimination, and indeed Job Corps centers should educate participating employers about the rights of transgender workers.

NCTE has advocated for this new policy for several years. We applaud Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor this policy and urge the Department to issue similar policies for all American Job Centers and other employment and job training programs. NCTE also urges transgender young people, ages 16-24, who are interested in getting into a job training program (for the summer or other times during the year) that provides free housing, food, a living allowance, and basic medical care to participants to go here to learn more.

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