NCTE Applauds Federal Protections for Transgender Survivors of Violence

April 11, 2014

Department of Justice Clarifies Police, Courts, Shelters, and Others Must Respect Gender Identity

This week the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) release long-awaited guidance on the 2013 law prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity by entities funded under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA’s nondiscrimination protections provide broad protections, not only for LGBT survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, but for anyone else facing discrimination from law enforcement agencies, courts, or community groups that accept VAWA funding for any part of their operations. The guidelines clarify that refusing to accept a person’s self-identified gender when delivering services constitutes unlawful discrimination, and that in many cases segregating by gender in the first place is prohibited.

The guidance, from DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women, answers “Frequently Asked Questions” about the nondiscrimination law included in the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA, which for the first time explicitly prohibited discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in any program or activity funded in whole or in part by VAWA. Critically, the guidance clarifies that all VAWA-funded services must be open to all persons regardless of gender. Sex-segregated programs are permitted only when an agency can prove the services can’t be provided any other way—in which case, fully equivalent services must be provided to people of all genders.

 

Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Photo: Chuck Kennedy

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NCTE Celebrates Historic Healthcare Enrollments at the White House Rose Garden

April 9, 2014

Last week, NCTE celebrated the historic enrollment of over 7 million Americans in the Affordable Care Act with President Obama at the White House Rose Garden. President Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, gave remarks on the incredible success of the healthcare reform bill, Affordable Care Act also known as “Obamacare.” To date, 7.1 million Americans have enrolled in health coverage through the marketplace exchanges, surpassing the Administration’s expectations they set the previous summer.

The President expressed his excitement for the 7.1 million figure as well as for the larger implications of ACA’s success, stating : “Under this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up and the growth of health care costs is down, and that’s good for our middle class and that’s good for our fiscal future.”

Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Although the period for 2014 open enrollment has closed, plans can still be purchased through the exchange in the event of a qualifying change in life circumstances. People who attempted to enroll by the deadline but were unable to due to technical problems with the enrollment website, or because enrollment centers were backed up will receive extensions without facing the nominal tax penalty. M​edicaid plans are also available year-round for those who qualify, and eligibility is greatly expanded in 26 states.

Learn more about your healthcare rights here.

Learn more about LGBT-specific healtcare enrollment information here.


Victory: Social Security Admin Clarifies Benefits Applications for Trans People and their Spouses

April 1, 2014

NCTE thanks the Social Security Administration for issuing updated guidance that will simplify benefits applications for many transgender people and their spouses, and better ensure correct eligibility determinations.

Until now, all benefits applications involving couples with at least one transgender spouse required legal review by one of SSA’s chief regional attorneys, often adding significant delays. Without clear guidance on applicable law, many benefits applications also received incorrect denials and had to be appealed. With this new guidance, most claims now can be evaluated under the normal application process, without additional and inappropriate scrutiny of the marriage.

Under the new guidance, SSA recognizes that a gender transition does not affect the continuing validity of an existing marriage. Marriages that occurred after a transition will also generally be presumed valid, with additional review needed only for claims from a handful of states. Unlike many other federal programs, Social Security law requires that marriage-related benefits be determined based on the law of the state where you live. Accordingly, SSA still has to determine, in many cases, whether to treat a marriage as a same-sex marriage or a different-sex marriage.

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Dept. of Justice Unveils Transgender Law Enforcement Training

March 28, 2014

Yesterday, US Department of Justice (DOJ) Associate Attorney General Tony West launched the Transgender Law Enforcement Training, a first-of-its kind cultural competency training by a federal agency for local law enforcement.

With input from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and other local and national organizations, the new training will help local authorities improve their interactions with transgender people. Ultimately, the training aims to prevent mistreatment and restore trust between police officers and transgender people who have often faced profiling and violence from law enforcement.

Advocates at the Dept. of Justice Unveiling of the Transgender Law Enforcement Training

Photo: Ruby Corado

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Expert Commission: Military Policies on Trans People Not Based on Science

March 13, 2014
Bryce Celotto, former NCTE intern and transgender service member.

Bryce Celotto, former NCTE intern and transgender service member, is featured in a forthcoming web series documentary, “TransMilitary.” 

A national commission chaired by a former US Surgeon General and a former health and safety director for the Coast Guard released a major report this week, finding that US military policies on transgender service members are not based on sound medical science and should be revised. The commission found that the ban on service by transgender people is “an expensive, damaging, and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel” who currently service in uniform.

The commission also criticized the current policy of discharging personnel found to be transgender irrespective of their fitness for duty, stating this is “inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions.” Former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders and retired Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, who are in leading medical positions in the Coast Guard and Public Health Service, chaired the commission, and a group of 16 current and former military university professors endorsed the quality of their research and the reasonableness of their conclusions.

The report, published by the Palm Center at San Francisco State University, found that current military regulations regarding transgender people are inconsistent with military policies that permit other service members to be deployed while on hormone medications; permit other service members to continue serving following reconstructive surgeries; and do not discharge service members based on medical diagnoses without an assessment of individual fitness for duty. The report also found that current rules fail to account for recent changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and compromise continuity of care between the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration, which has made great strides in supporting trans veterans.

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New Video Series Addresses Trans Healthcare Myths

March 11, 2014

On Thursday, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) launched a new online video series entitled, “Debunking the Myths: Transgender Health & Well-Being.” The series seeks to address the stereotypes and misconceptions faced by transgender and gender nonconforming people. HRC plans to release additional videos throughout March 2014.

You can watch the first video in the series below:


Weak DHS Rules Underscore Need to End Detention of Transgender Immigrants

March 7, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) express disappointment in the final standards published today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address the severe problem of sexual abuse in immigration detention. While the final standards contain some valuable provisions, they fall short of the minimum steps needed to address the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse in immigration detention. In particular, the standards–which are, in key respects, weaker than those adopted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2012 for prisons and jails–lack critical protections for transgender immigrants, who are among the most highly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

“The rules released by DHS today are not adequate to protect the safety of tens of thousands of real people who are at risk in detention every day,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “While NCTE will work with our allies to see that the positive steps that did make it into the DHS rules are fully implemented, far more needs to be done to reform and ultimately end mass detention.”​

Olga Tomchin, Soros Justice Fellow at the Transgender Law Center said, “It is a cruel irony that trans immigrants who flee persecution and believe they will be safe in the U.S. are then often met with state violence and further retraumatized by horrific treatment based on their trans status.”

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