Empire State Becomes Ninth to Ban Transgender Health Exclusions

December 11, 2014

New York State today became the ninth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to apply its existing laws to prohibit discriminatory transgender exclusions in many health insurance plans. New York joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and DC, as well as the federal Medicare program in taking action over the last two years to eliminate these arbitrary exclusions.

Today’s letter from the New York State Department of Financial Services, addressed to all insurers in the state, declares that, “An issuer of a policy that includes coverage for mental health conditions may not exclude coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria.” Notably, New York relied on state and federal mental health parity laws to arrive at this conclusion, and becomes the second state (with Massachusetts) to reach this conclusion without an explicit gender identity nondiscrimination law applicable to insurance. Other states have interpreted nondiscrimination laws based on sex or gender identity, or general prohibitions on arbitrary or unfair insurance practices, ban trans exclusions.

New-York-Victory

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NCTE Announces Law Fellowship and Award in Honor of Andrew Cray

December 10, 2014

By Mara Keisling, Executive Director, NCTE

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Andy Cray came to work at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) as a law fellow right out of law school. Coming from one of the handful of best law schools in the country, he really could have gone anywhere, but he wanted to work for the transgender community and he wanted to do it at NCTE. An even smaller organization at the time than we are now, we were unable to pay Andy; so he even brought his own funding from his law school. Less than a year later he found a permanent, full-time position doing trans health advocacy at the Center for American Progress (CAP). We continued to work with him, for which I will always be amazed, but less than two years later, after accomplishing a body of work that any activist would be proud of, Andy passed away this August from cancer, leaving behind an improbably large group of devastated but amazed family, friends and admirers—people who really were touched deeply by Andy.

In honor of that body of work, NCTE is so proud to announce our new Andrew Cray Law Fellowships. The NCTE Board of Directors has also initiated an annual recognition called the Andrew Cray Trans Health Advocacy Award, which we will give each year at our anniversary event to an activist who significantly advances trans health.

Andrew Cray was such a significant part of the rapidly advancing transgender health movement. He was a key player in the recent success in eliminating insurance exclusions for transition-related care through state insurance commission rulings. His work to get transgender and other LGBT people enrolled in Affordable Care Act plans caused President Obama to name Andy as a Champion of Change.

We know how lucky we are to have known and worked with such a beautiful and brilliant star, and we know too we are lucky for our exposure to everyone of the law fellows who has and will pitch in over the years. So, having future law fellows be called Andrew Cray Law Fellows just felt like a match about which Andy would have been pleased and honored and a bit embarrassed.

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Department of Justice Says Profiling Of Trans People Is Wrong, But Too Many Exceptions

December 8, 2014

Today, the US Justice Department will release revised guidance on racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies, extending protections for the first time on the basis of national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, as well as race and ethnicity which were covered by guidance issued in 2003. The inclusion of protections for the LGBT community follows recent federal investigations finding unlawful police profiling of LGBT people, particularly in communities of color. However, the revised guidance contains large carve-outs for TSA airport and border security and certain anti-terror investigations, and will also not apply to most state and local law enforcement activities.

The National Center for Transgender Equality welcomes the historic extension of protections against federal police profiling to the LGBT community, but decries loopholes that will continue to permit most discriminatory policing. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 46% of transgender people say they would feel somewhat or very uncomfortable seeking police assistance, while only 35% said they would feel comfortable doing so. One-fifth (22%) of all trans people and 38% of Black trans people report experiencing transphobic police harassment—while 6% of all trans people, 9% of trans Latinos, and 15% of Black trans people report having experienced a transphobic assault by police.

Attorney General Eric Holder

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP Photo

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Federal Guidance on Single-Sex Classes Confirms Schools Must Respect Every Student’s Gender Identity

December 2, 2014

The US Department of Education issued guidance further confirming that schools must respect a student’s gender identity in matters such as taking single-sex classes. As in previous federal guidance, transgender students were addressed as part of a larger document dealing with a specific issue – in this case, when and how K-12  school may offer single-sex classes.

Consistent with prior actions by the Department, the guidance states:

“Under Title IX, a recipient [of federal funds, which includes most schools] generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes.”

Department of Education building

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The National Center for Transgender Equality Reacts to Ferguson, MO Grand Jury Decision in Michael Brown Case

November 24, 2014

Michael BrownTonight, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri decided not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) expresses solidarity with Mr. Brown’s family and wishes for them peace and healing, and joins their family in a moment of silence to memorialize Brown’s life.

Transgender people know all too well that profiling of certain types of people by the police happens, especially to people of color, lower income people, young people and, of course, transgender people. Extensive violence against transgender people and others really happens—and sometimes at the hand of police. Trans people—particularly trans women of color—are frequent targets of both profiling and violence by police officers and others.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “We need to do better than we have been doing as a society. If we live in a society where people do not object to a young unarmed Black man being killed, we can’t expect that people will object when a transgender person is targeted. We believe no one in any community is disposable and we believe that the authorities need to take every act of violence seriously, whoever is the victim, whoever commits the violence, and whatever the circumstances.”

Keisling added, “St. Louis native Dr. Maya Angelou once wrote that ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ Hopefully this tragedy will help us all understand that so many people in America have an untold story that much of America has been unwilling to hear, a story of stereotyping, disrespect and violence. We believe that America needs to hear the story that Black America, transgender America and other marginalized people are trying to tell. And citing another well known Angelou quote, America ‘should believe them the first time.'”

NCTE does believe the people of Ferguson and around the country who feel targeted for suspicion and violence.

NCTE will continue to advocate for greater oversight and accountability for law enforcement and for policies to end racial profiling and all forms of police bias and abuse.


President’s Bold Immigration Action Welcomed But Could Leave Out Most LGBT Immigrants

November 20, 2014

National Center for Transgender Equality Calls for Further Action

Tonight, the White House announced executive actions that will halt deportations and provide legal status for nearly 5 million immigrants. However, the National Center for Transgender Equality expresses deep concern that the relief does not go far enough to benefit most LGBT immigrants.

“We welcome these positive steps and the much-needed relief they will provide for so many people,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The President needed to act because Congress would not. At the same time, the action announced today will not reach most LGBT people who need it. Those for whom relief remains out of reach will continue to live in fear of dangerous detention and deportation. Though the President has been a champion of LGBT equality, he still must do more to protect LGBT immigrants.”

President Barack Obama

Photo Credit: Time

The limitation of relief to parents of US citizens or permanent residents, and to others who can meet strict criminal background checks, disproportionately exclude LGBT immigrants. Only about one-third of LGBT people are parents. Of these, many will be excluded because they are parents of Dreamers or other non-US-born children, or are not recognized as parents in the state where they live. LGBT immigrants are also much more likely to be excluded from relief because of a minor criminal record. More than one in four transgender undocumented immigrants has had to engage in low-level survival crimes, such as sex work, shoplifting, or turnstile jumping, at some point in their life. Categories of relief tied to work history or marriage may also exclude LGBT immigrants who have experienced job discrimination or who cannot marry where they live.

 

As a result, only a fraction of an estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants will likely be eligible for relief under today’s announcement. NCTE urges the Administration to take further action to ensure LGBT immigrants are not left behind—and most urgently, to end the detention of LGBT immigrants who are at extreme risk of abuse in detention centers.

“Many LGBT immigrants have fled life-threatening persecution because of who they are and who they love, to make this country their own and contribute to its success. Once here in the U.S., they are subject to horrific conditions in immigration detention, and the constant fear of deportation to face further violence or death.” said Keisling. “Today, too many are still waiting to live lives free of fear. We will continue to work with the President and Congress to ensure everyone who contributes to this nation has a chance to achieve it.”


NCTE Mourns Loss of Trans Advocate and Icon Leslie Feinberg

November 17, 2014

Photo: Leslie FeinbergThe National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) family is saddened by the passing of Leslie Feinberg, a true revolutionary for transgender rights, workers rights, and social justice. Feinberg was influential to many transgender and gender non-conforming people, and will be remembered as a foundational architect of the advances we reap today and tomorrow.

In reacting to Feinberg’s passing today, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said:

“Leslie was strong and fierce and someone I looked up to. Leslie’s writing helped make a home for a generation of trans and queer people. In particular, Leslie’s depiction of Jess, a character in their acclaimed novel Stone Butch Blues, helped me see myself both as an advocate fighting economic injustice and as an individual seeking recognition for being queer and trans. I last saw Leslie at CeCe McDonald’s trial in Minneapolis in 2012, where Leslie, always aware of the intersection between gender and race and class and the criminal justice system, stepped up to support CeCe and the community that had her back. Trans people and our cause have been greatly strengthened that there was a Leslie Feinberg and we are diminished at their passing.”

 


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