Andy Cray and His Life’s Work

August 30, 2014

By Lisa Mottet, Deputy Executive Director, NCTE

As so many have expressed, Andy had a tremendous impact on the LGBT movement, even though he was only 28 when he left us this Thursday. He was a quiet force behind many transgender health care wins, but he was also genuinely humble about his impact on the lives of so many people. I first met Andy in 2009 when I got to witness first hand his rise from a wide-eyed and somewhat shy law student hopeful about changing the world into a fierce advocate for transgender health. I am not sure when exactly our relationship changed, but it did; at first he peppered me with questions given my years of trans advocacy—and then there was a shift: suddenly, I would turn to him because of his greater expertise in transgender health advocacy. As activists around the country said they wanted to take on discriminatory healthcare exclusions and get my thoughts, we all sent them straight to Andy. I can’t tell you how proud I felt of him, even though it seems kind of odd to say that of someone who quickly rose from intern to colleague, to close friend.

Now, I’m a detail-oriented person—and so was Andy. In fact, this is one of the qualities I greatly appreciated about him. He used words and facts in a precise way in his day to day work. So, in that vein, I want to share with the world, in a very detailed “Andy-like” way, some examples and themes of Andy’s work life, which is how I know Andy would want to be remembered:

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Andy cut his activist teeth at Northwestern University, where he went to college. He and his friend, Kelsey Pacha, co-founded the Northwestern Gender Protection Initiative in the fall of 2007 to lobby for gender identity and expression to be included in the university’s non-discrimination policy. Of course, in true Andy style, only several months later they achieved success in early 2008. During his college years, Andy was also the Activism Chair of the Rainbow Alliance on campus.

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New Report: Open Trans Military Service “Administratively Feasible”

August 26, 2014

Our colleagues at the Palm Center at San Francisco State University this week issued a new report finding that allowing open military service for transgender people “is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome.” The study, “Report of the Planning Commission on Transgender Military Service,” comes from a commission of experts including three retired Generals and serves as a road map for the U.S. Department of Defense to review their regulations that disallow open transgender military service.

The report comes three months after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is open to reviewing the regulations that bar transgender people from serving openly, and ahead of the three year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

National Center for Transgender Equality commends the findings of this report and calls on the Defense Department to initiate the review. NCTE is confident that open transgender military service is inevitable and we will continue to work until it is achieved.

Read the report here.


NCTE, MALDEF: President’s Administrative Relief Package Must Be LGBTQ Affirmative

August 22, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) today issued a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to provide affirmative relief for individuals who have long-term residency in the United States but may not have state recognized familial relationships with citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPR), or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) holders. The letter also requests the President to advance flexible criminal background requirements in light of the high conviction rates of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants for survival crimes such as sex work.

The letter calls for LGBT inclusion as President Obama is expected to release his administrative relief package on undocumented immigrants in the coming weeks.

LGBT advocates protest deportations in New York, NY | Photo: Julieta Salgado

LGBT advocates protest deportations in New York, NY | Photo: Julieta Salgado/GetEQUAL

“Relief for undocumented Americans should not rely on separating out supposedly ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants based on the circumstances they’ve faced and the choices they’ve made to get by–especially not when it would disproportionately exclude LGBT people,” said Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, NCTE Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor.

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Laverne Cox Shares Stories From Solitary

August 21, 2014

Actress Laverne Cox is taking action to end the use of solitary confinement. This month, Solitary Watch highlighted the story of Synthia China Blast underscoring the violence, abuse, and sexual assault transgender women face in New York’s prisons. Blast has been held in solitary confinement for over a decade. In a joint letter to the New York State Department of Corrections from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Trans Women of Color Collective, the practice of routinely placing transgender people in prolonged solitary confinement often results in irreversible mental and physical harm.

Synthia China Blast

Synthia China Blast, a transgender woman held in solitary confinement in a New York prison for over a decade.

NCTE commends Laverne Cox for putting a spotlight on solitary confinement. As detailed in Orange is the New Black, “protective” solitary confinement doesn’t actually protect anyone. But to end solitary confinement, New Yorkers must take action. That’s why the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, FIERCE, and the Audre Lorde Project have launched a petition demanding an end to so called “protective” solitary confinement in New York.

Sign the petition here.

Placing transgender people—or anyone else—in solitary isn’t protection; it’s torture. By putting pressure on New York prison officials, New Yorkers can make a difference now in the lives of some of our communities’ most vulnerable members.


Federal Contractors Put on Notice: Labor Dept. Issues Non-Discrimination Guidance

August 19, 2014

Today, the Department of Labor (DOL) sent guidance to the 200,000 federal contractors saying they may not discriminate against transgender workers. They clarified that that sex discrimination laws extend to individuals discriminated against based on their gender identity or “transgender status” and that this will be in force even before the President’s Executive order adding “gender identity” protections is fully implemented. DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will oversee compliance with these newest guidelines.

In June, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced that DOL is also in the process of updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to protect transgender workers in other areas over which the Department of Labor has jurisdiction.

“Today’s latest victory means that almost every major federal civil rights agency agrees that federal sex discrimination laws protect transgender people in the areas of employment, housing, health care, and education,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “While President Obama’s executive order will take effect once implementing rules are issued in 2015, today’s DOL announcement makes it unmistakable that individuals who are discriminated based on their gender identity in the workplace by a federal contractor can file discrimination complaints immediately with the Department of Labor,” said Keisling.

For information on filing complaints with the Department, please refer to NCTE’s resource “Transgender Federal Workers: Your Workplace Rights.” As always, if you have been discriminated against by any employer, please refer to our “Employment Discrimination and Transgender People” resource.


Milestone: Smithsonian Accepts Original Trans Pride Flag

August 19, 2014

Today, Monica Helms, a transgender activist and Navy veteran,  presented the original transgender pride flag created 15 years ago this month to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The flag will be added to the Museum’s permanent archives along with several other objects that represent cultural milestones in LGBT history. Along with the transgender pride flag, the Smithsonian accepted artifacts from Helms’ military career and Renee Richards’ racquet used to play in the 1963 All-Navy Championship and the 1964 New York State Men’s Championship.

MonicaHelmsMaraKeisling

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, who joined Helms at today’s ceremony, said:

​”The cuts of blue, pink, and white fabric that Monica first bound together 15 years ago now form a symbol of the trans community. They have fused forever into a flag that’s been carried into places previously unwelcome to us, charting community and fellowship in the face of violence and mistreatment. Finally today, that same fabric is being recognized as part of the red, white, and blue fabric that make up the richness of America. I’m deeply honored that today, the transgender pride flag—our flag—is being accepted as an American historical treasure that honors transgender people. Today’s ceremony is part of the forward cultural change that says—in the eyes of America—transgender people are here, have been here, and will always be here.”

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NCTE and 20+ LGBT Groups Observe Moment of Silence for Michael Brown

August 13, 2014

NMOS FlyerOn Thursday, August 14, 2014, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) joins thousands across the country to observe the National Moment of Silence in remembrance of victims of police brutality. The event was organized in response to the fatal shooting of an unarmed African American youth, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. Brown is one of several people in two weeks whose death is the apparent result of police brutality.

Transgender people have an enormous stake in ending police brutality. We know that transgender people, and especially transgender women of color, are incredibly vulnerable to police misconduct and brutality. The videotaped brutal beating of Duanna Johnson while in police custody, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Nizah Morris are only two examples.

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 38% of Black transgender and gender non-conforming people who had interacted with the police reported harassment with 14% reporting physical assault and 6% reporting sexual assault. Because of these experiences, 51% of Black survey respondents, and 46% of all transgender survey respondents, reported they were uncomfortable seeking police assistance if they needed it.

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