December 3, 2013
by Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality
Last evening, I began fasting in solidarity with the brave and resolute activists participating in the Fast4Families effort, who have been fasting for 21 days (since November 12). They are fasting to call for Congressional action on immigration reform. I join them in asking that my country pass a common sense reform law that will allow millions of families to stay together, families who are just as deserving as mine to feel safe and welcome.
My fast comes after several years of thinking about immigration and the people it affects. As a fourth generation American, I can’t help but see what our broken immigration system is doing to families– families who are just like mine, except that they live each day in fear knowing that they can be separated at any time, be sent away from their homes, be abused by criminally immoral employers, be placed in solitary confinement, or be sent back to a country that is unknown and unsafe for them.
My fast grew from meeting transgender immigrants who came to the U.S. because they were transgender and not physically or economically safe where they were. Once here, they are unsafe in our broken immigration system because they are transgender. Our flawed enforcement programs funnel vulnerable transgender immigrants into our inhumane immigration detention system, and because they are transgender, they are routinely assigned to the torture of solitary confinement for an average of 9-12 months.
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March 21, 2013
This week, discussions about raising the federal minimum wage came to the forefront again after Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) declared that the minimum wage would currently be $22 an hour if it had kept up with worker productivity. Senator Warren points out that our current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour does not reflect the cost of living increases or worker productivity increases that we have experienced over the past several decades.
A wage increase would have a significant effect on transgender people. Compared to the general population, transgender people are four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This extreme poverty is directly tied to the widespread discrimination against transgender people in employment and other sectors, which force an outsized share of transgender people into minimum-wage jobs.
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September 28, 2012
Last week, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2012. If passed, this bill would increase federal supports to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people through the Older Americans Act (OAA), which is the “major vehicle” for promoting the delivery of social and nutrition services to older Americans and their caregivers.
Among the bill’s proposals for the OAA is an amendment that would designate LGBT elders as a group in “greatest social need,” which is currently defined as need caused by non-economic factors, such as physical and mental disabilities, language barriers, and cultural, social, or geographic isolation, including isolation caused by racial or ethnic status. This designation would drive funding of LGBT elder programs and services, including greater inclusion of LGBT elders in general aging program design, deliver and outreach. It would also require cultural competency training of staff and agencies and service providers and incentivize organizations to adopt nondiscrimination policies and training. Finally, it would necessitate data collection on LGBT elders to better understand their needs and appropriately tailor services.
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May 27, 2010
NCTE fully supports the repeal of the deeply flawed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy used to discharge gay, lesbian and bisexual people from the US military. We stand in solidarity with those who want to serve openly, without fear that a revelation of their sexual orientation will end their careers. We recognize, too, that military service is an important path for some to obtain education, jobs, housing and other important benefits.
While DADT is specifically focused on sexual orientation, not on gender identity, it very much impacts transgender service members. Differences in gender expression have been assumed by some to signify a lesbian or gay sexual orientation and so have triggered investigations and discharges. There are many active duty service members who identify as transgender; however, contrary to modern medical understanding, the military continues to wrongly consider gender identity as a mental illness that disqualifies people from entering or serving.
The movement to repeal DADT and the work to pass federal employment protections through the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) share a common root—a person’s right to pursue the career path they choose. One of the freedoms Americans cherish is the right of individuals to determine the course of their own futures. Whether that path is military service or another way of earning a living, none of us should be curtailed from pursuing our dreams and goals because of the prejudice of individuals or institutions.
It is time to remove the barriers to full and open employment for all LGBT people in both the military and civilian sectors.
May 17, 2010
Calling Congress doesn’t seem glamorous to some folks and people have asked us why we keep asking people over and over again to call their member of Congress. Is this doing us any good? Why should people keep doing it? These are very legitimate questions.
Here’s the answer from our perspective: calling Congress matters and it has been doing an incredible amount of good. Your calls—and the calls of thousands and thousands of people like you—are the reason we have the votes we have for ENDA. Because LGBT people and our allies have made it clear to members of Congress that we need the protections that ENDA will offer, we are now on the brink of passing this bill. We cannot stop at this critical juncture.
Do they actually pay attention to the messages we leave? Staffers on Capitol Hill say that they absolutely pay attention to the calls and e-mails for and against ENDA. Especially since this is the first time we are really holding our own with the religious right—we are finally matching their calls in many districts and in some places surpassing them. This really matters.
Calling and e-mailing your member of Congress definitely should not be—and is not—the only strategy for passing this bill. Work is being done on all fronts, from direct actions to visits to Capitol Hill, and your calls and e-mails are one important part of that strategy. There are many other things you can do as well. Check out the endaNOW website or go to our ENDA page to find out what folks are doing and get ideas about how you can join in. But on the way, take a couple of minutes and make that call again …
May 3, 2010
Jennifer Chavez is a 52-year-old Transgender women who lost her previous job within 2 months of letting her employer know that she was transgender. She has taken action to let her member of Congress know that she needs a job; we asked her if she’d let us know how it went. Here is her story:
I am a ASE Master certified auto repair technician with L-1 Advanced Driveability Specialist certification with 37 years experience in all facets of the industry, shops are in desperate need of a person with my skills, yet no one will hire me due to my transition.
I found out about ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and of all the organizations and people involved with trying to correct this social injustice, our loss of Civil Rights. I contacted my Senators and Congressmen to tell them of my hope that they support ENDA and discovered that Senators Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Issakson and Congressman Phil Gingrey all oppose us for various reasons, none of them logical. Their explanations are easily broken down when put to the test. When NCTE posted on Facebook that we should take our resume’s directly to their offices, I thought what a fantastic idea!
I composed a letter to Congressman Gingrey since the bill, H.B.3017, is in the house legislature at the moment, asking him once again to reconsider his opposition to ENDA and I included my resume, along with a copy of my voter registration card, my initial letter to him with his response and my response to that and a copy of my certifications and training so that he could see first hand who I was. I also asked for suggestions as to what I should do to find a job, and I delivered it directly to his office in Marietta, Georgia. I am awaiting a response.
Thank you, Jennifer, for taking action. The personal stories and actions of individuals make a huge difference in passing bills like ENDA.
We wish you the very best in your job search!
April 29, 2010
Great work happening today on Capitol Hill for ENDA. We got a picture of a few of them in the hallway this afternoon: Mara Keisling from NCTE, Rhodes Perry of PFLAG, Lisa Mottet of the Task Force and Emily Hecht from the Family Equality Council.
It’s definitely time for everyone to pitch in for ENDA.
Need ideas or information about how you can help the Employment Non-Discrimination Act? NCTE has a new page: www.TransEquality.org/ENDA.