9 Things President Obama Can Do to Address Trans Economic Inquality

January 28, 2014

Today, ahead of the annual State of the Union speech,  President Barack Obama took an important step addressing income inequality by raising the minimum wage of new federal workers to $10.10, helping to ease the financial burden of more than 2 million employees. The National Center for Transgender Equality welcomes this executive order and urges legislators to take action to raise wages for all low-wage workers in the United States.

However, addressing America’s deepening economic divide, especially for transgender workers who face twice the rate of unemployment as the general population, requires swift action on many other policy areas. The Center has compiled our list of 9 policy matters that the Obama Administration can address without Congressional approval that would go far in closing the economic divide of transgender Americans.

1) Sign an executive order banning LGBT discrimination among businesses that contract with the federal government. Doing so would protect 1 in 5 American workers from job discrimination.

2) The Department of Labor should identify, promote and fund best practices for helping transgender people enter or re-enter the workforce.

3) Each federal department and independent agency should adopt a formal policy prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in its programs, activities, and funding.

4) The Department of Labor should include gender identity and sexual orientation measures in economic surveys including the Current Population Survey and the Survey on Income and Program.

5) The Department of Justice should vigorously enforce the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to help end sexual abuse of transgender people in jails, prisons, and police lock-ups, and ensure transgender inmates are treated safely and respectfully. Enforcement of strong PREA rules helps ensure formerly incarcerated transgender people can smoothly re-integrate into American society and find jobs.

6) President Obama should pressure House Speaker John Boehner to heed the call of a majority of Americans (80%) who support strong LGBT workplace protections by putting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to a vote.

7) Provide a path to citizenship for the estimated quarter of a million undocumented immigrants who are transgender or LGB by passing commonsense immigration reform.

8) The Department of Homeland Security should expand the use of alternatives to secure detention and end the detention of asylum-seekers, LGBT people, people with HIV, and other vulnerable groups.

9) The Department of Education should issue guidance clarifying the application of Title IX nondiscrimination protections to transgender and gender nonconforming youth, including the right of transgender students to dress, access school facilities, programs and campus housing, and otherwise be treated in accord with their gender identity in a respectful and confidential manner.


NCTE Applauds Reconfirmation of EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum

December 12, 2013

The National Center for Transgender Equality congratulates Commissioner Chai Feldblum on her confirmation for a second term to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and we strongly commend President Obama for this selection. Commissioner Feldblum has been an exemplary public servant her whole career and a civil rights hero. Her work and her thinking have been essential to decades of equal employment advances in the U.S.

According to NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, “I couldn’t be more pleased that remarkable public servants like Chai Feldblum continue to be appointed to positions that matter so much to transgender working people.”

NCTE wishes Commissioner Feldblum continued success on the EEOC.

Why I am Fasting for Immigration Reform

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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A Living Wage for Trans Workers

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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2012 Election Roundup and What’s Next for Trans Equality Part I

November 15, 2012

President Obama’s re-election bodes well for transgender advocacy at the federal level. But President Obama’s victory is not the only sign for maintaining our optimism. This year’s Election results include a lot of good things for transgender equality:

  1.  New Hampshire elected the first openly transgender state lawmaker, Stacie Laughton, in addition to electing an all-female delegation of Congressional members.
  2. The election of Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to the U.S. Senate is good for transgender equality. Baldwin became the nation’s first openly LGBT senator, and she championed LGBT equality during her tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  3.  The U.S. Senate has more pro-equality Senators than ever before. Congress now also has the highest number (seven) of openly LGBT elected officials in Congress’ history including the first out bisexual elected official, Representative Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), and the first LGBT person of color, Representative Mark Takano (D-CA)
  4.  Maryland, Maine, and Washington state each passed ballot measures to approve the freedom to marry. Minnesota blocked the passage of a constitutional amendment banning the freedom to marry.
  5.  The election outcomes cement health care reform over the long term, ensuring that the practice of denying health care insurance for “pre-existing conditions” ends for good.

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Senator Bennet Introduces LGBT Elder Americans Act

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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It’s Time to Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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.


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