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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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.


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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Update: Repeal of DC Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act Hearing

July 10, 2014

Yesterday, Wednesday, July 9, the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the Repeal of Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act of 2014 (B20-760). The act was introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso, David Catania, and Mary M. Cheh in April following a review of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)’s handling of hate crimes. A coalition of LGBT groups, including NCTE, performed this review and followed it up with recommendations for reforms at MPD and to D.C. law, including the repeal of prostitution free zones (PFZs).

During Wednesday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety Andrew Fois reiterated the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)’s constitutional concerns and added that the office has “doubts about [the PFZ law’s] practical utility.” Fois stated that these misgivings arise from both the high standard of proof that is necessary to show intent to engage in sex work as well as the increasing role of online services in sex work, indicating that both the OAG and the MPD are in favor of the repeal bill.

Prostitution free zones were passed into law in 2006, but after the OAG expressed concerns in early 2012 that they might be unconstitutional, the MPD has avoided designating any space as a PFZ. Though PFZs have not been in use for over two years, organizations like HIPS and the D.C. Trans Coalition strongly support repeal, given that the mere existence of a PFZ law in D.C. enables police profiling and has inspired similar laws in other municipalities around the country

NCTE applauds the OAG’s and the MPD’s support for the repeal act.

Click here to email the DC City Council to tell them why they should repeal Prostitution Free Zones now.

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Watch: NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling Discusses Landmark ID Policy on MSNBC

July 9, 2014

This past weekend, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling joined MSNBC’s Live with Craig Melvin to discuss New York City’s proposed municipal ID law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers. The proposed law also allows anyone applying for an ID to self-identify their gender—a landmark policy that allows transgender people to avoid outdated and burdensome medical requirements that have barred many transgender people access to accurate ID.

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 41% of respondents live without ID that matches who they are, creating barriers to accessing bank accounts, educational loans, voting, or even securing a job. Often as a consequence of the inability to access ID, transgender New Yorkers face economic instability at high rates: 19% of transgender New Yorkers had a household income of $10,000 or less, compared to only 4% of the general population, which is almost five times the rate of poverty.

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC's Craig Melvin Show

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin

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Victory! Federal Government Modernizes Health Insurance

June 13, 2014

The federal government will begin letting insurance companies who have Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) plans consider trans health care needs just like other types of medical care.  They will no longer require the insurance carriers to have a blanket exclusion for trans-related care. This is a significant win for trans federal employees who have long faced discrimination from the FEHB plans.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “Fixing the FEHB plans have been a priority for us for years.  First of all, it was a priority because transgender federal employees need healthcare, but also, this was one of the few remaining areas where the federal government was the actual discriminator, giving trans employees lesser benefits than non-trans employees. “

NCTE commends the Obama Administration and especially the Office of Personnel Management for taking this major step toward modernizing the health benefits to provide needed medical treatments. Though this new policy allows insurance companies to drop the exclusion, they are not yet required to do so; NCTE urges OPM to, with next year’s insurance process, to require all insurance companies to drop the exclusion.

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