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anyone applying for an ID to self-identify their gender—a landmark policy that allows transgender people to avoid outdated and burdensome medical requirements that have barred many transgender people access to accurate ID.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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NCTE Director of Policy to keynote Philly Trans Health Conference

June 12, 2014

This Friday, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin will give the keynote address at the 2014 Philadelphia Trans Health Conference (PTHC), the nation’s largest transgender conference drawing over 3,000 diverse members of the community. Author Janet Mock will also be featured as a keynote speaker.

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Tobin’s speech lays out a bold vision for the future of the transgender movement including outlining new ways of thinking about how to advance legislative victories at the federal, state, and local levels, improve institutions like prisons and nursing homes, healthcare, and expand access to identity documents. Tobin also proposes a path forward on how the transgender movement can lift up the most vulnerable members of the transgender community.

Tune in to Harper Jean Tobin’s keynote address on Friday, June 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM in room 108A.

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Seven UN Agencies: Surgery as a Condition of Legal Recognition is Forced Sterilization

June 6, 2014

WHO Report CoverIn “Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization – An interagency statement,” the World Health Organization (WHO) and several other UN agencies have recognized that sterilization without the “full, free and informed consent” of an individual is a violation of that person’s human rights.

The UN Health (WHO), Human Rights (OHCHR), Women’s (UN Women), Development (UNDP), Population (UNFPA), Children’s (UNICEF), and AIDS (UNAIDS) agencies issuing the statement recognized that transgender people have been historically, and are currently, discriminated against through policies requiring surgery, often resulting in sterilization, in order to obtain legal documents reflecting their gender identity and other forms of legal and social recognition. As the statement observes, “According to international and regional human rights bodies and some constitutional courts, and as reflected in recent legal changes in several countries, these sterilization requirements run counter to respect for bodily integrity, self-determination and human dignity, and can cause and perpetuate discrimination against transgender and intersex persons.”

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BREAKING NEWS: New York State Modernizes Requirements for Birth Certificate Gender Markers

June 5, 2014

The New York State Department of Health, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, just announced it has modernized its policy regarding updating gender markers on birth certificates. New York joins several other states, as well as the federal government, in modernizing birth certificate policies and removing burdensome and unnecessary barriers so that individuals can obtain a birth certificate that reflects who they are. Department-of-health-logo Many New York-based organizations have been advocating for an updated policy over the last several years and NCTE is proud to have participated in these advocacy efforts. New York State’s previous policy, in place since the 1970s, required an individual to undergo sexual reassignment surgery as a condition to change the sex listed on their birth certificate. Now, the policy change allows individuals to update the sex on their birth certificate by submitting a letter from a licensed medical provider stating that the individual is undergoing appropriate clinical treatment. Read the rest of this entry »


Prince George’s County Police Department: Public Shaming Won’t Work

May 5, 2014
Last week, the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Police Department announced they would live Tweet an upcoming prostitution sting operation, sharing photos of clients using the #PGPDVice hashtag. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) immediately contacted the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) Chief Mark Magaw expressing our concern and calling on the department to drop this harsh, public shaming effort and instead engage with sex workers and local advocates on positive steps to address crimes against sex workers and related issues.

Our letter to PGPD states that broad stings and public shaming are regressive tactics that don’t decrease prostitution or address any of the issues associated with it. Instead, it feeds the stigma and fear that make sex workers vulnerable to robberies, assaults, and even abuse by police themselves. While PGPD has been quick to clarify that it won’t be tweeting photos of sex workers, only their customers, we respond: “Targeting sex workers’ customers isn’t any better–it further instills fear and makes it harder for sex workers to protect themselves by screening clients.”

NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin said, “We were proud to work with the Prince George’s Police Department recently on a national transgender training program for law enforcement, and we’re glad that PGPD has expressed it is concerned about the exploitation and abuse of sex workers. But this type of crass shaming tactic is not the right way to act on that concern. NCTE urges Chief Magaw to scrap this unwise plan and work with sex workers and their advocates to develop more meaningful approaches to promoting public safety and health.”

Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes

Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

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NCTE welcomes Philadelphia settlement with trans worker, lauds feds for supporting case

May 1, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes the news that the City of Philadelphia has finally settled a federal anti-bias lawsuit brought by city library worker Bobbie Burnett. Ms. Burnett was subjected to years of workplace harassment and other discrimination after she transitioned on the job in 2002. Managers allegedly restricted her use of women’s restrooms on the job, gave her undesirable job assignments, limited her contact with the public, and disciplined her for frivolous reasons.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief in federal district court supporting Ms. Burnett’s case and arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on transgender status or gender transition. This filing is the latest signal that Federal Justice officials are taking the same position as the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services, and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: that federal sex discrimination laws protect transgender people.

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