After attending the launch of the House of Representatives LGBT Equality Caucus two weeks ago, I was excited by the possibility of more transgender-related activity on the Hill this summer. I was not disappointed. Yesterday, the caucus held its first briefing, surveying an array of human rights issues related to the experiences of LGBT individuals abroad and how these are relevant to US foreign policy. In particular for me, it was great to see that issues of gender identity were included alongside sexuality in the briefing materials.
The presenters’ testimonies addressed a range of issues specific to various regions of the globe. These included criminalization of certain expressions of consensual sexuality, inequality in opportunities to participate in public and cultural life, and discrimination in public health services including HIV-AIDS assistance funded in part by the US and UN. The speakers particularly highlighted the increasingly high-profile Yogyakarta Principles, a set of suggested legal standards which calls for, among other things, the protection of free expression of each individual’s gender identity as a fundamental human right. Organizations represented included the Council for Global Equality, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, all of which include transgender issues as part of their mission.
I felt really energized coming out of this first briefing. I think the very existence of this caucus sends a clear signal that our lives and experiences as LGBT people do matter to the policymakers on the Hill. I was also excited that the members have set down broad goals from its inception, focusing not just on domestic affairs but foreign policy.
Although there were no transgender individuals represented on the five-person panel, I thought it was encouraging that inclusive language and content was emphasized. I am eager to see what the caucus might do in the future to address transgender issues.