Today, the US Justice Department will release revised guidance on racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies, extending protections for the first time on the basis of national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, as well as race and ethnicity which were covered by guidance issued in 2003. The inclusion of protections for the LGBT community follows recent federal investigations finding unlawful police profiling of LGBT people, particularly in communities of color. However, the revised guidance contains large carve-outs for TSA airport and border security and certain anti-terror investigations, and will also not apply to most state and local law enforcement activities.
The National Center for Transgender Equality welcomes the historic extension of protections against federal police profiling to the LGBT community, but decries loopholes that will continue to permit most discriminatory policing. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 46% of transgender people say they would feel somewhat or very uncomfortable seeking police assistance, while only 35% said they would feel comfortable doing so. One-fifth (22%) of all trans people and 38% of Black trans people report experiencing transphobic police harassment—while 6% of all trans people, 9% of trans Latinos, and 15% of Black trans people report having experienced a transphobic assault by police.
Thursday, November 6th, 2014 marked the fifth year anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Lauded by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocates and racial justice organizations, and signed into law by President Obama, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act has strengthened law enforcement’s ability to track, respond, and combat bias-related crimes on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and national origin.
The White House convened advocates and officials to celebrate the law’s impact. At the event, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling addressed the guests. “When the Mathew Shepherd Hate Crime Prevention Act passed five years ago,” Keisling said,”it was the first time in American history that Congress had acted in a positive and productive way for transgender people. That in itself is a significant victory and benefit. Working to pass the Act provided a great opportunity for us to educate Congress about transgender people and the violence we face. And implementation has been a similar opportunity to educate law enforcement.”
Transgender people, and especially transgender women of color, were found by the report to be among the groups most at risk for severe violence. According to the report, almost 90% of all homicide victims in 2013 were people of color, the overwhelming majority of whom (78% of the total) were Black or African American. Almost three-quarters of homicide victims were transgender women, and more than two-thirds of homicide victims were transgender women of color, despite transgender individuals constituting only 13% of total reports to NCAVP.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) in association with GLAAD, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) announce the release of two community action toolkits that provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities, survivors of intimate partner violence, and advocates working on their behalf, resources to address intimate partner violence on the individual and community level. The toolkits are focused specifically on intimate partner violence in transgender and people of color communities and highlight the adverse impact of intimate partner violence on transgender individuals and LGBTQ people of color.
NCAVP’s annual report Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV Affected Communities in 2012, released on October 1st, 2013, documents the disproportional impact of intimate partner violence on transgender people and people of color. In 2012 a majority (52.4%) of the victims of intimate partner violence homicides were people of color and people of color were more likely to suffer injuries, require medical attention, experience harassment, or face anti-LGBTQ bias as a result of intimate partner violence. In addition, transgender survivors were more likely to face threats and intimidation, harassment, and police violence as a result of intimate partner violence. Additionally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lesbians, gay men and bisexual people experience intimate partner violence at the same or higher rates as non-LGB people.
Department of Justice Clarifies Police, Courts, Shelters, and Others Must Respect Gender Identity
This week the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) release long-awaited guidance on the 2013 law prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity by entities funded under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA’s nondiscrimination protections provide broad protections, not only for LGBT survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, but for anyone else facing discrimination from law enforcement agencies, courts, or community groups that accept VAWA funding for any part of their operations. The guidelines clarify that refusing to accept a person’s self-identified gender when delivering services constitutes unlawful discrimination, and that in many cases segregating by gender in the first place is prohibited.
The guidance, from DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women, answers “Frequently Asked Questions” about the nondiscrimination law included in the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA, which for the first time explicitly prohibited discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in any program or activity funded in whole or in part by VAWA. Critically, the guidance clarifies that all VAWA-funded services must be open to all persons regardless of gender. Sex-segregated programs are permitted only when an agency can prove the services can’t be provided any other way—in which case, fully equivalent services must be provided to people of all genders.
This week, the award winning web series NoMoreDownLow TV highlighted the horrifyingly high rate of violence that occurs against LGBT people of color and the large number of murders that remain unsolved. The segment featured the stories of three African American transgender women who were brutally murdered in major cities across the U.S.
Deoni Jones was 23 years old when she was fatally stabbed in the District of Columbia last year. In the video, Deoni’s parents speak out about her murder and about their efforts to seek justice for their daughter. Their persistence helped bring about the Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, which allows the District of Columbia to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender, allows the original certificate to be sealed when a new certificate is issued, and eliminates the requirement that name changes be published in a newspaper.
In August of this year, 21 year-old Islan Nettles was brutally assaulted while walking with friends in Harlem, NY and later died of her injuries. That same month, 32 year-old Dominique Newburn was beaten to death in her own home in San Bernadino, California. In all three of these cases, none of the perpetrators have yet been convicted of any crime.
This week, NCTE celebrated the hard-fought bi-partisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which, for the first time, contains explicit protections for LGBT people. This morning, NCTE’s Executive Director, Mara Keisling, addressed LGBT involvement in the reauthorization process on Democracy Now! More than a year ago, VAWA’s authorization was shamefully allowed to expire. Throughout the past year, NCTE has supported the work of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, and many others in pressing for a comprehensive and LGBT-inclusive VAWA reauthorization.
An LGBT-inclusive VAWA is important because nearly one-fifth of transgender people have faced domestic violence from their families because they are transgender or gender non-conforming. Generally, transgender people are already at greater risk of experiencing acts of domestic and bias-based violence. Yet, despite this increased risk of violence and increased need for services, many trans people have experienced discrimination when trying to access these services. The reauthorization of VAWA with LGBT-inclusive protections not only provides the necessary funding to implement the law, but importantly provides trans people with access to services that protect them from abuse.
Ana-Haydee Urda (left front) in the 2012 rally against private prisons sponsored by United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.
Last week, the National Center for Transgender Equality, with our partners at Just Detention International led advocacy efforts urging Secretary Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to strengthen protections against sexual abuse of LGBT people and people with intersex conditions in immigration detention. In addition to organizing over 800 individual comments and dozens of organizational comments, NCTE joined eight other national LGBT and allied groups in filing over 30 pages of public comments on the proposed regulations that address this problem, which is part of the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Sexual abuse of LGBT people and people with intersex conditions violates their basic human rights. The U.S. government has an obligation to provide safe and humane conditions for people in confinement. Not doing so impedes detainee’s ability to obtain lawful immigration status when eligible and to successfully adjust back into the community. Additionally, public health considerations like the widespread transmission of HIV and the growing rates of depression, anxiety and suicide ideation among immigration detainees demand swift action by the Department of Homeland Security.