NCTE Meets with Ecuadorian LGBT Activists

October 25, 2012

NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin with the delegation of Ecuadorian LGBT Activists.

Last Tuesday, I was thrilled, along with colleagues from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, to meet and discuss LGBT activism with a group of incredible LGBT activists from Ecuador. The U.S. State Department regularly facilitates visits by distinguished community leaders and human rights activists from around the world to meet and exchange knowledge with their counterparts and other experts in the US. In recent years, the State Department’s exchange programs have increasingly connected international LGBT activists with U.S.-based activists, and the results have been enriching for all involved. As part of this all-LGBT, all-Ecuadorian visit, our guests were meeting with leaders and activists here in the nation’s capitol and elsewhere.

While we Americans can often be very, very US-centric in our focus, we have a lot to learn from our counterparts around the world. This was first driven home for me years ago when I wrote a scholarly article on gender identity recognition around the world, and discovered that some nations such as the United Kingdom and Spain were, at least by some measures, well ahead of the United States when it comes to the rights of transgender people. In recent years there has been a tremendous amount of LGBT and specifically transgender activism throughout much of Latin America, including major developments in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina to name a few.

Watch: Proyecto Transgenero’s video educating Ecuadorians about trans people and the identification challenges trans people face.

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Argentina passes historic law on gender recognition, access to health care

May 10, 2012

Argentina took two giant steps forward for trans equality yesterday, approving legislation that both ensures insurance coverage for transition-related medical care and at the same time eliminates medical requirement for official recognition of one’s gender identity.The law, backed by President Cristina Fernandez, passed the nation’s Senate Wednesday by a vote of 55-0, with one abstention and a dozen lawmakers declaring themselves absent. The move by South America’s third most populous nation, follows the course of neighboring Uruguay as well as others including Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, in providing for legal recognition of trans people’s identities without requiring specific medical procedures or a burdensome and potentially arbitrary judicial process.

The new law begins by stating that all persons have the right to the free development and recognition of their gender identity and to be treated in accord with that identity in the way they are officially identified. The law creates an official administrative procedure where by any adult, or any minor with the support of their guardians, may apply to change their sex listed in the civil registry. Neither judicial approval nor proof of specific psychological or medical treatments is required. Hormonal and surgical treatment for transgender people – which previously often required a court’s approval – will now be freely available and must be covered by public and private health plans. Thus, the law reflects the principle that individuals should control both their own identities and their own bodies, and should neither have unwanted medical procedures imposed on them nor have medically necessary ones denied. (A full English translation of the law is not yet available; this description is based on the official Spanish version.)

This law reflects the hard work of trans and LGBT advocates in Argentina as well as the growing trend of recognition for trans people’s identities and medical needs internationally.

NCTE Recognizes Miss Universe Organization for Commitment to Trans Inclusion

April 10, 2012

In response to news that the Miss Universe Organization will announce a final policy allowing transgender women to participate in its beauty pageants, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said:

“No one likes it when they’re left out of something because of who they are. This is especially true for transgender peoplepeople like Jenna Talackovawho are denied opportunities because they’re told that who they are is ‘unnatural.’ So I get that Jenna probably still doesn’t feel good about the situation. But it’s a noteworthy thing for a group like the Miss Universe Organization and Donald Trump to switch positions allowing Jenna to participate, and to commit to developing transgender inclusive rules. This is a good thing, and it’s a sign of how more and more people get trans issues.”

NCTE recognizes the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and other groups for quickly engaging senior levels of the organization including its owner, Donald Trump, to update the policy. We have spoken out about Jenna’s experience and have provided GLAAD with resources to assist the Miss Universe Organization in developing their final policy.

Keisling added, “We thank Jenna for standing up for herself and for all of us. Her case is just one in hundreds of examples where a person has something taken away—a job, a house, or a loved one—because they’re trans. And not every trans person gets access to legal representation to help them. There are too many other stories of trans people who experience unbearable circumstances. The support Jenna has received must also support other trans people. And I believe that progress here can influence change in other places that impact our lives.”

NCTE understands the legitimate position that beauty pageants reinforce narrow standards of women’s beauty. However, we will always support any trans person who is facing discrimination.

NCTE Applauds Obama Administrations Historic Call for LGBT Human Rights Worldwide

December 6, 2011

In response to Secretary Clinton’s speech at the United Nations calling for global support of basic LGBT human rights, and President Obama’s Memorandum to federal agencies abroad, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:

Secretary Clinton spoke about LGBT rights at the UN in Geneva and expressed a strong U.S. position in support of respect and fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide, making a case that ensuring our human rights is a basic responsibility of the United States and the world. Concurrently, President Obama released a Presidential Memorandum directing all federal agencies abroad to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people in U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance work.The National Center for Transgender Equality applauds their continued leadership in this area.

Read a rough transcript of Sec. Clinton’s remarks here.

Read the official Memorandum below.


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Australia’s Highest Court Rules Trans People Don’t Need Surgery for Documents

October 6, 2011

Australia’s highest court ruled today that transgender people can legally change their gender without undergoing surgery, at least in some Australian states.  The case was brought by two transgender men, both of whom have had undergone hormone therapy and top surgery.  Western Australia’s Gender Reassignment Board refused to issue them recognition certificates, which would allow them to obtain new birth certificates and change their gender marker in other government records, because both still had typically female reproductive organs.

Legislation in the state of Western Australia permits legal gender change where, among other requirements, an individual “has adopted the lifestyle and has the gender characteristics of a person of the gender to which the person has been reassigned.”  The High Court interpreted “gender characteristics” broadly to include a person’s appearance and behavior.  Legal recognition of the gender in which a person lives in society, the Court said, did not require “detailed knowledge of their bodily state,” or that a person take “all possible steps . . . to become as male or female as possible.”  The Court emphasized the purpose of the legislation, which was to “alleviate that suffering and the discrimination which [transgender] persons may face by providing legal recognition of the person’s perception of their gender.” While the state’s law did require some form of transition-related medical treatment, the Court concluded that such treatment did not have to be surgical and could include hormone therapy.

NCTE applauds the High Court’s decision and hopes it will pave the way for improvements to other Australian states’ policies, some of which still require surgery for legal recognition of gender reassignment.

In the United States, requirements for gender marker change vary depending on the document and the state or government agency that issues it.  NCTE continues its work to improve requirements across U.S. federal agencies for gender markers changes on federal documents.

Read the full court ruling here.

Trans News Roundup

June 27, 2011

News bits on transgender rights:

  • Jacqueline White reflects on her partner’s transition highlighting importance of family support. Jacqueline’s partner also happens to be NCTE’s board chair.
  • NPR Asks: The End of Gender?
  • San Francisco Trans March celebrates the 45th anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria  Riots,  which pre-dates the launch of the modern LGBT movement at the Stonewall. Watch video of the march:

UN Passes Resolution to Prevent Human Rights Violations for LGBT People

June 17, 2011

Today, the international community took an important step in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights around the world. In a narrow 23-19 vote, the United Nation’s Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling attention to the daily mistreatment, discrimination and violence that LGBT people face. It charges the Human Rights Council High Commissioner, Navanethem Pillay, with preparing and presenting a study on discriminatory laws and practices that restrict or oppress LGBT people.  The resolution also establishes appropriate follow-up to seek recommendations to eliminate them.

This act makes history as the first time the UN passed a resolution solely focused on protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In December 2008, 66 countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirming protections of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, from which the United States was sorely absent in support. While inspiring hope in many countries, the 2008 statement had little power to create significant change for those struggling. However, today’s announcement has strong potential to bring attention to the horrifying experiences of transgender people by thoroughly documenting the laws and institutions that perpetuate them.  Notably, this resolution marks the first time that sexual orientation and gender identity has ever been included in a formal UN resolution, showing a distinct improvement in worldwide awareness of transgender rights.

The Obama Administration has been a strong advocate for worldwide LGBT rights, and was a key player in the passing of today’s resolution. Mara Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director said, “This resolution is a historic step in the global movement for transgender rights and strengthens our own work at home.” She continued, “I am proud of our country’s support of the resolution. President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s leadership here is among many examples of this Administration’s commitment to real change for transgender people everywhere.”

JUNE 20th UPDATE:  President Obama released the following statement on the passage of the resolution:

Today, for the first time in history, the United Nations adopted a resolution dedicated to advancing the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights — and entitled to the same protections — as all human beings.  The United States stands proudly with those nations that are standing up to intolerance, discrimination, and homophobia.  Advancing equality for LGBT persons should be the work of all peoples and all nations.  LGBT persons are entitled to equal treatment, equal protection, and the dignity that comes with being full members of our diverse societies.  As the United Nations begins to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for LGBT persons, the world becomes a safer, more respectful, and more humane place for all people.