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President Obama Acknowledges Humanity of Trans and Bisexual Americans in Historic State of the UnionJanuary 20, 2015
Tonight, President Barack Obama includes transgender and bisexual people in the State of the Union address in reference to American values and the defense of human dignity. This inclusion is unprecedented in any State of the Union address.
In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama said:
As Americans, we respect human dignity […] It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.
In response to President Obama’s inclusion of transgender and bisexual people, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said:
“It is very heartening that President Obama has chosen to speak up for transgender people in a State of the Union Speech about American values. While other years, he has focused on a laundry lists of policies, mention there would have been important. In those years when we were not mentioned in the State of the Union, the President was still leading the way in advancing policies that have improved and saved transgender lives. Of course, the advancement of those policies is so much more important than a mention in a speech. But make no mistake, the President of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal. It will empower trans people to stand taller and work harder to improve this country for all people. That he has also said bisexual for the first time in a state of the Union Address is very significant as well.”
“His mention of us makes us know that he meant us when he talked about Americans. When he spoke about children, he meant transgender children too. When he spoke about immigrants, he meant transgender immigrants too. When he talked about service members and veterans, he meant the transgender people too.”
Read the President’s complete remarks as prepared for delivery here.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) this week reported national statistics for the first time on sexual abuse of transgender people in US prisons and jails. BJS estimates there were over 3,200 transgender people in US prisons nationwide in 2011-12, of whom 39.9% reported sexual assault or abuse in the last year by either another prisoner or staff. BJS also estimated there were over 1,700 transgender people in US jails in 2011-12, of whom 26.8% reported sexual assault or abuse in the last year. Transgender prisoners were victimized at rates nearly ten times those for prisoners in general (4% in prisons and 3.2% in jails).
The findings are similar to previously released research, including a California study finding that of transgender women held in men’s prisons, 59% had ever been sexually assaulted by another prisoner. While BJS did not break down transgender statistics by gender or type of facility, most prisons and jails continue to house essentially all transgender women with men despite 2012 federal rules calling for individualized placements. Previously released statistics from the same surveys found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual prisoners also face very higher rates of sexual assault behind bars—though the transgender rates are the highest by far.
By Mara Keisling, Executive Director, NCTE
Andy Cray came to work at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) as a law fellow right out of law school. Coming from one of the handful of best law schools in the country, he really could have gone anywhere, but he wanted to work for the transgender community and he wanted to do it at NCTE. An even smaller organization at the time than we are now, we were unable to pay Andy; so he even brought his own funding from his law school. Less than a year later he found a permanent, full-time position doing trans health advocacy at the Center for American Progress (CAP). We continued to work with him, for which I will always be amazed, but less than two years later, after accomplishing a body of work that any activist would be proud of, Andy passed away this August from cancer, leaving behind an improbably large group of devastated but amazed family, friends and admirers—people who really were touched deeply by Andy.
In honor of that body of work, NCTE is so proud to announce our new Andrew Cray Law Fellowships. The NCTE Board of Directors has also initiated an annual recognition called the Andrew Cray Trans Health Advocacy Award, which we will give each year at our anniversary event to an activist who significantly advances trans health.
Andrew Cray was such a significant part of the rapidly advancing transgender health movement. He was a key player in the recent success in eliminating insurance exclusions for transition-related care through state insurance commission rulings. His work to get transgender and other LGBT people enrolled in Affordable Care Act plans caused President Obama to name Andy as a Champion of Change.
We know how lucky we are to have known and worked with such a beautiful and brilliant star, and we know too we are lucky for our exposure to everyone of the law fellows who has and will pitch in over the years. So, having future law fellows be called Andrew Cray Law Fellows just felt like a match about which Andy would have been pleased and honored and a bit embarrassed.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) family is saddened by the passing of Leslie Feinberg, a true revolutionary for transgender rights, workers rights, and social justice. Feinberg was influential to many transgender and gender non-conforming people, and will be remembered as a foundational architect of the advances we reap today and tomorrow.
In reacting to Feinberg’s passing today, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said:
“Leslie was strong and fierce and someone I looked up to. Leslie’s writing helped make a home for a generation of trans and queer people. In particular, Leslie’s depiction of Jess, a character in their acclaimed novel Stone Butch Blues, helped me see myself both as an advocate fighting economic injustice and as an individual seeking recognition for being queer and trans. I last saw Leslie at CeCe McDonald’s trial in Minneapolis in 2012, where Leslie, always aware of the intersection between gender and race and class and the criminal justice system, stepped up to support CeCe and the community that had her back. Trans people and our cause have been greatly strengthened that there was a Leslie Feinberg and we are diminished at their passing.”
This week, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling was named in Out magazine’s annual listing of 100 influential lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender cultural and political icons. Keisling was honored for her decade of advocacy for transgender people with NCTE.
Out says Keisling “has been instrumental in making outdated government policies more inclusive. The organization’s efforts have improved the process of updating gender on government records, increased access to trans-related health care, and strengthened non-discrimination stances in businesses, housing, and schools.”
Pictured with Keisling is Laura Erickson-Schroth, editor of the groundbreaking collection of essays of the experiences of transgender people, “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves“.
Other honorees this year include Scout and Liz Margolies, Samira Wiley, Calpernia Addams, Zachary Quinto, Sam Smith, and Angel Haze. NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin was an Out100 honoree in 2013.
See the full list of the Out100 2014 honorees here.
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:
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.
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.
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.