Expert Commission: Military Policies on Trans People Not Based on Science

March 13, 2014
Bryce Celotto, former NCTE intern and transgender service member.

Bryce Celotto, former NCTE intern and transgender service member, is featured in a forthcoming web series documentary, “TransMilitary.” 

A national commission chaired by a former US Surgeon General and a former health and safety director for the Coast Guard released a major report this week, finding that US military policies on transgender service members are not based on sound medical science and should be revised. The commission found that the ban on service by transgender people is “an expensive, damaging, and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel” who currently service in uniform.

The commission also criticized the current policy of discharging personnel found to be transgender irrespective of their fitness for duty, stating this is “inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions.” Former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders and retired Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, who are in leading medical positions in the Coast Guard and Public Health Service, chaired the commission, and a group of 16 current and former military university professors endorsed the quality of their research and the reasonableness of their conclusions.

The report, published by the Palm Center at San Francisco State University, found that current military regulations regarding transgender people are inconsistent with military policies that permit other service members to be deployed while on hormone medications; permit other service members to continue serving following reconstructive surgeries; and do not discharge service members based on medical diagnoses without an assessment of individual fitness for duty. The report also found that current rules fail to account for recent changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and compromise continuity of care between the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration, which has made great strides in supporting trans veterans.

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Weak DHS Rules Underscore Need to End Detention of Transgender Immigrants

March 7, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) express disappointment in the final standards published today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address the severe problem of sexual abuse in immigration detention. While the final standards contain some valuable provisions, they fall short of the minimum steps needed to address the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse in immigration detention. In particular, the standards–which are, in key respects, weaker than those adopted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2012 for prisons and jails–lack critical protections for transgender immigrants, who are among the most highly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

“The rules released by DHS today are not adequate to protect the safety of tens of thousands of real people who are at risk in detention every day,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “While NCTE will work with our allies to see that the positive steps that did make it into the DHS rules are fully implemented, far more needs to be done to reform and ultimately end mass detention.”​

Olga Tomchin, Soros Justice Fellow at the Transgender Law Center said, “It is a cruel irony that trans immigrants who flee persecution and believe they will be safe in the U.S. are then often met with state violence and further retraumatized by horrific treatment based on their trans status.”

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The Trans Case for Marijuana Decriminalization

March 4, 2014

Today, the District of Columbia City Council will have their second and final vote on the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Act of 2014. And last week, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) issued the following letter to City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, along with all the other city council members, urging them to end mass arrests of DC residents for possession of small amounts of marijuana by voting to support this bill.

The letter states:

“[E]xtremely high rates of incarceration reflect a cycle of societal discrimination and economic marginalization faced by many transgender people, both flowing from and contributing to disproportionate rates of job loss, poverty, and homelessness. Prosecution and a criminal record for mere marijuana possession, with all the collateral consequences it carries, robs many individuals of the opportunity to overcome these social and economic barriers.”

“Though we’re pleased that the proposal is expected to pass the council’s vote today, we’re disappointed that new language in the bill doesn’t adequately address the criminalization of public smoking,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “Other states like Colorado and Washington recognize that tracking people down for public smoking is a misuse of public dollars, and have therefore handled this issue appropriately. The DC City Council today has the opportunity to do the same.”

Read the letter below.

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D.C. Government Announces Comprehensive Coverage for Transgender Residents

February 27, 2014

Today, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced that public and private health insurance plans that the D.C. government regulates–including Medicaid, D.C. government employee insurance, and private plans sold on D.C.’s health exchange–are required to cover transition-related care.

The new announcement makes D.C. healthcare coverage the most comprehensive plans for transgender Americans in the United States, a direct result of concerted advocacy from local activists, the National Center for Transgender Equality, or NCTE, and the Center for American Progress and other allies.

“This victory reaffirms growing agreement among advocates and the medical community that D.C.’s healthcare nondiscrimination laws require that insurance cover medically necessary transgender healthcare,” said Andy Bowen, NCTE Policy Associate.

“This policy will make D.C.’s healthcare programs and insurance coverage the most comprehensive in the country for the full scope of health care that transgender people need throughout their lives,” said Andrew Cray, Policy Analyst at CAP’s LGBT Research and Communications Project. “But more importantly, this announcement tells transgender people in the District that their health matters.”

In a bulletin released today, D.C.’s Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking, or DISB, explains that it will view “attempts by companies to limit or deny medically necessary treatments for gender dysphoria, including gender reassignment surgeries, to be discriminatory.” Beyond that, DISB affirms, “it is the position of the Department that treatment for gender dysphoria, including gender reassignment surgeries, is a covered benefit…”

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Senate Subcommittee Hearing Considers Ending Solitary Confinement

February 25, 2014

An estimated 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in the United States at any given time. Today, the US Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights will hold a hearing on the human rights, fiscal and public safety consequences of solitary confinement. This is a follow-up to a hearing held in 2012, and since that time there have been further actions by state and federal officials to reassess, limit, and in some cases eliminate the use of solitary confinement. The head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons will testify today about his agency’s promise to review the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. Senators will also hear from the head of Colorado’s prisons, who—charged by that state’s governor with limiting the use of solitary—penned an unsettling New York Times op-ed about spending a day in solitary himself.

Read our testimony here:

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