I’m deeply honored to be one of two national standing committee members from Montgomery County attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week along with my friend Sen. Jamie Raskin. I’m also equally proud to be one of a record-setting 11 trans delegates to the convention, three more than in 2008. These are, alphabetically: Kylar Broadus (Mo.), Janice Covington (N.C.), Cris Land (Ore.), Dariah Lohman (Ariz.), Marisa Richmond (Tenn.), Diego Sanchez (Mass.), Janice Shiner (Wis.), Babs Siperstein (N.J.), Melissa Sklarz (N.Y.), and Meghan Stabler (Texas), with Babs being a super delegate and member of the DNC Executive Committee.
The trans representation is highly significant, and not simply for the absolute number. Relative to the total of 518 LGBT delegates, the number is only 2 percent, which is one quarter of what it should be. However, it’s significant because even though we’re small in number, we represent the segment of the LGBT community that has the most for which to be thankful to the president. Yes, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the assault on DOMA benefit us all. But the trans community has reaped a bonanza these past four years. Here are a few of the pearls:
• The president began with the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.
• Gender identity was added to the federal government’s anti-discrimination policies, and followed up with guidance to agencies and departments on how to provide supportive workplace environments.
• The first administration official — Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice — testified on behalf of the inclusion of gender identity in ENDA. I had first lobbied the AAG on behalf of the trans community in 2005 when he sat on the Montgomery County Council.
• Gender identity was included in safe schools discussions as the “It Gets Better” movement took off, and has been part of federal government anti-bullying work and support for GSAs ever since.
• The Social Security Administration ceased issuing “no match” letters to the employers of trans workers, no longer inadvertently outing them at work.
• Health care providers receiving federal funds (which includes almost all providers in the U.S.), including the federal government, are barred from discriminating against trans persons. Similarly, hospitals receiving federal funds must respect the family structure of patients, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
• HHS will be including data on the LGBT community, the first step to determining the size and scope of health problems affecting the trans population, and aiding in research on trans-specific health problems in the future.
• The Veterans Administration, the single largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care to more than 8.3 million veterans annually, upgraded its policies to provide quality care to all trans veterans, including the updating of medical records to reflect one’s proper gender identity in the nation’s largest electronic medical records system.
• Targeting of trans women of color exposed to HIV has begun with grants made available through HRSA, the Health Resources and Services Administration.
• Looking forward to 2014, the Affordable Care Act bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity by insurers operating in the exchanges.
• HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, adopted an anti-discrimination policy for federally funded housing covering trans persons, and its secretary, Shaun Donovan, became the first cabinet secretary to address a trans organization (NCTE).
• The State Department adopted progressive policies allowing trans persons to obtain gender-appropriate passports without a surgery requirement.
• The administration has, to date, appointed three trans persons to serve in various departments — Dylan Orr, Amanda Simpson and Chloe Schwenke — the first administration to have appointed any trans person.
• And, finally, and most importantly, the EEOC ruled, in Macy v Holder, that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination includes trans and gender non-conforming people. This expansion of the definition of sex discrimination will become the norm throughout the government, and applies not only to federal government employees and federal contractors, but to all Americans.
So, as a member of the trans community, I have much reason to be thankful to President Obama, and I am proud to serve the Democratic Party in our efforts to secure one more term. We have also created Trans United for Obama (TU4O), a national volunteer effort to activate transgender people, their supporters, allies, families and friends to re-elect the president. With a little over nine weeks to go, I ask all to get involved to make the re-election a reality, and help us not only maintain these advances but move forward in a second term to make equality for all trans and gay persons a lived reality.