April 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
White House to host first ever trans meeting

The White House on Friday is set to host a meeting on trans issues (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender activists intend to discuss federal policy issues at an upcoming White House meeting that will be the first ever held by the Office of Public Engagement to focus solely on trans issues.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said the meeting, which is set to take place Friday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, will include transgender leaders who work on federal policy.

“OPE routinely holds meetings with various stakeholders to discuss various policy issues,” Inouye said. “Friday’s meeting, like most OPE meetings, will be closed press and off the record.”

Additionally, Inouye said the meeting will be the first ever for the Office of Public Engagement where transgender issues are the sole focus of discussion.

“While transgender issues have been covered in previous OPE meetings, and transgender leaders have been included in other OPE meetings, this would be the first time OPE has held a meeting solely focused on transgender issues,” Inouye said.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she plans to attend the meeting.

“This is the first president who has allowed trans people — really allowed LGBT people — to bring forward problems and then advocate for them,” Keisling said. “In the Bush administration, we couldn’t even do that. They wouldn’t even listen to us. They didn’t care what our problems were. In fact, they were making most of our problems.”

Michael Silverman, executive director for the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said his organization wasn’t invited to the meeting, but added having the first Office of Public Engagement meeting to focus on transgender issues is “tremendously significant.”

“There was concern at the start that this was a quote-unquote secret meeting and [the fact] that the White House is speaking about it publicly demonstrates there is a commitment to meeting with transgender people and to addressing their needs,” Silverman said.

Inouye deferred to the White House visitor’s access records release process for information on which transgender activists will be in attendance. Informed sources said the National Center for Transgender Equality will form the basis of attendees at the meeting.

The specific topics of discussion during the meeting were unclear. Keisling declined to identify specific policy initiatives that she would bring up, but noted her organization’s larger agenda includes employment policy, access to health care, military policy and immigration detention standards.

“We’re not prioritizing them in that way, and I’m not going to prioritize them that way just so you can have a good story,” Keisling said. “Everybody’s like, ‘Why are you talking about this one and not that one?’ We’re going to say, ‘Here’s our agenda.'”

According to the White House, Obama administration officials in attendance will come from the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of Public Engagement, the counsel’s office and other offices. President Obama isn’t expected to attend.

Silverman said he hopes employment non-discrimination protections for transgender people will be among the discussion points during the meeting.

“I think there are important things on the agenda for transgender people at the federal level, and that includes things like ensuring that we have employment protections at the federal level and how important that is for the community, and that would be our top priority,” Silverman said.

Advocates have been pressing Obama to issue an executive order that would bar the federal government from contracting with companies that don’t have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity for their workforce. Such a directive has been seen as an interim alternative while Republicans remain in control of the U.S. House to passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar job bias against LGBT people.

Silverman said his organization would back an executive order mandating employment non-discrimination from the president and hopes such a measure would be brought up during the meeting.

“At this point, employment is the top priority of the community,” Silverman said. “A recent survey showed 47 percent of transgender people have been denied a job or a promotion — or fired from a job — just because of who they are.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Be willing to bet there will be no Black transpeople at that meeting

  • “recent survey showed 47 percent of transgender people have been denied a job or a promotion — or fired from a job — just because of who they are.” Actually the numbers are probably much higher.

    Trans people have a huge difficulty in finding a job in good economic jobs much less in bad times.

    I was assaulted at my previous job by a director. the executive director helped him cover the whole thing up. I was then fired for trying to do something about it.

  • recent survey showed 47 percent of transgender people have been denied a job or a promotion — or fired from a job — just because of who they are. Actually the numbers are probably much higher.

    Trans people have a huge difficulty in finding a job in good economic jobs much less in bad times.

    I was assaulted at my previous job by a director. the executive director helped him cover the whole thing up. I was then fired for trying to do something about it.

  • This is a great start, I wish you the best at getting our positions accross to the white house Mara, if anyone can do it it’s you. If any time is right it is now. Our hopes ride on each encounter with the government. Good luck, Annie

  • Why does this meeting have to be so secret? Quislings going. Oh great. She doesn’t represent anyone but HRC, NGLTF and of course herself.

    What about the people who we, we being my fellow white folk, find on the ground dragged to death or shot point blank in the face. Yes I’m talking about people of color! Is this meeting so secret we may never know who attended of even what was talked about? If this was a repug administration I’d bet there would be plenty of sheets (not the former eqMD ED) but bed sheets worn.

  • AT least we have Obama’s attention. think about having the talibangelicals in the white house, filling the courts with relics from the age of slavery, and segregation.

  • A simple federal level, across the board, recognition of the legal sex of those born transsexed and who have corrected their bodies would be an excellent start for the most at risk population. It would end the marriage go round in various states and put post corrected individuals born transsexed and intersexed on an equal footing with all other citizens. Why am I afraid, given the agenda driven individuals named, this won’t even be mentioned?

  • Oh gee, the White House is going to have a conversation about trans rights? Gosh, how exciting! Cuz, y’know, talking about it in Congress has helped us make such great progress there, right? Just yet another example of Democrats “all talk, no action” policy of LGBT issues that aren’t Gay Inc. pet issues. I’ll start taking it seriously when Democrats stop making excuses for doing nothing to protect our rights and start standing up for the values they say they believe in, even when it’s politically inconvenient for them. Until that happens, there’s still nothing to see here, move along, move along.

  • I don’t suppose they are going to be discussing making sure people who have transitioned have their documents such as ID an birth certificates respected equally to the rest of the public’s. This basic inequality should be the very first thing addressed, because we aren’t even quite human if our documents are meaningless.

    What do you suppose the chances are they will even mention our lack of basic human rights before they launch into talking about special accommodations at work and bathrooms at restaurants? Yeah, zero, that’s what I thought too.

  • how does one get to go to these meetings. being on the recieving end of this treatment in the government work place would make me a great one to represent the issues.

  • While I support the LGBT community and am glad that this meeting has come to pass, I do have to wonder how much money this will be zapping…

  • What? Given it’s going to be salaried civil servants on the clock, that the “junket” will involve these participants traveling from either across the hall or next door, and that a deli platter and party-hats aren’t likely to be provided, it’ll be in the $2-6 range (depending on how many pots of coffee are needed). This concern is so ludicrously trivial that only trolling would justify the mention.

  • What about deaf transpeople…don’t they even count at all?

  • Yawn…Mara Quisling “helping” us again. Why am I not surprised?

  • My question is what is the agenda and priorities. Are there different concerns and priorities for different groups of people lumped together under the transgendered umbrella or are the priorities and concerns also lumped together. Many people have the impression that everyone under the transgendered umbrella is in transition or thinking about transitioning or living full time pre-op or post-op and that is not the case.

  • Just give us protection from discrimination due to gender identity or gender expression in housing, employment and public accommodations

  • The useful empowering thought for anybody to possess in a working environment is that “I shall expect diversity because that is natural and interesting.”

  • also, if Transgender go the extra mile and are indispensable then if sacked, or let go, then the company will feel the draft. People are brought up on a limited programme of Male-Female polarity, and this needs to be braodened out to reality, and in line with Darwinian Diversity.

  • It is interesting to read about your transgender activists who are about to meet with officials in the White House – For the first time ever !

    Just to tell that similar event did happen in Denmak mars 15. this year. – also for the first time ever.

    In Denmark, we have just had our first official Hearing on the Transgender lives ever held in Denmark.
    After lobbying for a year we managed (one of the largest Danish Transgender associations) too have a decisive influence on the outcome of a legislation proposal by the opposition, which was unfortunately rejected by the government. However, using the contacts we had created, we managed to get permission to hold the Hearing in one of the most prestigious rooms in the Danish parliament.
    The hearing was attended by officials from the Health Protection Agency, ministries, various human rights groups, Amensty, doctors from different hospitals who treats transgender persons. Unfortunately few members of the parliment showed up, but anyway a total of 4 from 3 of the 7 parties in the paliment participated.
    A large press turnout. There were subsequent articles in various newspapers and the initiator of hearing, Irene Haffner was intervievet in the Danish national TV in prime time.

    The Hearing was a success judged on the interest from the official Denmark and judged on the backing and the promises from those present politicians who we got.
    Also we managede to gather all the Transgender associations to back up the Hearing.

    The Hearing dealt with topics such as morbid disclosure of transgender in the official classifications systems.
    There was criticism of the requirement for psychiatric examination prior to sex change and questioned the need for this (at present it is normal that Trangenders are examinated about 4 years before allowence for sex reassignment therapy is decided) .
    There were discussed the offer of help and information you should offer people who want sex change.
    Questions of civil judicial reassignment without requiring surgery were discussed.
    Various administrative requirements were affected, as ex right to choose your own name.
    Gender Neutral registrations in passports and the Danish social securtity card.
    Finally, Denmark’s relations with international declarations by the Council of Europe human rights counsil and the implement of the Yogiakarta principle were discussed
    Hope you found this little report from abroard interesting and encouraging

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