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White House to host first ever trans meeting

Meeting first ever for OPE to focus solely on trans issues

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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.”

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. TransGriot

    April 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm

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

    • Babs

      April 30, 2011 at 11:34 pm

      How much are you willing to bet?

    • dev d

      May 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      well,i’m bi-racial.. hope someone will save me a seat. :)

  2. Jessica

    April 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    “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.

    • Jason

      April 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      No offense but when someone is out in the open admitting their crazy(sorry but transgender is a mental disease ) it affects other employees and customers..

  3. Jessica

    April 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    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.

  4. Anne Faith Beon

    April 27, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    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

  5. Kelli TrANNsAction Busey

    April 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    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.

  6. StanJames

    April 27, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    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.

  7. Rev Cathryn Platine

    April 28, 2011 at 10:42 am

    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?

  8. Rebecca Juro

    April 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

    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.

  9. Concerned

    April 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    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.

  10. Angela

    April 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    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.

  11. Tenochyan

    April 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    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…

  12. Aislin

    April 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    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.

  13. Diana Lani Windsor

    April 29, 2011 at 1:41 am

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

  14. Lisalee18wheeler

    April 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm

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

  15. Leslie Crawford

    April 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    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.

  16. The Transexual Menace

    May 1, 2011 at 12:02 am

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

  17. kavannagh

    May 4, 2011 at 10:08 am

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

  18. kavannagh

    May 4, 2011 at 10:14 am

    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.

  19. Izabella

    May 4, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    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
    Izabella

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1

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Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

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Rachel Levine on becoming four-star admiral: ‘It comes from my desire to serve’

Trans official sworn-in to U.S. Public Health Service

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For Rachel Levine, the appointment to her new role as a four-star admiral complementing her existing duties as assistant secretary for health is another way for the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed presidential appointee to serve.

“I think that this just really comes from my desire to serve in all capacities,” Levine said in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade. “To serve the first day in my field of academic medicine and pediatrics, but then in Pennsylvania and now in the federal government, and it furthers my ability to do that.”

Levine, 63, also recognized the importance of the appointment as a transgender person within the U.S. Public Health Service, for which she was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday

“I think for the LGBTQ+ community, it is a further sign of progress and our president’s commitment to equity, to inclusion and diversity,” Levine said. “So I think that it is a very important milestone, and I’m pleased to serve.”

As part of her duties, Levine will lead an estimated 6,000 public health service officers serving vulnerable populations, including deployments inside and outside the country for communities beleaguered with the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. The role involves working closely with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, whom Levine called her “friend and colleague.”

The U.S. Public Health Service, Levine said, has deployed “many, many times,” including its greatest number ever of deployments to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the places the service has deployed, Levine said, was in her home state of Pennsylvania, where she recently served as secretary of health.

Not only is Levine the first openly transgender person to serve in the uniformed health service as a four-star general, but she’s also the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“We have 6,000 dedicated committed public servants really all focused on our nation’s health, and they serve in details to the CDC and the FDA and the NIH, but also clinically with the Indian Health Service, and the federal prison system,” Levine said. “They’re also detailed and deployed throughout the country, and they deployed like never before for COVID-19 as well as the border, as well as dealing with floods and hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Although the Public Health Service is primarily focused on addressing public health disasters within the United States, Levine said it has a record of deployments overseas, including years ago when it was deployed to Africa under the threat of Ebola.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra had high praise for Levine in a statement upon news of taking on a leadership position in the service.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Adm. Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Levine, however, was careful to draw a distinction between her appointment within the Public Health Service and being a service member within the U.S. armed forces.

“It is not a military branch, it’s not the armed forces: It’s a uniformed force, so it’s different,” Levine said. “For example, the Army, the Navy, our military, there are two other uniformed branches, and that is ours, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA.”

The new role, Levine said, would complement her duties as assistant secretary for health. Although not only secretaries of health have been commissioned to take the uniform, Levine said she wanted to undertake that as part of her role in the Biden administration.

The two appointments were not simultaneous, Levine said, because of a general process she undertook, which was completed just this week.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Levine. During her Senate confirmation process, when she was hounded by anti-transgender attacks in conservative media and rude, invasive questioning by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on her gender identity.

Levine, however, said she hasn’t encountered any hostility regarding her new role (as of now) and shrugged off any potential attacks in the future and said the move is about her career “to serve and to help people.”

“I’ve continued that for our nation as the assistant secretary for health and this is just a further demonstration of my commitment to service,” Levine said. “I don’t know what others will say, but that’s the genesis of my wanting to serve in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to place on the uniform.”

Levine’s new appointment comes shortly after a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent her a letter dated Sept. 30 calling on her and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to issue new guidance for hospital or residential care on mental health needs of transgender people.

Asked about the letter, Levine said mental health issues are under the authority of Delphin-Rittmon and the two “will work together and we will respond.”

Specifically, the senators in the letter call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

Asked what the response will look like, Levine said, “We’re going to work on that.”

“We will be looking at what they’re asking for and the requirements, and we’ll talk with them and the stakeholders and we’ll look to issue appropriate guidance,” Levine said.

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