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Transgender health care rally in D.C. draws more than 100

Whitman-Walker Health, Casa Ruby among groups that took part in the event

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rally for transgender equality and economic justice, gay news, Washington Blade
rally for transgender equality and economic justice, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Tyler Grigsby)

More than 100 people attended a rally in Columbia Heights on Saturday in support of equal access to health care for transgender people.

“We are here today to advocate for trans competent health care providers and for health care for the transgender community,” organizer Bryce Jordan Celotto said.

Nico Quintana, who came out as trans when he was 19, binded his chest for 10 years because his health insurance providers did not cover transition-related care.

He received a double mastectomy at an out-patient facility last year after saving more than $7,000, but developed an infection in his chest after the surgery. Quintana was hospitalized three times — and he said the personnel who admitted him to the hospital asked whether he was a man or a woman before they processed him.

“No one should have to think about that when they’re dying,” he said.

A 2011 study from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force noted 28 percent of respondents said they experienced harassment while in a doctor’s office or another health care setting. Forty-eight percent of respondents postponed medical care because they could not afford it.

Nearly a fifth of survey participants said a doctor or other health care provider refused to treat them because of their gender identity and expression. The study notes this figure is higher among trans people of color.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when the number one prerequisite for a good health care [provider] is that they’re nice,” Thomas Coughlin of Whitman-Walker Health said. He noted clients drive up to six hours to access trans-specific care at his agency. “One of our goals is to educate people about trans care and trans-sensitive health.”

Andy Bowen of the D.C. Trans Coalition and others who spoke at the rally applauded the D.C. government’s efforts to address health care and employment disparities among trans Washingtonians.

Then-Mayor Anthony Williams in 2005 signed a bill that added gender identity and expression to the D.C. Human Rights Law. The Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Department of Corrections have also released trans sensitivity guidelines.

More than 70 people have graduated from the Project Empowerment program the D.C. Department of Employment Services launched in 2011 as a way to help reduce unemployment and poverty rates among trans Washingtonians. The city’s insurance regulator last month also clarified existing regulations to say health insurance providers cannot discriminate against their trans policy holders.

Mayor Vincent Gray and other D.C. officials last September unveiled the country’s first publicly-funded campaign to combat anti-trans discrimination, but advocates stressed they need to do more to improve access to health care and reduce economic disparities among trans Washingtonians.

Tyra Hunter died from injuries she sustained during a 1995 car accident after emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene declined to treat her once they discovered she was trans. D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe last fall apologized to Hunter’s family on behalf of the department during a Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration at the Metropolitan Community Church in Northwest Washington.

Bowen urged D.C. Medicare, Alliance and other publicly-funded health plans to cover trans-specific health care needs, such as hormones, and procedures.

The JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, which is named for the trans woman whom Gary Niles Montgomery allegedly stabbed to death at a Northeast D.C. bus stop in Feb. 2012, would allow Washingtonians to legally change the gender on their birth certificates without sex-reassignment surgery.

The D.C. Council has scheduled a May 16 hearing on the proposal, but Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado said during the rally that the city needs to enforce existing laws designed to protect trans Washingtonians from discrimination.

“People have rights here,” she said. “We have human rights for everybody. There is equality.”

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Virginia

Virginia Beach high school students stage walkouts to support transgender rights

City’s school board approved policy to out trans students to parents

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Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)

Students at five Virginia Beach high schools on Friday staged walkouts in support of transgender rights.

The walkout is in response to the Virginia Beach School Board approving policy 5-31, which the Pride Liberation Project says will require schools to out trans students to their parents.

Students have been organizing walkouts across the state since Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year announced new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students.

“Students like me aren’t going to be able to talk to our teachers if we’re constantly worried about our school officials calling home to forcibly out us,” AJ, a trans Kellam High School Student, told the Pride Liberation Project.

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District of Columbia

Pepco, Exelon announce $2.7 million in funding for four minority-owned businesses

‘It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table’

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Pepco and Exelon held a press conference Friday to announce four recipients of $2.7 million in investments. (Photo courtesy Exelon)

Pepco and Exelon announced a $2.7 million investment in four minority-owned businesses on Friday.

“Today’s been a long time coming,” said Pepco Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs Valencia McClure.

Pepco’s parent company, Exelon, launched the Racial Equity Capital Fund (RECF) in 2022 to expand capital access to diverse businesses. This latest $2.7 million investment is just a portion of RECF’s $36 million in funding.

At the announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser spoke about the other ways Pepco and Exelon have “put their money where their mouth is” through their partnership with the D.C. Infrastructure Academy. She reported that all 22 of the residents that graduated from the program last week have a job offer from Pepco.

“We know that is not just a job, but a career,” she said to the crowd’s applause. “We know that working together, we can invest in D.C. residents, provide opportunity, and ensure that our D.C. businesses are a part of D.C.’s growing prosperity.”

The four minority businesses that received funding were Gemini Energy Solutions, Public Sector Solutions Group, CJR Development Partners, and Escalate.

“It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table,” said fund recipient Nicole Cober, CJR Development’s Principle Managing Partner.

Gemini Energy Solutions, which is Black owned, received $1 million, the most of the four companies. Its mission is to equitably scale energy efficiency to marginalized communities. For the founder and CEO Anthony Kinslow II, this investment means that he is able to get paid and advance the work of his organization.

“We are now able to accelerate the work in our software and technology development,” he said. “What we were going to do in two years, we are now going to do in six months.”

For Escalate, a workforce development platform focused on frontline worker retention, the funding means that it will be able to double the pay for frontline workers.

Public Sector Solutions Group CEO Darryl Wiggins emphasized that this investment was not just ‘charity’ work, but mission-driven work.

“The principle and the intent is greater than the money we receive,” he said. Public Sector Solutions is Black owned.

Public Sector Solutions Group received a $600,000 debt investment; CJR Development, a minority and woman-owned small business, received a $600,000 debt investment; and Escalate, a majority Black and woman-owned company, received a $500,000 equity investment.

Exelon launched the RECF in partnership with RockCreek, one of the world’s largest diverse-owned global investment firms, in 2022. The RECF expands capital access to diverse businesses so they can create more jobs, grow their companies and reinvest in their neighborhoods and communities, according to a statement from Exelon.

New RECF applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested businesses may apply online or contact RockCreek at [email protected] for more information.

(Photo courtesy Exelon)
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Comings & Goings

Armstrong recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award

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Lynden C. Armstrong

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Lynden C. Armstrong on his Lifetime Achievement award from the Congressional Management Foundation in recognition of his exemplary public service in Congress. 

Upon receiving the award Armstrong said, “This recognition is not just a personal achievement, but a testament to the unwavering dedication and hard work of colleagues and mentors who have been with me on this journey. I’ve dedicated my entire career to public service within the Senate, where recognition isn’t the primary motivation for our work, making this recognition even more humbling.” He is currently Deputy Assistant Senate Sergeant at Arms and Chief Information Officer.  

Armstrong started his career with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), where he rose to Deputy Chief of Staff in his more than 13-year stint. In 2004, during his tenure with Domenici, amid a debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment, Armstrong became a co-founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Allies Senate Staff (GLASS) Caucus. In 2014, he moved to the Sergeant at Arms CIO organization, where he established a new department within the CIO that was crafted to engage Senate offices in comprehending and harnessing technologies provided by the SAA. 

Lynden has previously served as Chief Clerk on the U.S. Senate, Committee on Rules and Administration, and with the U.S. Senate, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, as Deputy Inaugural Coordinator, 2012–2013.  In that role among other responsibilities, he served as civilian liaison to the National Special Security Event Executive Steering Committee and subcommittees, including the Capitol, USCP, Crowd Management, Public Relations, Transportation, and credentialing, and as liaison to the Joint Task Force – National Capital Region. 

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