In This Issue
- Executive Director’s Message
- TLDEF Files Suit Against NYC Department of Parks and Recreation after Transgender Man is Denied Use of Men's Locker Room at Public Pool
- New York State Updates Birth Certificate Policy
- Key Funding from Calamus Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation and City of New York Will Bolster TLDEF’s Work
- TLDEF Helps Gender Nonconforming Teen Who Faced Discrimination at the South Carolina DMV
- TLDEF Helps Two Transgender Women Confronted with Discrimination and Harassment at the West Virginia DMV
- NYC Passes Municipal ID Law Helping Transgender New Yorkers
Executive Director’s Message
President Obama is expected to make history today by signing an executive order barring discrimination against LGBT people who work for the federal government and federal contractors. We should all be judged based on the work we do and not on who we are. It’s exciting to see this progress and it inspires us to continue working for positive change.
We hope you have found time to relax and enjoy the summer season. It has been a busy few months here, and we are excited to share news about the work we have been doing.
In this newsletter, you’ll learn about our lawsuit against the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation on behalf of a transgender man who was told that he could not use the men’s locker room. We’ll also share the story of our efforts to help a gender nonconforming teen who was told by the South Carolina DMV that he must remove his makeup and “look more like a boy” before he could take his driver’s license photo. On a related note, we’ll explain what we’re doing to support two transgender women in West Virginia who were both denied the right to obtain driver’s license photos that match who they are and how they regularly appear.
In addition, we’ll tell you about New York State’s new birth certificate policy and New York City’s new municipal ID program, both of which will help make life easier for transgender residents here.
All that work has been complemented by sweeping press coverage, most notably on the editorial page of The New York Times. You can read more about all of the media visibility below.
Plus you’ll hear about additional funding from the Calamus Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation and the New York City Council, which will help advance our work. And we’ll tell you how you can support TLDEF by shopping with AmazonSmile.
We’ve had a whirlwind of activity these past few months, but it’s been extremely rewarding and exhilarating to fight for transgender rights in big cities and small towns alike. We could not do this vital work without your support. Thank you for making it possible! Enjoy the rest of your summer!
TLDEF Files Suit Against NYC Department of Parks and Recreation after Transgender Man is Denied Use of Men's Locker Room at Public Pool
In June, we filed suit against the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation on behalf of Bryan Ellicott, a 24-year-old transgender man who was told that he could not use the men’s locker room at a public pool. In July 2013, Bryan went to a city-run pool in Staten Island. While in the men’s locker room, he was confronted by a staff member and told that he had to use the women’s locker room or leave the pool. He ultimately left the pool feeling humiliated.
In response to this discriminatory treatment, TLDEF and co-counsel Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP filed suit on Bryan’s behalf. The lawsuit asks a New York court to rule for the first time that denying transgender people use of the restroom or locker room that matches their sex is discrimination in violation of New York City’s Human Rights Law.
“Like hundreds of other New Yorkers that day, I was just trying get some relief from the sweltering heat and enjoy an afternoon at the pool,” Bryan said. “Instead, I was singled out by pool staff because I am transgender. They harassed and humiliated me. No one deserves to be treated that way, but it’s an all-too-common experience for transgender people like me when we use restrooms and locker rooms.”
“What happened to Bryan happens to many transgender people when they use restrooms and locker rooms,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “Incidents like this one severely restrict the ability of transgender people to fully participate in society. Being able to use a restroom without harassment and discrimination is essential to being able to do things like work or use public places. This lawsuit sends a strong message: everyone should have equal access to public facilities. Transgender people cannot be treated as less than full citizens and be denied the use of restrooms and locker rooms just because of who they are.”
We look forward to continuing to work with Bryan to bring him the justice he deserves.
In June, New York State implemented new policies which allow transgender people born there to update their birth certificates without undergoing surgery. The State’s previous policy required proof of surgery, which created tremendous barriers to obtaining accurate ID for many transgender people. Under the new policy, a corrected birth certificate will be issued with proof of appropriate clinical treatment.
The State determined that its old policy, which dates back to the 1970s, was inconsistent with federal policy and the practices of other states which had previously updated their birth certificate policies to remove surgery requirements. Indeed, last year, the American Medical Association passed a resolution in support of policies “that allow for a change of sex designation on birth certificates for transgender individuals based upon verification by a physician that the individual has undergone transition according to applicable medical standards of care.” The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has also long supported this approach. TLDEF is proud to have been a member of the coalition that worked to change New York State’s policy.
Please contact us if you have questions about updating your birth certificate.
Key Funding from Calamus Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation and City of New York Will Bolster TLDEF’s Work
We are thrilled to announce that we have met our match on our $100,000 challenge grant from the Calamus Foundation. Thank you for helping us cross the line! The grant allowed new TLDEF supporters to maximize their giving by matching every dollar donated up to $100,000. For returning donors, Calamus matched every dollar above their previous donations up to $100,000. This was a phenomenal opportunity for new and longtime supporters to make more of their gifts through the generosity of Calamus. With your help and the Calamus Foundation’s help, this grant raised $200,000 to support our work.
We are also excited to announce that the David Bohnett Foundation has renewed our funding with a two-year $50,000 grant to support our work for equal rights. In addition, we are delighted to share that the New York City Council has voted to increase TLDEF’s funding by nearly 400 percent this year, bringing their total support of the Name Change Project to more than $30,000 for the coming year.
We are tremendously grateful to the Calamus Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation and the New York City Council for supporting our work!
Last month, we called upon the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to allow Chase Culpepper to retake his driver’s license photo after DMV officials previously made him change his appearance before they would photograph him. Chase is 16 and gender nonconforming. On March 3rd, he went to the DMV office in Anderson, SC to get his driver’s license. He had already passed his driving test and was dressed as he normally does. DMV employees told Chase that he could not have his photograph taken while wearing makeup and that he did not look the way DMV employees thought that a boy should. Chase wanted his license and ultimately removed as much of his makeup as he could and had his photo taken by DMV employees.
We have called upon the DMV to allow Chase to retake his driver’s license photo looking as he does regularly. Along with TLDEF, Chase’s mother has stood beside him throughout this process and been a passionate advocate, explaining that Chase “was singled out and discriminated against because he did not meet the DMV’s expectations of how a boy should look. I want my son to be able to be himself without discrimination or harassment. I love him that way and the government should not be telling him that he’s not okay the way he is.”
We are continuing to work to ensure that the DMV allows Chase to retake his license photo. Chase summed it up best: “The Department of Motor Vehicles should not have forced me to remove my makeup simply because my appearance does not meet their expectations of what a boy should look like. I just want the freedom to be who I am without the DMV telling me that I’m somehow not good enough.”
TLDEF Helps Two Transgender Women Confronted with Discrimination and Harassment at the West Virginia DMV
We are working with Trudy Kitzmiller and Kristen Skinner, two transgender women who were ordered by West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles officials at two separate offices to remove their makeup and wigs before the agency would photograph them. Both women were also subjected to defamatory and dehumanizing language by DMV employees who called them “it.”
In May, Trudy Kitzmiller of Mount Storm visited the DMV office in Martinsburg to update her driver’s license to accurately reflect her appearance and name change. Despite having all of the correct documents and following all DMV procedures, Trudy was treated with hostility by DMV employees and ordered to remove her wig, makeup and jewelry before they would take her photo.
Similarly, Ranson resident Kristen Skinner went with her documents to update her name and picture on her driver’s license and was told by DMV employees that “men cannot be photographed for a driver’s license photo wearing makeup.” She was also told to remove her false eyelashes and wig, despite the fact that she was wearing neither.
Trudy left the DMV without a new license. Kristen ultimately removed her makeup and received a license that does not reflect how she looks on a daily basis. We contacted the DMV and asked that both women be allowed to retake their photos as they look every day, explaining that the discriminatory behavior they encountered violated their constitutional rights. We are continuing to work with Trudy and Kristen to ensure that the DMV allows them to retake their license photos.
We are excited to report that New York City has passed a law creating a municipal identification card so that residents who face obstacles to obtaining government-issued identification can more easily acquire it. The law will help transgender people, who often have difficulties securing accurate ID with gender markers that match who they are.
The new law makes New York City the first governmental entity in the nation to allow transgender people to self-designate their sex on ID, without the need to provide medical or other documentation to confirm their sex. Such documentation is often extremely difficult for poor or otherwise marginalized people to obtain.
The ID is not yet available. We are working with a broad coalition and the City to implement the new law so that IDs can be distributed. We will keep you posted on our progress.