In This Issue
- Executive Director’s Message
- The Freedom Awards - Celebrating 10 Years of Change - Monday, June 1, 2015 - Buy Your Tickets Now!
- TLDEF Condemns Anti-Transgender Bills
- New York City Updates Birth Certificate Policy, Drops Surgery Requirement
- New York State Requires Health Insurance Companies to Cover Transgender Health Care
- New York State Lifts Medicaid Ban on Transgender Health Care
- TLDEF Welcomes New Staff Attorney
- Ways to Support TLDEF
- Name Change Project Expands in the Midwest; Now Serving Chicago, Detroit and Ann Arbor
- TLDEF Responds to Indictment in the Killing of Islan Nettles
Executive Director’s Message
Greetings to you as we begin a much-awaited spring season after a long winter in many parts of the country. We hope all of you are starting to warm up and thaw out.
Since we shared our last newsletter, we’ve been hard at work on a number of transgender rights initiatives and we’re eager to share this update. In this latest newsletter, we’ll tell you about a huge victory in New York City on its birth certificate policy for transgender people and how our clients’ lawsuit helped make winning possible. And speaking of victories, New York State made a major advancement with regard to private insurance coverage for transgender people and it has done the same thing with Medicaid.
You’ll also hear TLDEF’s response to a long-awaited indictment in the killing of Islan Nettles, an African-American transgender woman from Harlem.
In addition, we’ll report about the expansion of our Name Change Project in the Midwest, our efforts to push for a retrial in the killing of Syracuse transgender woman Lateisha Green, and the inclusion of our advocacy work in two important reports about transgender discrimination by the Movement Advancement Project.
And we’ll explain how President Obama and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made history in their key speeches this year.
Plus we’re thrilled to tell you about the Freedom Awards benefit on June 1st — celebrating a decade of our work for equal rights.
We’ll also share information about why we’re applauding the U.S. Department of Education, condemning legislation in Florida, Minnesota, and Texas, calling on state lawmakers in Massachusetts to go further in protecting transgender people, applauding Pennsylvania legislators, and urging more support for transgender youth in the wake of an Ohio teen’s tragic death.
Finally, we’ll introduce you to TLDEF’s newest attorney, tell you how we’re settling into our new office space, and update you on our extensive and favorable visibility in the press.
It’s been a busy year already and we’re looking forward to accomplishing even more in the months ahead. We couldn’t do this vital work without your support. Thank you for making it possible!
Join us in New York City for an incredible evening at our milestone 10th anniversary benefit, The Freedom Awards - Celebrating 10 Years of Change. We proudly honor Amazon’s Golden Globe award-winning television series Transparent, and long-time TLDEF partners BNY Mellon and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, for their extraordinary contributions to the advancement of transgender rights.
When: Monday, June 1, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Where: The Art Directors Club Gallery, NYC
Why: To celebrate ten extraordinary years working for equal rights!
If you have questions about the event, including sponsorship opportunities, please contact Solonje Burnett-Loucas.
TLDEF strongly denounces proposed legislation in Florida, Minnesota, and Texas that targets transgender people for discrimination. Proposed bills in Texas would criminalize transgender people for using restrooms and other public facilities consistent with who they are as men and women, as would a proposed Florida bill. Violators could face jail time and hefty fines. In some cases, they could face civil lawsuits for using a prohibited bathroom.
Legislation pending in Texas and Minnesota would bar transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms that match who they are as boys and girls. The Minnesota bill would also deny transgender students the ability to play on sports teams that match their gender identity. The Texas bill would make schools liable for a minimum of $2,000 in damages that schools would have to pay to students who complain that they encountered a transgender student in a prohibited bathroom.
These bills are a dangerous escalation in efforts to gut non-discrimination ordinances in local areas that protect transgender people. They threaten basic freedoms and tear at the fabric of civil society. Lawmakers behind these bills claim that they are looking out for public safety. But they would create tremendously unsafe conditions for transgender people. Targeting people this way is discriminatory, wrong, and cannot be tolerated. We will continue to educate legislators and the public about the harms that these bills will cause. We are monitoring the bills’ progress and will continue to update you about them on Facebook and Twitter.
TLDEF celebrated a huge victory when New York City changed its long-standing and discriminatory birth certificate policy. The new policy eliminates the surgery requirement for transgender people seeking to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates. Instead, it requires a licensed health care provider to state that an individual’s true sex is not accurately recorded on their current birth certificate. You can read more about how to correct your New York City birth certificate in this simple guide that we prepared.
The policy change came after TLDEF clients Joann Prinzivalli, Patricia Harrington, Marco Wylie, and Naz Seenauth sued the City in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit challenging the requirement that transgender people undergo surgery in order to correct their birth certificates.
“We are thrilled by this policy change,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “This will dramatically improve the lives of transgender people born in New York City. The support of Councilmember Corey Johnson, other members of the City Council and the Board of Health was instrumental in securing this policy change. We thank them for their efforts. We also thank the many activists and advocates with whom we worked side-by-side to bring about this change.”
New York City joins other jurisdictions that have eliminated similar surgery requirements, including California, Iowa, New York State, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington, D.C.
We are thrilled to announce that New York State has issued guidance requiring health insurance companies to cover transgender health care on the same terms as other care. The news was featured in The New York Times.
The new rule specifically bars insurance companies from denying medically necessary care because the treatment is for gender dysphoria. Most policies currently exclude coverage for such treatment, regardless of whether or not a doctor determines that the treatment is medically necessary. The state’s new rule renders those exclusions void and requires that insurance companies cover transgender health care. This will significantly improve the lives of transgender people.
Transgender people have suffered because of discriminatory health insurance exclusions that target medically necessary care for gender transition. We thank and congratulate New York State for moving aggressively to ensure that transgender people can access the same health care that everyone else receives. We commend New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky for taking this important step to eliminate health care discrimination. And we thank New York State Senator Brad Hoylman for his leadership in helping to bring about this change.
Learn more about this change by reading our Frequently Asked Questions About Private Insurance Coverage for Transgender Health Care in New York.
Transgender New Yorkers covered by Medicaid can now access the medically necessary health care they have been denied for nearly two decades! Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health have officially adopted a new regulation that ends the 17-year-old exclusion of transgender health care from New York’s Medicaid program.
The new regulation, which formally took effect on March 11, eliminates a 1998 regulation which stated that coverage “is not available for care, services, drugs, or supplies rendered for the purpose of gender reassignment....” In 2013, TLDEF submitted a 38-page letter urging the state to rescind the 1998 regulation. The new regulation ensures coverage for many common treatments for gender dysphoria, the diagnostic term used to refer to discomfort or distress caused by a difference between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth.
The regulation was proposed last December and was subject to public comment before its adoption on March 11. TLDEF submitted comments on the regulation, urging New York to improve the proposed regulation by removing all restrictions for medically necessary transgender health care. While certain restrictions on coverage remain in place, the administration has committed to seeking further guidance and considering changes to the regulation in the future.
“We strongly commend the Cuomo Administration for adopting this vital regulation. Transgender New Yorkers have suffered immensely because their health care needs have been excluded from New York’s Medicaid program,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “The exclusion was rooted in bias and it harmed some of the most vulnerable people in New York. We are thrilled to see this change. Improved Medicaid access will significantly enhance the lives of low-income transgender New Yorkers who previously could not get the medically necessary care they needed.”
We are thrilled to welcome Staff Attorney Ethan Rice to our team. Ethan is a graduate of Florida State University College of Law. He was a child welfare attorney in Florida for four years before relocating to New York City. In law school, Ethan worked on behalf of children in the adult prison system, children in the foster care system, and children with disabilities. As a graduate fellow at FSU College of Law, Ethan researched and co-authored Juvenile Life without Parole for Non-Homicide Offenses: Florida Compared to the Nation.
The article was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida in its decision finding sentences of life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional when imposed for non-homicide crimes. He co-authored an amicus brief for Florida State University’s Children’s Advocacy Clinic in support of overturning Florida’s statutory ban on LGB individuals and couples adopting children in the case In re: Matter of Adoption of X.X.G and N.R.G. Ethan also has a B.A. in International Relations.
Support TLDEF every time you make a purchase from Amazon—at no cost to you!
Through the Amazon Smile program, you can use your regular Amazon account to shop from smile.amazon.com, and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the amount of each purchase to TLDEF. Amazon Smile offers the same product selection at the same prices as Amazon.com. Click here to sign into Amazon Smile with TLDEF automatically selected as your chosen beneficiary.
VISA Equality Card
The VISA Equality Card is a great way to support TLDEF! Just use it like any VISA card, and 1% of the amount you spend on the card will be donated to TLDEF. There’s no annual fee for the card. Find out more and apply here.
TLDEF’s Name Change Project is now operating in Chicago, Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan! The project provides free legal name change services to transgender people through partnerships with some of the nation’s most prestigious law firms and corporate law departments.
In Chicago, we are grateful to our long-standing partner Kirkland & Ellis for working with us on the project and improving the lives of transgender people in the windy city. If you live in Cook County and need help changing your name, please contact us.
In Michigan, we thank our partner Dykema Gossett for helping us to launch the project’s newest chapter. We are eager to help transgender people in Michigan who are seeking to legally align their names with their true selves. If you live in Wayne, Oakland or Washtenaw County and need help changing your name, please contact us. If you live in Macomb, Kent or Ingham County, we may also be able to help.
On March 4, TLDEF responded to the announcement by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. that his office has indicted 24-year old James Dixon on first and second degree manslaughter and first degree assault charges for the August 17, 2013 killing of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old African American transgender woman from Harlem.
Dixon is charged with punching Islan in the head and knocking her to the ground where she hit her head on the pavement, causing a serious brain injury. The indictment says Dixon then struck her again repeatedly, causing further serious brain injury. Islan died days later in the hospital. Since the killing, TLDEF has joined a chorus of transgender advocacy voices in calling for justice for Islan. In August of 2014, TLDEF spoke out about this case in a Sunday New York Daily News op-ed.
“Far too many transgender women of color like Islan Nettles are lost to violence and brutality and all too often their killers go unpunished. We are pleased to see an indictment in this case and thank District Attorney Vance for his efforts in the investigation. This is a step towards finding a measure of justice for Islan and her loved ones,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman.
As TLDEF noted in the New York Daily News last August on the one-year anniversary of Islan’s death: “Islan Nettles’ life mattered. It mattered to her friends, to her family and to her community…. Transgender people are gaining more visibility, acceptance and legal protection every day. But violence remains a daily part of life.” A 2013 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report confirmed that reality, revealing the disproportionate impact that deadly violence has on transgender women of color.
This case is a stark reminder that transgender people are still not covered under New York State’s hate crimes law. We urge passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act or GENDA, which would add transgender people to New York’s hate crimes law and protect them from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It is time for transgender New Yorkers to have full protection under the law.
The indictment of James Dixon is an important milestone and we urge a vigorous prosecution in this case. Islan Nettles deserves justice. We continue to honor her life and renew our plea for an end to anti-transgender violence.