Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Trans Rights

In terms of rights under the law the transgender community has a long way to go. Transgendered individuals receive significantly less protection under the law than cisgendered homo and bisexuals. This is very reflective of society's ideology in relation to sexual non-conformity and gender non-conformity. Trans individuals are still stereotyped as cross-dressers, prostitutes, and sideshow performers. They face discrimination within the majority of our society's institutions. Below I will provide you with a brief look at a few areas of our society and legal system and their policies regarding trans rights. Anti-discrimination laws are determined on a state by state basis. Currently in the US only 16 states plus Washington DC have laws that outlaw discrimination based on gender identity. However, not all of these states' laws provide the same amount of protection. In Minnesota for example, the law bans discrimination in housing, employment, and education. Although, in Hawaii the anti-discrimination law only includes housing. However, even if a state wide law has not been passed cities and counties can put them in place. As of 2011 143 cities and counties have passed various versions of laws outlawing discrimination based on gender identity. Currently 22 states have laws in place that outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Transgendered individuals are in part protected on a federal level from discrimination in employment. In the case Macy vs. Holder the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that discriminating against transgendered employees was in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means that now Trans employees can be defended by the EEOC if they face discrimination because of their gender identity in the workplace. There has been a lot of progression over the years on federal laws about hate crimes. Transgendered individuals have faced a lot of violence because of who they are and their gender expression. There have been about 20 murders of transgendered individuals in the the past year. It wasn't until 2009 that Barack Obama signed The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act . This act expands the 1969 federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's perceived or actual gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The 1969 law only covered crimes motivated by race, color, religion and religion. Transgendered individuals have not gained this basic right until very recently. Even though transgendered individuals are technically classified as having a Gender Identity Disorder, this does not mean that they are included in state laws that bar discrimination based on disabilities. The healthcare system here in America has a long history of discriminating against transgendered individuals. The Affordable Heath Care Act of 2011 will have a positive effect on the health of transgendered Americans. The new health law creates a National Strategy for Quality Improvement which will address gaps in quality of care for different groups in America and help develop strategies to fix them. The act requires mental health treatment to be included as an essential benefit that all qualified insurance plans must offer. This is essential for trans individuals. Transgender people are still classified as having a Gender Identity Disorder. Those who legally want to begin taking hormones must meet all of the requirements for this disorder and be cleared by a trained medical professional. However, the expanding mental health care system does not mean that Trans individuals will see a great change in terms of medical coverage of the transition process. Actual sexual reassignment surgery has been denied for coverage by most heath care providers in the past, and the Affordable Heath Care Act does not make it mandatory for health insurance providers to cover these operations. Because of this, sexual reassignment surgeries will continue to go uncovered. Changing one's name and sex on legal documents is another issue for transgendered Americans. Changing different documents require different levels of status in a persons transition and in some cases vary state to state. Laws surrounding changing birth certificates very state to state. Some states require a full sex change while others will accept a letter from a doctor. Changing a social security card is done on a federal level but requires a full sex-reassignment surgery or a letter saying the surgery will be done. In 2010 the U.S State department changed their policy and no longer requires sexual reassignment surgery as a mandatory qualification for changing one's gender on their passport. Trans applicants now only need a letter from their physician saying that they have "undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition." This is a significant step forward. Transgendered individuals who are incarcerated in America's prisons do not have very many rights. Transgender people who have not had genital surgery are separated according to their birth sex for purposes of prison housing no matter how long they may have lived as a member of their true gender, and regardless of how much medical treatment and hormone therapy they have had. Only one state, Washington expressly forbids trans prisoners from continuing to receive hormone treatment while incarcerated. While other states might legally allow it, that doesn't mean the treatments are well regulated in terms of frequency and dosage of injections. Transgendered prisoners are also very susceptible to violence in prisons and prison officials are only liable for that violence if they had prior knowledge that the prisoner was at risk of violence and deliberately failed to act on that knowledge. Transgender youth face a lot of discrimination. While only 16 states have anti-bullying laws that include gender identity there is one protection against discrimination that every Trans student has. One of the earliest federal acts that protected trans students was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It is Title IX of the Education Ammendemnts of 1972 also known as the Patsy Milk Equal Opportunity in Education act. Title IX states "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." This includes transgendered students. Very few places in America protect trans individuals against discrimination when using a public restroom that aligns with their gender identity. Even Minnesota's law prohibiting sender identity discrimination does not extend to public restroom use. Only two cites have laws in place to protect trans individuals using public restrooms. New York City has made it law that denying someone's right to use a restroom in places of business based on their gender identity violates the city's nondiscrimination law. In San Francisco business and public places must allow all people to use the restroom that correlates to their gender identity as long as they have had their sex legally changed on at least one official government document. It will be a long time before Transgendered individuals gain equal rights and protection here in the United States. Until then it is up to individuals to make Trans members of their community feel safe and welcome.

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