In Their Own Words: LGBT Advocates on the State of Transgender Issues

Eight leaders in LGBT advocacy give their thoughts on what 2013 meant for transgender rights, and what 2014 might bring.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

December 26 2013 6:00 AM ET

Healthcare. Healthcare. Healthcare.
Ben Klein, a senior attorney and director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders’ AIDS Law Project since 1994. As a lawyer, he’s been involved in a number of cases involving transgender individuals, including O’Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, a U.S. Tax court case that established that gender confirmation surgery is “medical care,” for the purpose of taxes. He was co-counsel in Doe v. Clenchy, a case involving a fifth grade transgender girl’s right to use gender-appropriate restrooms.

KLEIN: 2013 was a big year for advancing protections for transgender students. California passed a first of its kind state law requiring public schools to allow transgender students to participate in school activities like sports and access restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The Department of Justice also broke new ground in its settlement with the Arcadia School District in California over its exclusion of a seventh grade transgender boy from the boys’ cabins on a camping trip. Importantly, the settlement was based on federal sex discrimination law, an important avenue to protect students in states that don’t have gender identity nondiscrimination law.

There was a similar decision from a state human rights commission in Colorado and in a hopeful preview of great things to come, GLAD argued a case before Maine’s highest court on behalf of a transgender girl who was denied use of the appropriate bathroom by her school. This is the first time this issue has been heard before a high court since a disappointing loss in Minnesota in 2001 and could establish a landmark precedent.

A top priority in 2014 will be healthcare. It’s time to end the discriminatory denial of transition-related health care by state Medicaid plans, other government plans, and private insurers. The science has long been clear this is medically necessary basic health care and people are going without it due to nothing more than prejudice. GLAD and other organizations will be intensifying efforts in this arena. Also, the Senate’s passage of ENDA in 2013 was a huge step forward, but also a reminder of all the work that still needs to be done to establish nondiscrimination protections for transgender people – both federally and at the state level.

Discrimination against transgender people remains the most overt and pervasive type of discrimination we see. We will continue our broad range of litigation against shelters, schools, employers and others that deny transgender people equal treatment and full inclusion. We will also be focusing on litigation and policy work to ensure health care access. With partner organizations, we are working to get legislative protections for transgender people in public accommodations in Massachusetts.

In addition to our work on transgender issues, GLAD will increasingly take on the right’s attempts to justify discrimination as “religious expression,” both through legislation and litigation. We are working to ensure that people with HIV are able to get health insurance coverage for the treatment of HIV-related lipodystrophy. We will increase our efforts on behalf of our community’s youngest and oldest members, from schools and foster care, to assisted living and long-term care facilities.

Tags: Transgender

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