If anything is true of transgender rights in 2013, it's the year the right wing fringe in the U.S. set their sights and their fundraising machines on our community.
Between Arizona lawmaker John Kavanagh's attempt to criminalize transgender people for using public restrooms to the radical National Organization for Marriage's campaign to repeal California's equal access law for transgender students, this was the year the right wing fringe started gunning for us with their hate.
Their standard operating procedure is well-documented. A right wing extremist group fabricated stories of an innocent transgender girl in Colorado preying on other girls in locker rooms resulted in that transgender child being placed on suicide watch. A minor-league GOP official in South Carolina threatened to round us up into concentration camps. And anti-transgender groups put forward their best effort to block or repeal local LGBT non-discrimination laws in San Antonio, TX and Royal Oak, MI. (They failed, by the way).
And while the threat from right wing extremists will only grow in 2014, the attacks are coming as we expected they would when the National Center for Transgender Equality was first founded. For the last ten years, we have been carefully allocating our resources, laying the groundwork for win after win that smartly sets us up for the next win. So despite the right wing's best efforts -- for transgender people and the transgender movement -- 2013 was also the year when the dominoes on healthcare, employment protections, and ID records began to fall the way we needed them to.
While we'll continue to push back on the growing threat of right wing extremists, 2013 marks an important year for transgender people -- it will be remembered as a year that put us right to the edge of the tipping point. Below is a list of 10 wins in 2013 that, I believe, illustrate why.
1. Trans-Inclusive Anti-Violence Programs
In February, Congress passed the first explicitly LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law at the national level as part of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The law protects LGBT people from discrimination in programs such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, and allows federal grants to focus on anti-violence work for LGBT people.
2. Historic 2-1 Senate Vote for Transgender Workplace Protections
The first-ever U.S. Senate vote on a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was a remarkable triumph. Only a single Senator spoke in opposition to the bill, and 10 Republicans joined 54 Democrats in voting for ENDA. In the coming months, advocates will continue building Republican support in the House and put pressure on Speaker John Boehner to bring the bill up for a vote.
3. Strides for Transgender Students
Almost every month has brought new signs of progress in eliminating barriers and protecting opportunities for transgender students. In February, Massachusetts education officials released the strongest statewide rules to date protecting transgender students, following Washington and Connecticut. In June, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that a school committed unlawful discrimination by requiring a transgender girl to use a staff restrooms instead of the girls' restroom. In July, the U.S. Justice Department entered a landmark Title IX settlement requiring a California school district to treat a transgender boy "the same as other male students in all respects," and in August California passed legislation making this application of the law explicit.
4. Social Security Eases Gender Change Rules
In June, the Social Security Administration finally modernized rules for changing your gender designation in SSA records. The move brings Social Security in line with rules for U.S. passports, immigration documents and many states' driver's license rules, and helps eliminate confusion, embarrassment, and increased exposure to discrimination when transgender people interact with SSA staff or other government offices. Records for veterans and military dependents are the last major federal system where transgender people still have to meet burdensome requirements to update gender.
5. States Stand Against Insurance Discrimination
In 2013, five states and the District of Columbia began telling insurance companies for the first time that excluding healthcare for transgender people from their plans constitutes unlawful discrimination. At least some plans in California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut and D.C. are already updating plans to comply, providing individuals with equal coverage of medically necessary care for the first time. While many corporations and universities are eliminating exclusions voluntarily -- and finding there's no added cost to doing so -- those buying insurance on their own may need to look to their states to take action.
6. State, Local Equality Laws Advance
Efforts continued in red, purple, and blue states alike to pass laws to protect LGBT people in jobs, housing, and other settings. Delaware became the 17th state to include gender identity, but less noticed was passage of LGBT protections in Puerto Rico (with four times Delaware's population). With the passage of these laws, an estimated 4.5 million more people are living in a jurisdiction with an LGBT non-discrimination law on the books. Local laws also continued to advance, expanding protections from San Antonio, TX to Shreveport, LA.
7. A Record Year of Visibility
Positive visibility for transgender people in America seems to grow with each passing year. This year, that visibility was led by a wave of human-interest stories on transgender people and their families like Coy Mathis and Lana Wachowski, and by the critically acclaimed performance of Laverne Cox on the hit show Orange is the New Black. Cox's character has become a window for non-transgender Americans to begin to understand the plight of transgender people, and the role racism, poverty, and prison have in the lives of many in our community.
8. Name, Birth Certificate Changes Get Easier (CA, OR, D.C.)
While half of states now make it relatively easy to update the gender on your driver's license, efforts are also underway to ease the basic step of legally changing names, and the often even tougher step of updating one's birth certificate. This year Oregon and the District of Columbia joined at least three other states in guaranteeing that individuals won't be required to show proof of surgery to update their birth certificates. D.C. also joined the nearly half of states that have eliminated requirements that name changes be published in the newspaper, an expensive and intimidating step for many transgender people. Similar legislation has been proposed in California and Hawaii.
9. Depathologizing Gender Identity
In May, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) published the fifth version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, officially renaming "gender identity disorder" as "gender dysphoria" and formally recognizing that it is not a transgender person's innate identity, but the distress some feel about an identity, body, and social role that don't line up, that may call for treatment. The conservative APA also issued statements condemning anti-transgender discrimination and specifically calling for insurance coverage of healthcare for transgender people.
10. Hope for Transgender Inmates
As calls for scaling back America's reliance on imprisonment grow from Texas to the White House, major steps are being taken to keep transgender people who are behind bars safe. In Harris County, TX., America's third-largest jail was the latest to adopt comprehensive policies that include housing inmates based on their gender identity, following standards from the U.S. Justice Department. NCTE will continue this work while also advocating for fewer prisons and less imprisonment.