Blue Cross to cover gender correction surgery?

BCBSBlue Cross Blue Shield of Texas wants to cover gender correction surgery for transgender people in plans sold on HealthCare.gov, according to a report published Thursday, July 28, by The Dallas Morning News. BCBS, the largest insurer in Texas, also called for an increase of almost 60 percent in premiums for individual plans for next year.

No on at BCBS is commenting on whether adding coverage for gender correction surgery is the reason they are asking for a rate increase, but the Morning News article by business columnist Michael Schnurman indicates that’s probably not the case, citing studies that show extending coverage to transgender people: “While surgery is expensive, up to $89,000, few people get it. And those ‘in transition’ often receive hormone treatments or other less expensive therapies.”

Of course, all the facts and studies and so forth probably won’t make a damn bit of difference to the right-wingers in the Texas Legislature who have drawn a target on the back of transgender Texans with a slew of anti-trans bills in the last legislative session and a slew more expected next year, Schnurman said. (OK, so I paraphrased a little. But that’s what he meant.)

Read Schnurman’s full analysis here.

—  Tammye Nash

Transgender activist to speak at Democratic National Convention

 

Sarah McBride scheduled to deliver historic speech on Thursday

 

MICHAEL K. LAVERS | Washington Blade
Courtesy National Gay Media Association

 

McBride.SarahPHILADELPHIA — Sarah McBride this week will become the first openly transgender person to speak at a major party convention.

McBride — who is the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation — is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, July 28. She is slated to take the main stage inside the Wells Fargo Center alongside U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., who co-chairs the Congressional LGBT Caucus.

“I’m honored for this opportunity to share my story and to be the first transgender person to speak at a major party convention,” McBride said in an HRC press release. “People must understand that even as we face daily harassment, tragic violence and an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ political attacks across the country, we are real people merely seeking to be treated with the dignity and respect every person deserves.

“I’m so proud to stand with the LGBT Caucus and speak out in support of Hillary Clinton, because we know she stands with us,” she added.

McBride is a former staffer at the Center for American Progress. The American University graduate who is from Wilmington, Del., also played a leading role in securing passage of bills that added gender identity to Delaware’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws in 2013.

“Sarah’s personal story and unending commitment to LGBT rights makes her an invaluable voice to have in the conversation,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, in a statement. “We look forward to working with her to make full legal and social equality a reality.”

McBride is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention a week after Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in Cleveland.

Delegates to the Republican National Convention last week approved a party platform that, among other things, opposes the use of federal funds to ensure trans people can use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Caitlyn Jenner on July 20 criticized North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 — which bans people from using bathrooms in public buildings that are consistent with their gender identity and prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances — during her appearance at an event the American Unity Fund held at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

—  Tammye Nash

WATCH: A documentary series about trans pioneers you really should see

Star3On Thursday, the Emmy nominations will be announced, and among the contenders is a webseries of documentary shorts called We’ve Been Around. Lasting just five minutes apiece, the episodes each have a different narrator, a different subject, but the same style and topic: Pioneers of the transgender community, from Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson’s courage during the Stonewall riots to obscure trans people like gospel singer Little Axe and Civil War soldier Albert Cashier. And what’s great about the series is, you don’t have to wait for it to come on: The entire series is available on the Internet … and you can watch them all here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Ad on transgender people and public bathrooms set to air during RNC, DNC

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A new ad from FairnessUSA explains why it’s dangerous to force transgender people to use the wrong restroom.

Even as the nation mourns the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis and Officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarippa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Lorne Ahrens in Dallas, right-wing anti-LGBT forces continue to ignore the need to address the systemic racism at the root of the violence and instead focus their efforts on making sure LGBT people don’t have equal protection and transgender people can’t pee in public.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, July 12), one month to the day after 49 people were murdered in an Orlando gay bar in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow individuals, many businesses and nonprofit organizations to legally discriminate against LGBT people. It would, for instance, allow a privately-owned business to refuse to let an employee take time off to care for a same-sex spouse who was ill. It would also eliminate many of the protections for LGBT people enacted under the Obama administration

Donald Trump, presumptive GOP nominee, supports the measure, of course.

But there are those who are fighting back against the hate. FairnessUSA — a joint project of Freedom for All Americans Education, Fund, the Movement Advancement Project, the National Center for Transgender Equality and Equality Ohio Education Fund — will be airing a new ad depicting challenges faced by transgender people accessing public restrooms during both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention.

The ad, which you can watch below, will have its national TV debut on Fox News Channel on Thursday, July 21, during the final night of the RNC in Cleveland. It will air nationwide again on MSNBC during the DNC in Philadelphia.

—  Tammye Nash

Ken Paxton files injunction against federal guidances protecting trans students

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today (Wednesday, July 6) announced that Texas is leading a 13-state coalition asking for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of “Obama’s bathroom rules.”

“Obama’s bathroom rules” refer to a list of guidances issued earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to help school districts avoid discriminating against transgender students. Paxton and other right-wingnuts — including Chief Protector of the Bathrooms Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — insist that those guidelines, along with Fort Worth Independent School District’s comprehensive policy for interacting and protecting transgender students, put women and children in danger by allowing men to use the same public restrooms and locker rooms as long as the men/boys are willing to declare that they feel like a woman/girl that day.

Federal officials have noted that school districts that insist on discriminating against transgender people risk losing federal money because such discrimination violates Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools. Federal officials and federal courts have already determined that “sex” in this case means gender and includes anti-trans discrimination.

Paxton said, in his press release, “The nation’s schools, and every place of employment, are now in the crosshairs of the Obama administration, which maintains it will punish those who do not comply with its orders. Schools are facing the potential loss of funding for simply exercising the authority to implement the policies that best protect their students. Every employer is now being threatened for not bowing to anyone that identifies as the opposite sex.”

The press release then goes on to explain that the Obama administration is “attempting to rewrite Congress’ use of the term ‘sex’ in multiple federal lawsuits to now include ‘gender identity.’ If successful this radical change simultaneously opens up all intimate areas within schools and workplaces to members of both sexes.”

Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, issued this statement in response to Paxton’s motion for an injunction:

“Equality Texas condemns Attorney General Ken Paxton’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of 1.4 million Americans who are transgender, and his choice today to target the most vulnerable segment of that population — transgender kids.

“Attorney General Ken Paxton has already wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, discriminated against his fellow Texans with taxpayer money, and deprived thousands of Texans of their dignity and respect in a losing effort opposing the freedom to marry. Now, the attorney general has determined to waste millions more in an obviously futile attempt to prevent our transgender citizens, and in particular transgender kids, from being afforded the most basic dignity to use the bathroom, despite the fact that the Fourth Circuit and various government agencies have made the law clear.

“His actions undermine federal protections for gay and transgender children. In particular, this injunction seeks to punish transgender students protected by Title IX and the U.S. Department of Education to harm Texans who have done nothing wrong.

“The actions being initiated today by Paxton will ultimately fail, just as they did with marriage equality. Attorney General Ken Paxton shows an obsession with discriminating against the LGBT community. Statements already made by Paxton demonstrated a shameful animus towards the transgender community, which will ultimately lead the Supreme Court to declare all laws unconstitutional which relegate members of the LGBT community to a second class status. The U.S. Constitution will never uphold blatant discrimination against our citizens.”

Following is a list of the 13 states filing for the injunction. The number in parenthesis following each state’s name denotes where, as of 2015, that state ranked, nationally, in terms of the quality of their educational systems:

Texas (31st); Alabama (39th), Arizona (48th), Georgia (35th), Kentucky (10th), Louisiana (43rd), Maine (20th), Mississippi (45th), Oklahoma (34th), Tennessee (28th), Utah (16th), West Virginia (46th) and Wisconsin (4th).

(These numbers are the School System Quality Ranking of each, according to a study conducted by WalletHub and based on “13 key metrics that range from student-teacher ratios to standardized-test scores to dropout rates.”)

And by the way, Ken Paxton is the same one facing has been charged with two first-degree and one third-degree felony counts of violating state securities laws, and similar state charges, too.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: DOD’s ban on transgender servicemembers to end in July

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The U.S. Department of Defense announced today that its ban on open military service by transgender men and women will end in July.

“This final remnant of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will now be put to rest,” said Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, J.D., director of the Trans/Gender Non-Confirming Justice Project of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

“This decision is a great victory for the many trans people who have served and sacrificed in the military over the years,” Rodríguez-Roldán continued. “They also served in fear of being discharged from the service for simply being who they are. Thankfully this now will change. We look forward to hearing more implementation details.”

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus also issued a statement applauding the decision to lift the ban. Roddy Flynn, executive director of the caucus, said, “The entire LGBT Equality Caucus thanks the White House and the Pentagon for this historic policy change. The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was an important step forward, but LGBT equality is not complete if the transgender community is left behind.”

Flynn added, “This country has the greatest fighting force in the world because we place readiness and security above arbitrary exclusion or discriminatory policies. Transgender service members should not have to hide their identity to serve their country. For too long these courageous soldiers have been forced to serve in silence.  Thanks to this new policy, we will have a stronger, more focused and more just military.”

Flynn said the caucus thanks Secretary Ash Carter for “his vision and leadership in bringing this discriminatory ban to an end.”

Retired Navy SEAL Kristen Beck and retired staff sergeant Shane Ortega, national transgender military liaisons with the Military Freedom Coalition, issued a joint statement: “We are elated at the news of the pending repeal of the transgender military ban and are thankful to everyone who worked so hard to see this day come to pass. We look forward to working with our military brothers and sisters to see successful implementation. We march forward into an age of greater equality.”

—  Tammye Nash

Task Force releases new resource for employers on trans inclusivity

Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan

Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan

The National LGBTQ Task Force and the District of Columbia’s Office of Human Rights today published “Valuing Transgender Applicants and Employees,” a “first-of-its-kind” resource to help eliminate discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals in the workplace.

The booklet offers in-depth “best practices” to help employers create “genuinely inclusive and welcoming” environments.

Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, Trans/Gender Nonconforming Justice Project director for the Task Force, said in a press release, “Everyone, including transgender people, deserve a fair chance at a good paying job and the ability to provide for themselves and their families. Transgender people face formidable discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This new resource provides vital recommendations for employers and human resource specialists looking to ensure that transgender people are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.”

Monica Palacio, director of the DC Office of Human Rights, noted that the District of Columbia  is “fortunate to have a strong law” protecting transgender people from employment discrimination. But most jurisdictions offer no such protections.

And even in places where protections are in place, Palacio said, “many times employers that want to create welcoming environments are unsure of how best to do that. We believe this best practices guide will be an important starting place for those employers that want to build transgender-inclusive workplaces.”

According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey report, 90 percent of transgender people in the U.S. report experiencing harassment, discrimination and mistreatment in the workplace. In 2015, the DC Office of Human Rights report “Qualified and Transgender” showed that 48 percent of employers surveyed appeared to prefer at least one less-qualified applicant perceived as cisgender over a more-qualified applicant perceived as transgender.

Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have explicit workplace nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity and expression.

Go here to read the report.

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

‘Deport Hate’ bike ride, picnic planned for Tyler’s Bergfeld Park on Sunday

LGBT people and their allies in and around Tyler will gather Sunday, May 22, in Tyler’s Bergfeld Park for the “Deport Hate: Bike or Hike Pride Ride.”

The gathering is being staged to “show some love” to a bicyclist who rides regularly through the city’s Azalea District, near the park, wearing a shirt that says “Deport LGBT.”

“This isn’t a gay pride rally, though the themes are to show LGBT faces and our allies,” organizer Hannah Morris wrote on the Facebook page announcing the event. “This is pride in our city, in our relationships with each other, in how we handle ugliness. And in Tyler, Texas, we come together and show support for one another to handle ugliness. Because we are proud citizens of this beautiful city.”

Bergfeld Park

Bergfeld Park, located near the center of town, is the park from which 23-year-old Nicholas West was abducted in 1993 before being driven to a gravel pit in Noonday and brutally murdered. His death made national headlines and helped spark efforts to pass an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill in Texas.

Jenell Volmer, who grew up in Tyler and was friends with Nicholas West, now lives in Austin. But she said she will be returning to her hometown for the rally on Sunday.

Nicholas West

Murder victim Nicholas West

“I came out on the front page of the Tyler paper after being interviewed at the Stop the Hate Rally we held after Nick was killed. I became an activist for a short period but my career took off and I gladly moved away from Tyler. … I still struggle with the emotions from that time and it continues to impact me to this day,” Volmer told Dallas Voice in an email, explaining why she will be returning to Tyler to attend the rally.

In a post on Facebook, Volmer noted that she was bullied and harassed and even assaulted in high school because she was gay. She said another classmate was “chased down by a car and shot in the head,” because he was gay. And while those events and Nicholas West’s murder happened more than 20 years ago, the cyclist’s jersey and the January 2015 murder of trans woman Ty Underwood in Tyler prove the hate still exists.

“I plan to show up in Tyler this Sunday on Harvey Milk’s birthday to join this event to peacefully show East Texas that families and every day people oppose this message of exclusion and hate,” Volmer wrote. “Please join me in Tyler.”

The event begins at 11 a.m. at the park, at 1510 S. College St. in Tyler. Participants who are willing and able will participate in a hike or bike excursion along a route through the Azalea District that’s less than a mile long and chosen with those who are differently-abled in mind. After the bike/hike, participants return to the park to continue with their picnic.

Organizers have asked that those who attend keep in mind that this a peaceful gathering, intended to not be confrontational but rather show the diverse face of the LGBT community to the Tyler community at large. They have asked that those attending be mindful of not littering (no confetti please) and that if they encounter the “Deport LGBT” cyclist, not to engage him in any way.

They also encourage participants to wear “their fanciest handmade ‘DEPORT HATE’ shirts.”

—  Tammye Nash

AG Paxton issues yet another statement on Department of Education’s guidance on trans issues

Ken Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton

In his latest effort to protect the innocent, helpless women and children of Texas and the rest of the U.S., Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued yet another statement condemning the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice’s letter — issued last week to in response to requests from school officials around the country for such guidance on how to deal with transgender students — after having joined two other equally concerned and protective state AGs in sending a letter to the Obama administration.

The other two officials signing the letter to the administration are Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt, and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrissey.

Paxton said, in part:

“The so-called ‘significant guidance’ issued by the Obama Administrations raises more questions than it answers, just as it creates concerns among anyone who believes sex is a biological fact and not a personal preference. As billions of dollars appear to be at stake based upon schools’ compliance with this guidance, the Obama Administration must be extremely clear about what is and isn’t allowed, and explain how their actions do not add requirements to the law, as their letter claims.”

Read the full text of their letter to the administration here.

—  Tammye Nash

Lives in the balance

Death of local trans musician makes the cost of hate obvious

Leslie McMurrayBack in 1986, Jackson Browne released an anti-war song called “Lives In The Balance.” The lyrics of that 30-year-old song ring just as true today in the fight for transgender equality as they did in ’86 when the Iran-Contra scandal was coming to light: Lives are in the balance and people are dying.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty insane. My Facebook feed has been relentless with reminders that I am transgender and there are people in power and in pulpits that don’t want me to exist.

Just in the past few weeks:

• North Carolina passed HB2 restricting transgender bathroom rights.

• Pay Pal, Bank of America and dozens of other companies came out in vocal support of trans people and opposing HB2.

• Calls to the Trans Lifeline nearly doubled after HB2 passed. (If you are in crisis, there is help. Please please please call 877-565-8860.)

• Oxford, Ala. passed a local ordinance similar to HB2.

• Jim Pruitt, mayor of Rockwall, Texas tried to get a discriminatory ordinance passed. It failed. I was asked to appear on WFAA Channel 8 news to talk about the hearing in Rockwall there.

• Target reiterated its policy in support of trans people.

• The extreme Christian fringe nutjobs announced a boycott of Target and sent men into women’s restrooms to try and make a point. They failed. The American Family Association — listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — initiated this boycott.

• The Fort Worth Independent School District reiterated its policy of inclusion and respect for all students and issued guidelines to aid in following this already-existing policy.

• I appeared on radio in Sacramento, Calif. to talk about the issue of trans women and which bathroom they should use.

• Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick descends on Fort Worth for a hastily-thrown-together press conference to demand the resignation of FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner over his support of equality.

• Dan Patrick speaks at the GOP convention in Dallas and goes on a media blitz to declare that trans students (who make up 0.3 percent of the population) using the bathroom is the biggest issue facing Texas schools.

• Similar legislation restricting access to sex-segregated facilities is pending in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin. Such bills have failed in Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota and Virginia.

And then, on Friday, May 13, trans woman Krissy Arnold takes her own life. Krissy played bass in a Dallas band called Mercury Rocket. I didn’t know her but her death affected me deeply.

Ordinarily, when someone commits suicide, it leaves those left behind wondering why. But in Krissy’s case, I don’t think I need to ask. I think I know.

I don’t think I’ve met a trans person yet that hasn’t at least seriously considered suicide — if not actually attempted it. Including me.

Look, it’s not that we are unstable; most trans people I know are unbelievably strong. You have to be. Being transgender is hard, unnecessarily so. Even under the best conditions, it’s difficult, painful and expensive.

For those who have had their friends or family turn away, it can be more than a person can take. The feelings of hopelessness can be overwhelming. When you are bullied or government leaders propose laws to restrict your freedom or religious groups tell you that you are sick and an abomination, it can push you to the brink.

I’m fighting depression myself right now. I admit it; this is hard to take. There is no break. It’s relentless.

Even those who mean well all want to talk about where I go to the bathroom and what I think about this law or that, or what I think about Dan Patrick telling people that trans women are a danger or threat to women and children.

I’m exhausted. I am tired of fighting for this most basic human right. I’m tired of defending myself and my brothers and sisters who have done nothing wrong yet are the targets of so much hate.

Krissy, I wish I had known you. I wish I could have been there for you. Most of all, I wish you were still with us. We need you. Your life was worth living.

I feel so heartbroken that people who are running for office don’t understand that their words can hurt. That their words can kill.

I wish that people who call themselves “Christians” would follow the words of Christ and love each other rather than trying to destroy God’s children —  like you, Krissy.

I cried when I heard you died. I cried long and hard, inconsolable tears. I mourn your loss and the loss of others like you — some dying at their own hand, and others being taken from us in violent murder.

My insides are in knots.

I am encouraged by the support of those who oppose HB2 — from Bruce Springsteen to the NCAA, Equality Texas and the HRC, my friends who are cis-gender who know me, love me and want to witness equality in my lifetime.

I really believe that we are on the right side of history and we will eventually prevail.

But as in any war, there will be casualties. And they will be tragic.

We aren’t just statistics. We aren’t men in dresses. We aren’t a danger to women and children.

We are complex, living, breathing, creative, loving people with families. We deserve nothing less than full equality. We know who we are, we just wish that you’d get to know us.

Disagree if you want, but please, be civil. Your hatred is killing us.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com

—  Dallasvoice