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March 31, 2017

Yay! It's Transgender Day of Visibility—Except, Of Course, in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C.—North Carolina, which became infamous after its Republican-dominated legislature passed the LGBTQ-discrimination bill HB2 last year, in the process losing billions of dollars of business through boycotts and abandoned expansion plans by multinational corporations, just passed the bill's repeal and replacement—except it really isn't. The old bill, among other disgraces, prohibited transgendered people from using public bathrooms that coincided with their gender identities—and prohibited municipalities from passing their own local non-discrimination bills, as the city of Charlotte had done, and which HB2 had the effect of repealing. But the new bill isn't really any better. "Under the new law, transgender people are once again free to use the bathroom of their choice," Reuters News Service reported, "but they lack any recourse should a person, business or state entity eject or harass them. The new law also denies LGBT people state legal protections in other areas such as employment and housing." Also, cities don't get to pass their own anti-discrimination laws until at least 2020. In other words, gay and trans people have got every right to be treated like any other human being—unless some jackass doesn't want to, and then they can't do anything about it. Somehow, it seems unlikely that this widely touted "repeal" will bring back the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament games, the National Basketball Association All-Star game, nor the previously planned expansions of Deutsche Bank AG and PayPal Holdings. Locals can also probably forget about seeing Bruce Springstein in concert anytime soon. BTW, Happy Transgender Day of Visibility! Oh; and incidentally, the Trump administration will be doing its best to make you invisible again. Seems that the Census Bureau made a little boo-boo: They accidentally released their "Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey" report with two categories that had been scheduled to be added to the next census by the Obama administration: "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." Imagine the bureau's embarrassment when, a few days later, it had to issue a retraction, noting that the report "inadvertently listed sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed topic in the appendix. The report has been corrected." "Census data is ultimately used by lawmakers and the government to inform how existing laws are enforced and how new policies are developed and money is allocated to meet the demographic needs of U.S. citizens," noted DailyKos columnist Kerry Eleveld. Sure, because who needs to know how many gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons there are in the country? After all, it's not as if a Republican-majority government gives a fuck about LGBT rights, and the lack of Census data regarding their numbers probably makes it that much easier for religio-conservative politicians to ignore them, right? "By erasing LGBTQ Americans from the 2020 U.S. Census, the Trump administration is adding a disgusting entry to a long list of tactics they’ve adopted to legally deny services and legitimacy to hard-working LGBTQ Americans," stated Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD. "The Trump administration is trying hard to erase the LGBTQ community from the fabric of America, but visibility has always been one of the LGBTQ community’s greatest strengths." Or as Eleveld put it, "Not being a part of the Census means that, once again, LGBTQ Americans will be contributing to the tax base of a government that systematically overlooks them. Thanks, Trump." Another thing trans folks can thank Trump for is his appointment of Roger Severino to head the Civil Rights Office at the Department of Health and Human Services. Why? Because, as a former Heritage Foundation staffer, he's previously "argued that same-sex marriage threatens religious liberty and that civil rights protections should not extend to transgender patients," reported the Huffington Post's Dana Liebelson. "He claimed that allowing people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity will traumatize female sex abuse victims and be taken advantage of by men...," Liebelson continued. "Severino has also opposed protections for gender identity when it comes to healthcare. This is especially relevant to his new job, because the civil rights office at HHS is tasked with making sure people have equal access to healthcare." It's crap like this that likely impelled The Daily Beast's Samantha Allen to post an article on March 30 titled, "Whatever Happened to the Transgender Tipping Point?" with the subhed, "After the optimism of 2014—the 'Transgender Tipping Point' as decreed by Time magazine—trans people are facing an onslaught of legislative prejudice." After noting the progress transgendered people have made in terms of public understanding that sexuality for many just isn't binary, especially by major societal players like Hollywood, corporate America, the Democratic Party and a large majority of healthcare professionals, Allen laments the recent pull-backs of tran rights, such as HB2, the Supreme Court's abandoning the Gavin Grimm transgender bathroom case, and states like Wisconsin abandoning transgendered state employees' health coverage. Nonetheless, she states, "There is a universal quality to capital-L Love that propelled progress along—and even then, it still took over 40 years after the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM for the country to put same-sex relationships on the same legal footing as heterosexual romance... Laverne Cox can expertly point out that 'bathroom bills' are not about restrooms but about 'the right to exist in public space.' But no talking point is as sexy or as relatable as 'love.' It’s a tragic irony, then, that love, not visibility, is what transgender people need the most in 2017." No shit! But believe it or not, there is some good trans news out there—for senior citizens! California Sen. Scott Wiener, formerly a San Francisco supervisor and then as now generally a good guy, has introduced SB 219, the "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Resident’s Bill of Rights." According to the Legislative Counsel's Digest, "This bill would make it unlawful, except as specified, for any long-term care facility to take specified actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status, including, among others, refusing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronoun and denying admission to a long-term care facility, transferring or refusing to transfer a resident within a facility or to another facility, or discharging or evicting a resident from a facility." And check out some of this bill's equivalent of the "Whereas" clauses: "In 2006, the California Legislature found that 'lifelong experiences of marginalization place lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) seniors at high risk for isolation, poverty, homelessness, and premature institutionalization. Moreover, many LGBT seniors are members of multiple underrepresented groups, and as a result, are doubly marginalized. Due to these factors, many LGBT seniors avoid accessing elder programs and services, even when their health, safety, and security depend on it.' "Recent studies confirm the state’s findings and provide evidence that LGBT seniors experience discrimination, including in long-term care facilities where residents are particularly vulnerable because they must rely on others for necessary care and services, and may no longer enjoy the privacy of having their own home or even their own room." The bill then goes on to give examples of just that sort of discrimination, finishing with, "While state and local laws already prohibit discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and HIV status, the promise of these laws has not yet been fully actualized in long-term care facilities. The purpose of this act is to accelerate the process of freeing LGBT residents and patients from discrimination, both by specifying prohibited discriminatory acts in the long-term care setting and by providing additional information and remedies to ensure that LGBT residents know their rights and have the means to vindicate them." As of March 28, the bill was passed by the Senate Committee on Human Services and re-referred to that body's Committee on the Judiciary, which set a hearing on the bill for April 18. The bill also has a House version, sponsored by Assemblymember David Chiu, and considering the majority Democratic makeup of both houses of the legislature, not to mention the governor's office, this bill has a good chance of passing. Too bad, though, that it couldn't be signed on the Transgender Day of Visibility. Oh; and remember when we covered the virulently anti-trans Free Speech Bus that was trolling around Manhattan last week? Well, now you can play a game with that bus: Ignorance Fighter II! And there's also a very cool comic strip whose main character is transgendered!

 
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