A hearing for An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights — also known as the Transgender Equal Rights bill — has been scheduled for Tuesday, June 8, at 1 p.m. in Gardner Auditorium at the State House. Passage of this important bill would add gender identity and expression to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws.
MassEquality encouraged supporters of the bill to submit written, rather than oral, testimony on the legislation to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary by May 16.
Follow the link above to get more information on how to submit yr testimony and support this very important bill!
(And for more info on the bill itself, MTPC has put together this little fact sheet: http://www.masstpc.org/publications/legis/briefing2011.pdf)
by Dominic Holden (posted at The Stranger)
When most of the city’s approximately 10,000 employees seek mental health care, steroid treatments, or a variety of other services, they don’t need to prove medical necessity to be covered under the city’s employee benefits plan. But once an employee has been classified by the city’s insurance carrier as transgender, those services are “universally denied,” says the Seattle LGBT Commission in a letter to city officials. “First and foremost, transgender medical treatment is not cosmetic. It is necessary medical treatment. Psychological care, hormonal treatments, and surgical procedures are all medically necessary for transgender-identified individuals.”
The discrimination is, in fact, quite explicit for the city’s trans employees: The benefit plan for city workers says insurance won’t cover “Any treatment, drug, service or supply related to changing sex or sexual characteristics, including: Surgical procedures to alter the appearance or function of the body; Hormones and hormone therapy; Prosthetic devices; and Medical or psychological counseling.” The commission, which advices the mayor and city council, says these exclusions should be removed when the city writes the new employee contracts in 2013.
Mayor Mike McGinn agrees.
“This is something we should be working to improve,” says McGinn, who only learned about the exclusions last Thursday. “This is not frivolous issue. It’s afundamental issue about the effect on a person’s physical and emotional well-being, and this exclusion means that you are denying appropriate health services to people when they are in need.”
In response to the letter, which was first reported by Seattle Gay News, Seattle City Council member Sally Clark tells The Stranger she didn’t know about the exclusion, either, until the letter. Clark says, “I’ll be looking at how we can change what we should cover.”
The commission will be meeting tomorrow with Council Member Bruce Harrell, chair of the council’s civil rights and technology committee.
The commission says officials should modify those contracts by both removing exclusions for transgender employees and explicitly covering care relating to and including transitional surgeries. “This fact of medical necessity is no longer open to debate,” writes the commission, citing opinions of the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and other authorities. Employees who are denied coverage can have “debilitating secondary medical conditions, have substantially higher risk for suicide, and experience increased psychological distress.”
Extended coverage comes at a higher cost, but employees probably won’t rush to obtain expensive procedures. For instance, San Francisco began covering trans employees in 2001. The commission writes, “During the period 2001-2006, the City of San Francisco increased premiums for transgender coverage totaling $5.6 million, but only paid out $386,417 in claims.”
“This is a pretty modest issue compared to the significant issue we have of health care costs of the city as a whole,” says McGinn. But he adds: “This is a fairness issue, it’s not about costs.”
Hey guys, this is a big deal. Also, have I mentioned enough times how much I love Seattle?
GroundSpark has learned that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will turn its attention to peer-to-peer bullying, harassment, and violence in schools this May—and your stories are wanted. Beginning with a day-long briefing on peer-to-peer violence in K-12 public schools on May 13th, the Commission’s report will examine bullying and other types of peer-to-peer violence where students are targeted due to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender, or LGBT-status. According to Commissioner Roberta Achtenberg, the event breaks new ground as the first time the Civil Rights Commission will host a hearing on an LGBT-related issue.
GroundSpark will have the opportunity to submit testimony, along with many experts in social sciences, mental health, education and law. Commissioner Achtenberg is making a special effort to encourage those touched by peer-to-peer violence targeted against LGBT youth (and those perceived to be so) to share their stories. The collected stories will form a permanent record built from the contributions of people across the country, and these personal narratives will be an invaluable resource, aiding the Commission in understanding the nature, pervasiveness, geographic spread, and negative outcomes of such violence. Stories shared in this way will also help to set the stage for expert testimony and filings from professional perspectives.
Stories should be submitted in writing with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for inclusion in the public record. The Commission defines “inter-student violence,” as any verbal and physical assaults, teasing, bullying and any other form of harassment. The letters need not be formal or in any particular format. Each author is encouraged to write in their own voice and to tell their story in the terms in which it was experienced. The Commission should learn of the personalities of the kids and families involved, the way things happened (or are still happening), what types of people were involved (other students, school staff, and/or others), and what impact these experiences are having on the student and for the rest of the family. Thoughts about what types of intervention might be helpful to address the causes could be important as well.
In order to humanize this issue as strongly as possible, families and individuals who are comfortable doing so are encouraged to attach a picture to the front of the letter. For those contributors who are not comfortable sharing their identity openly, they should use at least one initial to identify themselves and any people relevant to their stories since the letters will be submitted to the public record. It would be extremely helpful if writers who are maintaining anonymity could at least identify a region of a state in which they live (“Northern Maine,” or “Twin Cities Minnesota,” for example).
GroundSpark has been privileged over the years to see the power of your stories in action. We encourage stories about all forms of harassment, bullying and violence. Don’t be afraid to make concrete suggestions about how schools, parents, teachers and communities should respond—the Commission can learn from what went wrong as well as what went right.
The Commission’s final report, to be issued in September 2011, will discuss student needs, promising programs, jurisdictional issues, and the enforcement efforts of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Stories of how students, families, schools and communities are impacted by peer-to-peer bullying, harassment and violence are critical to the report’s effectiveness.
Letters should be sent, if possible, by May 1, 2011 for introduction into the Commission’s record in advance of the May 13 hearing in D.C. (the public record will remain open for 15 days following the hearing). The letter itself should be addressed to:
Kim Tolhurst, Esq., Acting General Counsel
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
624 Ninth St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
Please note that the envelope should be addressed and mailed to Commissioner Achtenberg’s special assistant, Alec Duell at:
c/o Alec Deull
3102 Krueger Road North, Tonawanda, NY 14120
GET THE WORD OUT!!
Thea Hillman in her memoir Intersex (for lack of a better word), 2008
We cannot overcome anger and hatred simply by suppressing them. We need to actively cultivate the antidotes: patience and tolerance.
Sometimes this is difficult to remember, especially when the hate and anger are directed at you so personally.
Another vital antidote: education.