By Tracy Garza, Communications Associate
As 2012 draws to a close, we should take a moment to look back at all the remarkable accomplishments in the area of transgender rights which made it such a watershed year.
The last 12 months saw great advances in the areas of employment protections and health care access that should continue to yield considerable progress for months and years to come.
In the area of employment, a historic ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April made headlines across the nation as the first decision at the federal level which extended anti-discrimination protections to transgender people in the area of employment.
The case clarified that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin – also protects transgender workers and job applicants – a protection that is especially important to transgender people in the 34 states without any non-discrimination laws based on gender identity.
In another victory for transgender rights, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this summer instituted a new policy eliminating burdensome psychological testing requirements for transgender pilots seeking or renewing their pilot’s license.
The FAA regulatory decision meant that a young transgender pilot like Tamsyn Waterhouse, a Bay Area resident currently working at Google, would not face any additional testing to be recertified – testing that non-transgender pilots would never have been required to undergo.
The EEOC and FAA decisions also represented the clearest examples of a growing trend among the courts, government and private employers in removing many of the barriers that transgender and gender nonconforming people have historically faced in their daily lives.
And this recognition, for the first time, has come from the highest levels of government – last October, Vice President Joe Biden called transgender discrimination “the civil rights issue of our time.”
In another historic decision that also protects transgender people at the federal level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clarified in August that the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination includes discrimination against transgender people and discrimination based on how masculine or feminine a person presents.
The HHS announcement means that transgender patients who experience discrimination from health care providers that accept Medicare, Medicaid, or other types of federal funding should file discrimination complaints with HHS – as always, the Transgender Law Center legal helpline will be available to those who need assistance navigating the complaint process.
But even when not faced with any discrimination on the part of their health care providers, many transgender and GNC individuals frequently find themselves with medical providers who lack the knowledge and experience necessary to provide top-notch medical services to them.
To address these situations, Transgender Law Center and Lyon-Martin Health Services this year launched TransLine, a medical consultation service that is available to health care providers nationwide, free of charge.
TransLine was designed by LMHS and Transgender Law Center in collaboration with Callen Lorde Community Health Center (New York), Fenway Health (Boston), Mazzoni Center (Philadelphia), Howard Brown Health Center (Chicago) and Chase Brexton Health Services (Baltimore).
As important as those historic advances in the areas of employment and health care access have been, it is also very rewarding to see the increased prominence that many transgender activists have enjoyed in 2012.
Activists such as former Transgender Law Center Deputy Director Cecilia Chung, who earlier this year became a San Francisco Health Commissioner – the first transgender woman to be appointed as such – or Allyson Robinson, the recently appointed executive director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network – the first transgender person to head an LGBT organization that is not trans-focused.
It has also been a busy year for many trans individuals in many other areas of society – whether it be Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova, writer and activist Janet Mock, or writer-director Lana Wachowski, whose recent Cloud Atlas marked the first time an out transgender person co-wrote and co-directed a major Hollywood feature film.
The year that concludes was also a significant one for Transgender Law Center, as we celebrated our first 10 years with a very special gala here in San Francisco. We’ve definitely grown a lot over the last decade, and we hope we will continue to grow – and to help protect the right of all transgender and GNC people to live their authentic lives.