In both popular culture and everyday life, transgender people are finally gaining recognition and acceptance, though there is still much more progress to be made. New York State now has laws that prohibit discrimination against gender expression in the workplace and in health care settings. However, there is much more to do to make New York and America a safer place for transgender and gender non-conforming people. A recent New York Times report refers to the recent rise in transgender killings in the U.S. as an “epidemic.” Along with this alarming development are federal roll-backs of protections for trans individuals.
November 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance, an annual observance of lives lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. The week leading up to that day is Trans Awareness Week, which helps raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and address the issues faced by the community.
An Epidemic of Violence
In the U.S., there has been a rise in acts of violence against transgender people, especially trans women of color. According to the Human Rights Campaign, there were 26 deaths of transgender people due to fatal violence in 2018. This year, there have already been at least 19 transgender people killed by violent means. Because many victims are misgendered in local police statements and media reports, there is often a delay in awareness of deadly attacks.
We remember and honor those whose lives were tragically cut short because of anti-transgender violence. The Human Rights Campaign provides comprehensive annual lists of those killed since 2016.
Barriers to Transgender Health Care
Amida Care’s comprehensive report, Breaking Barriers to Transgender Health Care, details health challenges and solutions for the transgender community.
Recommendations include physical, sexual, mental, and behavioral health care that is accessible, affordable, and delivered by providers who are both skilled in trans-specific care and provide services in a trans-affirming manner.
It is essential for physicians and other health care professionals to provide culturally competent care for transgender and non-binary individuals and a safe, comfortable environment for all their patients. This includes asking when unsure about a patient’s gender identity or preferences, and updating forms, surveys, identification, and other materials to provide options for transgender and non-binary people to indicate their gender identities.
Amida Care has helped advance New York City and State’s gender-affirming legislation in the past decade, including the State’s Medicaid coverage of hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries in 2015; anti-discrimination regulations in health care and insurance in 2016; and earlier this year, passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression and adds transgender New Yorkers to those protected by the New York’s Hate Crimes Law.
Discrimination in Employment
Workplace discrimination against transgender people is against the law. Yet, trans people face higher rates of unemployment (18% in New York State), and people of transgender experience are 2.4 times more likely to be living in poverty than the general population.
The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing, is enforced through the. The National Center for Gender Equality offers information regarding workplace rights for transgender and gender non-conforming people, including the right not to be fired or refused a job or promotion, and the right to safe and adequate access to restrooms and other facilities consistent with gender identity.
However, discrimination can take the form of micro-aggressions and other more subtle forms of abuse that make the workplace an uncomfortable or downright scary place. This includes joking or making generalizations about a co-worker’s experience. The Human Rights Commission’s Trans Toolkit for Employers provides a blueprint for making the workplace a welcoming environment for transgender people.
Barriers to Social Justice
The Trump administration continues to roll back protections for trans individuals. In the latest attempt to undermine basic rights for LGBTQ individuals, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide on cases heard in early October, determining whether a person can be fired because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, or if LGBTQ Americans are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. On September 28, members of the transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary communities took a stand against hate and discrimination at the first ever National Trans March on DC.
In 2014, the Affordable Care Act expanded gender-affirming health insurance coverage for transgender people throughout the U.S., though these protections have come under threat by the current administration. There are strong existing laws reinforcing the importance of transgender health care in New York State, but they are not always enforced, especially outside of New York City. On a national level, laws and compliance vary state by state, with Southern states and many Midwestern states ranking low in transgender protections, according to the Transgender Law Center.
What Cisgender People Can Do
There is ignorance and misunderstanding—even among well-meaning people—about the lives and experiences of trans people. There are many ways to help create safer spaces for trans people. It is the obligation of cisgender people to stay aware and informed; we must create a culture of advocacy and acceptance. Actions like respecting a person’s preferred pronouns and learning correct terminology can go a long way toward making someone feel comfortable.
- Amida Care’s Guide to Transgender Resources and Services in NYC
- Amida Care’s Breaking Barriers to Transgender Health Care
- The Anti-Violence Project
- Trans Lifeline
- NYC Commission on Human Rights’ Gender Identity/Gender Expression Legal Enforcement Guide
- LGBT Bar NYC
- GLAAD Tips for Allies of Transgender People
- ACLU Trans Ally Tool Kit
- VICE: 100 Easy Ways to Make the World Better for Trans People
- New York Trans Advocacy Group
- Translatinx Network
- The Trevor Project
- Safe Horizon