The Biden White House Begins Shaping Agenda To Advance Trans Rights

by Tori Cooper

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable at the White House for advocates of transgender women of color from around the country. The event was hosted by Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and Co-Chair of the Gender Policy Council Julissa Reynoso. The event was the first in a series of listening sessions that will be convened by the White House-led Interagency Working Group on Safety, Inclusion, and Opportunity for Transgender Individuals, which was announced by the White House in June.

Since taking office, the Biden-Harris administration has made its commitment to providing justice for transgender people clear. This includes the administration’s important steps addressing gender markers on passports, implementing the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision across several key agencies, ending the ban on trans military service and so much more.

As you may know, the Equality Act is the LGBTQ community’s top legislative priority. It would provide clear, consistent nondiscrimination protections so that no future administration could rollback the progress this administration is accomplishing. Though, there is much this administration can still do in the absence of Congressional action.

BIPOC transgender and non-binary people face a dire situation in this country today -- impacted by discrimination and stigma as multiply marginalized people in a country that in many ways was set up to work against us, not for us. We must do a better job of understanding that -- and there’s a need across all the issues for robust federal data collection on gender identity and sexual orientation that will help spotlight the injustices we continue to face.

During the meeting we discussed many priorities for the community, ways in which the administration could play a major role in advancing transgender justice. These are some of the ways in which I’m especially hopeful with President Biden and Vice President Harris at the helm.

Radical reform is necessary to address public safety and law enforcement.

Black and Brown transgender and non-binary people are at heightened risk of violence. Our community neither trusts nor expects to receive help from law enforcement. The criminalization of sex work exacerbates both the violence we encounter and fear of law enforcement Law enforcement must be trained and held accountable for treating transgender and non-binary people in a nondiscriminatory manner. When transgender and non-binary people are incarcerated, they must be housed and treated consistent with their authentic gender and receive all medically necessary care.

Homelessness and housing discrimination has had a devastating effect on transgender and non-binary people who are more likely to be living in poverty.

Federally funded shelters -- for young people and adults -- must be inclusive, welcoming and safe for transgender and non-binary people. Programs that provide wrap-around services should be prioritized for funding.

HHS and DOJ must robustly enforce Sec. 1557 of the ACA against any healthcare institution that denies medically necessary transition related care.

In addition, the federal conscience regulations should be revised to ensure nondiscrimination safeguards. Prioritizing improvements in the delivery of PrEP through Medicaid is necessary to achieving an HIV-free generation.

Discrimination and discipline at schools.

Transgender and non-binary youth, particularly those at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, face disproportionate levels of discrimination and discipline at schools. Vigorous enforcement of Title IX coupled with revised regulations will provide many transgender and non-binary students the support they need. And programs like HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools could also play a critical role.

Transgender and non-binary youth are also overrepresented in the child welfare system.

Adopting prohibitions against conversion therapy in foster care services and nondiscrimination protections in out-of-home care services and placements for these youth will alleviate safety issues. The HRC Foundation’s All Children-All Families works to increase LGBTQ-inclusion in the child welfare system.

Employment and job training.

Finally, the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock alone is insufficient to address discrimination in employment. Systemic discrimination against transgender and non-binary people in all areas of life makes it challenging for transgender and non-binary workers to even get a foot in the door. Job training programs designed for the unique challenges faced by the transgender and non-binary workers should be supported. Through the HRC Foundation’s Transgender Justice Initiative, we’re creating economic opportunities in partnership with grassroots organizers.

The participants highlighted the needs of the trans youth and trans immigrant community. By sharing all of our stories it is obvious that there is still so much work that needs to be done to support the trans community across the country. I look forward to continuing this much needed dialogue with the Biden- Harris administration and my fellow trans and non-binary community members, and hope that our next gathering will include voices from other areas of the country and those of the indigenous and trans masculine communities.