Ensuring Competent Care for Transgender and Non-Binary People

While communities around the country observe Trans Awareness Week, in one Texas city, advocates have shifted the narrative. 

The Mahogany Project and Save Our Sisters, two Houston-based organizations, have founded Black Trans Empowerment Week to “not only to memorialize those who have been tragically taken, but to charge forward into the empowered future they envision for all transgender people.”

For Houston community health advocate Donte Oxun, it’s exciting to see. 

“Even in the light of so much transphobia and racism from our government and from some parts of society, to see my community be like, ‘You know what? We’re not just remembering our dead.’ We actually have so much more work to do, and we’re going to do all of it,’” they told HRC.

Oxun has worked in HIV and public health spaces since 2009, shortly after they were diagnosed with HIV — something that propelled them into speaking out.

“Like many people who are gender diverse and of color, my life was definitely touched by HIV even before I was living with HIV,” Oxun said. “I have family members who I lost to HIV when I was pretty young.”

“I’ve always been a bit of a loudmouth and a person who understands and relates with people who struggle,” they continued. “So, the way I dealt with my HIV diagnosis was to be really public about it at first. It’s important to humanize our perspective and really show that people can live regular lives and that we deserve to have our stories told.”

In their work with Legacy Community Health in Houston, Oxun is a lead patient advocate, primarily helping patients — particularly trans and non-binary patients — living with HIV or Hepatitis C to navigate the health care system and receive the care they need. Legacy has been offering gender-affirming, LGBTQ-competent care for young people and adults for more than 30 years, Oxun said.

“Competent care is a challenge,” they said. “We shouldn’t have to negotiate between parts of our identities when seeking care is already a challenge.”

Texas has one of the highest populations of uninsured people, reminds Oxun. Obstacles to accessing care range from poverty and socioeconomic status to fear of stigma or violence — something on the minds of many as we draw closer to commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance

Of the 22 known transgender or gender non-conforming people killed this year, four of those victims were killed in Texas. All four of the trans people killed in Texas this year were Black transgender women — something that matters when talking about how to support and provide services for the local transgender community.

“Violence affects people’s health care,” Oxun said. “When a person doesn’t feel safe to catch the bus to walk down the street, they’re going to be less likely to see a doctor. They’re going to be less likely to pick up their prescriptions. They’re going to be less likely to get access to care.”

Until those barriers are dismantled and addressed, transgender and gender non-conforming people will continue to face higher rates of discrimination, poverty, homelessness and violence not just in Texas but around the country.

“No matter who you are, if you’re working in any form of health care, you’re going to interact with somebody who’s gender diverse,” Oxun said. “You may not know it, they may not be comfortable reporting it to you, but you are. It’s about seeing them as a whole person.”

For information for LGBTQ people seeking to learn more about access to care, particularly under the Affordable Care Act, click here.

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Horrific Anti-LGBTQ Killings in Detroit Demand Action

The horrific shooting deaths of three Black LGBTQ people in Detroit demands our country’s urgent attention and action.

Alunte Davis, 21, and Timothy Blancher, 20, two gay men, were found dead at the scene on May 25. Paris Cameron, a transgender woman, was taken to the hospital, where she died from her injuries not long after. Two other victims were also shot but survived.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office identified the three victims as members of the LGBTQ community and alleged that they were targeted based on their identities. According to the Detroit Free Press, a suspect has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and is expected to be arraigned this morning in District Court in Detroit.

“It is horrifying and heartbreaking that the three victims killed in Detroit last month were allegedly targeted because they were LGBTQ,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “The epidemic of hate violence that targets people of color and LGBTQ people, particularly Black trans people, is an urgent crisis. Our policymakers and leaders must do more to ensure the safety and dignity of every person in our country.”

Tragically, Cameron’s death is among nine known cases of deadly violence against the transgender community in 2019, all of whom were Black transgender women. Last year, advocates tracked the deaths of at least 26 transgender people.

“This case illustrates the mortal danger faced by members of Detroit’s LGBTQ community, including transgender women of color,” Fair Michigan President Alanna Maguire said.

These victims in Detroit and far too many others were attacked by acquaintances, partners and strangers, some of whom have been arrested and charged, while others have yet to be identified. Some of these cases involve clear anti-LGBTQ and racial bias. In others, the details are still tragically unclear.

FBI hate crimes statistics released last year revealed a disturbing increase of 17% in overall reported hate crimes from the previous year. These numbers reflect a 5% increase in reporting of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias and a startling 16% increase in anti-Black hate crimes. And of the more than 130 known victims of anti-transgender violence from 2013 to present, approximately two-thirds of those killed were victims of gun violence.

To confront this alarming epidemic of hate violence, we must explicitly name racism’s impact on this country and the ways that intersecting oppressions deprive LGBTQ people of color of their fundamental rights to safely and authentically live, love and thrive.  We must confront these barriers and work to lift up the voices of advocates challenging systems of power and oppression every day.

To learn more about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/Transgender.

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The Crisis at the Border is an LGBTQ Issue. Here’s Why.

The Trump-Pence administration’s cruel immigration policies are harming LGBTQ and other asylum seekers who are fleeing violence in Central America by leaving them stranded on the U.S.-Mexico border.

More than 120 LGBTQ asylum seekers are currently stuck in Tijuana, with the number sure to grow in the coming weeks as the arrival of a larger group of people fleeing violence and danger draws closer, according to the San Diego LGBT Community Center and RAICES, an organization that provide vital legal support to immigrants.

“We’ve been working with partners in Tijuana to provide legal services, shelter, security, and more for dozens of LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers stuck waiting weeks for their cases to be heard,” said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES. “The Trump administration is responsible for this delay, a delay that harms all immigrants but is particularly perilous for LGBTQ+ folks, who face dangers from police and ordinary citizens in Mexico and must be allowed safe entry into the United States.”

Violence associated with gangs and drug trafficking has made Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala some of the world’s most violent countries, with few laws protecting people from violence or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Advocates have said that being LGBTQ substantially increases vulnerability to violence, and transgender individuals face the highest risk.

“People migrate (to the U.S.) because they will die and because they are hungry and because they are in need,” said Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, an El Salvadoran advocacy group, in a July interview with the Washington Blade. Ayala herself fled to Europe in October after facing a threat to her own life.

Today was emotional.

We accompanied a group of LGBTQ migrants taking the first step of the asylum process at the border near Tijuana. After walking for hundreds of miles seeking safety this was an important milestone. pic.twitter.com/ZsytH5ttBt

— ������������ (@RAICESTEXAS) November 29, 2018

Earlier this month, many LGBTQ asylum seekers, who were facing discrimination and harassment on their journey, split off from the main group of asylum seekers, reaching the U.S. border in Mexico in mid-November.

“We were discriminated against, even in the caravan. People wouldn’t let us into trucks, they made us get in the back of the line for showers, they would call us ugly names,” said Erick Dubon, in a Washington Post article. Dubon is traveling with his boyfriend, Pedro Nehemias, from San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

A 2016 study by UNHCR, the U.N.’s refugee agency, found through its interviews that nearly 90 percent of LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees reported suffering sexual and gender-based violence in their home countries in Central America. According to reports from the agency, the number of total registered asylum seekers and refugees from the region has grown exponentially — up 58 percent in 2017 from the previous year.

We helped secure safe passage for these LGBTQ+ migrants to Tijuana and are supporting their asylum claims.

Humans supporting humans.

Please watch and share, to see who’s actually in the migrant caravan. pic.twitter.com/Og5xOSVGE7

— ������������ (@RAICESTEXAS) November 20, 2018

“The more authorities in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and the USA fail to take action to protect some of the most vulnerable people in the Americas, the more blood they will have on their hands,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, in a 2017 report documenting experiences of LGBTQ people fleeing the region.

Earlier this year, international outrage spread after the brutal death of transgender asylum seeker Roxana Hernández, who passed away while in ICE custody after fleeing violence and discrimination in Honduras. An autopsy report made public earlier this week strongly indicated Hernández was beaten in custody and denied water and critical medical treatment before her death, but ICE has refused to release a required report on the circumstances of her death for more than 180 days, in direct contravention of a Congressional requirement.

According to information provided by ICE in response to a request by Rep. Kathleen Rice, LGBTQ immigrants are detained twice as long as other immigrants and also face lengthy stays in solitary confinement despite ICE regulations that stipulate its use as a last resort. ICE also reported to Representative Rice that LGBTQ people accounted for only .14 percent of the people detained by ICE in 2017, but made up 12 percent of reported sexual assault and abuse cases.

The multitude of stories emerging from the waves of asylum seekers and refugees fleeing Central America are heartbreaking and infuriating, and the cruelty they are met with at the hands of the Trump-Pence administration is unacceptable.

As the situation continues to evolve, find out more about how to support the work of organizations providing direct assistance to the LGBTQ asylum seekers in Tijuana, including the San Diego LGBT Community Center, RAICES and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

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For Pose, The Category Is… Making History

If you haven’t been watching “Pose,” Ryan Murphy’s latest television series on FX, you’ve been missing out on a necessary, revolutionary look at recent LGBTQ history.

Last night, Janet Mock made history by becoming the first transgender woman of color to both write, produce and direct for a major network television show.

Pose is helmed by a cast and crew of queer and transgender trailblazers including HRC honorees Angelica Ross and Billy Porter, MJ Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Steven Canals — and of course, Mock.

The show is set in New York City, juxtaposing the house/ball scene against the tumultuous political and social climate of the 1980s — and it features the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, as well as the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series.

“I want to tell stories and to create the mirrors that I didn’t have growing up,” said Mock in a column she wrote for Variety describing her journey with the show.

Here are five of our favorite moments from Mock’s directorial debut last night:

1. Costas Perez and Pray Tell’s relationship

The love between Costas Perez and Pray Tell made us laugh and made us cry throughout this season — and while we knew his time living with HIV was short, Perez’s death has left us heartbroken.

“They’ll never know that feeling — what it’s like to love without worrying that you’re going to die or worse yet that you’re going to kill somebody.” #PoseFX https://t.co/NLsMEJyixb

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 9, 2018

Love Live Never forget, but work on letting go. #PoseFX pic.twitter.com/pMM5QzTp7Z

— Mj Rodriguez (@MjRodriguez7) July 9, 2018

2. Sandra Bernhard

Need we say more?

Forever grateful for @angelbcuriel‘s comedic relief — especially during that scene. Whew. #posefx pic.twitter.com/NWKSzGr6Om

— them. (@them) July 9, 2018

3. Billy Porter and MJ Rodriguez’s emotional duet at the cabaret

It was a raw look through the eyes of Porter and Rodriguez’s characters into the fear and pain of both living with HIV and watching your loved ones die from the disease that, at the time, no one knew how to stop.

.@theebillyporter All. The. Feels. ������ https://t.co/ArouS9di17

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 9, 2018

@PoseOnFX Fun Fact: The AIDS cabaret storyline was inspired by a conversation between @theebillyporter, @MrRPMurphy, and I. Billy informed us of cabarets that would take place at AIDS wards in the late 80s and early 90s. #PoseFX

— Steven Canals (@StevenCanals) July 9, 2018

And I’ve learned
That we must look inside our hearts
To find
A world full of love
Like yours, Like mine
Like Home. #PoseFX
Thank you @theebillyporter x @MjRodriguez7 pic.twitter.com/LMDd3Jphpc

— Janet Mock (@janetmock) July 9, 2018

4. Lil Papi finally getting his perfect 10 

10s 10s 10s!!! #LilPapi did that ������ pic.twitter.com/seYHOmC6vM

— Angel Bismark Curiel (@angelbcuriel) July 9, 2018

5. “Love is the message.”

Pray Tell may have found some new music for the next ball, but as we dry our tears after watching this episode, we won’t forget that love is indeed the message.

❤️���������� is the message. #PoseFX https://t.co/0KE48ySJl2

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 9, 2018

I dedicate this episode to all those we have lost from AIDS. We need to remember, and never forget. Thank you Janet and the cast and crew for making me weep and yet cheer for what is possible when LOVE IS THE MESSAGE.

— Ryan Murphy (@MrRPMurphy) July 8, 2018

 POSE airs at 9 p.m. EDT Sundays on FX. Be sure to tune in!

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Three Ways Betsy DeVos Has Undermined Protections for Students

It has been more than a year since the Trump-Pence administration began dismantling and withdrawing vital protections in place to support marginalized students. Since her confirmation to office, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made clear that the Department of Education no longer prioritizes protecting all students from harm.

In case you missed it, here are three of the Trump-Pence administration’s most dangerous threats to students under DeVos’ authority:

1. Under the direction of DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, within days of taking office, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice revoked the Obama Administration’s guidance detailing schools’ obligations to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. While students are still entitled to the legal protections guaranteed by Title IX, the action clouded schools’ understanding of their obligations to transgender youth. Reports have since surfaced that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has dismissed cases of discrimination filed by transgender students and their families.

WATCH: Families of transgender kids traveled to the US Dept. of Education (@usedgov) to deliver a message to @BetsyDeVos. The letter, signed by more than 700 parents of trans youth, urges Sec. DeVos to recognize the “basic human and civil rights of transgender students.” pic.twitter.com/IowHTMJWez

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 8, 2018

.@BetsyDeVosED complained about being criticized for not upholding the rights of students, despite failing time and time again to protect or enforce our nation’s civil rights laws when it comes to protecting #LGBTQ students. pic.twitter.com/rv4eDGm1XD

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 21, 2018

2. In Sept. 2017, DeVos withdrew vital Title IX guidance related to schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence — an action that disproportionately impacts LGBTQ people. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. HRC’s Jordan Dashow, an LGBTQ survivor, revealed the cruelty behind this message in a powerful oped calling for strong enforcement of Title IX. 

Last year, #LGBTQ survivor Jordan Dashow (@j_dashow) revealed the cruelty behind @BetsyDeVosED’s dangerous decision to rescind #TitleIX sexual assault guidance for schools. Student survivors need to know that the government will take their complaints seriously. #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/bhWb32uS6y

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 24, 2018

It has been more than six months since the Trump-Pence administration withdrew vital #TitleIX guidance on sexual violence. @HRC continues to demand justice for these student survivors because #EnoughIsEnough. #WorkSafeLearnSafe https://t.co/WVMrN73CNf

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 24, 2018

3. Recently, reports have surfaced that DeVos is considering rescinding guidance protecting students from discrimination in the application of school discipline as part of her new Federal Commission on School Safety. Schools are explicitly prohibited from discriminating against students based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion or disability. In 2014, the Department of Education issued guidance and provided resources to help ensure schools are providing an equal opportunity for all students. The consequences of exclusionary school discipline can be devastating to young people, especially those who may already face marginalization in school, their communities and even at home.

Ignoring discrimination will not make schools safer despite @BetsyDeVosED turning her back on students with marginalized identities. #RethinkDiscipline https://t.co/83FPxuLkAr

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 20, 2018

Rescinding and weakening these and other guidance sends a clear message that the Department of Education will not do its job as a federal agency devoted to enforcing civil rights laws in educational settings. Students need to know that the government will take their complaints seriously and that they will be protected from abuse, harassment and violence.

HRC will continue to fight alongside civil rights and education advocates — both during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and throughout the rest of the year — to protect the civil rights of all students.

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