California once again adopted its own “New Year’s resolutions” this week, as hundreds of new state laws took effect at midnight on January 1 — including many that protect, empower and support members of the LGBTQ community and our allies. Equality California has been busy at work fighting in Sacramento, fighting to pass pro-equality legislation and sponsoring 11 of these new laws.

Transgender Equality

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Senator Scott Wiener’s Gender Recognition Act of 2017 (SB 179) ensures transgender and nonbinary Californians have access to state-issued identification that accurately reflect their gender identity. The new law allows for a nonbinary gender marker on California birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, identity cards and gender-change court orders, and it also helps to streamline the process for changing the gender marker on state documents, removing unnecessarily complicated and costly barriers.

Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s (D-San Diego) first-in-the-nation Gender Health in Foster Care Act of 2018 (AB 2119) will now explicitly guarantee access to life-saving, gender-affirming health care for youth in foster care. LGBTQ youth, and transgender youth in particular, are overrepresented among California’s foster youth, and are too often deprived of such care.

Education

California teachers will soon have access to greater tools and training to prevent bullying and suicide — both of which disproportionately harm LGBTQ youth. Assemblymember David Chiu’s (D-San Francisco) AB 2291 now requires public schools to provide online training annually on preventing bullying and cyberbullying to teachers and school staff. And while school districts are already required — under a law that Equality California and the Trevor Project passed in 2016 — to provide teachers with suicide prevention training, AB 2639 by Assemblymembers Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) and Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) will now require districts to regularly review and update their policies.

Students at California charter schools will now be guaranteed access to comprehensive, inclusive sex education programs — including instruction on LGBTQ people and families — thanks to Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s (D-San Diego) AB 2601. This legislation expands the California Healthy Youth Act of 2016, which already applied to traditional district-run schools and was authored by Weber and co-sponsored by Equality California.

Unfortunately, Governor Brown’s veto of legislation authored by State Superintendent-elect Tony Thurmond and sponsored by Equality California means school districts won’t be required to provide teachers and school staff with the tools and comprehensive LGBTQ training they need to support LGBTQ students who are facing bullying at schools or lack of acceptance in their homes or communities. But Equality California will introduce — and pass — that bill again in 2019, and we look forward to working with Governor-elect Newsom to get that critical legislation signed into law.

Homelessness

Four out of ten young people experiencing homelessness in California’s major cities identify as LGBTQ. The Establishing Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2018 (SB 918), authored by Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), will now help provide resources for housing, services and supports for youth experiencing homelessness.

Many Californians experiencing homelessness live in counties that are not the county of their birth, and some may be unsure of their county of birth. LGBTQ young people experiencing homelessness often travel to major California cities to find acceptance. Assemblymember Chiu’s AB 2490 eliminates fees charged to people experiencing homelessness seeking to obtain certified birth certificates directly from the state.

Gun Safety

Through Equality California’s “Safe and Equal” campaign — started in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting — we’ve supported commonsense gun safety legislation, including Assemblymember Gloria’s AB 2103, which now requires Californians to undergo gun safety training before obtaining a concealed weapons permit.

Under two other new gun safety laws, Californians under the age of 21 are no longer able to purchase a rifle or a shotgun in California, and there is a new lifetime ban prohibiting anyone who has been convicted of serious domestic assault from owning a firearm.

Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice

LGBTQ people face higher rates of hate crimes and incidents, bias-based violence, harassment at the hands of law enforcement, and discrimination within the criminal justice system compared to the general population. Assemblymember Evan Low’s (D-Cambell) AB 2504 now requires the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to develop LGBTQ-specific training for law enforcement officers. Improving the law enforcement community’s ability to serve and protect members of the LGBTQ community will help to ensure they respond appropriately to situations that involve LGBTQ people.

With growing rates of hate crimes in California — including those against LGBTQ people — Assemblymember Phil Ting’s (D-San Francisco) AB 1985 now provides guidance for local law enforcement agencies to update and strengthen their policies on hate crimes.

LGBTQ Older Adults

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s (D-Thousand Oak) AB 2719 now recognizes LGBTQ older adults as a population in need of special attention and ensures that they can access the services and support they need to maintain their health and live their lives with dignity.

Tax Equity

Thanks to Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang, AB 2663 provides retroactive relief to LGBTQ Californians who were registered as domestic partners in municipal jurisdictions and may have had their property taxes increased due to the death of a partner.

Twenty-five days before leaving office, Gov. John Kasich suddenly barred discrimination in state employment based on gender identity -- a change of heart from when he took office nearly eight years ago.

Kasich, Ohio's two-term CEO, signed the surprise executive order implementing the policy language Wednesday afternoon.

The governor continues to be opposed to discrimination in state employment, and this order reflects how he believes that policy should be implemented," said Kasich press secretary Jon Keeling.

After he entered office in 2011, Kasich revised the state employment anti-discrimination policy to remove gender identity, which had been added in 2007 by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

"Equality Ohio has been sending the governor letters with stories from LGBTQ Ohioans about their experiences with discrimination throughout the year and finding opportunities to grow his familiarity with transgender people and their lives," said Alana Jochum, executive director of the group. "He heard this call, and we are grateful for Gov. Kasich's leadership in extending nondiscrimination protections for transgender state employees."

Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, said Kasich's move was unnecessary.

"Unless his administration was rampantly firing individuals with gender dysphoria, the only purpose of his latest executive action is to score political points on the way out the door. There is no evidence that this kind of discrimination is happening in state government today," Baer said. "I think most Ohioans would prefer he keeps his priorities focused on what's best for Ohio ... instead of looking to endear himself to the coasts for his next political run."

Incoming Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio's attorney general who will take over the governor's office Jan. 14, now faces a decision whether to keep Kasich's new language.

In 2016, DeWine added Ohio as a plaintiff with other states in a federal lawsuit challenging then-President Barack Obama's order instructing that transgender students be allowed to use school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms matching their gender identity under the threat of losing federal funding. After taking office last year, Republican President Donald Trump revoked the Democrat's order, which never took effect amid the legal challenge.

Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, an openly gay lawmaker who has long pushed for LGBTQ employment protections, questioned why it took Kasich eight years to come around on the issue, saying she tried unsuccessfully multiple times over the years to schedule a sit-down with the governor to discuss discrimination.

"I feel like he's making these moves to convince people that he's somehow a moderate Republican. For eight years, that is not the governor I've seen," said the Lakewood Democrat, who was elected to the Senate last month.

Some legislative Republicans, Antonio said, are going to need to be educated on gender identity. She said the biggest misunderstanding surrounding gender identity is that a person has a choice and just switches back and forth.

"For every person I've ever talked to that's ever gone through the agony ... it's never about a choice," she said.

President Donald Trump’s new acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has a history of anti-LGBT legislation and statements, including saying that encouraging countries to drop homophobic policies is “religious persecution.”

Mulvaney, who will become Trump’s third chief of staff in less than two years when he replaces General John Kelly in January, has also co-sponsored bills to ban same-sex marriage and allow anti-LGBT discrimination on the basis of religion.

In July, at the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, he lashed out at President Barack Obama’s government because “our US taxpayer dollars [were] used to discourage Christian values in other democratic countries.”

“It was stunning to me that my government under the previous administration would go to folks in sub-Saharan Africa and say… ‘We know you have a law against gay marriage, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money,'” continued the 51-year-old.

“That’s a different type of religious persecution… That is a different type of religious persecution that I never expected to see.”

Mick Mulvaney oversaw cuts in HIV funding

As director of the Office of Management and Budget, a role he’s held since February 2017, Mulvaney released a budget for the 2019 fiscal year which included cuts to domestic HIV/AIDS programmes and slashed $1 billion from global HIV programmes.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC)’s government affairs director David Stacy said at the time that the budget showed “a callous disregard for critical programmes that impact LGBTQ Americans” and created “a direct threat to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ people here and around the world.”

During his time in state government, he co-sponsored a law which banned same-sex marriage in South Carolina.

He also told lawmakers that the state government should stop “advertising South Carolina to gay tourists in Europe” before winning election to the House of Representatives in 2010.

Mick Mulvaney opposed same-sex marriage and trans rights in Congress

The former South Carolina lawmaker scored zero on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for all three of his terms in the House, unwaveringly opposing LGBT+ rights.

It was while he was a congressman that he urged President Obama to enforce the Defence of Marriage Act, a federal law which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, and which was eventually ruled unconstitutional.

Mulvaney also signed a letter questioning the Obama administration’s transgender guidance which allowed students to use their chosen facilities.

The letter criticised the guidance, which was revoked by the Trump administration just weeks into the president’s term, for forcing schools to “disregard the privacy, ‘discomfort,’ and emotional strain imposed on other students during use of bathroom, showering, and changing facilities.”

During a debate with Democrat Fran Person in 2016, Mulvaney said that he was supporting Trump in the upcoming presidential election despite thinking he was “a terrible human being,” The Daily Beast has reported.

When Gabrielle Claiborne came out as a transgender woman in 2010, she worried about what it would mean for her career. She had spent the past thirty years in the construction industry, owning and operating her own successful businesses, but she knew that discrimination against the transgender community would make it difficult for her to continue finding work.

She also knew that she wanted to make a difference in her community, that she wanted to use her business experience and knowledge to make life easier for other transgender people navigating their own careers. She didn’t know what that would look like until she met her eventual business partner, Reverend Linda Herzer, a trans advocate working to educate others about trans and non-binary people. The two women decided to merge their skills and passions to cofound Transformation Journeys Worldwide, an inclusion training and consulting firm that focuses on supporting organizations in creating fully inclusive cultures for trans and non-binary people.

Transformation Journeys Worldwide (TJWW), based in Atlanta, Georgia, serves corporations, nonprofits, spiritual communities, healthcare providers, as well as educational institutions. It has worked with clients like UPS, Home Depot, the Atlanta Hawks, and Kaiser Permanente.

“Our trainings and consultations look different for different clients,” Claiborne explains. “A lot of times our clients are at different places around understanding of trans and non-binary people, so we meet them where they are and create custom consultations and training to help them advance and move forward.”

In addition to teaching the importance of inclusion from a human rights perspective, Claiborne emphasizes to clients that an inclusive work culture is the best possible way to attract and retain top talent. She cites a 2017 Harris Poll that found 12% of Millennials identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, which is double the number of Generation Xers that identify as such.

Millennials are making up more and more of the workplace as time goes on, so it is in a company’s best interest to foster a culture of inclusion, she explains. The biggest challenges for people, Claiborne finds, is understanding what it means to identify as non-binary.

“To an extent culture is now just beginning to wrap their arms around trans people, but non-binary people challenge our cultural assumptions about gender even moreso than trans people do,” she says. “I identify as a woman so essentially I still identify with the binary. It’s non-binary individuals who are really challenging our assumptions on gender expression.”

One big piece of TJWW trainings is helping people understand how to interact respectfully with their transgender and non-binary clients and coworkers. TJWW offers strategies for respectfully asking someone which pronouns they use, and it educates people about what to expect when a coworker comes out or is still in the in the process of evolving their gender expression.

“We have found people want to do the right thing most of the time,” Claiborne says. “They just don’t know how to go about it. The companies we work with are calling us in because they recognize a gap and want to grow.”

Still, Claiborne says it can be challenging to help businesses understand why it is so important for them to undergo trainings like those offered by TJWW. “People are at different places, and meeting them where they are is critical because organizations are not wanting to invest their time, resources, and money if they don’t see it as beneficial to them. It has to be relevant to them. We have to create that relevancy and help them see the relevancy for themselves.”

Claiborne's significant entrepreneurial experience has guided her through the ups and downs of cofounding TJWW. “I knew how to start a business,” she says. “I knew how to collaborate. I knew how to market myself. I knew how to create.” Nevertheless, she says she has learned to be more collaborative since starting TJWW. It has become important to Claiborne to surround herself with other people who bring talent and experience. “So it’s not just me bringing my solutions to the table,” she says.

Through all of her entrepreneurial experiences, Claiborne has learned that it is how you handle the difficult times that will determine the success of your business. “It’s how you run your business in the between times, when it’s hard, when you don’t have money coming in that month.”

She also feels strongly about giving back to other organizations that need support. She is a board member for Atlanta Pride, a member of the city’s LGBTQ mayoral advisory board, a member of the Transgender Inclusion Task Force for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and she is also a vocalist for her spiritual community. “The sponge cannot be full all the time,” she says. “You have to wring it out occasionally, and you have to look at your business as that sponge.”

Claiborne is proud of all she has been able to do and is especially proud that TJWW is seeing positive results for the organizations it works with. “When our clients circle back around with us and share how much they learned and actual steps they’re taking to implement the changes they learned in our trainings, it does our heart good. I wanted to make a difference in the world, and now I feel like I am making a difference in the way it’s meant for me to make.”

The Trump administration’s animosity toward LGBTI people at home and abroad and toward women at home can be easy to shrug off as the “new normal” in the haze of crisis fatigue, but it would be a mistake to miss how dogged or how interrelated these attacks are. This administration is trying to create a world in which trans people don’t exist, women don’t have control over their bodies, and religious beliefs can overrule basic human rights.

These attacks are frequent and appalling, like when the president repeatedly tried to institute a trans military ban or when the administration callously rolled back protections for trans students. Less obvious but just as critical have been the attacks on LGBTI people as the administration tries to change definitions of “gender” in U.S. policy and practice, including the attempt by Health and Human Services to erase gender and define sex as immutable and set at birth, intentionally erasing transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people out of existence — and thus as not entitled to basic rights and protections.

Many of these attacks have been cloaked under the guise of championing women’s rights. Make no mistake: this administration is no friend of women or girls. And yet it has repeatedly tried to use the language of women’s rights as a Trojan horse for blatantly transphobic, anti-women, anti-rights policies — like when the U.S. Agency for International Development sought to use a routine congressional notification to change “gender equality” to “women’s equality.” Or when the U.S. delegation to the United Nations attempted to strip gender from U.N. policy statements, particularly regarding “gender-based violence.” A spokeswoman specifically defended this as part of “the administration’s efforts to empower women and girls.”

These attacks go beyond mere words: reframing gender-based violence, which includes LGBTI people, to "violence against women and girls" erases gay or bi men, transgender and intersex people. It also ignores the more systemic realities of gender power imbalance that must be addressed for all people to live free from violence.

These attempts to erase trans people and redefine gender are deeply related to the administration’s attacks on sexual and reproductive rights, moves that have disproportionate impact on women and LGBTI people. Take, for example, the stripping of reproductive rights from the Human Rights Report — a reversal of U.S. practice and a move that flatly denies sexual and reproductive rights as human rights and woefully misunderstands their centrality to LGBTI people and women, who need comprehensive services that include reproductive care as well as basic health care. Or the administration’s moves to ban diplomats from using well-defined terms like “sexual and reproductive health” and "comprehensive sexuality education" — replacing it instead with “reproduction and the related health services.” Additionally, internal leaked memos have suggested changing sexual and reproductive health language to “women’s health care.” These words matter, and the Trump administration knows it.

These attacks are part of a coordinated approach by the administration to strip LGBTI people and women of their rights. They are increasingly done under cloak of night through bureaucratic measures, only coming to light if leaked. They are rooted in anti-feminist, anti-human rights ideology, and they are being coordinated by a handful of people specifically placed by the Trump administration, under the leadership of the vice president’s office. These are people who have opaque if even existent accountability within the bureaus they work in, seemingly working under the directive of the office of the vice president instead. They’re people like Mari Stull, now at the State Department, currently under investigation for anti-LGBTI slurs and reprisals — and people like anti-trans, anti-reproductive rights activist Bethany Kozma, now at USAID.

This administration is enacting changes in which the government dictates what sex is, who it is for and who gets to have it. They are seeking to build a country and a world in which women and men are defined in opposition to each other and serve very distinct roles; where women don’t have control over their bodies; and where trans, genderqueer, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people simply don’t exist. We must see these attacks for what they are: the hellbent stripping away of people’s rights through whatever means possible at the expense of global health and all our human rights.

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