We reached out to transgender community members across the United States, to find out what’s in their minds as we head into the midterms.

The direction the country is going is a primary concern, with most concerned that the struggle for transgender rights today is more about holding onto what we have versus seeking new victories. 

We reached out to transgender community members across the United States, to find out what’s in their minds as we head into the midterms.

The direction the country is going is a primary concern, with most concerned that the struggle for transgender rights today is more about holding onto what we have versus seeking new victories.

“My biggest concerns going into these midterms are trying — as hard as we can — to regain some control over at least one of the houses of congress to slow the pace of the attacks on trans people’s rights to exist safely in public,” said one nonbinary person from Delaware when asked what she was most concerned about this election.

They added, “We are scared, and we are angry, and we are right to be.”

“Basic survival for transgender and gender non-conforming people is really the only issue on my mind,” added Jillian Hanlon, a transgender woman from upstate NY. “These are scary times we live in.”

“At this point, my politics are triage – whatever I can do to minimize harm to *any and all* marginalized folks, that’s where my vote goes,” summed up Jane S., a trans woman from Memphis.  “Idealism is out the window, because there are no perfect candidates, and we can’t let perfection get in the way of survival

For most asked, the issues were simple, with concerns about passports, health care, and employment amongst the key issues.

“When I think of what issues impact trans people in particular and how they may be shaped by the midterms, I think of… federal judicial appointments, immigration and asylum policies, employment law protections, access to healthcare and insurance coverage for trans related healthcare, and administrative policies and procedures vis-a-vis transition (e.g. passports, TSA, social security),” said Spencer Bergstedt, a trans man living in Washington state.

“Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, have made it clear that they want us to cease existing,” Hanlon added. “Bathroom bills are a back door way to criminalize us. The attacks against trans students by the Department of Education are designed to make it impossible for TGNC youth to exist in the educational environment. The current difficulty in trans and gender non-conforming people in having their passports renewed is an attempt to police our identities. And all are only made possible by a lack of any kind of explicit statutory framework.”

“The attacks on trans [people] serving in the military (how many of us can survive, get a job, and get affirming healthcare), on our ability to be supported and affirmed in public schools, and the broader attacks on our healthcare,” added the aforementioned nonbinary person from Delaware.

“I’m deathly afraid of trans being re-declared a pre-existing condition and for ALL healthcare coverage (even non trans related) being denied once again.  And at the most fundamental level, the scant protections we get from Title IX being overruled and erased.  The broad attacks on our rights from every angle possible, fueled by the extra-empowered evangelical conservative front are gaining speed, and when more attacks on the federal level succeed, they will be followed by thousands of related attacks on local fronts.”

The makeup of the Supreme Court was weighing heavily on those asked too, given its potential impact.

“Regardless of what happens to Kavanaugh, we’ve lost the Supreme Court. We have an increasingly authoritarian and unchecked Executive branch. Without an independent Legislative branch, all will most certainly be set back decades, if not lost entirely,” said Hanlon.

“I’m disappointed by the rightward lean of the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals. The GOP blocked Obama court picks that I considered centrists for political purposes only. It is apparent that they are trying to stack the cards against people they consider rightfully marginalized. Apparently we are ground zero in the culture war.” said Diane Strano, a trans woman in Pennsylvania.

There were also plenty of local and state issues on people’s minds, though many still tied into the broader struggle against the erosion of trans rights.

Elizabeth Toni Clair, a trans woman from Colorado, worried about her state in the wake of Trump administration attacks, and is hoping the state retains a democratic governor.

“For transgender people the state has had it pretty good the past few years going back to Governor Bill Ritter who signed 2008 signed the Anti-Discrimination Act and laws that made public accommodations possible. Governor Hickenlooper opted into Medicaid expansion and gave a lot of people access to medical care. The current candidate for Governor, Jared Polis, is an out and open gay man and I can’t say what he will or won’t do for transgender Coloradoans but I’d bet on keeping the blue streak going,” Clair said.

Jenn Dolari, a trans woman from Washintgon, felt similarly about her own state.

“Generally, I’m always concerned about healthcare, given I’m diabetic. However, as a trans woman in Seattle, I’m mostly worried about bathroom bills — anything that really undermines trans rights. We’re lucky in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve got a ton of protections. It’s not perfect, but I’m very, very, very worried about having those protections whittled away.”

One final — and important — thread that many shared: this isn’t solely an issue of transgender rights, but the rights of several groups are a concern going into the midterms.

“We cannot work on any intersectional issues if we do not exist. And yet reproductive freedom IS bodily agency – the freedom to transition. Economic and racial justice also affect our ability to exist, especially for people of color,” said Hanlon.

Riley Johnson, a trans man from Florida, summed it up this way, “I live in a place of privilege as a white, straight-seeming, male-seeming person, but I know many among us are not as lucky. Trans women, nonbinary folks, and basically anyone who is a POC, immigrant, or Muslim have much more at stake. I feel like my job as a privileged person is to fight tooth and nail alongside those who are under attack in a deeper way.”

The Trevor Project recruited activist and Empire star Jussie Smollett to urge people to step up and volunteer for the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization.

Smollett stars in Trevor's newest public service announcement, Save a Life With the Trevor Project. Smollett and the organization are rallying people to be crisis counselors for the TrevorText and TrevorChat services, free confidential text and web chat support services for LGBTQ youth.

"Just one supportive person can decrease an LGBTQ youth’s risk of suicide by 30 percent, and the Trevor Project is giving everyone the amazing opportunity to be that person," Smollett says. "Volunteering your time can literally save lives."

This new initiative is sponsored by AT&T and hopes to bring more hands on deck to handle the 68,000 calls, chats, and texts the Trevor Project receives annually. The only thing volunteers need is a stable internet connection. If chosen as a counselor, volunteers will receive accredited training from the American Association of Suicidology. Go to TheTrevorProject.org/SaveALife to start the process. 

The Trevor Project is the largest LGBTQ support network specializing in "crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people." The always-open lifeline is available at (866) 488-7386, and the organization's website is TheTrevorProject.org.

New Jersey schools are about to be out of excuses for violating the rights of transgender students.

The state Department of Education on Thursday sent new guidelines to schools, explaining how to follow a 2017 law that reinforced protections for transgender students, including expressly forbidding districts from keeping students out of the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. 

The new rules also settle once and for all how schools should handle other controversial issues, such as what name to call transgender students, whether birth names should be printed on school documents and how much schools should tell parents about student's gender identity. 

The guidance is especially important because too many schools continue to mishandle situations involving transgender students, said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, an advocacy group for the LGBT community. 

"Transgender students now have some of the best protections in the country," Fuscarino said. 

According to the guidance: 

  • A school district must accept a student's gender identity. Parental consent or notification is not required. 
  • Schools should use a student's preferred name and pronoun, print the preferred name on school documents and keep records with the birth name and gender in a separate, confidential file. 
  • Students must be allowed to dress in a way that matches their gender identity
  • Students must have access to bathrooms, locker rooms, gym classes and other actives that match their gender identity. 
  • All students, including those uncomfortable being in the same locker room or bathroom as transgenders students, must have access to a unisex or private facility. 

While some schools have already made strides in treatment of transgender students, others are "in denial" about students' rights, Fuscarino said. 

"This guidance make it very clear to schools that they need to protect transgender students," he said. 

The 2017 law, signed by former Gov. Chris Christie, was designed to replace federal guidance on transgender rights issued by President Barack Obama and later rescinded under the Trump administration.

The law tackled many of the most pressing issues for transgender students and called on the state Education Department to send guidelines to schools to clear up any confusion about how it should be interpreted.

But the Christie administration never did, leaving Gov. Phil Murphy to make those decisions. 

Murphy's administration said it hopes the rules help districts set their policies and procedures. 

"New Jersey continues to stand with our LGBTQ community, and that includes the youngest and most vulnerable residents: our children," Murphy said. 

Opponents of the law, such as the New Jersey Family Policy Council, had argued decisions about what names to call students and what bathrooms students use should be made on the local level. 

#BELIEVE SURVIVORS -- BRETT KAVANAUGH MUST WITHDRAW: “Dr. Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick have come forward with credible allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh. Instead of treating them with dignity and respect, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have thus far refused to investigate their claims or halt the proceedings to gather more information, and have instead fast-tracked his confirmation. This is unacceptable,” said HRC President Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin). “Since the Senate Republican leadership have refused to investigate, the Trump-Pence Administration must withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination immediately. The price of admission to our nation’s highest court must be a fair, deliberate, thorough and transparent confirmation process. Instead, in their rush to hijack the Supreme Court, Senator Grassley, Senator McConnell and this White House are compounding the harms endured by these women and thousands of other survivors while undermining our democracy in the process.” More from HRC and INTO.

  • “Brett Kavanaugh’s Gay College Roommate Had a Dead Pigeon Nailed to His Door” -- Kavanaugh’s former roommate Kit Winter told The Cut’s Lisa Miller (@lisaxmiller), “I interpreted it as an act of social hostility slash terrorism. I thought it was a very clear message. ‘We don’t like you, and we don’t want you here.’ I didn’t know who it was who didn’t want me here.

 

VICTORY! CONGRESS REJECTS ANTI-LGBTQ CHILD WELFARE AMENDMENT: “Fortunately, Congress has rejected this harmful effort to discriminate against LGBTQ people while disregarding what is in the best interests of children,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy (@David_Stacy). “Congress should be focusing on ways to help children in the child welfare system find homes rather than creating needless obstacles for prospective parents, effectively shrinking the pool of qualified folks who want to provide children with a loving home.” More from HRC and Metro Weekly.

HRC ANNOUNCES HISTORIC SLATE OF 39 ENDORSEMENTS IN ARIZONA STATE LEGISLATURE: “While anti-equality politicians from the State House to the White House are hell-bent on dragging Arizona backwards, HRC’s endorsed candidates are fighting to ensure every Arizonan has a fair shot,” said HRC Arizona State Director Justin Unga. “Being LGBTQ should never be an impediment to success, and a pro-equality majority in our State Capitol means LGBTQ Arizonans can finally stop battling policies that harm us and start working toward reforms that help us.” See the full list from HRC.

THROWBACK THURSDAY -- 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON: On April 25, 1993, an estimated million LGBTQ advocates flooded the National Mall in Washington, D.C., calling for government action on issues including allowing LGBTQ people to serve openly in the military to the repeal of laws criminalizing same-sex consensual relations and increased funding for HIV and AIDS research and treatment. Advocates recently held an event honoring this historic anniversary to discuss the progress and needs of the LGBTQ community during the past quarter-century. More on the event, including historic photos, from Los Angeles Blade.

HRC ENDORSES RON DINICOLA FOR U.S. CONGRESS (PA-16): “Ron DiNicola is the clear choice for fair-minded voters of Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District,” saidHRC Campaign Director Geoff Wetrosky. “An experienced leader and public servant, DiNicola will stand up for fairness and equality, and be a champion for the hard-working families across his district every day in Congress.” More from HRC.

HRC AND SAVE ENDORSE DONNA SHALALA FOR U.S. CONGRESS (FL-27): “Donna Shalala is a proven leader who will stand up to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and help pull the emergency brake on their reckless agenda,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “With the experience and commitment needed to move LGBTQ equality forward, Donna will reject the politics of discrimination and fight for all of the hard-working families in her district, across the state of Florida, and throughout the country.” More from HRC

Nikki Enriquez, who was murdered earlier this month in the border community. And another community is also grieving for Enriquez –  transgender activists across the United States. 

Enriquez's death marks the 21st use of "fatal violence" against a transgender person in the U.S. in 2018, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a civil rights organization for LGBTQ Americans. Her death puts this year on track to match the 28 murders of transgender people in the U.S. in 2017, making this the deadliest year recorded by the organization since it began keeping death totals in 2013.

Transgender deaths by fatal violence have increased during each of the last three years. In 2015 there were 22 murders of transgender people and 23 in 2016. 

"There is an epidemic of violence against people from marginalized communities in this country, and it’s an epidemic that is rising," Sarah McBride said, the national press secretary for the HRC.  

 

Of the 21 deaths recorded this year, 19 have been been transgender people of color, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The HRC reported that Enriquez's death was the "fifth known killing of a trans woman of color" in the three-week period between Aug. 30 and Sept. 20.

"The murder rate of transgender individuals in America is alarming, especially the murder rate of transgender women of color," D'Arcy Kemnitz said, the executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association. 

Of the 102 transgender murders between 2013 and 2017, 86 percent of the victims were black, Hispanic or Native American. 11 percent were white, and 5 percent were unknown by the organization, according to a 2017 report

McBride said many transgender murders are the "byproduct of larger forces," like the combination of sexism, transphobia and racism. 

"These deaths are a very clear example of the toxic combination of multiple prejudices and the risk for those living in this country who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities," McBride said.

None of the deaths in the Laredo spree killing have been charged as hate crimes. The alleged killer, Juan David Ortiz, is a 10-year U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent. He was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and he told authorities he wanted to "eradicate all the prostitutes" in a verbal confession. All four of the victims were sex workers, according to authorities. 

Nelly Vielma, a Laredo city council member, called the killings "a femicide" and a hate crime at a Sept. 19 vigil for the victims of the shooting.

"These beautiful souls were taken way too soon, away from us, from an act of cowardice," Vielma said at the vigil.

McBride said hatred against the transgender community is central to Enriquez's murder, despite the charges filed against Ortiz. 

"Whether or not these crimes are charged as hate crimes does not mean that hate is not a factor in these crimes," McBride said. "Regardless of whether they (authorities) decided to have that charge, it’s clear that hate is a factor in the murder of transgender people across this country."

McBride said building trust between law enforcement officials and marginalized communities is an important step towards protecting transgender Americans. She called for more "cultural competency" among law enforcement officials when interacting with minority and marginalized communities. 

Kemnitz also said collaboration among communities is central to ensuring the safety of transgender people. 

"We must work together to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities," Kemnitz said. 

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol did not respond to request for comment on whether they will enhance sensitivity training in light of Ortiz's arrest or Ortiz's employment status. They are cooperating with authorities in Laredo.

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