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Queer rights are labor rights and labor rights are queer rights

February 28, 2018

How the Supreme Court comes down in Janus v. AFSCME could deal a body-blow to labor; and, with it, make discrimination against LGBTQ workers much easier.

On February 26, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME. The case is focused on whether a worker must pay dues when one is covered by a collective bargaining agreement and receives representation from a union. A ruling against labor would mean a person could receive all the benefits from representation without having to pay a dime. This potential theft from unions would harm all workers, but LGBTQ workers could face new forms of discrimination.

LGBTQ people —  especially LGBTQ people of color, the transgender community, and gender nonbinary people —  are more likely to need access to the sort of benefits a union provides:

  • We need representation to ensure that nondiscrimination provisions are enforced. More than a quarter of lesbian, gay, and bisexual working people report being denied a promotion due to their sexual orientation; more than a quarter of transgender and gender nonbinary people report being fired, denied a promotion, or not hired due to their gender identity or expression in the previous twelve month.
  • We need access to health insurance. LGBTQ people have less access to health insurance, despite the fact that LGBTQ people face significant physical, mental, and behavioral health disparities.
  • We need access to paid leave that recognizes all members of our family.Not only are LGBTQ people less likely to have access to paid time off, many paid time off policies don’t recognize members of our families that are not legally related. Because many of us struggle to form legal relationships to our families, we need representation to ensure that our families are recognized by our employes.

Like all working people, LGBTQ people need access to paid sick and safe leave, to job security, and to health insurance.  Unions help secure those benefits, especially for people who are marginalized in our economy.

Make no mistake – economic justice demands that all of us have access to secure employment, health care, and paid leave for ourselves and for our loved ones, regardless of whether a union is available.  The decision the court makes will make a significant difference in our ability to ensure these rights are available to all, and we must fight to ensure we have strong unions to protect all of us at work. Undermining unions could undermine all working people. Our vision is exactly the opposite: we demand a system where everyone enjoys living wages, healthcare, and non-discrimination. That is a mission of full equality, justice, and freedom for all LGBTQ people and our families.

by Meghan Maury, Senior Policy Counsel, National LGBTQ Task Force

Not Today, 45: The Census

September 11, 2017

With natural and man-made disaster at our doorsteps, it’s difficult to keep abreast of all the large and small ways that 45 and his Administration are wearing away LGBTQ people’s rights. The Census might seem obscure, but how it operates has important consequences.

Put simply, if we aren’t counted, we don’t count – the Census drives federal funding as well as representation in Congress. Advocates and service providers also use information from the Census and American Community Survey to determine how to best allocate resources.

The Census Bureau is required to tell Congress what questions it is going to ask on the Census and American Community Survey (aka long-form Census). The Bureau figures out what questions it will ask by compiling what federal agencies need under the law. When the Bureau went through that process last year, four agencies said they needed sexual orientation and gender identity data.

This year, one of those agencies – the Department of Justice – changed its mind, and the Census Bureau went along with their decision despite the fact that the other three agencies’ needs hadn’t changed. In their final report filed to Congress, they didn’t include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thanks to advocates like you, the omission received a lot of attention. In response, the Census Bureau claimed that the initial inclusion of the gender and sexual identity questions was an “error.”

Today, we have proof that their actions weren’t a mistake. A reporter from NPR received a draft of the report to Congress. The draft is almost identical to the one that the Census Bureau submitted to Congress, with the exception of – a whole section on including sexual orientation and gender identity.

We know this omission and “errors” at the Census Bureau may feel unimportant in the face of DACA repeal, Houston, Miami, and Charlottesville. But if you can, please take five minutes to let your Representatives know that you support LGBTQ data collection.

Click here to find your Rep, and tell them to support the Panetta/Schiff amendment to the budget that would mandate testing of sexual orientation and gender identity questions for the American Community Survey and Census.

For more on the advocacy, click here. For a video of our Policy Director questioning then Census Director Thompson, click here. To support this work, click here.

By Meghan Maury, Policy Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post:

Serving With Integrity and Dedication: Defending Transgender Military Service

August 3, 2017

Last Wednesday, my heart sank as I read a series of three tweets from President Trump stating his intention to stop transgender people from serving in the military. To do so would be to roll back much of the work done by transgender advocates to make the military inclusive to transgender people. The day after Trump’s tweets, military leadership including chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, declared that they are not currently changing any military policies regarding transgender people based on a tweet. New polling data released August 2 by Politico/Morning Consult shows bipartisan support for open transgender military service, with 68% of registered voters in favor.

9 current and retired trans military service members. Credit: Brynn Tannehill

Current and retired trans military service members. Credit: Brynn Tannehill

However, the threat of a transgender ban remains. If Trump issues a direction to the Secretary of Defense to implement new guidelines, we could see a change in policy. Regardless, Trump’s tweets were a baseless attack on the integrity and dedication of transgender service members.

These attacks hit close to home as someone who considered military service—but did not sign up because I am transgender. I would have felt honored to follow the footsteps of so many of my family members who were and are proud military service members. However, I never thought it would be possible to do so before Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the heads of all the branches of the service to made sure transgender people were accepted and protected in the military. I was excited and proud of the opportunities that gave to the trans community; especially because almost 1 out of 5 of all transgender Americans serve or have served in the military, per the 2015 US Trans Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Trump’s tweets about the “the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [people] in the military would entail” directly contradicted extensive research already conducted on these very issues. A recent Defense Department study concluded that transgender service members do not harm unit cohesion, and allowing them to fulfill their duty would have no effect on military readiness or military budgets. How could Trump callously disregard the facts? How could he ruin the lives and financial well-being of so many hard working, patriotic, Americans that put their lives on the line to serve and protect our people?

July 26, the day of Trump’s tweets, was also a significant day in history for the military—the anniversary of President Truman’s 1948 executive order racially integrating the military. As a Black man, I cannot help but draw parallels between the discriminatory policies towards people of color in the military and the discrimination transgender service members are facing now.

I feel angry and insulted that Trump is working to disrupt and destroy the lives of so many of my trans brothers and sisters currently serving openly, and in the closet, as well as the lives of their families. The optimism I previously felt after the victory for trans people before was ripped away by Trump. I’m worried for the estimated 15,000 transgender adults who are on active duty or are serving in National Guard or Reserves according to a recent Williams Institute study.

I’m concerned for their safety, for their careers, and for their families. I fear for their spirits in the wake of this slap in the face to their service and sacrifice on behalf of our country.

With his tweets, Trump showed the world that to him a persons’ qualifications, dedication, and determination do not matter. With this action Trump showed he doesn’t truly want to strengthen the military or work across lines of division. I hope that the military keeps holding strong in their support of all the military service members.

by Camden Hargrove, organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force


LGBTQ Discrimination in the Middle East and North Africa

July 14, 2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a panel with LGBTQ activists from Jordan, Kuwait, and Tunisia. Panelists shared their strategies, challenges, and lessons learned around LGBTQ activism in their home countries. It was a moving experience to be able to listen to the vivid stories from the speakers on the panel about their lived experiences being LGBTQ and living and working in the Middle East and North Africa.

One of the speakers was a civil rights activist from Kuwait and is a part of an effort that aims to promote constitutional awareness to the residents of Kuwait through various media outlets. He has worked on projects, publications, and campaigns related to civil and constitutional awareness. He does so by facilitating trainings and workshops. He talked a lot about how dangerous it is to be a gay man in Kuwait. He also talked about the ways that being a gay man and a transgender woman are similar and different. With regards to how they are treated and what is legal and illegal both groups are struggling against a system that wants to penalize them for being who they are. He talked about the violence against gay men from the public and government and the hate crimes and humiliation transgender women have to face daily. One thing that really stuck out to me was the story he told about a transgender woman getting her head shaven. As a trans person myself, the story really affected me and I felt like I was there in the story with them.

Another speaker was a Tunisian civil rights activist who has worked with different international NGOs on Human Rights issues. She has worked with international and local civil society organizations in Tunisia on implementing the constitutional rights of a fair trial and equality to all citizens. She was also a member of a coalition that drafted a report on the violations of human rights of the Tunisian LGBTQ community, which was presented to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. She is also a LGBTQ advocacy officer and advocates for the abrogation of the unconstitutional article 230 of the 1913 Tunisian penal code which punishes sexual intercourse between consenting same-sex couples, and for the ban of forced anal/rectal examination used to criminalize homosexuality. She shared information about the work happening in Tunisia to counter criminalizing being LGBTQ and legally allowing people to perform rectal examinations to “prove” homosexuality through protesting and bringing the issues to the government and the people. She said that after liberation, from the Arab Spring revolution, activism has sparked amongst the people and she is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for Tunisia.

The final speaker identifies as a queer Sufi Muslimah (to emphasize the female pronoun and divert from a male centered identity) from Jordan. Like the previous speakers she also works in development in Jordan. She is an organizer, and a writer for MyKali, the only LGBTQ online platform in Jordan. The magazine was blocked by the government in Jordan, and the MyKali team is trying to get it back online. A lot of what she spoke about was the experience of being queer in Jordan. She talked about how the focus of discrimination toward LGBTQ people in Jordan is mainly toward gay men. Transgender women are often overlooked or perceived as gay men; while, lesbian women are almost entirely ignored. She stated that in Jordan, they don’t see women as sexual beings and therefore are not concerned about them being lesbians. She also talked about how in Jordan people are a part of tribes, usually including your family, which helps results in a very low rate of homelessness. But, a problem is, that if you come out as LGBTQ there is a good chance you will be kick out and ostracized from your tribe.

As the event closed and I was taking in all the information I had just learned and all the stories I had just heard I started to see all the similarities in the stories these individuals shared. The specifics were different, there are a lot of cultural differences and the countries are all in difference stages of change after the Arab Spring revolutions – but what was clear was the dedication and passion of these activists to put the people and the issues first in front of their own safety to fight for what is right. From what I experienced all three of these activists have hope and optimism in the good of humanity and in the opportunity to give voice to the people and issues that have none. Every day in all of these countries (and in our own), there are violations of human rights and dignity taking place. These change makers have the courage, values and tenacity to move forward in the name of justice. Do we?

*Names have been purposefully omitted to protect the safety of the speakers as they travel home to keep up their work, especially because for them working towards LGBTQ justice is an arrestable offense.


By Camden Hargrove, field organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force



Lobby, Listen, and Learn: Transgender Advocates Speak to Members of Congress about Freedom, Justice, and Equality

July 12, 2017

On June 9th, 2017 the National LGBTQ Task Force joined the National Center for Trans Equality (NCTE) and transgender advocates from across the country for Transgender Lobby Day.

Transgender Lobby Day is a lobbying initiative spearheaded by the NCTE. It focuses on advancing trans-inclusive policies and opposing anti-transgender legislation across the country. Mobilizing people from all walks of life (and all degrees of lobbying experience), NCTE’s Trans Lobby Day 2017 brought together around two hundred activists from over thirty states and the District of Columbia, with the purpose of educating U.S. lawmakers on the needs of the nearly two million transgender people living in the United States. Also present at the event were speakers – including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Grace Dolan-Sandrino (a teenage transgender activist), and Raffi Freedman-Gurspan (NCTE Director of External Relations and former White House liaison).

During the day of action, I joined a group of about eight people – all Virginia residents – and met with members of Congress at Capitol Hill. The group I was with was made up mostly of transgender and gender non-conforming people. It also included some parents of transgender children, and trans allies. This group was made up of people who could speak to the trans experience across a wide spectrum of identities – and who did.

There is a massive difference between learning about trans people and learning from trans people. Storytelling, especially firsthand storytelling, can be tremendously powerful – and the people I lobbied with were more than capable of wielding that power. From the very beginning, the importance of transgender agency was clear: the event was organized by transgender people, for transgender people. There were absolutely allies present – but it was clear that trans voices were at the front and center.

Before meeting with members of Congress, we were equipped with fact sheets, statistics, business cards – all those things that one tends to associate with lobbying. At the heart of lobby day, though, was the determination of trans people to share their experiences. This was a potent persuasive tool: it’s one thing to read about discrimination, and another entirely to look someone in the eye and listen to their personal account of it. The people at that table – and the people who did the same in many offices across Capitol Hill – were making their voices heard in some of the highest offices in the land. This was a powerful statement: that the right to occupy these spaces as oneself could not be diminished or denied.

Kate Avery and other participants at Senator Tim Kaine’s office

I was truly honored to have been able to participate in this lobbying effort. Not only was it an incredible learning experience in the realm of political activism, but it has also helped me have a better grasp on the ways in which I express and understand my own gender identity. Listening to people own their identities with pride, and listening to them reclaim the sense of agency so often stripped from people whose stories are told for them – this was something special. I do not personally currently identify as transgender, but the pathway to both better allyship and to self-understanding the lobby day gave me was valuable. Lobby Day was not only about progress – it was about reclamation.

Trans voices are important. Trans voices have always been important, and will continue to be important. This isn’t a matter of opinion – this is a statement of fact. Trans Lobby Day was an incredible reminder of the power that trans voices have, and their importance within not only the LGBTQ community, but also our society. There is so much that we still need to do in order to ensure that all people have access to freedom, justice, and equality. Always, though, we must remember to center transgender voices, transgender stories, and transgender experiences in the steps that we take.


By Kate Avery, social media intern, National LGBTQ Task Force

Transgender People Face Irreparable Damage as a Result of the Broken Criminal Justice System

July 10, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 3.56.04 PM

The strength and resilience of incarcerated transgender individuals is beyond comprehension for many in the United States. “Fag,” “bitch,” “princess queen,” sissies,” and “queer,” were all used to demean, dehumanize, and downcast Miss Young and Miss Mardris, both trans women of color incarcerated in Illinois. While these jeers may be common place for many, the difference for them was that there was no escape and no recourse for the pair as their abuser was also their jailor.

Despite the danger it could place them in, the two spoke up, reported the incident, and filed claims in federal court against the correctional officer who verbally and emotionally abused them. Both Mardis and Young assert three types of claims against the correctional officer who verbally assaulted them: one based on intentional infliction of emotional distress, one for violation of equal protection, and the last for unlawful discrimination and retaliation.

After reporting the correctional officer to prison staff, both were placed in segregation where instead of having one cellmate they had an almost biweekly influx of changing cellmates, three at a time, which placed both in more danger. The two also faced more restrictions on the use of phones, washers, showers, and the day room. Upon their return to the general population of the prison, they generally remained in their cells in order to avoid their abuser.  In the face of all of this the two managed to file federal law suits on their own against the officer and continue to represent themselves.

There are more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US – more than anywhere else in the world – and there are a total of 6.7 million people under correctional supervision, including probation and parole. In 2010, 91 percent of those incarcerated were men. African Americans, despite only making up 13 percent of the population, accounted for 40 percent of the total incarcerated population. African American defendants also experience higher arrest rates due to increased police presence in their neighborhoods and higher sentencing rates than white defendants for the same crimes with the same criminal histories.

The data serves as the backdrop for the two plaintiffs out of Illinois who are representing themselves in court. Advocating for justice for incarcerated transgender people implicates the rights of incarcerated people of color, incarcerated sexual assault survivors, health care rights, and other social justice causes. To advocate for transgender individuals who have been incarcerated necessitates that one also advocate for racial justice if not only because of the inherit racial disparity within the prison population itself, they cannot be mutually exclusive.

According to the 2015 National LGBTQ Prisoner Survey, the largest survey of incarcerated LGBTQ people in the United States, respondents were over 6 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general prison population. The report also found that every respondent had been strip searched, which is one example of sexual assault that they endure. Protecting trans people in prison requires changing prison culture and protocol to protect everyone in prison. Ensuring that transgender people are safe, have access to healthcare, and can be their authentic selves cannot occur in isolation without changing the larger systemic problems.

The American concept of incarceration does not work, from the chain gang to Rikers Island. Changing our policies of incarceration could help restructure American society. Removing non-violent offenders from prisons will lower the incarcerated population, allow for more targeted rehabilitation efforts, increase the safety of correctional officers and incarcerated individuals, allow for the state to invest in social care and education instead of correctional facilities, and prevent the ostracization of convicted individuals, allowing them to remain in their communities and with their families. Maintained at society’s expense, prisons do not reform, help, or educate the majority of those incarcerated.

As transgender women, the two individuals were first subject to a hostile environment by being placed in a men’s facility. Their wellbeing and safety were also placed in the hands of an individual who was hostile toward them and who disregarded and demeaned their identity. They then faced retribution for seeking a reprieve from their abuser by being placed in a transient unit that exposed them to crowded conditions and changing cellmates. In the aftermath of all of this, these individuals then had to maneuver through the legal system on their own.

In the last election cycle a number of politicians paid lip-service to the LGBTQ community and referenced human rights violations overseas as a motivating factor in intervening in foreign affairs. However, there is a danger that the trans community, especially trans women of color, face right here at home. In 2017 so far, 15 trans individuals–all women of color–have been murdered in the United States (in the time it took to write this piece the number has been updated four times). In spite of the dangers they face, Young and Mardris continue to overcome obstacle after obstacle to defend their right to be themselves. For the trans community, social justice advocates, and the country, the message from their case is clear: we will not be victims, complicit, or silent.


By Steven Johnston, Holly Law Fellow, National LGBTQ Task Force


Capital Pride’s Inter Faith Service Showered with Stoles

July 6, 2017

Pride interfaith SOSP

On June 6th, for the 34th year in a row, D.C.’s Capital Pride held its annual interfaith service. People from all faith backgrounds packed into Calvary Baptist Church to pray, love, support, heal, and gather together. The theme of this years’ service was “Reveal! Respect! Resist!” which was demonstrated and reflected by how attendees from all backgrounds came together for equality and justice.

The service was an auditory and visually striking night starting from the entrance. As people entered the sanctuary they were greeted with signs in English and Spanish declaring “Our Faith Doesn’t Discriminate.” Looking straight ahead into the sanctuary was a beautiful wooden alter with red, orange, and yellow paper birds hanging from a wooden overhang. Under the colorful birds, hung dozens of handmade stoles of all different fabrics, colors, and textures.

The stoles in display are a part of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s “Shower of Stoles Project.” The project is a collection of over 1,200 liturgical stoles and other sacred hems representing the lives of LGBTQ people of faith. Martha Juillerat, a Presbyterian minister in Missouri, and her partner, also a minister, started the collection in 1995. Since then, faith leaders from 32 denominations and faith traditions,  6 countries, and 3 continents have donated stoles. Each stole contains the story of the LGBTQ faith leader who donated the stole, often times it is the story of a leader who has been subject to unjust policies, defrocked and/or excluded from service because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Pride interfaith 2

As the service started women played drums, piano, organ, and bells. The choir sang as leaders from many faith traditions proceeded into the sanctuary. It was a beautiful symbol of the respect and unity the faith traditions shared and their shared vision of resisting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and injustice. Religious leaders from the D.C. community shared prayers, songs or other words from their faith tradition all with the theme of “Reveal! Respect! Resist!”

After the service many people came up to the stoles to get a closer look and to read the stories. I had the opportunity to speak with a woman who had donated a stole years ago. I also spoke with people who were struck and affected by the stories they read on the stoles. It was a beautiful opportunity to watch and be a part of the community joining together.

Learn more about the Shower of Stoles Project, donate a stole, and request an exhibit at:


By Camden Hargrove, field organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force


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