CALLS TO ACTION
From time to time, opportunities arise to take action, to voice your support or dissent for new policies or laws, or to petition for more equitable and just laws and policies impacting LGBTQ+ and other historically marginalized people. You can find them here.
SUPPORT ALL STUDENTS - SIGN OUR LETTER
last updated 2/13/2019
On February 13, 2019, I delivered the letter below to our State Legislature in support of fixing our Human Rights Law to cover ALL students, and not just the 3% who attend private, non-religious, non-profit schools. That's right: NO PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS are protected under the Human Rights Law.
Thank you to the 11 organizations, legal clinics and coalitions, and 62 individuals who signed their names to the letter in support our state's students.
Want to do more? Call your State representatives today, tell them to protect our students!
Want to stay in touch? Subscribe to my mailing list to get important legal updates and learn about advocacy opportunities like this in the future.
Below are previous Calls to Action whose deadlines are passed or that are no longer active for other reasons. These are maintained for historical reference.
Want to stay updated about new Calls to Action?
We need stories from LGBTQ+ students and their families about discrimination or bullying you experienced at school in New York State, especially when no existing laws or protections seemed to help.
Send us your story by Friday, Feb. 8, and we will use it to convince our legislators why we need to fix the NYS Human Rights Law to cover ALL students (not just 3% attending private, non-profit, non-religious schools).
All identifying information will be removed so
you will remain anonymous and safe.
Want to get involved in fighting for LGBTQ+ student rights?
Mention it in your response below, and we'll be in touch!
FIGHTING TRANS ERASURE: WHY AND HOW
Updated October 22, 2018
By now you've probably read or heard about the New York Time's article entitled "'Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration," published on October 21, 2018.
The headline is terrifying and ominous -- let's talk about what is actually happening.
ARE TRANS PEOPLE AT RISK OF ACTUALLY, LITERALLY BEING ERASED?
No. We exist by the millions, and are not at risk of actually, literally being erased.
WHAT IS THIS ARTICLE EVEN TALKING ABOUT, THEN?
This article is talking about possible proposed changes to federal regulations and policies that would narrowly define "sex" as meaning chromosomes and/or the sex recorded on your original birth certificate.
WHAT ARE REGULATORY CHANGES? WHERE DO THEY COME FROM AND WHY DO THEY MATTER TO TRANS RIGHTS?
The government is broken up into three branches:
Legislative (e.g., Congress)
Executive (e.g., President and administrative agencies, like the Dept. of Health & Human Services, Dept. of Justice, Dept. of Education, Dept. of Labor, etc.)
Judicial (e.g., courts)
Congress passes bills, the President signs them into law, and then the administrative agencies are tasked with putting those new laws into action. Agencies do this by creating regulations, policies, and guidance that make the laws work and enforce them when people violate the laws. These regulations, policies and guidance are part of "the law" and have legal authority, since without them the law wouldn't really work.
Importantly, we do not get to elect the people who run these federal agencies -- they are appointed by the President. So, any time an agency wants to create or take away a regulation, it has to go through a formal rulemaking process that gives the public a chance to comment on what's happening. This supports our democratic system of things, so that regulations with the weight of law are not created willy nilly by people we don't get to elect.
Once they are created, regulations typically have a shelf-life of about 5 years, and then they are up for review to make sure they are still correct, necessary, and helpful to making the law work.
BUT... if an agency creates a regulation or takes one away for reasons that are not based in factual truth or legal precedent, then a court can overturn the agency's action.
OK -- SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL HAVE TO DO WITH TRANS ERASURE?
During the Obama administration, federal agencies created many new regulations, policies, and guidance that clearly spelled out how transgender and gender-nonconforming people were protected under federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination. They did this by officially interpreting "sex" broadly in an all-inclusive way.
The New York Times claims that it received a leaked memo written by the Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS), the federal administrative agency that deals with health programs, medical providers, health insurance, Obamacare, and some elements of educational institutions covered under Title IX. The memo allegedly proposes to three other federal agencies that they all work together to propose a narrower definition of "sex" when some Obama-era regulations come up for review in the coming year or so. The idea is that if all four administrative agencies propose and eventually adopt the same narrow definition of "sex," then that new narrow definition will be more likely to stand up in court.
In effect, the administrative agencies are hoping to wipe out protections for trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people by narrowing the definition of "sex" in the law. It's unclear at this point what impact this would have on intersex people.
Remember: If an agency creates a regulation or takes one away for reasons that are not based in factual truth, then a court can overturn the agency's action. For example, if an agency says we don't need regulations that protect trans people because trans people don't exist, but since trans people do exist and courts have long recognized protections for trans people, then the agency's decision would be considered "arbitrary and capricious" and would not stand up in court.
WILL THEY SUCCEED IN ERASING PROTECTIONS FOR TRANS PEOPLE?
No. Here's why:
An overwhelming number of court decisions in the past two decades support the fact that trans people are protected under federal law -- a change in regulations cannot undo those decisions
There is established consensus among medical providers and scientists that supports trans people being exactly who we are, and to have access to the care we need to be ourselves
What they are proposing -- that trans people don't exist -- is factually not true, and any attempt to make a baseless regulation not grounded in facts can be overturned by a court
WHAT CAN I PERSONALLY DO ABOUT THIS?
Here are some concrete things you can do to counter this possible attack on our rights:
Don't panic -- take a deep breath, and remember that you DO exist, you have the RIGHT to exist, and that you are NOT ALONE in this fight
Educate yourselves and your local community. Don't buy into scary headlines alone -- media sources thrive on grabbing your attention, and will often use exaggerated or misleading headlines to do so. Read what something is about, try to find original documents to understand what's happening, ask questions and don't jump to conclusions.
Join the social media campaign against any transphobic regulations by using this image and hashtag below!
Call your congressperson and tell them we need them to make sure trans people are protected in the law today!
Get involved in efforts to solidify rights in your state!
Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to submit a comment on any new proposed regulations that come out about this in the coming year(s). I will update this page as soon as the proposed regulations come out -- feel free to subscribe to my mailing list to get alerts when that happens!
Want to stay updated about new Calls to Action?
Transgender Public School Students Need Your Help Now!
(If on mobile device, click here to go straight to what actions you can take)
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) recently issued an emergency regulation, effective May 8, 2018, that strengthens the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming public school students under the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).
This is a HUGE step toward equality and justice for these students, who otherwise are not protected under the New York State Human Rights Law and whose federal rights are threatened by the current administration.
The catch: an emergency regulation is only temporary –NYSED needs feedback from the community before it can make it a final permanent reg.
What this Regulation Does and Does Not Do
It spells out specific situations when a DASA report must be filed and investigation conducted because of the way a transgender or gender-nonconforming student is mistreated or bullied.
The proposed regulation definitely has more teeth than NYSED's Guidance on Trans Students, published in 2015, which many school districts have mistakenly taken to be suggestive rather than mandatory.
But, this proposed regulation could and must be stronger. Check out the model letter I've made for you in the next column (to the right, or scroll down if on mobile device) -- the language in bold is currently missing from the proposed regulation. As you can see, without this added language, the provisions are not very strong or just don't make sense at all. NYSED says that this is a good start for now, and it can always revisit the regs later on. History has taught us that this rarely ever happens.
So we must demand the strongest protections for trans and gender-nonconforming students today!
What You Can Do
You have until Monday, July 23, 2018 to tell NYSED that you support a fully inclusive and clear final regulation!
How to Contact NYSED
You can express your support in one of three ways:
Call: (518) 474-4817
Mail a Letter To:
Renee Rider, Assoc. Commissioner NYSED
Ofc. of School Operations & Management Svcs
89 Washington Avenue, 319M EB
Albany, NY 12234
What to Say
Here’s some language you can use -- just fill in the blanks and add your personal story:
My name is __________, and I am a [student, parent, teachers, school administrator, friend of a trans youth, concerned community member, etc.] residing in ________ County, New York. I’m writing to strongly support the proposed/emergency regulation to protect transgender and gender-nonconforming public school students (Reg. ID No. EDU-21-18-00039-EP).
[Share part of your own personal story, and why this issue matters to you.]
Specifically, I support a final regulation that:
Clarifies that “gender” always means “gender identity” and “gender expression”
Clarifies that students should have access to school facilities, functions, opportunities, or programs, including but not limited to, restrooms, changing rooms, locker rooms, and/or field trips, consistent with their gender identity or expression, or a denial that is otherwise based on another protected status
Clarifies that a report may be filed regarding the use of name(s) or pronoun(s) or the pronunciation of name(s) that is inconsistent with a person’s gender identity or expression or is otherwise based on another protected status
Adds specific protections for a trans student’s privacy rights and protects against disclosure or “outing” of their trans status, sexual orientation, or related private medical information without the student’s express consent.