Monthly Equality Maps Update: Big Progress for LGBT People

January 2019 was a big month for LGBT people and advocates around the country, as the new legislative session began and multiple states added new protections for LGBT residents. MAP tracks these and many other LGBT-related laws and policies in our Equality Maps, and we update the maps whenever a policy changes. Bookmark our Equality Maps page to stay up-to-date on the laws and policies that impact LGBT people and their families.

This past month alone, five states added or strengthened their LGBT nondiscrimination laws. The newly-elected governors of Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin all issued executive orders or directives that protected LGBT state employees against discrimination. Additionally, the state of New York passed GENDA, which formally (and finally!) includes gender identity in nondiscrimination law covering employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit. Click here for MAP’s State Nondiscrimination Laws maps.

New York and North Carolina also expanded LGBT protections in other areas. New York added gender identity to its hate crimes law, and further passed a law restricting conversion therapy against minors. Click here to see where your city or state stands on banning conversion therapy for minors. North Carolina updated its process for changing gender markers on driver’s licenses, removing the surgery requirement and significantly improving the ability of trans folks to get accurate IDs. The newly simplified form is available here. What are the ID laws like in your state? Click here to find out!

At the local level, Cudahy, Wisconsin passed an ordinance banning conversion therapy for minors, while Beckley, West Virginia became the 13th town in West Virginia with an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance covering employment, housing, and public accommodations. Merriam, Kansas became the 7th town in Kansas with a similar ordinance. Is your city covered? Find out on our Local Nondiscrimination Ordinances map.

Congratulations and gratitude to the advocates, volunteers, and allies around the country and on the ground who have been working for years to ensure this critical progress is made.

To stay up to date with the latest LGBT laws and policies at the state and local level, consult MAP’s Equality Maps and subscribe to this blog for our monthly updates moving forward.

Advancing Acceptance Q & A: How two families supported Xander through his transition

Parents, family and friends of transgender youth can play a vital role in providing guidance to others who know or believe their child might be transgender—and that’s where this guide comes in. Hear from the Berman-Ruth and Wylie families discussing how they have supported their son, Xander, a transgender boy, through his transition. Learn more at www.advancingacceptance.org and watch the video “Journeys: The Berman-Ruth & Wylie Families” here.

Your son, Xander, is transgender. At what point did you first notice he identified as a boy, even though you thought you were raising a daughter?

When Xander was four, he asked for a haircut. He had long, beautiful blond hair at that time. I brought him to a salon and they gave him a bob. When they finished, and he looked sad, I said, “Do you want bangs?”  They gave him bangs and then they spun him around in the chair and he had started to cry. He said, “Like a boy.” I told them to cut it short and he was so happy. His haircut was kind of like Mia Farrow’s in Rosemary’s Baby. He looked great, and it gave me an early sense that life as a boy just made so much more sense to him. 

 What are some ways you’ve supported Xander over the years?

We believe it starts with acceptance and trying to put ourselves in his shoes—and often. Not just in elementary school, but during all those life events and into the future. Also, we’ve found that parental advice, with openness, goes a long way to address life challenges. Oh—and a sense of humor!

We’ve supported Xander in his kung fu—he is now a second degree black belt. We encourage his friendships and support him in all of the day-to-day trials and tribulations he goes thru—both as transgender and just being a teenage boy. And we support him in his interests, like going to see live music, watching movies together as a family, getting the books he wants, etc.

 In what specific ways did you support Xander’s gender expression?

As parents the first step is accepting and actively taking part in a child’s gender expression. First by creating a safe space from which to learn and express oneself. This is as much a truth in first grade as it is today. For Xander, in particular, providing the space and openness to him wearing boys clothes, become a black belt, coaching him on little things like a more masculine handshake, haircut and body language tips. 

What kinds of activities do you do as a family?

We do the same activities as most families. We go camping with friends, go out to dinner, have family movie nights. We have also become more politically active, like being politically aware of issues that affect LGBTQ people and the candidates that support our family values of loving, caring openness and equality.    

 How did you navigate extended family relationships to make it safe for Xander to come out?

When Xander was 13, he was concerned how his grandfather felt about the fact that he is transgender—in particular, the fact that his grandfather was not referring to Xander with male pronouns. We reassured Xander. But in the end, I recommended that he should write his grandfather a letter sharing with him his journey and wishes. It was a very understanding, beautiful letter Xander wrote, and today they have a wonderful relationship. Eli still gets frustrated with himself when he messes up pronouns sometimes, and Xander is very understanding. He really appreciates the effort, and they have had good conversations between the two of them. It’s a good lesson for advocating and owning one’s identity and journey.  

 How supportive has Xander’s school been?

Excellent! They were unconditionally helpful. We worked with the school very closely over a series of meetings with teachers and administration for the school. The administration informed all his teachers and ensured he could use the same school facilities as other boys. In fact, it was one of Xander’s teachers who initially suggested that we have his name legally changed; someone had accidently called him by the wrong name, and the teacher saw first-hand how Xander’s heart sank. Overall they’ve been incredibly supportive.

How do you build community for your family?

A lot of it is about enabling both of our kids to have their friends over and by keeping in close touch with our adult friends. The Wileys (Mike and Margaret) are like second parents to Xander and Zuni—and we feel that we are for Lucas as well.

 Has Xander ever been mistreated because of his gender identity?

Yes. In elementary school Xander was bullied by two classmates. The school used the opportunity to provide transgender awareness and anti-bullying discussions for the kids. We also talked to the parents to help them understand what happened. 

 What are your hopes and dreams for Xander as he finishes high school?

Good grades, acceptance into a good college media program (which is his dream), the unfettered continuation of his journey—personal, social, career, love, and identity. 

 Any final thoughts?

We are so proud of our son. He is compassionate, thoughtful, kind, intelligent, is passionate about life, is an incredibly good and loyal friend, and a wonderful human being! We’re most proud of how he balances on the one hand advocating for himself and his identity, while being very compassionate and understanding of friends and family as we all learn together.

The Key for Transgender Youth: Advancing Acceptance

For transgender youth, sometimes a supportive family can make the difference between a happy, healthy, thriving child—or one at greatly elevated risk of depression, suicidal behavior, and other harmful outcomes. Research shows that trans youth with families that support and affirm their gender are at significantly lower risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts or risk, depression, anxiety, or self-harming behaviors. Trans youth with supportive families are also much more likely to have higher self-esteem and overall health, compared to trans youth with unsupportive families. Community support matters too; for example, trans youth with supportive schools, such as those with gender and sexuality alliances (GSAs) or supportive staff and administration, have better health and higher school attendance.

Yet despite the clear and positive impact of family acceptance, only 27% of trans youth say their families are very supportive, according to a survey by Gender Spectrum and the Human Rights Campaign. Similarly, only 9% of trans youth say their communities are very supportive.

That’s why today the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Biden Foundation, and Gender Spectrum are launching a new campaign called Advancing Acceptance to raise awareness about the importance of family and community acceptance in the lives of transgender and gender diverse youth. It also provides crucial resources for friends and family who may have questions, be struggling with acceptance, or who are simply looking for ways to support trans and gender diverse youth.

The campaign includes the debut of a new ad  called “Journeys: The Berman-Ruth & Wylie Families,” which showcases the Berman-Ruth family and their close family friends, the Wylie family, discussing how they have supported their son, Xander, a transgender boy, through his transition.

So how can you get involved? The Advancing Acceptance campaign encourages supporters of trans and gender diverse youth—including LGBTQ youth, parents, siblings, educators, social service providers, coaches, and others—who wish to take action to share their stories, which will be included as part of the Biden Foundation’s “As You Are” campaign. These stories will help highlight the critical importance of affirming, accepting, and supporting LGBTQ young people, and the harms these youth face when their families and communities reject them.

Share your story of acceptance and support of a trans or a gender diverse youth!

For the 1.3+ million transgender youth across the country, acceptance is key to ensuring trans and gender diverse youth are healthy and thriving.

To find out more, visit AdvancingAcceptance.org.