NEW REPORT — Where We Call Home: Transgender People in Rural America

Stereotypes and pop culture portrayals often overlook the diversity of rural America, framing rural regions as made up predominantly of white, politically conservative people who are hostile to LGBT people. But millions of LGBT people, including transgender people, live in rural communities — and while some struggle, others thrive.  

Today, MAP released a new report, Where We Call Home: Transgender People in Rural America, which includes original analysis of the unique challenges and opportunities for transgender people in rural America. As the third publication in the Where We Call Home series, this report details how the structural differences of rural life amplify acceptance of or discrimination against transgender people. 
 
Click here to read the USA TODAY exclusive about the report. 
 
This report, which includes original analysis of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), offers extensive new findings on transgender people in rural communities. Although experiences of discrimination are typically as common in rural areas as in urban areas, structural challenges in rural areas, such as fewer employment or healthcare options, means the impact of discrimination on the lives of rural transgender people may be particularly profound. 

As discussed in the report findings:  

  •  Roughly one in six (16%) transgender people live in rural areas—the same percentage of the non-transgender population which lives in rural areas—according to a recent analysis by the Williams Institute of nationally representative federally-funded data.  
  • Rural transgender people are more than two times more likely—and rural transgender people of color are nearly four times more likely—as the general rural population to be unemployed and living in poverty, despite being more likely than their rural neighbors to have a college degree.  
  • Rural transgender people travel remarkable distances to see their healthcare providers. Nine percent (9%) of all transgender people travel 75 miles or more to see their transgender-related healthcare provider, but in rural areas, 27% of transgender people and 33% of transgender people of color travel 75 miles or more.   
  • Rural transgender people are six times more likely (1.7%) and rural transgender people of color are 20 times more likely (6%) than the general U.S. population (0.3%) to be HIV+.   

Click here to view infographics pulled from Where We Call Home: Transgender People in Rural America. 

Where We Call Home: Transgender People in Rural America concludes with critical recommendations:  

  • Because transgender people in rural communities face significant obstacles to accessing and receiving care, improving access to transgender-inclusive health care that is both affordable and culturally competent is vital to adequately serving transgender patients.   
  • States and the federal government should rescind and block harmful religious exemption laws that may allow service providers and employers to legally discriminate against transgender people.   
  • State officials and lawmakers should adopt laws to ensure transgender and non-binary people can update their identity documents, including driver’s licenses and birth certificates, to match their name and gender identity.   
  • Passing and enforcing transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws, as well as repealing discriminatory laws that disproportionately harm transgender people (e.g., HIV criminalization laws), will help to improve the quality of life for transgender people in rural America.   

The report is released in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights

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Third Circuit hears a case highlighting how transgender students are harassed and singled out in schools

Tomorrow, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals will hear an important case about whether transgender students can safely attend school.

The case, Doe v. Boyertown, was brought by a student under the pseudonym Joel Doe. Doe attends the Boyertown Area School District in Pennsylvania, which allows transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity. Doe is arguing that his school should be required to ban transgender male students from using the same school facilities—like restrooms and locker rooms—as other male students.

Schools are well-equipped to manage the different needs of students in these settings—and they’ve shown they can provide additional privacy for students who want it, while also ensuring that transgender students can access facilities consistent with their gender identity. Excluding transgender students from school facilities that match their gender identity is humiliating, discriminatory, and adds to the bullying and mistreatment that far too many transgender students already face. If transgender students cannot safely access a restroom, they cannot safely attend school.

According to GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, transgender students who experience exclusion and discrimination are more likely to miss school than other students. The survey also showed that 75% of transgender students felt unsafe at school, and 70% report avoiding bathrooms at school. MAP’s 2017 report, Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities, further illustrates the significant hostility, discrimination, and bullying that transgender youth face in schools around the country. It also highlights the lack of explicit policy protections for transgender students in most states. (For more on the state of LGBT protections in schools around the country, see MAP’s Safe Schools Laws Equality Map.)

School policies should protect students from bullying and isolation; they shouldn’t promote it. And, a growing number of courts agree that Title IX’s ban on sex-based discrimination in education means that transgender students’ rights must also be protected. Specifically, transgender students must be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity.

Transgender students, like other students—and like all of us—care about safety and privacy in places like restrooms and locker rooms. Every student also deserves a fair chance to succeed in school and prepare for their future—including students who are transgender.

Majority of LGBT Americans Can Now Get an Accurate Birth Certificate Without Burdensome Requirements

Thanks to recent updates in Idaho and Florida, 51% of LGBT adults now live in states that issue new birth certificates without requiring sex reassignment surgery or a court order. Previously transgender people in these states had to provide proof of “sexual reassignment surgery,” while those living in Idaho could not get an updated birth certificate.  Now transgender people in Florida can provide a letter from a medical provider asserting they have undergone transition-related care to change their gender marker. In Idaho, transgender people must complete paperwork, and have it notarized—a simple and straightforward process.

The changes in these states are major milestones in the fight for equality for transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Official identity documents—such as drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, and passports—that do not match a transgender person’s gender identity greatly complicate that person’s life. According to the United States Transgender Survey, nearly one-third (32%) of respondents who have shown an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted. A recent ad produced by MAP called “Movie Theater” depicts how transgender people can experience harassment, discrimination and denial of equal treatment in places of public accommodation. In it, a transgender man is the subject of harassment because his gender marker on his drivers’ license does not match his gender identity.

Thirty-one states either require proof of surgery, a court order, or have unclear policies regarding updating the gender markers on birth certificates. For some transgender people, requiring surgery is neither affordable nor desirable. And another three states do not allow for amending the gender marker on the birth certificate.

By eliminating this requirement for updating their birth certificates, these 16 states and the District of Columbia are making it easier for transgender people to go about their daily lives and to exist equally.

Read more about the updated requirements from Equality Florida: http://www.eqfl.org/transactionfl/birth-certificates and Lambda Legal: https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20180406_idaho-makes-history

Click here to visit MAP’s updated equality maps page to see where your state stands on identity document laws and policies, including requirements for updating gender markers: http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/identity_document_laws 

Title IX Still Protects Transgender Students, Even if DeVos Won’t

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration targeted transgender students again. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education is no longer accepting or investigating complaints from transgender students who are denied access to the bathrooms and facilities that match their gender identity. Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act protects all students from discrimination based on sex, and denying transgender students access to facilities because of their gender identity is discrimination based on sex.

This announcement came almost a year to the day after the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind Obama-era guidance that clarified that Title IX protections include protections for transgender students.

So, what is Title IX and who does it protect, exactly?

As shown in our updated infographic, Title IX is part of the federal Civil Rights Act, and it ensures that students must be afforded the same dignity, protection, and opportunity under the law regardless of their race or ethnicity, national origin, religion, or sex.

More recently, in 2016 under the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice explicitly stated that Title IX protections include protections for transgender students.

Yet, just days after assuming her role as President Trump’s Secretary of Education, Secretary DeVos rescinded that guidance, leaving students vulnerable to discrimination and harassment. This month’s announcement that the Department of Education won’t investigate claims filed by transgender students confirms yet again that President Trump and Secretary DeVos have endorsed the belief that transgender students are less deserving of protection than their peers.

This is particularly disturbing given the extensive bullying, violence, and discrimination faced by transgender students, as shown in MAP’s infographic. According to the 2015 National School Climate Survey, fully 75% of transgender students say they feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression, and 70% say they have avoided using school bathrooms as a result. By refusing to protect transgender students’ rights to use the bathroom – something we all have to do every day – Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration are perpetuating the bullying, violence, and unsafe environment that ultimately deny transgender students their right to an education.

Despite Secretary DeVos’ announcement, schools around the country continue to have a legal obligation to protect transgender students’ rights, including the right to use bathrooms and facilities that match their gender identity. And the courts agree.

Our infographic shows that both the Sixth and Seventh Circuits have already ruled that Title IX’s protections include transgender students. Thanks to the hard work of our friends at the Transgender Law Center and the courageous efforts of a transgender student named Ash Whitaker, the Seventh Circuit’s unanimously found that transgender students are protected not only by Title IX, but by the U.S. Constitution itself.

More cases are also working their way through courts around the country, similarly defending the rights of transgender students under Title IX and the Constitution.

The Department of Education says its mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” Whether or not President Trump or Secretary DeVos choose to uphold this mission, the law still protects transgender students and their rights to equal access and education.

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NEW AD: “Movie Theater”

Today, MAP released a new ad “Movie Theater,” showing the all-too-common experience of transgender people around the country, who can face daily discrimination, harassment, and denial of equal treatment in public places.

This ad accompanies MAP’s latest report, LGBT Policy Spotlight: Public Accommodations Nondiscrimination Laws, which provides a comprehensive overview of the gaps in nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people in public spaces—and the devastating impact of the lack of protections.

The report highlights that discrimination is pervasive. In fact, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 31% of transgender respondents reported experiencing discrimination in places of public accommodations in the past year alone when staff knew or thought they were transgender.

As the Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, public places have become the next battleground in the fight for full equality for LGBT people. The core issue is whether public accommodations—places of business, public transit, hotels, restaurants, taxi cabs and more—can refuse service to people just because of who they are or whom they love.

As a nation, we decided a long time ago that businesses and services that are open to the public should be open to all. Nobody should be turned away simply because of who they are.