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Thursday, April 24, 2014

GLAD Blog: Transgender Rights: How Visibility Matters

From the staunch trans advocate, Jennifer Levi of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project, news of progress: We started this year with a wonderful and tremendously important victory in Maine in our case on behalf of Nicole Maines, marking the first time a state high court has ruled that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms that match who they are. And as we continue our advocacy across New England for private insurance coverage of treatment related to gender transition, we are also now representing a Massachusetts woman in her effort to receive fair coverage from MassHealth for gender reassignment surgery. A hearing took place on April 15 and I look forward to keeping you posted as the case develops. Finally, while New Hampshire remains the last state in New England with no explicit state non-discrimination protections for transgender people, we are seeing momentum there too. In March, the Portsmouth city council unanimously passed an ordinance to protect transgender municipal employees from discrimination, and to officially support the call for statewide non-discrimination protections. As I reflect on the advances we have made - from our case in 2000 on behalf of another transgender girl facing mistreatment at her school to this year's victory in Maine, I am struck by the important role of public education in this work. It is only when transgender people are seen for the full human beings that we are that decision makers (be they judges, lawmakers, or school officials) will see the adverse treatment people like Nicole face as discrimination. Much has happened in the last fifteen years to help tell the story of transgender people's lives - in popular culture, in law and policy-making, and in everyday life. From Chaz Bono to Laverne Cox to Nicole Maines and all of us who are able - transgender people and our families are speaking out. The LGBT community has become united in its efforts to secure comprehensive protections. This kind of visibility changes hearts and minds. It humanizes transgender people. It creates empathy and compassion and that leads to social and legal change. I invite you to visit our blog to read more about the role I've seen such changes in visibility play in our legal work.

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