Boston City Council Votes Unanimously in Support of Gender Therapy Access Ordinance for Transgender Municipal Workers

[MassEquality press release]

BOSTON ─ June 11 ─ Today, the Boston City Council, by a unanimous vote, passed an ordinance ensuring that the City does not contract with any health insurance provider that does not provide comprehensive coverage for gender therapy services, including mental health care, hormone therapy, and other transition-related care for transgender City employees.

“This is a modest proposal that will have a profound impact on the lives of transgender municipal workers,” said Kara Coredini, executive director of MassEquality. “We applaud Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu for introducing the ordinance and the Council members who co-sponsored it and voted to pass it. Their action today is an important next step in Boston’s continuing leadership on transgender equality, and we hope that the state will soon follow Boston’s lead as it has so many times on issues of LGBTQ equality.”

Introduced by City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu in mid-April, the ordinance received the support of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the city’s Public Employees Committee, which recently voted to ensure that the city’s insurance plans to accommodate increased access to gender therapy services for Boston employees. Though the ordinance passed unanimously, this is a very small step in ensuring that all transgender people in the state are provided comprehensive insurance coverage. Currently, there are 17,000 Boston municipal workers whose insurance coverage will be impacted by this change.

“I am thrilled that the City of Boston is setting the standard for an inclusive workplace with policies to attract the most talented and committed employees,” said Wu.  “Inclusive health care coverage is the right thing to do for our employees and their families, and the best economic policy. I am proud that my colleagues on the Council and our Mayor support this important ordinance so strongly, and so grateful to MassEquality and the many partner organizations who testified in support. I am honored to be a part of this step towards ensuring Boston remains the best place to live, work and play.”

The language of the ordinance prevents the City from contracting with health insurers who refuse to provide coverage for transition-related care. One insurer, Neighborhood Health Plan, did not have a rider in its coverage for transition-related care, but will add one to its coverage that allows for gender therapy services. The other plans already covered these services for municipal employees.

“I thank MassEquality for being a leader and a partner in the ongoing fight for justice for our trans neighbors,” Boston City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley said. “Access to quality health care is a civil rights issue. This ordinance will dramatically improve the lives of our City’s trans employees and their families; restoring their dignity and alleviating the cost of medically necessary care.”

According to research done by the Center for American Progress, the cost of providing healthcare coverage for transgender municipal workers is expected to be negligible. Studies have shown that the more than 200 private companies across the country that provide coverage for gender therapy services reported insignificant changes in healthcare costs.

“We are so proud to be part of a city that’s taking significant steps to remove the barriers to health care for all people,” said Susan Sherry, Deputy Director of Community Catalyst, a Boston-based national consumer health advocacy organization. “The Council’s overwhelming support for this policy change that benefits transgender employees sends a strong message to Boston and all Massachusetts residents, and promotes our city as a national leader on health equity issues.”

Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont and California have also amended their state policies to ensure that health insurers do not discriminate against transgender individuals.

Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, states, “This is an important step forward in ensuring that health coverage meets an individual’s full range of health care needs. We commend the City Council for providing a model state policymakers can use to improve access to care for all residents.”

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Lawyers for Trans Rights 2014

by Landen, MTPC intern

MTPC celebrated its fifth annual Lawyers for Transgender Rights (LTR) event at NAGA at Moksa Restaurant in Cambridge on April 3. Surrounded by vibrant lights and lively music provided by the ensemble Urban Myth, enthusiastic students and members of the law community gathered to network, partake in cocktails, and bid on silent auction items. Although the event was fun, it served a greater purpose: to support MTPC’s important work on behalf of the trans community.

Executive Director Mason Dunn welcomed the crowd to his first Lawyers for Transgender Rights event with an impassioned speech on the dire need for equal rights and protection under the proposed Equal Access Bill. He reminded the crowd that nearly 60% of transgender people have reported significant discrimination and harassment in public accommodations. And although popular media is hyperfocused on the “bathroom issue,” the grim reality for trans people is that the severe lack of protection against harassment is prevalent in many other public spaces such as hotels, restaurants, public parks, buses, malls, theaters, and hospitals.

The LTR event also celebrated two champions of the trans community. The 2014 Carl Sciortino Transgender Ally Award recipient was Attorney General hopeful Maura Healey, a trailblazer for women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights with a history of legal advocacy and activism for the LGBTQ community. Healey delivered a keynote speech highlighting her commitment to secure justice for the trans community of Massachusetts. She enthusiastically ensured the crowd that she would fight by the trans community’s side for the legal protections they deserve, and she shared her vision of a future in which there would no longer be a need for events like Lawyers for Transgender Rights because equality of all people would be the status quo.

MTPC was also proud to honor Catherine E. Reuben, a founding partner of Hirsch, Roberts & Weinsten, with the 2014 Commitment to Service Award. Reuben is highly revered by her colleagues and the law community for her devotion to the ethical practice of law. She has been named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer (top 5% of lawyers) in Employment & Labor Law by Boston Magazine for the past 8 years, is one of the Top 50 Women Massachusetts Super Lawyers, and was recently inducted as a Fellow into the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, which is a most prestigious honor. Check our blog later next week to learn more about her!

MTPC thanks Maura and Catherine for their contribution to the transgender rights movement and extends our gratitude to the gracious and welcoming host committee and to all those who came out to support the organization. Thanks for another great year.

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MTPC’s Nancy Nangeroni Makes the Trans 100 List

Nancy Nangeroni named to Trans 100

We are proud to announce that Nancy Nangeroni, MTPC’s own steering committee chair, was named one of this year’s Trans 100. The Trans 100 is an annual listing of 100 trans individuals who are currently active in the work of making the lives of trans people better.

“I’m humbled to be included in such great company,” Nancy says. “Congratulations to all my coconspirators for making this movement and this community so awesome! For every one of us honored tonight, there are many more out there doing great work to advance the integrity and self-respect of persons of diverse gender expression and identity, and they all deserve recognition. I salute each and every gender activist all around the world for growing this movement so beautifully.”

As many may know, Nancy has long been an activist in the trans community. She is the cofounder of GenderTalk and GenderVision, former executive director of the International Foundation for Gender Education, and was instrumental in the founding of the Boston Transgender Day of Remembrance. Additionally, as chair of MTPC, Nancy is active in all of our efforts, including the Equal Access Bill. This honor is well earned!

In addition to Nancy, MTPC’s good friend Logan Ferraro with BAGLY was also named to the impressive list of trans leaders. You can watch the event at http://gigity.tv/event/26151/.

Congratulations to all those named to the Trans 100!

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MTPC Meets Janet Mock!

by Aaron, MTPC intern

Janet Mock and MA trans activists

Authenticity and representation were central themes of Janet Mock’s speech at Simmons College last Thursday, entitled “Our Voices in the Movement: A Legacy at Intersections.” As part of a publicity tour following the release of her New York Times-bestselling memoir, Redefining Realness, which details her experiences growing up as a young trans girl, Mock spoke to a packed audience about the importance of visibility for transgender women of color, aka #girlslikeus.

The author and activist paid tribute the contributions of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and “living legend” CeCe McDonald, and spoke about the strength that authors like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Maya Angelou gave her while growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii. Without media representation, these activists and writers were able to help Mock form her identity and confidence as a young trans woman of color.

Mock also spoke to the power that she and other trans women of color have and what it means to claim an authentic existence. She explained, “trans women are women and trans people are exactly who they say they are.” However, not everyone reacts respectfully trans women who claim their identities, Mock explained, referencing CNN news anchor Piers Morgan’s response to being called out on Twitter after distorting Mock’s story during an interview.

She went on to discuss the hardships that transgender people, particularly trans women of color, encounter. Quoting bell hooks, Mock said, “Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power—not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.”

That is where Redefining Realness comes in. As a writer, Mock sees popular culture as a useful platform to spread awareness about trans issues. She delivers her story with honesty and wit, hoping that others will learn from it and connect to her experiences. Speaking your own truth, Mock said, is one of the most important things trans people can do.

In a brief Q&A session following the speech, Mock thoughtfully responded to a question about how cisgender allies can respectfully write stories featuring trans characters. She explained that cis writers can help by using their writing skills to help trans people tell their stories directly. Her advice to the trans people who might be scared to share those stories: “Never underestimate the power of your voice.”

Check back on our blog Friday for a reading list of trans people telling their own stories.

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MTPC at Creating Change 2014

CC14Mason here, saying hello from Houston, Texas! Jesse and I are excited to be attending the 2014 Creating Change conference. This is the largest LGBTQ advocacy gathering in the country, and rumor has it there are 4,000 people here this year!

Today, I’ll be presenting a workshop about trans-inclusive policies in law enforcement. It’s an interesting topic that I’m excited to bring to this conference. After that, Jesse and I will both be attending various workshops. We’re looking forward to learning, exploring, and meeting new people.

We’ll be tweeting about the conference as well. Follow us on Twitter (@MassTPC) for updates. We hope to see you here or hear from you.

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MTPC Responds to the Appeal of Transgender Prisoner Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Mason Dunn
Executive Director
617-778-0519

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) is disappointed to learn that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections will appeal the recent First Circuit Court of Appeals decision concerning Michelle Kosilek’s access to medically necessary gender reassignment surgery while in prison.

“This is a matter of not only transgender rights, but Constitutional rights as well,” said Mason Dunn, Executive Director of MTPC. “No prisoner should be denied access to medically necessary treatment on the basis of their gender identity.”

This will be the state’s second appeal in this matter. A three judge panel with First Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision earlier this month affirming that Michelle has a right to access medically necessary care while in prison. The DOC now appeals to the full First Circuit court.

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The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition is dedicated to ending discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.

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