7 Vital Ways Transgender Rights Have Moved Forward
The country is taking a big step in the right direction, thanks to the progress for transgender rights the Obama administration has overseen. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives announced the formation of its first-ever task force for transgender equality. Two members of the committee, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), have publicly shared their experiences of having family members who are transgender. This level of openness from lawmakers and commitment to change on a national scale is a huge step forward for the transgender community, which has "[for] too many times ... has been an afterthought," said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) at the announcement on Capitol Hill.
Transgender Americans face extreme and unique challenges that have been ignored for far too long. They are 25 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population and four times more likely to live below the poverty line, and in a 2012 survey, nearly 20 percent of respondents said they've experience homelessness at some point in their lives.
But this hasn't been the only victory for the trans community during the President Obama's time in office. Since taking office in 2009, the president has affirmed LGBT rights countless times through big and small changes.
Here are some of the most important advances in transgender rights that have happened under President Obama.
1) Federal Employees Can't Be Discriminated Against Because Of Gender Identity
In January 2010, the Office of Personnel Management, which manages the various civil services of the federal government, added gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy governing all federal jobs. The department further supported transgender workers in September 2011 by issuing additional guidance to federal managers on equal treatment.
2) It's Easier To Change Gender On Your Passport
The previous process to change the gender marker on a passport was "burdensome," and was shifted in June 2010 so as not to put undue stress on transgender individuals.
3) The Social Security Agency Stopped Sending "Gender No-Match" Letters
The Social Security Administration used to tell employers when someone's employment paperwork didn't match their birth records, unnecessarily outing transgender workers. The policy was changed in September 2011.
4) Gender Transition Treatments Are Now Tax Deductible
Not only is your insurance company required to cover your gender reassignment surgery or hormone therapy, any out-of-pocket costs are tax deductible now, thanks to the IRS.
5) Transgender Kids Can Enroll In Single Sex Classes And Activities
In December 2014, the Department of Education released new guidelines allowing transgender children to participate in single-sex classes and activities, giving new protections under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The same law that mandates equal funding for boys' and girls' sports now protects transgender kids who want to participate based on their gender identity.
6) Gender Reassignment Surgery Is Covered Under Obamacare
This was a huge win for the transgender community — giving transgender individuals access to this potentially life-saving surgery is exact the kind of progress activists have been fighting for.
7) President Obama Said The Word "Transgender" In The State Of The Union
In his 2015 State of the Union, President Obama said the word "transgender," making him the first president ever to include the term in the speech. "By speaking our community's name, the President pushes us all to recognize the existence and validity of trans people as Americans worthy of protection and our nation's resources," said MSNBC host and transgender activist Janet Mock.
Check out the Human Rights Campaign's full list of governmental progress for these individuals — it's a powerful reminder that change comes in both giant leaps and small steps.