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White House announces new effort to tackle violence against trans people

The Biden administration announced a new interagency working group meant to address safety and opportunity for trans people.

By Casey Quinlan - July 01, 2021
White House with rainbow lights

The White House announced on the last day of Pride month that it is creating an interagency working group that focuses on issues of transgender equality, including violence against transgender people.

“Transgender people, especially transgender women and girls of color, face epidemic levels of violence, discrimination, and stigma,” the White House said in its announcement on Wednesday evening.

The group “will coordinate policies to advance safety, economic opportunity, and inclusion for transgender Americans.”

Violence and abuse, bullying and discrimination at school, employment discrimination, and homelessness are among the issues the working group will look at to analyze what is leading to the violence and poverty transgender people experience.

The working group will include people who work at the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The White House said it will host sessions to listen to transgender women of color and advocates to understand what policies they propose to improve the lives of transgender people in “the coming weeks.”

By taking this step, President Joe Biden is fulfilling part of a campaign promise. In October, Biden told Philadelphia Gay News that he would direct federal resources toward efforts to “prevent violence against transgender women and transgender women of color.” However, Biden also said he’d do so in his first 100 days, which ended in April.

LGBTQ rights advocates have advocated for this step as one tool for the Biden administration to stop violence against transgender people. In January, Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Cynthia Deitle, the director of civil rights reform with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, told the American Independent Foundation that a working group could help address the issue.

The announcement comes after states have enacted numerous anti-trans bills, including bills prohibiting transgender athletes from playing on the team of their gender and legislation banning gender-affirming care such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers for transgender youth.

Violence against transgender people, particularly Black transgender women, has continued to worry LGBTQ advocates this year, who say that there could be even more killings of transgender people this year than last year.

At least 29 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed so far this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks violent deaths of transgender people. There were at least 44 such killings in 2020. This was the highest number of killings of transgender and gender-nonconforming people since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking these deaths in 2013.

“Transgender people deal with challenges from bias and harassment to fatal violence. We need nothing less than a comprehensive examination by the federal government of the policies that contribute to our challenges and the responses that will contribute to our liberation,” the Human Rights Campaign tweeted in response to the White House’s announcement.

Alexis Rangel, policy counsel for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in reaction to the news, “This working group reflects an awareness of the complex struggles transgender people face and presents an incredible opportunity for us to advocate for the multi-faceted change that will help us thrive.”

Asaf Orr, transgender youth project director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said,  “We commend the Biden-Harris administration’s convening of an interagency working group on safety and opportunity for transgender people. The lives of transgender people are touched by the work of many different federal agencies, thus having a coordinated approach is essential to addressing the systemic barriers that deny transgender people the ability to thrive.”

The White House also announced on June 30 that the State Department is updating its policies to make it easier for transgender people to correct their gender markers and is working on a third gender marker for federal IDs “for gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex Americans.”

The White House held an event on Wednesday night that included remarks from transgender youth and transgender lawmakers and officials. This event included Stella Keating, the 16-year-old transgender girl who testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the Equality Act in March, Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Andrea Jenkins, who serves as vice president of the Minneapolis City Council.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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