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Recognizing the Unique Challenges of Transgender Women of Color

Assistant to the President Tina Tchen reflects on the historic steps this Administration has taken to afford greater protections for this community in just the past few months.

During Women’s History Month, the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Council on Women and Girls have honored the achievements of women across the country and throughout history, while continuing the conversations about the challenges women across the nation still face. On March 31 -- National Transgender Day of Visibility -- I had the honor of speaking with leaders of the transgender women of color community during the White House’s first-ever discussion solely focused on the challenges this community faces.

Community organizers, non-profit leaders, and policy advocates from all over the country shared their stories and spoke about the issues that uniquely affect transgender women of color. We heard from panelists on issues ranging from employment and economic opportunity, to family and intimate partner violence, to access to health care. These frank conversations helped to shine a light on the work left to be done, and possible community and government solutions.

Attendees also heard from Roy Austin Jr, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity, about the steps taken by the Administration to better protect the rights of transgender people, including LGBT-specific recommendations made in the report by the President’s Task Force for 21st Century Policing that urge police departments to foster better relationships with and better statistical reporting of the transgender community. Roy also spoke about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, which expanded hate crimes law to include gender identity and sexual orientation and requires the FBI to publish statistics on hate crimes against transgender people.

I am proud to reflect on the historic steps this Administration has taken to afford greater protections for this community in just the past few months. Just yesterday, President Obama’s Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination went into effect, prohibiting federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. On April 3, the Department of Justice filed an important brief as part of ongoing litigation in Georgia that advocated that prison officials have the obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria just as they would any other medical or health condition. On March 31, the CDC announced $185 million for grant opportunities for HIV prevention among transgender people and gay and bisexual men, with a particular focus on the unique needs of people of color. The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued new guidance in February designed to better serve LGBT Americans seeking to obtain a home loan and to ensure appropriate placement of transgender individuals in homeless shelters. And in December, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice’s position that the protections against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extend to claims of discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.

Despite these significant steps, there is more work to be done. Though Women’s History Month is over, I look forward to continuing conversations around the safety, health, and well-being of all women, including transgender women of color.

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