President Obama’s support of the LGBT community is no secret. His gestures towards the community, including a recent executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees because of sexual orientation, is the most pronounced example of that. However, outside sources have paid little attention to the President’s work in extending his administration’s advocacy to the smallest and least accepted group under the LGBT label: transgendered and transsexual Americans.
While Newsweek magazine has called Obama “the first gay president,” there’s been little fanfare over his incorporation of gender-diverse Americans. According to the AP, he was the first chief executive to say “transgender” in a speech, to name transgender political appointees, to prohibit job discrimination on the basis of gender identity among government workers, and during his first term, he signed what would become the first federal civil rights protections for transgender and transsexual people in US history.
The administration has been quietly applying executive power to make it easier for trans* people to update their passports and other federal documents, get health insurance under Obamacare and the VA, and to seek access to public school restrooms and sports programs.
These are just a few of the transgender-specific policies that Obama’s administration has instigated. According to Mara Kiesling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Obama is also the only president who invited transgender children to take part in the annual Easter egg roll at the White House.
“He has been the best president for transgender rights, and nobody else is in second place.”
The administration has also been using Title IX, a 1972 law that bans gender discrimination in education, as another launching pad into schools. Earlier in the year, the US Education Department told public schools in a memo that transgender students are entitled to federal civil rights protections.
Obama has noted that Title IX is useful, saying last week that:
Title IX is a very powerful tool. The fact that we are applying it to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated on their college campuses.
The advances have gone unnoticed because they also benefited the larger gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities. The administration has also purposefully worked to keep them quiet, according Barbara Siperstein, to skirt resistance and to send the message that the changes aren’t a big deal. Siperstein, who helped organize the first meeting between White House aides and transgender rights advocates without gay rights leaders participating, said that “it’s quiet by design, because the louder you are in Washington, the more the drama.”
Which isn’t to say that religious groups haven’t been opposing it; they’ve just been much slower in doing so. The leader of the Traditional Values Coalition, Andrea Lafferty, said that there isn’t a lot of recourse for the bigots, because the changes are coming through executive orders and federal agencies, rather than Congress. However, Lafferty warns that “absence of vocal opposition” doesn’t mean “acquiescence.” The opposition, according to Lafferty, will manifest itself during the mid-term elections.
Lafferty said that everyone was “overwhelmed right now,” and that everyone needs to take a step back. She said that step back would be in November. The well-funded hate group is currently working with congressional Republicans to fight the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which set the stage for Obama to become a champion for transgender rights.
In 2007, Representative Barney Frank pursued legislation that would prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians, but not transgendered or transsexual people, saying that there weren’t enough Democratic votes to get a “trans-inclusive” law.
Diego Sanchez, the first openly transgender person appointed to the DNC’s party platform committee and, later, the first transgender staff member on Capitol Hill as Frank’s top senior policy adviser, recalled the transgender advocacy groups persuading more than 100 civil rights groups to oppose the bill.
“The community was forced to decide: Where are you going to stand?” He recalled, adding that now “it’s easier for voices to be heard once you are already in the room. What has changed is who is listening.”
Finally, in 2008, the DNC added language to their platform pledging to fight discrimination against transgendered and transsexual people, 28 years after the party pledged to do the same thing for sexual orientation. Meanwhile, the 2014 Texas Republican platform is still pushing bogus pseudoscience garbage, desperately trying to avoid admitting they lost that battle 28 years ago, just like they’ve lost this fight against transgender and transsexual rights now.
h/t: New Zealand Herald
More from AATTP on LGBT issues:
- GOP Silent as Tyrant Obama Uses Executive Power Preventing LGBT Discrimination
- Watch Melissa Harris-Perry Blast Mississippi’s Religious LGBT Hate Law (Video)
- Watch This Brave Transgender Woman Ask Anti-LGBT ‘Church’ To Stone Her (Video)
- Tennessee GOP Uses ‘Religious Freedom’ to Justify Bill Allowing Bullying of LGBT Kids
- Homophobic Bigots: Mississippi GOP Passes ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill Legalizing Discrimination Against LGBT Community