I’ve been coming to Washington DC since 1998 to lobby for trans human rights issues, policy meetings, board meetings, retreats, and panel discussions. I’ve even been to the White House four times.
But this fifth trip to the White House was special and historic, because for the first time trans women of color, fittingly on the Transgender Day of Visibility, were gathering from around the country for the inaugural White House Trans Women Of Color Women’s History Month Briefing.
It was organized by the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Kylar Broadus and kicked off at 9:00 AM in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Auditorium with opening remarks from Aditi Hardikar from the White House Office of Public Engagement.
She was quickly followed by Tina Tchen from the White House Council For Women and Girls and Stacey Long Simmons from the Task Force before we dove into the policy remarks part of the program.
Cecilia Chung started the policy portion of it with some framing remarks before yielding the platform to my fellow TPOCC board member Mattee Jim and LaLa Zannell from the National Anti Violence Project.
Mattee’s commentary focused on the issues that Native American and rural trans women face, while LaLa focused on discussing how many of the women we have lost to anti-trans violence were actually intimate partner violence (IPV) cases.
Zannell also pointed out that trans women are less likely to be protected from IPV and some recommendations to change that negative paradigm.
When those ladies were done with their presentations, Ruby Corado of Casa Ruby and Bamby Salcedo of the Trans Latina Coalition were up next.
Corado’s presentation concentrated on HIV status, how it affects trans women and the issues that revolve around that but reminded us that ‘action solves problems.’
Salcedo talked about our trans Latina sisters an the issues they face in ICE detention including sexual assault and HIV infection and pointed out “It’s important for us to understand how structural violence plays into us getting killed.”.
Tracee McDaniel from the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc in Atlanta and Kylar Broadus from the National LGBTQ Task Force talked about the employment discrimination that trans women of color face on the micro and macro levels..
The final two person info panelists were Dr. Ayana Elliott, FNP and Raffi Friedman-Gurspan from the National Center for Transgender Equality. Dr Elliott got our attention by stating ‘Transgender women are an endangered species,” then broke down the statistics across various health categories to back that sobering statement up.
Raffi’s presentation also contained some suggested policy recommendations for the assembled White House staffers and trans women of color from across the country nodding their heads in agreement.
When their panel was finished, Roy Austin, the Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs Justice and Opportunity, took a few moments in his remarks to update us on where things stood on trans issues inside the Obama Administration.
In addition to informing us that Title VII the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers transpeople, Austin also discussed a Task Force on 21st Century Policing report that urged in its recommendations that police departments and law enforcement personnel across the US improve their relations with their local trans communities (which probably explains the invite I got from Harris County DA Devon Anderson last week to talk about issues of importance to the Houston trans community).
He opened it up for questions, and I asked about the possibility of getting mandated national standards for ID. I pointed out that much of the discrimination we face is triggered by mismatched identification that in many cases the states throw up multiple barriers for us to correct.
After taking a few questions, Mr Austin departed, and a super info panel was convened in which audience members received a few moments of the remaining time left in the event to ask the info panelists questions.
After remarks from Aditi, Kylar and Stacey and a poem from Cherno Biko, the briefing ended at 12 noon EDT.
We then headed to the National LGBTQ Task Force headquarters on Massachusetts Ave for lunch and remarks from Stacey Long Simmons, outgoing deputy director Darlene Nipper, and incoming deputy director Russell Roybal..
It was my first visit to Task Force headquarters since the 2000 National Transgender Policy Meeting they facilitated at their old NE Washington DC digs. It was fun reconnecting with all my friends in the Task Force from the Creating Change team (and yes H-town, I let them know we want to host it again), and was happy to see Kathleen Campisano and Sarah Reece from my days of causing angelic trouble in Louisville with both of them.
Major thanks to Kylar and Stacey for the invitation to be there for this historic briefing, lunch, and to super intern Dominique Chamely who did a wonderful job on the logistical end getting me and my trans sisters to DC from our various spots around the country.
And thanks to all my transsisters who made this historic day at the White House and this 6th annual Trans Day of Visibility a memorable one for me.