Watch: State of the LGBT Movement 2013

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If you’ve ever wondered exactly where the LGBT movement is headed, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director, Rea Carey’s annual keynote at the yearly Creating Change conference offers a pretty good snapshot.

During this year’s address, presented Saturday in Atlanta, Carey highlights the progress and victories of the last year and also urges advocates that now is not the time to give up the fight,”Some days I wake up astonished at the pace of our progress, but I also wake up angry about the lack of basic, basic protections for LGBT people,” Carey told the crowd of almost 3,500 LGBT leaders.

In a pre-taped, one and a half minute message to conference goers, President Obama reiterated his dedication to the cause, telling the crowd,”The work will be hard, the road will be long, but I’m more confident than ever that we will reach a better future as long as Americans like you keep reaching for justice and all of us keep marching together.”

Watch President Obama’s Message:

Watch Carey’s “State of the Movement” Address courtesy of GA Voice:

Oregon Medicaid coverage to include trans youth

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LGBTQ Nation reports,”The Oregon state Health Plan and its Healthy Kids Program will soon begin covering medically-necessary care for young people experiencing gender dysphoria on Oct. 1, 2014, making Oregon the first state to ensure coverage of transgender kids under Medicaid.”

The new Oregon Health Plan will cover:

• Mental health counseling (applies to children, youth and adults)

• Evaluation by a pediatric specialist in advance of pubertal suppression treatment

• Procedures, medication and follow-up monitoring related to pubertal suppression

In a press release announcing the expansion, TransActive Executive Director Jenn Burleton hails the move as a huge step forward,”Pubertal suppression provides transgender adolescents the option of avoiding unwanted, irreversible and deeply distressing changes that come with birth-sex pubertal development”, Burleton said. “Far too often trans adolescents experience increased suicidal ideation as a result of these changes and the indifference of others about the impact these changes have on trans youth.”

“Thanks to this common sense, safe and medically recommended action by the Oregon Health Plan, lives will be saved and TransActive is extremely grateful to have been able to play a part in this victory and to be a regional and national center for providing the care needed by these kids and their families.”

Survey gives Officials better picture of Idaho’s LGBT Population

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The next time a survey taker calls your home you might want to answer the phone. That’s because health officials are relying on what’s called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey to get a better grasp on of the health of a state’s population.  Here in Idaho, that includes those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

According to JamieLou Delavan, who heads up Idaho’s Bureau of Community & Environmental Health, Idaho’s survey began to include questions on gender identity and sexual orientation in 2011.

According to the CDC, “the survey is the world’s largest, on-going telephone health survey system, tracking health conditions and risk behaviors in the United States yearly since 1984. Currently, data is collected monthly in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.”

Delvan says the inclusion of questions concerning Idaho’s LGBT population is a pretty important milestone,”Every state conducts this survey but not every state asks gender identity in an expanded way or asks sexual orientation.  Some states are kind of surprised that we now include this in Idaho.”

Conducted throughout the year, states use the data to identify emerging health problems, establish and track health objectives, and develop and evaluate public health policies and programs. Many states also use the data to support health-related legislative efforts.

Getting anyone to participate in a phone survey can be challenging, especially in today’s environment of endless robocalls and telemarketing campaigns, but in rural conservative states like Idaho asking LGBT individuals to identify themselves as such can prove to be even tougher.

But the good news is those who participate in the survey do so confidentially and anonymously. Devlin says the information regarding one’s sexuality or gender identity is only used to give health officials a better idea of what’s happening health wise within a state’s population or community.

Data collected from those who identified as LGBT during last year’s survey helped to confirm several aspects of the community’s overall health picture.

Officials are hoping for even more participation this year.

Delvan says more participation in the survey by those who identify themselves as LGBT can mean more funding, more programs and better health care for Idaho’s LGBT population.

Click HERE to see Idaho stats from last year’s survey.

Click HERE to learn more about the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey program.

Opinion: Idaho Lawmakers are back to work…Are you?

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The recent vote to ban discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity by the Boise City Council was historic in every sense of the word.

From the emotional public hearing to the council’s unanimous vote, the historical significance of the ordinance’s passage was undeniable. No longer would an employee have to, in most cases, be compelled to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity out of fear of loosing their job. No longer would city law side with a landlord who could terminate a lease simply because he or she learned the tenants were a couple and not roommates. No longer could someone legally be kicked out of a cab or denied service in a restaurant simply because the owner suspects the customer might be,”a little queer.”

You could read it on the faces of those in the crowd. Some expressed the joy of the moment, others expressed relief, almost all of them expressed the realization that after years of struggling to simply be who they were, they were now finally equal in the eyes of their fellow citizens.

It was indeed a night to celebrate.

Amidst the celebration, however, I couldn’t help but think about the many areas of our state that have no organized community to speak of. I couldn’t help but think of those living in predominantly right winged small towns and rural areas that still have very real reasons to fear that their sexuality or gender identity may one day be discovered. I couldn’t help but wonder if our celebration, as historic as the passage of the Boise ordinance was, a bit premature.

Last year hundreds of individuals turned out for rallies and candlelight vigils to show their support for a bill that would add the words “gender identity and sexual orientation” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, thousands more participated in the sticky note campaign, they met with their state lawmakers, they emailed dozens of house and senate members and yet, for the sixth year in a row, their voices were ignored.

Some of those who participated in the past have given up.

“Idaho’s just to conservative,” they say. “It will never happen here.”

I suspect their pessimism is about the same as the mother from Burley who, after six years of  driving to Boise to ask her legislators to at least give the Human Rights amendment a hearing, told me on the final day of the legislature last March that she was finished, “I just can’t do it anymore. They’ve won.”

Her feeling of defeat in the face of the arrogance of power and grown adults politicking with people’s lives was understandable. But they haven’t won, not as long as there are still people willing to fill in the gap for those who can’t or no longer have the energy. If the passage of the Boise ordinance proves one thing, it’s that very fact.

So where do we go from here?

We celebrate our victories but we continue the fight.

We once again pick up our phones and our pens and ask state lawmakers to stand on the right side of history.

We continue not to take “no” for an answer.

We continue to let those in power now that we will not be ignored and that we will not give up and go away.

We keep working towards the dream of total equality for each and every Idahoan until that dream has been achieved.

You can learn more about  the “Add the Words” campaign by clicking HERE.

There will also be an informational panel discussion with city leaders this Wednesday evening, from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Community Center in Garden City. The event is free and open to the public. Click HERE to learn more.  

EEOC: Transgender Workers Protected By Federal Human Rights Act!

A five member, bipartisan, federal commission has ruled that employer discrimination based on a person’s gender identity is a violation of the 1964 civil rights act.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that such action violates Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner reports,”The opinion came in a decision delivered on Monday, April 23, to lawyers for Mia Macy, a transgender woman who claims she was denied employment with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after the agency learned of her transition. It also comes on the heels of a growing number of federal appellate and trial courts deciding that gender-identity discrimination constitutes sex discrimination, whether based on Title VII or the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws.”

According to a press release from the Transgender Law Center, the decision will have broad implications for transgender individuals across the country,”Because the EEOC is the agency charged with interpreting and enforcing federal discrimination laws throughout the nation. The EEOC’s decision will impact every employer, public and private, throughout the nation. The decision is entitled to significant deference by the courts, and will be binding on all federal agencies.”

Masen Davis, Transgender Law Center’s Executive Director, tells Metro Weekly, ”Given that transgender people do not have employment protections in the vast majority of states, this creates a whole new fabric of legal support for our community.”

”When an employer discriminates against someone because the person is transgender, the employer has engaged in disparate treatment related to the sex of the victim,” the decision states. ”This is true regardless of whether an employer discriminates against an employee because the individual has expressed his or her gender in a non-stereotypical fashion, because the employer is uncomfortable with the fact that the person has transitioned or is in the process of transitioning from one gender to another, or because the employer simply does not like that the person is identifying as a transgender person,” reports Geidner.

“The decision today follows a clear trend by federal courts in recent years holding that transgender people are protected by Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination,” says the Center’s  press release.

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