Take Action: DC Trans Coalition Calls for Continued Oversight and Enforcement of DC Human Rights Act

Today, DCTC sent the following letter to members of the DC Council.  Click here to find your ward representative, then add the addresses of the Chairman and all the at-large members, and drop them a line supporting our requests.

May 6, 2009

Dear Council Member:

As you continue your deliberations with regard to the fiscal year 2010 budget, we wanted to update you on our activities and raise a few general issues regarding DC’s Human Rights Act with you.

As you well know, we have spent much of the past year working against and then with the Department of Corrections and the Office of the Attorney General to bring DC correctional facilities in line with the DC Human Rights Act. After our February correspondence with you, Council Member Graham sent a letter to Attorney General Peter Nickles asking specific questions about how the DOC’s new policy will be implemented. To date, there has been no response from the attorney general, and our community partners have informed us that no visible changes have yet taken place in the DOC’s treatment of transgender inmates. We thus consider it imperative that the new policy is implemented at once, and that a clear plan for evaluating its efficacy is put in place.

In an earlier campaign, the DCTC worked with the Metropolitan Police Department to obtain an order from Chief Cathy Lanier regarding the proper treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals upon contact with the police. That order was issued in late 2007. Given that several members of our community have reported that police treatment has not improved in that time, we are beginning to work with MPD officials to review their existing training programs regarding the treatment of transgender individuals, and will recommend to them what changes may be necessary to ensure better compliance with the chief’s order. We appreciate your continued willingness to support us in these efforts.

You have also heard recently from individuals and organizations in the community advocating for a greater effort at combating employment discrimination against transgender individuals both within the District government and among private businesses. Unemployment and underemployment is a rampant problem within the transgender community, and is a far more subtle form of discrimination than instances of blatant mistreatment may suggest. Unfortunately though, the data available to the District’s Office of Human Rights, based on complaints filed, is clearly unreliable. We believe that instances of trans-bias in employment decisions are far greater than what has been documented in formal processes. The same holds true with problems with police, corrections officials, fire and emergency medical responders, healthcare and housing providers, and a whole range of other public service providers. This is why our primary focus in the coming year will be to educate members of the community on their rights under District law, and to urge and facilitate far more reporting of violations of the Human Rights Act.

We would expect the full support of the Council in ensuring that the District’s laws are enforced, and ask that appropriate resources be made available to District agencies to ensure this is the case. In addition, as the examples noted here illustrate, it is essential that the Council continue to exercise oversight and ensure accountability among District agencies and programs, as the rights protected under the Human Rights Act will only be realized if they are aggressively defended.

Yours sincerely,

DC Trans Coalition


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