The year 2015 has seen increased visibility and acceptance for the transgender community, from President Obama specifically mentioning transgender rights in his State of the Union address to Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover. But plenty of issues still face the transgender community, both in Nevada and worldwide.
One of the main problems with transgender rights is the lack of a national policy. Decisions are made on a state-by-state basis, meaning that a transgender person in Arkansas does not have the same legal rights as one in Nevada on issues as crucial and disparate as whether or not hate-crime laws cover sexual orientation/gender identity, or how difficult it is to get one’s gender changed on a driver’s license. A consistent federal policy will help individuals know precisely what their rights are—and how to defend them.
In June, Nevada became one of only 10 states (plus Washington, D.C.) to legally prohibit insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage based on transgender identity. The State also began offering health coverage for reassignment and related procedures to State employees and their family members; the Cities of Reno and Sparks also offer the same coverage for their employees, but the City of Las Vegas has yet to do so.
In September, the issue of transgender bathroom use arose when a 13-year-old transgender male in Elko wanted to use the boys’ bathroom and locker room at school, a request that was rejected by the school board. The Nevada ACLU threatened a lawsuit, while conservative lawmakers introduced a bill requiring students to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex. The bill was defeated, but the issue will probably be raised again when the Legislature reconvenes in February.
This may have been a banner year for transgender visibility, but it has also seen a frightening increase in the number of transgender people who have suffered from violent crime. So far this year, 21 transgender women have been the victims of homicides in the United States. None has been designated a hate crime, even though one was murdered by her father, who disapproved of her transition. One of the issues with reporting these crimes is that victims are frequently not identified as transgender and, frequently, police and newspaper reports often do not refer to victims by their chosen gender, name or pronoun.
Adoption and Foster Care
The ability for transgender people to adopt or become foster parents varies by state. Nevada does not prohibit transgender adults from adopting or serving as foster caregivers, but some states do. Many LGBT advocacy organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Transgender Equality, who are pushing for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prohibit bans on adoption and foster care.
According to a 2014 Williams Institute reports 46 percent of transgender men and 42 percent of transgender women have attempted suicide. Transgender youth (ages 18-24) have the highest rate of suicide attempts (45 percent). Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who come out have an elevated suicide attempt rate as well. Overall, Nevada has the fourth highest rate of suicide in the nation and 10th highest rate of youth suicide.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there are three national prevention hotlines: National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 800-273-TALK; The Trevor Project, 866-488-7386; the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline, 888-THE-GLNH.
With the federal REAL ID law going into effect and voter ID laws proliferating, as many as 24,000 transgender voters could be blocked from the polls, according to the Williams Institute. Since each state has their own provisions for how to change a legal name and gender marker on an ID, it can make not only getting an ID complicated, but affect anything that would require an ID. While Nevada does not require a photo ID to vote, more than a dozen states do, according to the Center for Transgender Equality.