Dana Martin. Jazzaline Ware. Ashanti Carmon. Claire Legato. Muhlaysia Booker. Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington. Paris Cameron. Chynal Lindsey. Chanel Scurlock. Johana ‘Joa’ Medina. Layleen Polanco Xtravaganza. Zoe Spears.
The names of the transgender women of color who have been murdered this year are a stark reminder to all that 50 years after Stonewall, the trans community in America is still under attack. It’s time we protect them in New York.
The Federal Government has issued policy after policy discriminating against transgender, non-binary, and gender non conforming people. Everywhere from homeless shelters to hospitals, the administration has sought to deny critical help to transgender people and transgender people of color in their times of need. The Department of Defense has moved forward with their callous and cowardly ban against the transgender troops who bravely serve in our nation’s military. Nationally, these policies reflect the clear agenda of hate and cruelty that this administration wants to push across the country.
New York needs to respond. So far this year, the New York Legislature has fought back by finally passing GENDA, banning discrimination against people based on their gender identity or expression in housing, employment and public accommodations. The same day, we passed legislation banning the dangerous and cruel practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors. Yet with transgender individuals still being harassed and discriminated against at alarmingly high rates, we must do more to support our trans friends, family, and neighbors.
With one week left, the New York State Legislature should pass legislation to protect transgender New Yorkers. Most critically, it is high past time we ban the use of “Gay and Trans Panic Defense,” which allow someone who murdered an LGBTQ person to use the victim’s own gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense. My colleagues in government and I continue to push to get this bill passed.
As the federal administration seeks to limit trans access to amenities and services, from homeless shelters to medical coverage, our state has to assert that all public spaces should be safe and accessible to transgender individuals. My bill, A5240, mandates that all public and private single-stall restroom in our state be accessible to everyone regardless of gender identity. Another bill, sponsored by my colleague Assemblymember Woerner, prohibits health insurers from denying coverage solely on the basis of the applicant’s gender identity. Bills aimed at protecting trans women from being unfairly targeted by law enforcement, including the “Walking While Trans” bill, will reduce opportunities for harassment and discrimination. We should pass these bills as soon as possible.
Finally, with the federal government telling transgender service members that they do not have a place in the Armed Forces, we have to send a message that in New York’s National Guard, we only care about your character and your ability to serve. We welcome transgender service members with open arms. That is why we have to enact legislation that enshrines protections for transgender service members in the National Guard into our state’s laws. It is the least we can do for New Yorkers who are putting their lives at risk.
In the face of daily assault on the rights and bodies of trans individuals, it is up to all of us to stand with the transgender community in our state and take action to ensure that the safety and rights of trans New Yorkers will never be taken away. Transgender New Yorkers should not have to wait another day.
Out gay Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell represents Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights, and the Upper West Side in the 69th Assembly District.