With only a little more than a month left to fill out the 2020 U.S. census, some groups that have been historically forgotten could go under counted again. Adrien Lawyer, co-founder of Albuquerque-based Transgender Resource Center, told NM Political Report said that even the best available data on the transgender communities across the country are largely undercounting the communities. The U.S. census doesn’t ask questions about gender orientation or identity. Lawyer said the transgender community is again in danger of being undercounted with this census as it has been in previous census data gatherings. The best available data on the size of the community in either the U.S. or New Mexico comes from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law Williams Institute, which is a research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule that critics say would enable shelters to discriminate against transgender people and lawfully turn people away who need a place to sleep for the night. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed the rule in early July and allowed for a 60-day comment period. The rule, if promulgated, would affect shelters that receive federal funds and are single sex dormitories or segregate into single sex areas. Under the proposed rule, shelter providers can turn people away if their gender identity doesn’t match the gender they were classified as at birth. Albuquerque’s West Side Shelter receives federal funding and has single-sex areas.
New Mexico abortion fund providers are already seeing impacts as the public health emergency and financial crisis worsens during the COVID-19 global pandemic, according to advocates. A group of abortion fund providers in New Mexico issued a statement Friday to remind elected leaders and others that reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is not elective medicine. In line with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recent statement that any reproductive procedure which, if delayed, will “negatively affect patient health and safety should not be delayed,” Indigenous Women Rising, Mariposa Fund and New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice issued their own statement to tell elected leaders to continue to respect reproductive healthcare for women. All three groups offer funding and other aid for people seeking an abortion. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum also signed the letter.
New Mexico’s U.S. senators say that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos does not support civil rights or oppose discrimination. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, signed onto a letter to the secretary telling her “your actions belie your assurances” on these issues. The letter cited her ties to a prominent anti-LGBTQ group and her appointment of staff who oppose a 2011 Title IX Guidance on sexual assault.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]No ads. Just news. Support local, non-profit news.
Ahead of a candlelight vigil at Morningside Park Thursday evening before this week’s Albuquerque Pride, marchers for transgender rights rallied in the park. The pro-transgender rights march has been a part of the candlelight vigil for the better part of a decade. Albuquerque Pride itself has been around for 41 years now. Featured: Longtime organizer looks back at four decades of ABQ Pride
“It reminds me that I’m very lucky,” Janice Devereaux, who came out as a transgender woman 15 years ago, said in an interview. “As tough as life can be for trans people at times, I’m still lucky to be here, and that is very important for me to hold on to.”
The candlelight vigil is held every year to honor LGBT victims of hate crimes.
A group of transgender women detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were recently transferred to New Mexico from a detention center in California. In a detention center in Milan, the women are housed in a pod together. ICE transferred the dozen or so women in early May to Cibola County Detention Center in Milan from a similar facility in Santa Ana, California, where ICE made its first dedicated transgender module. Since then, advocacy organizations for immigrants and transgender rights in New Mexico have taken notice. Adrian Lawyer, co-director of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, said his organization reached out to the detainees and recently toured the Cibola County facility.
Hector Balderas joined 18 other attorneys general across the nation in filing an amicus brief in a case centering on transgender student rights scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court this month. The New Mexico attorney general, in a statement, said that transgender students “should feel safe and protected in their schools just like any other children, it’s just that simple.”
The case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., involves Virginia student Gavin Grimm, who with the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school board for violating his Title IX rights when the board created a policy to require students to use school bathrooms that fit their “biological sex.” Grimm, a high school senior, was born female and identifies as male. A lower court ruled last year that the school board’s policy did violate Grimm’s rights, and the school board appealed to the Supreme Court. The amicus brief, which is a legal argument made in a case by people not directly involved in it, argues that discriminating against gender identity violates Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination in the schools. “Discrimination on the basis of gender identity causes real and significant harm to both transgender people and to the amici States,” the brief reads.
With little debate Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that would make it easier for transgender people to change the gender listed on on their birth certificate. Under Senate Bill 120, transgender people wishing to change their birth certificate no longer have to submit a physician-signed statement that they have undergone a sex-change operation. Instead, the only required document would be a form signed signed under penalty of perjury by a licensed medical or mental health-care provider saying that, based on the provider’s opinion and in accordance with contemporary professional standards, the individual’s sex designation should be changed. The bill sponsor, Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, told the Senate that the provider’s statement would have to confirm that the applicant had undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. Then, he said, a court would decide whether the birth certificate’s marker should be changed.
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education called on school districts around the country to include transgender students in Title IX policies in a letter sent Friday. The eight page letter outlines how school districts should address issues surrounding transgender students, including in bathroom and athletic facilities. “A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” the letter read. “A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”
The letter also said that schools can provide other options for students who prefer to use a separate facility for extra privacy. Representatives from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Public Schools did not respond to messages from NM Political Report before press time, but a spokeswoman for Las Cruces Public Schools said they have not received the letter from the federal government.
After an hour of passionate public comment on transgender rights, a Wednesday Albuquerque Public School Board of Education meeting ended with the district’s superintendent requesting further work. A majority of public comment was regarding whether transgender students’ rights should be protected under a federal law that also protects students rights based on gender. The Department of Education said in 2014 the law, known as Title IX, included protections on the basis of gender identity. Board member Peggy Muller-Aragón who was the only member who spoke against the measure, said she had received hundreds of emails in opposition. “The loudest side is not always the right side,” she said of the large number of people who spoke in favor of the measure.