CHARLOTTE — The executive director of a national transgender advocacy organization appeared at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte Tuesday night and is scheduled to speak Wednesday evening at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), addressed a small crowd of about two dozen attendees, outlining the work her organization is doing on behalf of transgender Americans.
NCTE has been focused primarily on changes in federal administrative policies. Many have included commitments by the Obama Administration to ban discrimination based on gender-identity in federal employment. The group has also worked on issues related to identification documents including driver licenses, passports, birth certificates and Medicaid/Medicare identification cards.
Many of the Obama Administration’s changes have gone by unnoticed or even criticized by some LGBT community members. Some say the changes are small compared to other “big-ticket” legislative items, like the passage of the still-pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act or the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, still on national advocacy groups’ agendas.
Hospital visitation, Keisling pointed out, is one of the many policy areas in which the administration has made changes. In September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued updated guidelines for all hospitals receiving federal funding. New policies will be required, giving all patients the right to name their own next of kin for the purpose of visitation.
“That might seem like a small thing until you’re the one whose partner is in the hospital,” Keisling remarked.
Keisling also stressed the importance of engaging in broader social justice movements, in addition to work among LGBT constituencies. “Transgender people are other things, too,” she said, saying her group is also committed to working against racism, sexism, ableism and homophobia.
The national trans leader’s appearance came on the same day as full implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. The 18-year-old law had prohibited gay and lesbian Americans from serving openly in the nation’s military. Asked by an audience member about the repeal, Keisling explained that transgender Americans are still subject to discrimination. She also noted that participants in her group’s recent study, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, were nearly twice as likely to be military veterans than the general population.
Keisling’s Tuesday night appearance was presented by The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, Campus Pride, the Human Rights Campaign and Carolina Transgender Society. Keisling will appear on Wednesday evening at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s McKnight Hall at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The event is funded by the Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund and presented by the campus’ Multicultural Resource Center. For more information, visit campusevents.uncc.edu/events/1861.