Biden Administration announces new federal actions to support transgender Americans
On Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31, 2022), the Biden Administration released a fact sheet detailing new actions, changes, and resources from federal government agencies to help advance health equity and combat discrimination against transgender and nonbinary (TNB) Americans. These are welcome and necessary changes, especially amidst a surge of anti-transgender legislation around the country. These changes would not have happened without the leadership and advocacy of TNB community organizations and advocates who continue to push for health equity and civil rights for all. A summary of these actions is provided below.
Protecting the civil rights of TNB Americans
The Biden Administration continues to condemn the surge of anti-transgender legislation in states across the country, including legislation that criminalizes the provision of gender affirming care as well as legislation preventing transgender youth from participating in sports. Several government agencies have also taken steps to affirm the rights of TNB Americans:
- Protecting access to gender affirming care
- The Department of Justice issued a letter to state attorneys general reminding them of their obligation to ensure that TNB youth are not subjected to unlawful and unconstitutional discrimination, including when seeking gender affirming care. This letter states that laws and policies that intentionally create barriers to gender affirming care may infringe on the constitutional rights of TNB people, and that criminalizing such care would be subject to even stricter constitutional scrutiny. The letter also notes that recipients of federal funding are subject to federal nondiscrimination regulations that prohibit discrimination against TNB people. For example, the letter notes that if a law enforcement agency arrests a parent for child abuse for allowing their child to receive gender affirming are, that agency could be found in violation of the nondiscrimination regulations in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a new website to offer resources for LGBTQI+ youth, their parents, and providers. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health released a new resource that underscores the importance of gender affirming care for youth. Similarly, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a resource citing key clinical evidence showing the positive impact of gender affirming care on mental health. SAMHSA also released new guidance for providers confirming that gender affirming care is not maltreatment or malpractice.
- Protecting youth in schools
- The Department of Education will be offering new training for schools discussing challenges and strategies for supporting TNB youth. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona also traveled to Florida to hold a roundtable discussion with LGBTQ+ students and families regarding the impact of recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the state and across the country.
- The Department of Justice letter to state attorneys general also noted that for schools that are recipients of federal financial assistance, “policies and practices that deny, limit, or interfere with access to the recipient’s education program or activity because students are transgender minors receiving gender-affirming care may constitute discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title IX.”
Increasing research and data collection
- The President’s FY23 budget proposal includes $10M for researching how to add sexual orientation and gender identity questions to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).
- HHS released a new consensus study called Measuring Sex, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation. This work, commissioned by the National Institutes of Health and carried out by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, will inform additional data collections and future research in how to best serve LGBTQ+ Americans.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it will increase funding for research on gender-affirming procedures to further develop the evidence base for improved standards of care. Research priorities include a more thorough investigation and characterization of the short- and long-term outcomes on physical and mental health associated with gender-affirming care.
Making federal documents more inclusive
- Several federal agencies announced new efforts to make federal forms and documentation more inclusive and easier to navigate for TNB people. The Department of State announced that people will be able to select an X gender marker on their passports starting April 11.
- The Social Security Administrationannounced that it will remove requirements for TNB people to show medical documentation to update their gender information.
- The Department of Educationplans to add voluntary gender identity questions to a survey accompanying the 2023-24 Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced it will update its intake forms to allow TNB workers to identify themselves in reporting employment discrimination.
These federal actions are critically necessary for advancing health equity for TNB Americans. Please share these new resources widely. If you or someone you know has experienced discrimination based on gender identity, you can file a complaint:
- Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/actioncenter/submit-complaint
- Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/filing-a-complaint/index.html
- Department of Education: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html