By Mahkyra Gaines, Programs Coordinator
In the 2021 legislative year, Gender Justice League has been hard at work advocating for policies that make WA State safer for trans and gender diverse people, especially BIPOC, with special focus on housing, healthcare, and police accountability.
While policy reform is a piece from a more extensive process in the liberation of oppressed people, stakeholders in our local governments hold responsibility in alleviating equity gaps for people of color, people with disabilities, low-income families, and trans communities now. Gender Justice League recognizes the importance and power in communities building relationships with state representatives and local journalist media, and engaging in collective calls to action for our underrepresented communities.
This year, GJL has convened and supported an advocacy team of strong trans and gender diverse advocates from diverse backgrounds, all with lived experience with houselessness, to help shape our policy agenda and advocate for our basic human need of housing. Our team members have created lasting connections with communities as leaders and active agents of change. In this past legislative session, the team has participated in GLAAD media trainings to hone skills around advocacy with media outlets; created a policy priority agenda; tracked and advocated for bills aligned with our values; and participated in dedicated weekly meetings to discuss updates and plans of action to ensure the victory of the policies our communities need to survive and thrive. Together, we saw 71% of our tracked bills pass through their chambers and make their way towards the governor's desk.
We are proud to share that SHB1070—which permits King County to use a 1% tax revenue increase towards purchasing buildings for housing programs—was successful this legislative session. Now, alongside WA Black Trans Task Force, Gender Justice League will be advocating for the Department of Commerce to allocate a portion of this funding to trans-specific housing, prioritizing Black trans communities.
In collaboration with other great leaders from our collective community, like Mattie Mooney and Catherine West, we have made great strides in empowering our state as a welcoming and inclusive landscape for all people. Notably, we achieved the passage of SB5313—The Gender Affirming Care Act—that cast away institutional barriers for trans and gender diverse people seeking gender affirming care. Historically, healthcare insurance companies have used terminology like "cosmetic" against trans people in our journeys to live fully and authentically. With the passage of SB5313, the Health Care Authority (HCA) can no longer deny coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming treatment.
We saw many more bills of broad range in political subjects pass through this year's legislative session, including Washington Coalition for Police Accountability bills HB1054, SHB1310, SB5051, and HB1267. HB1054 prohibits police from using life-threatening tactics such as choke-holds, no-knock warrants, bans police officers from acquiring specific military equipment, and establishes guidelines for the use of tear gas. SHB1310 sets a civil standard for peace officers and prioritizes de-escalation. SB5051 will strengthen community oversight of police activity. HB1267 creates an independent office of investigations that will conduct fair competent investigations in police use of force incidents. Together, these bills work as partners in prioritizing the sacredness of human life, and holding officers accountable to the community when tragedy transpires.
Gender Justice League is proud of the momentum created during this legislative session, getting us ever closer to our larger goals of decriminalization and building safer communities with and alongside trans communities of color, people with disabilities, sex workers, and other marginalized groups—allowing us to live authentically, safely, and freely.