Seattle, WA – “Gender Justice League joins our colleagues around the country in expressing our disappointment in today’s Supreme Court ruling.” Said Danni Askini, Executive Director of Gender Justice League “this ruling, however, is extremely limited in scope, affecting only one individual, and in no way represents a rollback of the rights of LGBTQI+ people nationally.”
“In today’s ruling, the Supreme Court narrowly overturned the Colorado Human Right’s commission’s ruling in the Masterpiece Bakery case.” Said Sophia Lee, Gender Justice League’s board chair, “The ruling by the Supreme Court focused on the fairness of the initial trial that Mr. Phillips received in front of the Colorado Human Right’s Commission, not on the underlying facts at hand.”
The court’s ruling today relied on statements by the commission that expressed disregard of Mr. Phillips‘ religious beliefs, and therefore the court vacated the initial hearing was unfair. The court, however, did not touch on the underlying question of religious refusal of service. In fact, the court noted in its opinion that,
“Nevertheless, while those religious and philosophical objections are protected, it is a general rule that such objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law”
“Today the court reaffirmed that state laws requiring all people to be served equally in places of public accommodations, including LGBTQI+ people must be respected and upheld regardless of a person’s religious beliefs,” said Elayne Wylie, Deputy Director of Gender Justice League., “While we are disappointed for the couple who were refused service in Colorado, this ruling will in no way impact the laws here in Washington State which clearly spell out that all people including transgender and non-binary people, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and queer people must be treated with dignity, respect, and treated equally in all places of public accommodations.”
Trans Pride Seattle is an annual event organized by Gender Justice League in association with local organizations who support the Seattle-area trans and gender diverse community.
Washington DOH Passes Groundbreaking Rule Creating a Third Gender Option for Birth Certificates
Rule creates gender marker “X” for those who identify as a gender that is not exclusively male or female
SEATTLE, WASH. – Today, the Washington State Department of Health passed a new rule that simplifies the process for a person to change the gender listed on their birth certificate. The rule also creates a gender marker X, which represents a gender that is not exclusively male or female (such as nonbinary, intersex, agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, transgender, Two Spirit, and others). Washington is one of only 3 states and Washington D.C. to legally recognize people outside the gender binary.
Gender equity and transgender rights advocates —including Gender Justice League, Legal Voice, Pride Foundation, and Ingersoll Gender Center— praised the DOH for taking steps to recognize all Washingtonians as who they are.
“This is a monumental step by the state to recognize that there are thousands of Washingtonians who are neither male nor female,” said Jeremiah Allen Director of TRANSform Washington. “This follows a growing international recognition of the rights of indigenous and gender diverse people to be recognized fully for who they are by their governments.”
Currently, state law requires either a court order or a doctor's letter if a person needs to change the gender listed on their birth certificate. Even then, the gender options are restricted to male and female. Under the new rule, adults will have the right to self-attest to the gender marker change, without a court order or doctor’s letter. However, minors will still need a statement from an approved health care provider, and a parent or legal guardian will need to complete the application.
“We know that binary gender markers on government documents, including birth certificates, are insufficient both as a means to accurately reflect gender and to ensure equality,” said Danni Askini, Executive Director of Gender Justice League. “Today, the Department of Health took a critical step in eliminating social and legal barriers that undermine the health, safety, and equality of people because of their gender.”
The alternative to the binary designations applies only to minors and adults who apply to update their birth certificates. The gender marker options for newborns will still be male and female and undetermined. Further, the process for updating gender markers on other state identification—such as a driver license or ID card—remains unchanged.
“There are, of course, some logistics to work out as the Department of Health is now the only state agency that allows a gender marker that is not strictly male or female,” says Karter Booher, Executive Director of Ingersoll Gender Center. “The U.S. Department of State, which controls the passport process, also doesn’t recognize genders outside the gender binary. We are celebrating this initial victory, and looking forward to a multi-year, multi-agency effort to recognize people of all genders.”
More information on the rule can be found here: https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/BirthDeathMarriageandDivorce/RuleMaking
Gender Justice League is Washington State’s civil and human rights organization on gender and sexuality whose work seeks to empower and transform our communities into places where people of all genders and sexualities can live their lives safely, true to themselves, and free from discrimination.
Legal Voice is a progressive feminist organization using the power of the law to make positive change for women and girls in the Northwest. Legal Voice uses ground-breaking litigation, legislative advocacy, and community education to fight gender oppression and injustice in the legal system.
Ingersoll Gender Center that has provided support groups for the Seattle trans and gender diverse community for 40 years and Pride Foundation’s Transform Washington campaign, that is focused on the lives and experiences of transgender and gender diverse people, with an emphasis on communities of color.
TRANSform Washington is a public education campaign celebrating the dignity, diversity, and humanity of transgender and gender diverse people. We believe all Washingtonians deserve to be safe, to be their true selves, and to live free from discrimination. TRANSform Washington is supported by Pride Foundation.
Recently Gender Justice League received a report of sexual harassment against a member of our board of directors.
This report comes at a time when there has been a powerful movement of people coming forward to confront sexual harassment and abuse by people in power throughout our country. As an organization founded by and for survivors of gender based violence we take claims of sexual harassment extremely seriously. As an organization we deeply believe in a transparent community accountability process and we also believe in restorative justice as an approach to harms when possible. We have worked hard to protect the identity of the survivor, to listen with open hearts and willingness to learn and willingness to be wrong, but also to engage in a process that has sought truth through a transparent, collaborative, and open process. We believe that to move towards healing, those who have done harm need to be held accountable while not being banished from our communities - that instances of harassment can point to organizational or cultural challenges that need to be addressed. As gender diverse, trans, and non-binary people - we know how deadly isolation can be and how it can itself reinforce the systems of power that often keep abusers in place, we also know that binary thinking doesn't help us to hold the complexities that humans embody.
We have conducted an investigation of the claims that have been made and produced a report based on that investigation.
The Gender Justice League board member who has been accused of sexual harassment has been fully transparent in participating with our investigation. Our investigation was completed by our board treasurer, board secretary, and our Executive Director who has experience in investigating sexual harassment complaints. As part of our belief in community accountability - we have asked this person to allow us to share the 21 page investigative report that was produced by board officers and staff and presented to our board of directors and they have agreed we would urge you to read it.
How did we conduct our investigation?
We reviewed all communications through text message, email, Facebook messenger, along with the accused's contact with all staff, volunteers, and board members through email and text message. We interviewed 9 volunteers who worked closely with the accused, all staff and board members in an attempt to discover a pattern or practice of sexual harassment.
We have not been able to contact the accuser who has made these accusations after making attempts to reach them both directly and indirectly. We are still trying and are open to communicating with them to find a resolution and healing if that is what is desired, but every attempt to contact this party has failed despite them reaching out to dozens of third parties. Additionally this person has expressed unwillingness to participate in our community accountability process - while we believe that is unfortunate, we understand that all survivors deserve a right to their own process of healing. We still felt a clear obligated to move forward with our investigation given the information that they have shared publicly with third parties regardless of their participation, our report concludes that investigation.
What did we find?
We found that a board member sent a flirtatious image and made a flirtatious comment on Facebook messenger that was in violation of our professional conduct policy and that may have violated our sexual harassment policy. We did not however find a pattern or practice by this individual, nor did we find there were any severe or serious events of sexual harassment conducted by this person. We also did not find evidence that this person used their position on our board to intimidate, coerce, or conceal any actions against the accuser. At the time of the event, the accuser and accused occupied the same position and held the same power within the organization and their relationship was one as peers.
We also found that the incident was never mentioned to other board members, staff, or volunteers after it happened. The initial instance of the incident being reported was right after the accuser was asked to resign from the board due to well documented and repeated forms of anti-semitic and gender based harassment against volunteers, staff, and board members who were Jewish. Specifically, the accusation arose shortly after the accuser demanded monetary compensation for “mileage reimbursement” and offered to “go away quietly” if given that money. The mileage was for volunteering (before becoming a board member), and not in keeping with our organizational policies. The accused expressed that such a “payout” would not be possible, given that no prior agreement had existed.
Additionally, this person made racist statements and created fake accounts using anti-Korean names such as "Cho-Kim" (choke him) to target the accused which causes us serious concern about this person's intentions in raising these claims and demanding the resignation of a transgender person of color.
What was the sequence of events?
On October 31st we received a forwarded email from a trusted community partner that made a number of claims about a board member being a "sexual predator" and demanding that they resign. Following this, we opened an investigation into the complaint as if we had received it through official channels. The accused party had already disclosed the interaction to our board of directors in August 2017 following the resignation from our board of the accuser. Staff and board members were already aware of the situation and the organization and board member had already taken steps to address it with the accused. However, we believed a more thorough investigation would help us better understand the sequence of events and circumstances that lead to this interaction. More importantly, it could help point to culture and policy changes within the organization that could helpful. We asked the accused to allow us full access to their personal and GJL related emails, their Facebook account and messenger, text messages, and any other forms of contact with staff, volunteers, or board members. The board member fully and completely complied with our requests and made no attempts to conceal or deny the interaction.
Following the completion of our investigation we are recommended the following to our board of directors who adopted our recommendations:
- All board and staff undergo mandatory sexual harassment training in the next 90 days.
- The board of directors adopt a code of conduct for board members to clarify what the organization considers professional conduct.
- The board members undergo an anti-harassment training annually, and any new members undergo an anti-harassment training within 90 days
Back in August, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) filed a statement of inquiry to add an option for "non-binary" on Washington birth certificates. Washington DOH has released their first draft of a rule and we have a Tuesday 9/26 deadline for comments! We have drafted a template letter you can copy and paste into an email and edit to make your voice in support heard in this process.
To take action simply copy and paste the following script to email@example.com:
Re: Birth Certificate Gender Change Rule Making – SUPPORT
I am writing to you in support of Washington State's Birth Certificate Gender Change Rule Making Regulatory change. Sex designations and gender identity are an issue of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and should not be limited to “male” and “female” when those designations do not accurately represent 35% of all gender diverse people according to the 2015 US Trans Survey which reached more than 27,000 participants.
People should be allowed to attest to their own gender identity without confirmation from third parties. Many people do not have access to an understanding health care provider or notary public. DOH must ensure that everyone has the same access to accurate identification and the ability to elect a not specified or non-binary gender designation. The unique needs of two-spirit, people of color, incarcerated persons and foster youth should be taken into careful consideration in this process. Self-attestation is the most accurate method of ensuring that the sex designation on a birth certificate matches the individual which is the purpose of identification.
This regulatory change represents a critical need for many two-spirit, non-binary, trans, and intersex people: as of right now, Washington birth certificates do not recognize the existence of people whose gender does not fit the traditional definitions of “male” and “female.” Thank you for recognizing that need and proposing this regulatory change. I strongly support the adoption of a regulatory change to provide for a gender marker other than “male” or “female.”
This last Monday, these comments were submitted to the Washington State Department of Health.
"Gender Justice League along with Ingersoll Gender Center, National Center for Transgender
Equality, Trans United, Legal Voice, Seattle Men’s and Women’s Chorus, LGBTQ Allyship,
Greater Seattle Business Association, Equal Rights Washington, Third Gender Washington,
Seattle Counseling Services, and Entre Hermanos would like to submit the following principals
to the Washington State Department of Health Vital Statistics office for your consideration when
considering rule making regarding sex designation / gender marker changes on Washington
"Our organizations serve several thousand two-spirit, non-binary, trans, and gender diverse
though out Washington State. On behalf of our clients and community we are pleased that the
Washington Department of Health has recognized the need for the State of Washington to
expand sex designations beyond a binary male/female and is considering opening a rulemaking
process to reevaluate the current policies and consider new procedures for changes of sex
designation on birth certificates. We humbly submit the following commentary on behalf of the
undersigned organizations on what we believe are some core principals the Washington
Department of Health should consider when undertaking this rulemaking process."
Principles in crafting a new policy on sex designations on birth certificates:
1. Washingtonians should be allowed to decide their sex or gender identity without
confirmation from third parties. We believe Washingtonians should not have to pay
money to private physicians or therapists, undergo unnecessary medical or mental
health treatment, or possibly be coercively made to undergo treatments they might not
otherwise choose by third parties. This may include forced sterilization in some cases.
We believe the state should abandon requiring physician or therapist certification letters
of “gender change”. Self-attestation is the most accurate method of ensuring that the sex
designation on a birth certificate matches the individual. There is currently no clear
statutory definition of sex in Washington or clarity about what the designations “male” or
“female” mean, clinicians are no more expert in ascertaining a client’s sex than the client
themselves. Relying on outdated indicators such as a doctor’s attesting to a patient’s
primary or secondary sex characteristics is an unnecessarily invasive and often
dehumanizing process that does not further any legitimate state interest. We believe
Washingtonians are competent in ascertaining the most appropriate sex designation on
their birth certificates."
View all comments here: WA Birth Certification Comments
Newly released Washington-specific data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS)i
shows that 37 percent of transgender Washingtonians have experienced homelessness in their
lifetimes and 28 percent live in poverty.
The USTS, a nationwide survey of nearly 28,000 respondents, had 1,667 respondents living in
Washington State. According to the recently released report, trans Washingtonians face striking
levels of police abuse, as well as mistreatment in schools, the workplace and health care
settings. “These results come as no surprise,” said Yani Robinson, Program Manager for
Gender Justice League. “These numbers reflect what we hear from trans community members,
who often feel profiled and harassed or mistreated by police officers.”
On Tuesday August 15, local community organizations Gender Justice League, Ingersoll
Gender Center, and TRANSform Washington will hold a press conference at 6PM followed by a
community meeting at Southside Commons 3518 S Edmunds St, Seattle, WA 98118 from 6:30
to 8PM. Community leaders will share and discuss results from four key areas of pressing
concern: housing, education, police interaction, and healthcare.ii
“This report confirms what we already know from helping trans and gender nonconforming
people navigate housing, employment and healthcare challenges for the past four decades;
transgender and gender nonconforming Washingtonians face higher reported rates of
discrimination than other trans communities across the country,” said Karter Booher, Executive
Director of Ingersoll Gender Center. “After years of legislative attacks and two ballot measure
attempts, we have a long way to go in Seattle and across the State of Washington to support
transgender and gender nonconforming communities.”
Press, elected officials, community leaders, and allies are all invited to attend the event. Trans
community leaders will be available for press questions.
The event is hosted by Gender Justice League, a trans justice organization that advocates for
trans and gender diverse people throughout Washington State, Ingersoll Gender Center, which
has been building community, connecting folks to resources and advocating for our transgender
and gender nonconforming communities for over four decades, and Pride Foundation’s
TRANSform Washington campaign, which is focused on the lives and experiences of
transgender and gender diverse people, with an emphasis on communities of color.