Gender Justice Awards Announced! Join us Thurs. Aug. 6th!

Gender Justice League has announced the award recipients for the 1st annual Gender Justice Awards.  The 11 award recipients and categories are as follows:

Gender Justice Awards and Honorees

The Emergence Award honors Selam Abunu, an emerging activist within the trans community, to  elevate their work and encourage ongoing community support for their future work. The Emergence Award  is honored with a $500 grant.  Selam currently works at Peace on the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS) helping unhoused LGBTQIA+ youth find stability and community.  Selam has contributed a great deal to the conversation and work in the community to address the issue of homelessness facing LGBTQIA+ youth.

 
 
The Longevity Award honors Vanessa Grandberry, a community member who has made a sustained impact in the shape of our communities through their mentorship, leadership, and ongoing advocacy on behalf of trans people. Vanessa began her career as a trans-women HIV testing resource manager at People of Color against AIDS Network in 2000. Through POCAAN, Vanessa published an informative, monthly newsletter called T-Time. In addition to her work at POCAAN, Vanessa volunteered at Lambert House, Lifelong AIDS Alliance and Youth East-Side Services..  Today, Vanessa can be found at the Center for MultiCultural Health, Vanessa continues to be an advocate for HIV/STI testing for African American men and Trans-women.
 
 
The first Solidarity Award honors Sex Workers Outreach Project Seattle and  who act in unity or mutual support with trans communities.  Sex Workers Outreach Project Seattle joined with Gender Justice League and trans community members in opposing several pieces of anti-sex worker legislation in the 2015 session, highlighting the disparate impact that so called "end demand" policies have on increasing violence against Sex Workers, making unsafe working conditions, and increasing HIV in Trans communities.  S.W.O.P Seattle also helped bring Trans Activist Monica Jones to
 
 
 
The second  Solidarity Award honors The Coalition For Inclusive Health Care's - Lisa Brodoff, Kris Hermans, and David Ward.  The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare was founded by over 30 LGBTQIA+ organizations in Washington State in conjunction with national partners to remove transition related health insurance exclusions.  The Coalition successfully repealed exclusions for:  State Employees, All Private Insurance, Washington Apple Health (Medicaid), City of Tacoma Employees, and City of Seattle employees. This work was only possible with the incredible ally ship of legal champions David Ward, Lisa Brodoff, and Jenni Wong and the support of The Pride Foundation's Kris Hermans.  Their allyship combined with the collective power of seasoned Trans activists Marsha Botzer - founder of Ingersoll Gender Center, Mitch Hunter of the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, Seth Kirby Board President of Pride Foundation and Executive Director of Tacoma Rainbow Center, and Danielle Askini Executive Director of Gender Justice League helped make Washington one of the first states to remove all health insurance exclusions governed by state law.
 
 
The Power Award honors Kshama Sawant, whose work has built the agency or political power of the  trans communities. Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant has proven herself a leader for Seattle's  trans communities through her work to high light the hate violence being faced by the LGBTQIA+  communities in Seattle.  In February, Kshama heard the call of activists and hosted a Hate Crimes Forum  at All Pilgrims Church - over 300 people attended. Since then, Kshama has used her position on the  council to continue to highlight the crisis and has been at the forefront pushing for city lead responses to  the housing crisis, homelessness crisis, and housing LGBTQIA+ youth.
 
The Resilience Award honors Kiyomi Fujikawa, a person who is building the strength and resilience within queer and trans communities of color. Kiyomi's work at API Chaya has spanned a number of programs focused on building the power and resilience of Queer and Trans communities of color to address violence and build agency. Kiyomi has also been a key contributor to the King County Trans Resource Guide and numerous arts and entertainment programs focused at QTPOC community in Seattle.
The Health Justice Award honors Sid Jordan, who acts as a leader in striving for health care justice  for trans communities.  Sid has been active in the Seattle area grassroots organizing for youth rights, queer  liberation, and racial, economic and gender justice since the mid-1990s. Most recently Sid led the King  County LGBTQ Access Project, a three-year anti-violence demonstration project focused on increasing  access to services for LGBTQ survivors of violence as well as coordinated the 2014 King County Trans*  Resource & Referral Guide. Sid has also produced media and trained health and human service providers  as part of the project Reteaching Gender & Sexuality.
 
The HIV Justice Award honors Alison Davison, whose work combats HIV stigma and addresses the  high impact HIV has on trans communities. Alison has a long history of work in social services and health  in the Northwest and Arizona. She began her professional career in Seattle at the Open Door Clinic in 1970  as Social Services director. She currently serves on the board of Ingersoll Gender Center and works as a  Medical Case Manager at Lifelong. In 2014 and 2015 - Alison helped spearhead an effort to increase  health insurance enrollment and to educate the Trans community on the removal of health insurance  exclusions.  Alison's work has helped to remove the many barriers trans people face in accessing care.

 

The Celebration Award honors Finn Cottom, whose contributions to the arts celebrates trans  identities and experiences.  Finn Cottom has become a fixture of Seattle's queer and trans literary,  comedy, and arts communities - from organizing a writers workshop, instructing at BENT, hosting Trans  Pride 2015, to helping launch one of the first trans comedy stand up showcases - Finn has breathed hope  and laughter into a movement that can sometimes feel a bit too serious.  Finn's work with youth has also  helped inspire a new generation of queer creators and celebrators!

 

The Community Award honors U.T.O.P.I.A., a group that strengthens community ties through performance, collaboration, and cultivating connectedness. Since its inception, U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle has sponsored events ranging from educational panels and workshops for Pacific Islander students and families at SSCC, the widely popular annual beauty pageant Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle, participating at the Seattle Pride Parade in downtown Seattle. U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle has provided tremendous support in fostering a sense of community by donating time, money, and other vital resources to community organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest.
 
The Zeitgeist Award honors Ro Yoon, whose work answers the current call to action within trans c  communities and sets the tone for the movement. Ro Yoon is not invisible.  Throughout her 20+ years  working with community-based, non-profits in Seattle, Ro always have a place at every table for she mobilizes  diverse communities TOGETHER with her expertise in community health & wellness. Ro's presence is an  unforgettable force that commands action with her passion for social justice and a deep understanding of  cross-cultural dynamics.  She does it all with grace and integrity.
 
 
 
Please join us in celebrating these amazing activist, organizations, and community leaders on Thursday August 6th, at Melrose Market Studios from 6pm to 10pm. Tickets for the event are available on Brown Paper Tickets and are $45.00 in advance, $55.00 at the door.

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2015 GENDER JUSTICE AWARDS – A TRANS* PRIDE / GJL FUNDRAISER

The 2015 Gender Justice Awards dinner will highlight and showcase the incredible activism of Trans and Allied Activists who have made incredible strides for Trans, Gender Queer, and Gender Non-Conforming people in the Pacific Northwest.

This year's Gender Justice Awards will be hosted by Ian Harvie comedian and actor who appeared in the Golden Globe Award winning series Transparent.

Tickets Available at: BROWN PAPER TICKETS
Doors Open: 6pm
Dinner & Program Starts: 7pm
Event Ends: 10pm

We will join together to celebrate Trans activist, performers, community members and allies working in a number of key areas:

Emerging Activist Award
HIV/AIDS Justice Award
Solidarity Award
Organization, Group, or Business Award
Health Justice Award
Public Official or Political Power Award
Artist, Writer, or Performer Award
Longevity & Self Care Award

Tickets costs are going to:
Price of a catered Meal
Space Rental
Decorations
Emcee & performers
Equipment rental

Our Views on ethical fundraising:
We ask attendees to come prepared to make an additional donation if possible, tickets are priced to be as accessible as possible for our community and are intended to cover just the cost of the event (catered food is expensive!). We recognize not everyone who attends can give, at our ticket prices we expect to only "break even". Additional Gifts will go directly to Trans* Pride Seattle 2015 and Gender Justice League's Education & Advocacy efforts.

Gender Justice League is committed to economic accessibility: 10% of seats (20) will be reserved for sliding scale attendance. Please email danni@genderjusticeleague.org if you are in need of a sliding scale ticket. Attendees can also sponsor one of these tickets.

Accessibility: GJL strives to make our spaces radically accessible. Melrose Market is wheelchair accessible.

ASL Interpretation: ASL interpretation will be provided.

Alcohol and Substance Use Policy: Gender Justice League strives to make our events accessible to all portions of our community, including young people and those of us recovering from substance abuse. As such, Gender Justice League intentionally does not serve alcohol at our events.  We believe that it is possible to embraces a sober environment without sacrificing the joy and celebration of this community event.  Those people who use substances such as medical marijuana to treat pain or other conditions are welcome to do so discretely and in locations that are in accordance with state law.

 

Smoke-Free, Low-Scent Policy: In order to make the Gender Justice Awards a healthy, accessible place for everyone, we are enacting a smoke-free, low-scent policy.

Smoke and many scents aggravate a large number of health conditions including asthma, migraines, multiple chemical sensitivities and compromised immune systems. A lot of people are forced to choose between missing out on community events or getting headaches, dizziness, sore throats, nausea, rashes and a whole bunch of other negative reactions.

Were changing that and we need your help. Please don’t smoke in or around the entranceway to this event. If you do smoke, please take a few minutes to air out afterward, and wash your hands when you get back. There will be unscented soap in the bathrooms. Also, on the day of the event please refrain from using cologne, perfume, nail polish, and other products with strong artificial fragrances or chemical odors (please do wear any topical medicine you need in order to be healthy regardless of scent). If you are not sure if a scented product will pose a problem for some people, the safe bet is to refrain from using it for this one day.

We recognize that for a lot of people, going smoke-free and low-scent is a big change. We appreciate this. And the effort on your part is a way of showing love for our community. As trans, gender queer, and gender non-conforming people we need a safe, loving space to call our own. Thank you for helping us make that place a reality.

Fragrance-free and low-scent alternatives to heavily scented personal grooming products are available, and alternatives can be made from basic ingredients for far less than even discount, mainstream products. For more information on fragrance-free and low-scent alternatives see here and here.

If you have any accessibility needs please contact Jessica Littenberg at jessical@genderjusticeleague.org


LGBTQ Hate Violence Forum A Huge Success

Gender Justice League was honored to join with Councilmember Kshama Sawant's office and 10 other LGBTQ and allied community organizations to hold a community forum on hate violence in Capitol Hill.  Since the start of 2015 - 8 trans women, 7 of them trans women of color have been murdered in the United States.  2014 saw a rash of hate violence on capitol hill including an attempted arson at Neighbors night club and the murder of two young black men in Leschi - though the crime started on Capitol Hill.  Numerous GJL members have expressed an ongoing fear of violence and lack of safety on the hill and a desire to create community based solutions.  We heard loud and clear from the community on Tuesday night - Hate Violence is a significant problem on the hill.  Community members called for concrete actions to addressing income inequality, the housing affordability crisis, LGBTQ youth homelessness, and to restore funding for mental health and human services.  Many community members shared their horrifying experiences of violence on the hill, and we were exceptionally thankful for their courage to educate.  Calls for more housing for homeless LGBTQ youth resonated loudly in the room.

For our next steps - Gender Justice League will work with our community partners to bring together a Task Force to more closely coordinate our response to victims, clarify what community based solutions we believe will bring about progress in reducing hate violence on the hill, and make recommendations to public officials about how the city, county, and state can better respond to hate violence.   What is clear is that Tuesday night's forum was the first step in an ongoing conversation about ways to address safety, livability, and hate violence in Capitol Hill.  We look forward to working with community members, elected officials, and organizations to making tangible progress in reducing hate violence on the hill.

-Gender Justice League
You can read coverage of the event in The Stranger, Capitol Hill Blog, and watch news coverage on KIRO 7, King 5, and Q13.


GJL Opposes new Anti-Prostitution Bills

Gender Justice League has joined with our colleagues at Sex Workers Outreach Project - Seattle in expressing serious concerns about the impact of two new proposed anti-prostitution bills in Washington state that would dramatically increase penalties for "soliciting a prostitute".  Senate Bills 5277 and 5048 would change sentences for conviction from up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine to 1-year in jail and a $5,000 fine along with civil forfeiture for any property used "in the commission of soliciting a prostitute" - this could include a home, computer, vehicle, cell phone, or other property.  These bills will deeply impact transgender people, 16% of whom have engaged in sex work at some point by creating unsafe conditions in Washington.

More than 10 Gender Justice League and Sex Workers Outreach Project members attended a hearing  on Thursday January 22nd  on the Bill - but were not allowed by the committee to provide testimony.  Gender Justice League has provided written testimony to the committee and the bills sponsor Sen. Kohl-Welles (D) - Ballard/Magnolia/Queen Anne.

Gender Justice League's position is consistent with that of the World Health Organization, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN AIDS,  UN WOmen, The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Open Society Foundation, The UN Special Repporteur on the Right to Health, the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington which is that these bills would create unsafe working conditions for sex workers, do little to impact the problem of human trafficking for prostitution, and increase the spread of HIV.   You can download our full testimony. Or read it bellow!

We are seeking organizational sponsors who agree with our position to sign onto our letter to legislators. Please contact Danni Askini, Executive Director through our contact us page.


Trans Health Insurance Forum a huge success

On Saturday January 17th, Gender Justice League hosted a Trans Health Insurance Forum
with the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare. The forum featured panelists and presentation
on coverage for transition related care in private insurance policies, for state employees, those
with medicare, and soon-to-be coverage in AppleCare - Washington's medicaid program. The
forum was heavily attended with over 100 people signed in!  The panel took questions from
the audience and shared resources. Make sure to check out some of our written materials
bellow:

Medicare FAQ from National Center for Trans Equality
Information from the Washington Insurance Commissioner's Office
How to file a complaint about a denial of a claim by your insurance

We will be providing more information on Apple Care's new rules for coverage once they are
finalized this spring. Stay tuned!  You can also sign up for our Newsletter to get updates as
they emerge.


Frequently Asked Questions On Washington OIC Letter on Transgender Healthcare

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON WASHINGTON INSURANCE COMMISSIONER LETTER ON TRANSGENDER HEALTHCARE

OVERVIEW
The Washington Insurance Commissioner’s office sent a letter to private insurers in Washington State on June 25th of 2014 announcing that in order to comply with provisions of the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Affordable Care Act that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, health insurance plans sold in Washington can no longer deny health care to transgender policy holders which is provided to non-transgender policy holders. Removing these outdated exclusions brings Washington up-to-date with the latest information from medical experts and will provide countless Washingtonians with access to medically necessary health care. You can read more about this announcement on the Insurance Commissioner’s Website:  www.insurance.wa.gov

WHAT IS THE INSURANCE COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE AND WHAT AUTHORITY DOES IT HAVE?
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner oversees health insurance in the state of Washington. Insurance companies must comply with the Insurance Code and Insurance Commissioner rules that implement the Insurance Code in order to sell insurance in the state. The letter is intended to serve as notice to insurers and others of the agency’s expectations about how insurers and producers must act in transacting insurance in order to comply with Washington’s non-discrimination law, in particular the Anderson-Murray non-discrimination law of 2006. The Insurance Commissioner also has the power to ensure that plans offered in the state-based healthcare exchange comply with the Affordable Care Act.

WHAT KINDS OF EXCLUSIONS DOES THE LETTER IMPACT?
We interpret the letter to mean that:

  • Health insurers cannot deny coverage of treatments for transgender policy holders if the same treatments are covered for other policy holders.
  • Health insurers may not have riders that categorically exclude for all transgender patients gender-confirming surgeries/procedures that they would cover for other diagnoses.
  • The statewide mandate for coverage of mental health services must apply to transgender patients of all ages, therefore mental health care related to gender transition should be covered by insurers.
  • The designation of male or female may not be relevant to treatment (i.e., a person cannot be denied an ovarian cancer screening on the basis that they identify as male).
  • Transgender people will have to make the same case for ‘medical necessity’ of treatment with their medical provider to their insurance company as would anyone else seeking medical treatment.
  • This letter does not guarantee any specific coverage; it does however require insurers to provide the same services to transgender people as to non-transgender people and that they treat transgender people fairly.
  • If you believe you have been discriminated against – the Insurance Commissioner’s office will assist you in filing an appeal and will investigate if the law has been broken.
  • All plans in the 2015 health market exchange will be evaluated if they contain any discriminatory exclusions to make sure they cover medically necessary services equally for non-transgender and transgender enrollees
    • For example, if an insurer covers breast reduction surgery to lessen back pain, the insurer could not deny breast reduction surgery for gender transition if the provider deemed the treatment medically necessary. If hormone therapy is covered for other policyholders, it cannot be denied for gender transition if determined to be medically necessary. On the other hand, an insurer could exclude all coverage of breast implants or penile implants. In short, Washington law requires equality in treatment.

WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK AN INSURER HAS UNFAIRLY DENIED MY CLAIM?

  1. If you are denied coverage for a treatment, you must file an appeal through the insurance provider. Your appeal may be denied by your insurance company and should include any additional steps of appealing. You must complete all levels of internal appeal with the insurer.
  2. At the same time as you are going through the appeals process, file a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner’s Office. You may receive help with your complaint from an insurance consumer advocate by calling 1-800-562-6900 or by going to this website: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/complaints-and-fraud/file-a-complaint/insurance-company/   Filing with the Insurance Commissioner’s office is important as it helps other Transgender community members – if an insurance company is a “bad apple” the insurance commissioner may receive a lot of complaints and can take additional actions with that insurer for violating state law.
  3. The Insurance Commissioner can help follow your case with your insurance company and provide additional information to you as well as examine if the company has violated state law and tell the company to fix the problem.
  4. You can also contact QLaw’s GLBT Legal Clinic or Gender Justice League for additional assistance in navigating this problem.

BUT WHAT IF THE INSURER COVERS THE SAME PROCEDURES FOR OTHERS? ISN’T THIS FLAT OUT DISCRIMINATION? 

If the insurer is denying a claim for a treatment for a transgender-related condition but allows the same treatment to others for non-transgender-related condition simply by saying “this is not covered,” then the Insurance Commissioner may use existing non-discrimination statutes to require the insurer to provide coverage for the treatment of a transgender-related condition.  The availability of this option can only be made on a case-by-case basis, as many things influence the outcome, such as terms of the policy itself, reasons the carrier denied the claim or refused to approve the treatment, coverage provided to others seeking the same treatment for other reasons, etc.  When an insurer denies a claim based on “medical necessity,” the insurance company is essentially disagreeing with a doctor about the medical necessity of a procedure. The Insurance Commissioner does not have the authority to review individual medical necessity decisions. However, because of the expectations set forth in the letter, most insurers will likely have to make a determination that a treatment is not medically necessary in order to deny coverage.  In this case you now have access to an external review process administrated by the Insurance Commissioner. A Consumer Advocate from the Insurance Commissioner’s office can assist you through this process free of charge, but the Insurance Commissioner’s office cannot make the determination of medical necessity.  The Insurance Commissioner’s Office strongly urges an insured person to participate in this process if a claim is denied on the basis of medical necessity.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PROVE MEDICAL NECESSITY?

Medical necessity is determined on a case by case basis through guidelines established by your insurer.  However, we believe that if you follow the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care version 7 you should be able to make an argument that your care is medically necessary.  While there is no guarantee that your insurance will absolutely cover your care, following the WPATH standards of care is helpful in establishing the medical necessity of your care. Discuss with your doctor or therapist what course of medical care is best in your case.  You can download the WPATH standards of care here: http://www.genderjusticeleague.org/socv7.pdf

WHY IS THIS DECISION NEEDED?
Insurance companies routinely refuse to provide coverage for basic medical care to transgender people based on their transgender status or specifically exclude transgender-related services. Nearly all insurance plans categorically excluded coverage for transgender-related medical treatment, even when that treatment (such as mental health care or hormone replacement therapy) is covered for non-transgender people. This kind of categorical exclusion is no longer permitted.

IS THIS NECESSARY MEDICAL CARE?
Our nation’s most reputable medical bodies have identified transgender health care as being medically necessary. In 2008, the American Medical Association passed a resolution supporting public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder and opposing the “exclusions of coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder when prescribed by a physician.” That same year, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution stating that the organization “opposes all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and expression and urges the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies; in 2012 the American Psychiatric Association affirmed that the organization “Urges the repeal of laws and policies that discriminate against transgender and gender variant individuals.” and “Opposes all public and private discrimination against transgender and gender variant individuals in such areas as health care, employment, housing, public accommodation, education, and licensing.”  In June 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services removed similar exclusions from the federally administered Medicare program, citing the medical necessity of this care.

WILL THIS RAISE INSURANCE RATES?
Past experience offers helpful information here. In 2012, the City of Seattle removed exclusions, and Seattle has seen no significant cost impact to their health plan. Similarly, the City of Portland, Oregon has estimated the premium impact to be .08%. The City and County of San Francisco removed exclusions from their employee benefits plan in 2001 and have not seen any discernible increase in health care costs. Six States including Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have all required insurers to remove these exclusions, with little impact to underlying insurance rates.

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID?
Recently Medicare announced that it was removing categorical exclusions in health care. This decision will have no impact on Medicare which is managed by the Federal Government. Medicaid is a state administered public insurance program and this letter will not apply to Medicaid because the program is regulated by a different state agency. The Coalition is working with the Health Care Authority to broaden Medicaid eligibility to include transition related health care. What is clear is that the letter will apply to all private insurance companies that operate in Washington.  The Coalition for Inclusive Health Care and transgender community leaders will continue working together to increase access to medically necessary care for all Washingtonians.

WHAT ABOUT FOR STATE EMPLOYEES?
The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare has been working with the State Public Employees Benefits Board to bring inclusive coverage for state employees. We are optimistic the PEBB will remove transgender health exclusions, but no final decision has been made yet. If you have questions about State Employees or have experienced a denial letter – please reach out to the coalition.

WHAT ABOUT FOR SELF-INSURED PLANS?
Some large employers self-insure, meaning they pay insurance claims themselves. These self-insured plans are often administered by large insurance companies – so it may be difficult to know if your company has a self-insured plan -- but these plans are primarily at very large employers (more than 500 employees). Self-Insured Plans are governed by a Federal law called ERISA, which means that the Insurance Commissioner’s letter does not apply to those plans.  Many Self-Insured employers are working on removing these discriminatory exclusions.  Please contact the Coalition if you need help working with your employer to get coverage under a self-insured plan.

WHO ELSE IS PROVIDING THIS COVERAGE AND WHY?
Currently, 25% of Fortune 100 Companies and many Washington businesses offer inclusive health care, including healthcare for transgender employees. These businesses believe that providing all employees with the medically-necessary care they need to be healthy and productive is not just good for employees and their families, they know it is good for business.

Washington businesses that offer transgender-related coverage to their employees include: Washington Education Association, Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Progressive Insurance, Starbucks, Alcatel-Lucent, American Express, Ameriprise Financial, AT&T, Bank of America, Chrysler Motors, IBM, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, KPMG, Kraft Foods, McGraw- Hill, and State Farm.

You can download a PDF of this FAQ.
You can read the OIC Letter on their website.


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