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For Trans People, It’s Difficult and Costly to Update an ID. But It Can Also Be Dangerous Not To.

A confusing web of state policies determine if and how a trans person can update their IDs. And not doing so can increase the risk of discrimination and violence.

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This article is republished from ProPublica under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license. Read the original article.

Ranjani Chakraborty, Lucas Waldron and Ken Schwencke from ProPublica contributed to this story.

Voting. Boarding a plane. Driving. Buying a drink. Filling out paperwork for a new job. These are all situations where showing a driver’s license or state-issued ID can be nerve-wracking or even dangerous for transgender people.

If a person’s picture, name or sex listed on an ID don’t match the way they present themselves, they may be denied services, harassed and even attacked.

new investigation by ProPublica found that when many transgender people are killed, local law enforcement often only use the name and sex listed on that person’s ID while investigating the murder. Across the nation, we found, some 65 different law enforcement agencies have investigated murders of transgender people since Jan. 1, 2015. And in 74 of 85 cases, victims were identified by names or genders they had abandoned in their daily lives.

This is called deadnaming and becomes a problem when police investigate these crimes. Many people who may know the victim will only know the name they used in their daily life.

But updating a name or gender marker — that little M or F on an ID — can be incredibly complicated. The laws across the United States that determine how a transgender person can update their IDs are confusing and often contain onerous requirements. In some states, trans people are required to have expensive and irreversible surgeries just to make that change on their ID.

These obstacles can be debilitating — and costly — for people who experience discrimination simply for being transgender. And these obstacles can delay justice.

For those that do get their gender marker updated, it can be life-changing. Trystlynn Barber, a trans woman in Reidsville, Georgia, told us she collapsed by her mailbox and cried when she got her updated birth certificate in the mail. “It’s the most amazing feeling,” she said.

In our latest Vox and ProPublica collaboration, we see how burdensome requirements for updating IDs have affected two transgender women in the South.

This story is the 12th installment in Vox’s collaboration with ProPublica. You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And sign up here for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to get more stories like this right in your inbox as soon as they are published.

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. We dig deep into important issues, shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust — and we stick with those issues as long as it takes to hold power to account.

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Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Releases Plan for LGBTQ Equality

“We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love,” the Democratic presidential candidate says in offering his sixth major policy proposal.

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Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's supporters, including one holding a LGBTQ Pride flag, gather ahead of a rally in El Paso in March. Photo credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre / The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a proposal Wednesday morning to achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans and reinstate protections abandoned by President Donald Trump.

The plan — O’Rourke’s sixth major policy rollout — is heavy on executive actions he would pursue to support the LGBTQ community. It also prescribes legislation he would champion and steps that can be taken on the global stage.

“We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love,” the former El Paso congressman said in a statement on the proposal, which comes amid LGBTQ Pride Month and arrived hours before he was set to lead a “Pride Run” in New York City.

Among the executive actions that O’Rourke would take: overturning Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, reversing the “deploy or get out” policy that critics say discriminates against HIV-positive service members, and bringing back U.S. Education Department guidance that sought to protect LGBTQ students. O’Rourke would also act to crack down on conversion therapy, update blood donation requirements for LGBTQ people, increase LGBTQ representation in the census and install more pro-LGBTQ people in government, especially in the judiciary.

O’Rourke’s plan puts an emphasis on protecting transgender people — specifically transgender women of color — calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate crimes against them and making sure law enforcement agencies get the right training to respond. Dallas in particular has been roiled by a recent string of slayings involving transgender women of color.

When it comes to legislation, O’Rourke backs measures such as the Equality Act, a sweeping bill passed last month by the Democratic-led House that would overhaul the Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ Americans. O’Rourke also wants to make sure LGBTQ people have equal access to health care and insurance as part of any universal health care system that his administration would pursue in Congress.

And on the international front, O’Rourke proposes things like collaborating with allies to craft a global treaty through the International Law Commission of the United Nations that would shield LGBTQ people from persecution. O’Rourke also would create a “special envoy for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people” in the U.S. State Department.

Looking to stand out as his poll numbers remain low, O’Rourke has been producing policy papers at a steady rate. He previously released proposals on climate change, abortion rights, criminal justice, voting rights and immigration.

Immigration continues to be a focus in O’Rourke’s latest plan. His proposed executive actions include clarifying that LGBTQ people fleeing persecution are a “vulnerable population” that can use the U.S. asylum process.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Dallas

Dallas Transgender Community on Edge in the Midst of Violent Attacks

Muhlaysia Booker’s death is just one of a string of killings and violent attacks on black transgender women in Dallas.

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Muhlaysia Booker. Photo courtesy: Facebook

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

In late May, hundreds of mourners packed a church in the heart of the Dallas LGBTQ community to remember the life of Muhlaysia Booker. The transgender 22-year-old was shot and killed in May, her body found on a street in Far East Dallas.

Her death came just a month after she was brutally beaten in an incident that was captured on cellphone video that went viral on social media.

Those who knew Booker said she was unapologetic about being transgender — about being herself.

Jazmine Bandz, a black trans woman who was close to Booker, had a message for those who gathered.

“I just ask our community, whether it’s the black community, the human community, the aliens, and whoever else is here,” she said as the crowd laughed. “If you see somebody trans, do not make it hard for them because we already live a life full of pain.”

Booker’s death is just one of a string of killings and violent attacks on black transgender women in Dallas.

Last fall, 29-year-old Brittany White was found shot to death in a car in southeast Dallas. And on June 1, the body of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey was pulled from White Rock Lake.

They join a list of other transgender women who have been killed in North Texas in years past.

Many of these cases are still open. In 2013, 34-year-old Artegus Madden was found shot in her home in Savannah, a small town east of Denton. In 2015, 22-year-old Shade Schuler was found shot to death.

Transgender people in Dallas say this violence is scary, but they’re trying not to live in fear. Naomi Green, a black transgender woman, helped lead the support effort for Booker following the filmed attack in April.

“Silence is agreeance,” Green said. “I’m always outspoken and speaking the truth. I don’t fear what can come of all of this. I continue to live my life every day.”

Dallas police say they’re looking into possible connections between the recent killings, as well as a non-fatal stabbing of a 26-year-old transgender woman in April.

At a press conference this week, Dallas Police chief U. Renee Hall said the department reached out to the FBI and is asking the community to come forward with any information.

Bandz, who spoke at Booker’s funeral, asked Hall at the conference about the recent violence. “What are we going to do to … stop the violence against people like me?”

Hall answered: “That’s our goal: to provide safety to each and every person in the community.”

Violence against transgender people has been happening across the country in recent months. The Human Rights Campaign is referring to this violence as a national crisis. In April in Ohio, 21-year-old Claire Legato, a black transgender woman, was shot in the head and died from her injuries. In Philadelphia, 40-year-old Michelle “Tamika” Washington, also a black transgender woman, was fatally shot in May.

Nationwide, at least seven transgender people have been killed this year — and all were black trans women, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Over the last several years, over three-quarters of transgender people killed were black trans women.

The average life expectancy for a transgender woman of color is the early 30s.

Kirk Myers is founder of Abounding Prosperity, a Dallas nonprofit that addresses economic and social disparities facing African-Americans, with an emphasis on the black LGBTQ community. He said the statistics are unacceptable, more so considering the role that trans women of color have played in LGBTQ history.

Two trans women of color actually helped start the gay rights movement. Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latina trans woman, sparked the Stonewall Inn uprising 50 years ago in New York City.

“A lot of the larger LGBTQ community is enjoying the benefits of the struggles of trans women,” Myers said. “It is unfortunate that today trans women are, in some regards, no further along than they were then… in most regards.”

Transgender people face many hurdles. They often aren’t accepted by their families. The suicide rate is disproportionately high, and they face marginalization and employment discrimination. The Human Rights Campaign estimates that the unemployment rate among transgender people is three times that of the general population. And, more than 1 in 3 report living in poverty.

In addition to already existing homophobia and transphobia, there has been legislation proposed at both the state and federal level targeting transgender people, such as so-called “bathroom bills” and the military ban. Many transgender people also face harassment and abuse from law enforcement.

All of these circumstances push many trans women into sex work to survive.

“You are dealing with the stigma and the transphobia and homophobia,” Naomi Green, who also works at Abounding Prosperity, said. “… and if you don’t have a legal name change, it’s hard to get a job, or you can’t get a job. Honestly even, they refuse to provide services just because you’re trans.”

Leslie McMurray is transgender education and advocacy coordinator at the Resource Center, an LGBTQ organization in Dallas. She’s also trans.

“We have to offer black trans women something better than sex work to get by, ” she said. “Because they deserve more than that, they deserve equal opportunity, equal employment, they should be able to work as administrative assistants, and airline pilots, and physician assistants, and anything that their time and talent will take them to do.”

Careers that transgender women like Brittany White, Muhlaysia Booker and Chynal Lindsey didn’t have the chance to pursue.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by KERA News.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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86th TX Lege

Texas House Passes Religious Liberty Bill Amid LGBTQ Caucus’ Objections

What started as a sweeping religious refusals bill has been significantly watered down as it moves through the Texas Legislature. But LGBTQ advocates still fiercely oppose it, saying it perpetuates hateful rhetoric.

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State Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton, spoke against Senate Bill 1978 on the House floor Monday. Photo credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Over the tearful opposition of the Legislature’s first-ever LGBTQ Caucus and several failed attempts at a procedural block, the Texas House passed a religious liberty bill Monday that LGBTQ advocates fear would license discrimination against their communities. 

When the lower chamber first considered the bill just over a week ago, the LGBTQ Caucus torpedoed it with a procedural move. This time, an attempt to do the same failed, as did emotional exhortations from the five women who make up the caucus.

After two hours of debate, Senate Bill 1978 — which prohibits government entities from punishing individuals or organizations for their “membership in, affiliation with, or contribution … to a religious organization” — passed on a nearly party-line preliminary vote, 79-62. If the House grants formal approval and the Senate agrees to a change made on the lower chamber’s floor Monday, the bill will head to the governor.

“This bill is going to pass; let’s face it,” state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said from the front of the chamber minutes before her colleagues cast their votes. “It’s been cloaked in religious freedom, but the genesis, the nexus of this bill, is in hatred.”

When the bill was first filed, it contained sweeping religious refusals language that had the potential to gut the few existing protections for gay communities, hailing from a national sweep of anti-LGBTQ model legislation. As it’s made its way through the Legislature, the bill has been progressively stripped of its most controversial provisions, leaving a version that largely codifies existing legal protections: freedom of religion and freedom of association.

On Monday, House sponsor Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, weakened the measure further, removing a provision that would have empowered the Texas attorney general to bring lawsuits against governmental entities accused of religious discrimination.

Krause said removing the provision was a show of “good faith,” as it had proved a “big sticking point” with opponents of the bill. Given the changes he described as efforts to compromise, Krause said he was surprised at the level of opposition to the measure.

“Look at the language in this bill,” Krause said. “There is nothing discriminatory in the language. … There is nothing discriminatory in the intent.”

But despite the revisions, the bill “perpetuates the rhetoric that leads to discrimination, to hate and ultimately bullying that leads to the consequence of people dying,” said state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, who chairs the LGBTQ Caucus.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who lobbed an unsuccessful point of order aimed at killing the bill, questioned Krause for some 30 minutes about how the bill might spark discrimination. And each member of the newly formed LGBTQ Caucus spoke against the bill, several of them emotionally, just before the House voted.

One member of the caucus, state Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas, tried and failed to amend the bill with language that would have protected LGBTQ communities against discrimination from employers and the government. Currently, there is no state law that explicitly prohibits employers from firing workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but some cities have codified those protections at the local level.

Her amendment failed 65-76.

With emotional appeals looking unlikely to change minds, several LGBTQ Caucus members tried to persuade their colleagues to oppose the bill out of practicality — telling them, sometimes subtly and at times directly, that a vote for this bill could hurt their reelection chances in 2020.

“Members, this bill is here, being debated on the floor today, to make LGBTQ Texans feel less than, to make us feel attacked by our government,” said state Rep. Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat and freshman member of the LGBTQ Caucus. “We are living in history, members. Attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have changed rapidly over the past few decades. Young Texans in particular are overwhelmingly accepting of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Then she put a finer point on it. “You don’t need this vote,” Zwiener said.

Minutes later, the bill passed, with just one Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston, voting against it. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who has said he supports the bill, did not cast a vote, as is customary.

The bill was revived in the Texas Senate last week after the LGBTQ Caucus effectively kept it from passing earlier this month.

Proponents have said it is necessary to reaffirm protections based on religion, citing incidents like the San Antonio City Council’s decision earlier this year to prohibit Chick-fil-A from opening in the city’s airport, with one council member citing the franchise’s “anti-LGBTQ behavior.” Some supporters of the bill labeled it the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill.” Krause said no business should be discriminated against based on its donations to religious organizations. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has long cast himself as a crusader for religious liberty, launched an investigation into the city’s actions.

Proponents and detractors acknowledged that the bill is likely to spark activity in the courts. Krause said that even without a provision empowering the attorney general to sue, individuals and organizations have a private cause of action under the bill — and can always look to groups like the First Liberty Institute, a law firm that crusades for religious liberty.

Opponents, meanwhile, emphasized that challenges to the law would mean major costs to the state.

“I have no doubt that if passed, SB 1978 will be fought in the courts at every level and at great expense to the taxpayers. To vote yes today is to put your signature on that invoice,” said state Rep. Julie Johnson, the Dallas Democrat who successfully sank the bill in its first appearance on the House floor earlier this month. “The underlying message remains the same — and that message poisons this state. It sends the message that Texas is not open and welcoming to all.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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