Transgender people are members of every community here in Utah. But unlike some other LGB groups, trans individuals face unique challenges that make it harder to be their authentic selves.
For many transgender people, everyday routines—from using public transportation to showing ID—can be incredibly stressful. The challenges become even greater when transgender Utahns have to navigate important life activities like interviewing for jobs, accessing medical care, gaining education in schools, filling out employment or housing applications, or receiving fair treatment in any gender-segregated facility or government agency.
In Utah, two out of every ten people know they know a transgender person, compared to eight out of every ten Utahns who know a gay, lesbian or bisexual person. This leaves our transgender population vulnerable because it’s a human response to fear what we don't know. Sometimes, this fear leads to discrimination, harassment, and even violence.
Despite these challenges, we’re making progress on a wide range of issues, including:
- safer school laws
- hate crime laws
- and non-discrimination laws
These laws help many transgender people support themselves and their families, live more safely and participate more fully in their communities. In 2015, we successfully advocated for a historic LGBT anti-discrimination law, SB 296. This law makes it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate against LGBTQ people in housing or employment simply for being who they are.
But we still have more work to do. We’re advocating for policy changes on critical issues that affect trans people’s everyday lives, including:
- access to health care & insurance coverage
- and gender-neutral restrooms
Transgender Health Care & Insurance Coverage
Like many laws that affect trans people, whether you can access health care depends on what state you live in. If you’re a trans person living in California or New York—for example—chances are you’ll be able to access the medical care you need. That’s because both of these states have laws that require insurance companies to cover medical services for trans people.
But in Utah, insurance companies don’t cover critical health services. Instead, insurance companies are legally allowed to deny coverage for specific conditions and treatments that trans people need. Utah’s laws also make it difficult for health care professionals to provide the best care they can.
Medical groups like the American Medical Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health support insurance coverage for trans-related health care. Treatments like hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery are medically necessary, just like treatments for diabetes or heart disease. Some lawmakers, employers, and insurance companies argue that it costs too much money to provide medical care for trans people. In reality, studies show that providing medical services is cost-effective, especially since medical services reduce the need for therapy and mental health services down the road.
Providing insurance coverage for transgender health services is the right thing to do, any way you look at it.
Gender-Neutral Public Restrooms
Like lots of everyday routines that many people take for granted, being able to use the restroom that matches your gender identity can be a stressful experience for trans people. Some states—including California, Nevada, and 16 others—guarantee trans individuals’ equal access to public accommodations. One of these accommodations is the right to use restrooms that match your gender identity.
But in Utah, it’s a different story. Utah doesn’t have any laws that restrict access to public accommodations per se. But our state also doesn’t have any laws that guarantee protection for our trans community.
We believe gender-neutral restrooms are no different from other laws that provide basic respect for LGBTQ groups. Being able to use the single-occupancy bathroom stall you choose is common-sense policy. It also guarantees the basic dignity and comfort we all deserve. That’s why we’re working to advocate for inclusion within the state’s existing public accommodations laws so gender identity will never stand in the way of trans people’s right to access public services.
Violence Against the Trans Community
Trans Utahns pay an unacceptably high price just for being who they are. Around the country, trans people face threats to their safety including violence and even death. Violence against trans individuals in the U.S. is at a historic high. But it’s trans women of color who are most often the victims of this violence. They face racism, sexism, and transphobia at the same time.
The threat of violence is even greater for low-income trans women of color. This shows how important it is for us to understand how race, gender, and socio-economic status intersect and place some people at greater risk. It’s also our responsibility to advocate for racial and economic justice so low-income trans women have access to the vital services they need. Services like health care, housing, and education can reduce some of this danger so trans Utahns can live in safer environments.
We’re advocating for a revised hate crimes statute that will protect all Utahns regardless of race, religion, nation of origin, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Strengthening Utah’s hate crimes laws will give more meaningful protection to trans individuals.
- Negotiating for Inclusive Health Insurance Coverage (Transgender Law Center)
- Transgender-Inclusive Benefits for Employees and Dependents (Human Rights Campaign)
- Equal Access to Public Bathrooms
- National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ report on transgender violence in 2016
- Workplace Rights and Wrongs
- Transition Related Health Care
- Voting While Trans: Preparing for Voter ID Laws
- TEA of Utah (Transgender Education Advocates)