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House Equality Caucus Holds Landmark Congressional Forum on Violence Against the Transgender Community

Nov 17, 2015
Press Release

1433 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515

Date: November 17, 2015         Contact:  Roddy Flynn, (202) 257-8416

House Equality Caucus Holds Landmark Congressional Forum on Violence Against the Transgender Community

Washington, D.C. – The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus hosted a landmark forum addressing issues of violence against the transgender community.  The forum was held on November 17, 2105 at 2:00 PM in the Rayburn House Office Building.  Members of Congress heard testimony from survivors of violence, community organizers, advocates and policy experts.

The testimony came in two panels.  The first panel, chaired by Rep. Mike Honda, represented the lived experience of transgender people who face violence, particularly transgender people of color.  Members heard from community organizers, advocates and service providers who work every day to combat the epidemic of violence.  Some of these organizers were victims of violence themselves and discussed how their experiences shaped their work and the impact on violence on the community.

The second panel, chaired by Rep. Mark Takano, included the voices from some of the largest LGBT advocacy organizations in the country.  These policy experts discussed how the federal government can help eradicate bias motivated violence against transgender people.

“This week, as we seek to raise awareness of the issues facing the trans community, it is important to renew our commitment to help trans individuals be free of the fear of violence or bullying just for being who they are,” said Congressman Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force and Vice Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus. “It is my hope that by launching this workforce and holding a first-ever forum, we will reach some of my colleagues and encourage them to stand with the trans community. It is only through social change that we can truly elevate the conversation in this country and reach a place of true understanding and embrace all people for who they are.”

"I was pleased to join today's forum hosted by the Equality Caucus to discuss violence against the transgender community and hear testimony from advocates on what Congress can do to respond," said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. "Violence against the transgender community must not be tolerated, and I will continue to support efforts to end violence, discrimination, and inequality in communities across the country. I thank the Equality Caucus for hosting this forum - the first of its kind - to focus Congress on this important issue and for their work to end this epidemic of violence."

“We all celebrate the great strides we’ve made in recent years in the ‘LGBT rights movement.’ But too many times, the ‘T’ in ‘LGBT’ has been an afterthought,” said Congressman Jared Polis (CO-02), Co-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.  “We need this task force because we need Congress to understand that trans people exist, and we need to take action on behalf of our trans constituents — so that they have equal treatment under the law and no longer have to fear for their personal safety.”

“The recent and extreme increase in violence targeted at the transgender community necessitates action at the national level,” said Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-28), Vice-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.  “It is my hope that Congress will move forward on the solutions discussed today by advocates in order to ensure that all trans men and women feel safe in their communities from discrimination and violence.”

“As a founding member and vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Caucus, I am glad that our caucus is holding its first-ever forum on the important issue of transphobia and violence against the transgender community,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), Vice Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus. “As we work toward full and lasting equality for all Americans, Congressional action to address violence against the transgender community is critical. I am proud to have sponsored  H. Res. 263 which supports the goals and ideals of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.”

“Targeted violence against any community in this country can never be tolerated or accepted,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-4), Member of the Transgender Equality Task Force.  “With twenty-one transgender Americans killed so far this year, our government must act to ensure they are safe in their neighborhoods, workplaces and everywhere in between. Today’s hearing was a unique opportunity to hear from advocates and experts as we discuss efforts to ensure that no transgender individual lives under the threat of discrimination, violence or fear.”

“These hearings highlight the fact that despite the tremendous strides we have made as a nation toward equality for all, the transgender community has not materially benefited from that progress,” said Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Vice-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.  “Hearings like this also keep the bright light of truth focused on the path forward, and are critical to raising awareness to the fact that we still have miles to go on our journey toward becoming a nation that respects and embraces all Americans for who they are.”

“When the community I represent – including the LGBTQ community – is under attack and threatened with violence, I expect people to stand up,” said Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (IL-4), Member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.  “Just as I expect people to stand up and stand with us when the Puerto Rican community is under attack, when Latinos and immigrant communities are under attack, and when the words of public figures and so-called leaders insight or provoke people to violence.”

“Today’s forum on violence against transgender people was truly eye opening,” said Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-05), Vice-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus and Member of the Transgender Equality Task Force.  “It is crucially important that lawmakers are equipped with data and statistics that help quantify the challenges that transgender Americans deals with – violence, homelessness, housing, unemployment – as a first step to developing real world, practical policy solutions. And today’s conversation with the leading voices for transgender Americans was helpful in that effort.  I look forward to future conversations through my role on the Transgender Equality Task Force and ensuring equality for all Americans.”

“While the past year has been one of surging transgender visibility in the wider culture, for too many transgender people—particularly in communities of color—it has also been a time of tragedy and loss as every other week we see a report of a transgender woman murdered,” said Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Public Policy for the National Transgender Law Center. “This is a public health issue, an economic issue, a police reform issue, a cultural issue, and fundamentally a moral issue about the value of trans lives. This hearing was an important step toward real action to end the violence ravaging our communities.”

“Anti-trans violence is an urgent problem in this country, one which disproportionately impacts transgender people of color,” said Winnie Stachelberg , Executive Vice President of the Center for American Progress.  “Despite our nation's progress on LGBT equality, the increasing violence against transgender people is a sobering reminder of the work that remains before every person in this country is treated with dignity and fairness.  The task force's hearing was an important step in bringing attention to this issue, but tangible action is needed by the full Congress to combat this violence, including enhancing hate crimes data collection efforts, eliminating the immigration detention quota that traps trans people in dangerous situations, and helping to ensure broader safety and opportunity for transgender people nationwide.”

“Law enforcement leaders must take the lead in fostering a genuine relationship with the transgender community that is based on trust, transparency and accountability,” said Major Irene A. Burks of the Prince George’s County Police Department.  “It is tantamount that our Congressional leaders actively support this endeavor to ensure fair and just policing services for the transgender community.”

"Imagine fearing for your life every day. That nightmare is a reality for far too many transgender women, a nightmare that deserves national attention," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin.  "At least 21 transgender people – almost all women of color – have been murdered this year. Today, transgender women are more than 4 times as likely to be murdered in the U.S. than other women. This forum will bring together a coalition of families, advocates, lawmakers, and other leaders to address the realities that conspire to put transgender people at risk. We are proud to be a part of this work and hope this forum will lead to greater collaboration and action to help end this epidemic of violence."

"The work of the LGBT Equality Caucus and the formation of the new Transgender Equality Task Force are important steps from our leaders in Congress to recognize and act upon the epidemic of violence that too often adversely impacts the lives of our transgender family members," said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director and CEO. "For too long, our nation has been silent about this issue and our community has endured loss after loss due to senseless acts of hate and bias. However, the fact that we have Members of Congress that are concerned, and want to work in concert with the community to address this crisis, is welcomed news."

The Members who participated are:

  • Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), Chairman, Transgender Equality Task Force
  • Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Democratic Whip
  • Rep. Jared Polis (CO-2), Co-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1), Co-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41), Co-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2), Co-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Vice-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), Member, LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5), Vice-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus; Member, Transgender Equality Task Force
  • Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Vice-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Rep. Joseph Kennedy, III (MA-4), Member, LGBT Equality Caucus and Transgender Equality Task Force

The witnesses who testified are:

  • LaLa Zannell, Community Organizer, Anti-Violence Project
  • Catherine Hyde, Regional Director, PFLAG Mid-Atlantic
  • Joanna Cifredo, Writer/Advocate
  • Maj. Irene Burks, Assistant Inspector General, Prince George’s County Police Department; Subject Matter Expert with Department of Justice
  • Isa Noyola, Program Director, Transgender Law Center
  • Kylar Broadus, Transgender People of Color Coalition
  • Harper Jean Tobin, National Center for Transgender Equality
  • Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign
  • Sharon Lettman-Hicks, National Black Justice Coalition
  • Winnie Stachelberg, Center for American Progress

Please contact Roddy Flynn at 202.257.8416 (cell) or with press inquiries.

The mission of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. The bi-partisan LGBT Equality Caucus is strongly committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world. By serving as a resource for Members of Congress, their staff, and the public on LGBT issues, the Caucus works toward the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and wellbeing for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.