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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee
Minutes of the January 15, 2002 Meeting

Committee Members Present: Commissioner Martha Knutzen, Commissioner Theresa Sparks, Jason Alley, Virginia Benavidez, Kirsten Boyd, Melchor Bustamonte, Scott Campbell, Ted Guggenheim, Jordy Jones, Yoseñio Lewis, Lisa Scheff, Stephen Schwichow.

Committee Members Absent: Gustavo Cravioto, Erin Farrell, Yoseñio Lewis (excused), Jorge Romero-Lozano (excused), Gary Virginia.

Staff Present: Larry Brinkin, Ellise Nicholson, Domenic Viterbo.

Guests Present: Cecilia Chung, Shannon Minter, U. Spangenberg, Katie Szymanski, Shawna Virago.

1. Call to Order and Roll Call:

Commissioner Knutzen called the meeting to order at 5:40 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

2. Approval of Minutes of November 20, 2001:

Mr. Schwichow moved to approve the minutes as written. Ms. Benavidez seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

3. Public Comments for Items Not on the Agenda: None

4. Equal Benefits: Four Year Report:

Larry Brinkin explained that staff member Cynthia Goldstein was unable to give the report because she had to go to New York at the last minute relating to a family emergency. Mr. Brinkin reported that Ms. Goldstein expressed her regrets and will make the presentation at the February meeting of the LGBTAC.

5. Panel on Transgender Issues:

Commissioner Sparks thanked Jordy Jones for organizing the panel and asked him to introduce the invited speakers. Mr. Jones introduced the three panelists: Shannon Minter from National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Shawna Virago from Community United Against Violence and a founding member of TransAction, and Cecilia Chung, the first transgender President of SF Pride Board of Directors and a board member of API Wellness Center.

Mr. Minter explained that there are two routes to achieving transgender legal protections. The first route is to convince courts to interpret sex discrimination and disability discrimination protections to incorporate transgender people. This is the easier route in that it does not entail creating and passing new laws, but is problematic in that courts have refused to extend these protections to transgender people on the basis that these laws were not intended to include them.

The second route, stated Mr. Minter, is to pass transgender civil rights statutes. This is extremely difficult, he said. Currently, there are no transgender protections under federal law. On the state level, only two states, Minnesota and Rhode Island, have passed laws with transgender discrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Such a law has been attempted in California. In 1998, Sheila Kuehl introduced and the legislature passed a law adding transgender protections to the hate crime statute. Transgender protections were also added to the education code. Under this law, transgender teachers, students, and administrators are protected in all California public schools. Mr. Minter explained that a statewide task force is being convened to interpret and apply these laws. Still, transgender people need to be protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Until such time, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) now takes the position that transgender people are protected under the sex discrimination aspect of FEHA. DFEH is in the process of spelling out this protection, and possibly including transgender people under the disability provision as well. Mr. Minter noted that this was controversial. California disability law previously specifically excluded transgender status as a valid basis for disability protections, but AB2222, introduced by Sheila Kuehl, abolished this exclusion. This too should be reflected in upcoming DFEH regulations.

In other states, including New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut, courts have ruled that transgender people are protected under sex discrimination laws. In D.C. the protection falls under a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of personal appearance. Mr. Minter also stated that thirty-nine localities, including San Francisco, have local ordinances prohibiting transgender discrimination. Of these, San Francisco is the only city with written regulations interpreting the ordinance. Mr. Minter praised these regulations and the work of the HRC in creating them.

Commissioner Sparks asked Mr. Minter if he could outline the recent court decisions in Texas and Kansas relating to transgender marriages. Mr. Minter explained that courts have looked at the question of whether heterosexual marriages involving one transgender partner are valid. Some courts, such as in the Texas case, say it’s really same sex marriage because you can’t really change gender. Mr. Minter noted that there was a similar case in Kansas in which the court of appeal validated the marriage, but it looks like that decision will soon be reversed. Mr. Minter also explained that in some cases this logic has worked to the advantage of gay marriages involving one transgender partner. Some courts in Texas, for example, have validated such marriages. Mr. Minter stated that it’s silly to let homophobia drive these decisions because either way, it will result in what some people will view as a valid gay marriage.

Commissioner Knutzen asked whether DFEH will be codifying the new regulations, and whether or not the HRC should have a strategy around that. Mr. Minter suggested that the HRC could let DFEH know that it is available as a resource. According to Mr. Minter, DFEH is approaching the creation of the regulations very thoughtfully, and the HRC regulations are important as models.

Shawna Virago was the next speaker. She stated that she is active in police accountability work on behalf of transgender communities.

Ms. Virago said that for the past three years, CUAV has documented that about 50% of all hate violence against transgender people is perpetrated by police officers. Most of it is local (SF) police. These violations take the form of refusing to honor pronouns and driver’s licenses, illegal strip searches, illegal pat searches used as a ruse for "feeling people up," and assuming all male-to-female transgender people are sex workers. CUAV’s next hate violence report will be coming out at the end of April, and Ms. Virago assumes the statistics will be the same. Those most affected are male-to-female, low-income, and immigrants. Ms. Virago stated that she knows very few male-to-female transgender persons who have not been abused by the police.

Ms. Virago stated that some training of officers is taking place and is being conducted by Stephan Thorne. Currently, the HRC, CUAV, and the SFPD are trying to come up with standards and protocols, which especially will have import for hiring practices. Ms. Virago explained that the most important thing the police can do is screen for transgender biases at the hiring level as they do for other protected groups.

Ms. Virago also noted that as the transgender community is changing, more people are identifying as genderqueer. These people are at high risk around public accommodations, especially bathrooms, and this needs to be looked at. Larry Brinkin responded that Dylan Vade, a former HRC intern, launched the HRC on a bathroom project, and that the HRC will be taking a look at the transgender guidelines as well.
Mr. Brinkin acknowledged Mr. Minter’s compliments on the guidelines, but also stated that the HRC realized the guidelines need improvement. Brinkin stated that intersex people are currently included under the transgender umbrella. He reported that we have learned a lot from the intersex community, and will be creating a separate section on intersex issues rather than lumping them under the transgender umbrella.

Mr. Brinkin asked Ms. Virago to comment on the Office of Citizen Complaints. Ms. Virago stated that that office has improved as allies and advocates. One problem Ms. Virago mentioned is that the abuse often involves no witnesses, so there is no corroboration.

Ms. Virago stated that a lot of illegal arrests are made under the assumption that transgender people are sex workers. After being arrested, many encounter problems from their Public Defenders. Commissioner Sparks pointed out that both Public Defender candidates have expressed interest in trainings on transgender issues, and Ms. Virago said she would be interested in conducting such trainings. Commissioner Knutzen noted that the HRC could advocate for that.

Next, Cecilia Chung spoke about health issues. She first noted that she sits on the HIV service counsel for several Bay Area counties. Ms. Chung stated that it is alarming that HIV cases documented here in San Francisco do not reflect the transgender community. She stated that in statistics concerning HIV rates, the transgender community is invisible. Moreover, when people talk about breast health and prostate health, we only talk about it in terms of men and women, not transgender people. Transgender people are not getting any education about their specific health issues.

There have been some successes, however, such as the transgender health benefits here in San Francisco, but these services are not easy to access. Ms. Chung, a City employee, has been unable to access these benefits partly because the few doctors skilled in performing surgeries are not included in the HMO. Ms. Chung stated that HRC help is needed to get the City and the insurance carries to enforce the policy. Medicare has approved three or four gender confirmation surgeries, but it is difficult to get qualified surgeons.

In terms of HIV, Ms. Chung stated that we are very lucky in San Francisco in that transgender persons and others are getting cutting edge drug treatment. There are drug interactions, but they were caught early. There are still concerns, however, about how steroids and HGH interact with estrogen. TARC, API Wellness Center, and Larkin Street Youth are doing a great job targeting the transgender community, but even so, the number of transgender people seeking HIV services is small. Ms. Chung also noted that the Tom Waddell transgender clinic has great protocols for transgender treatment, but they have a long waiting list. The good news is that new funding is being granted to the Castro/Mission transgender clinic.

Commissioner Sparks asked the panelists for suggestions on what the HRC can do to assist them. Shawna Virago stated that the problem is the militarization of the police. She is looking forward to working with the HRC on getting protocols codified. Cecilia Chung asked that the HRC help keep transgender people visible, stating, "We are a part of this community."

6. Economic Empowerment Task Force Report:

Commissioner Knutzen reported on the community meeting that was held December 11, 2001 at the HRC. There was a good, representative turnout. In attendance were LGBTAC members Lisa Scheff and Scott Campbell, staff members Larry Brinkin and Domenic Viterbo, two people from the LGBT Community Center, two people from Golden Gate Business Association, small business advocate Paul Pendergast, a California State employee assisting LGBT businesses on a state level, one person from Out and Equal, and one from Rainbow Adult Community Housing.

Commissioner Knutzen reported that it was the first time that many of these people had met each other, and that people felt it appropriate that the task force should be housed at the Community Center because of its holistic approach. The meeting afforded the Center a chance to see how real groups working on these issues would help to inform their work. HRC’s role would be as a facilitator of the cross-group approach. Commissioner Knutzen reported that the meeting was a success in that we defined the concept and heard from the Center that they have the initiative to carry on the project.

Commissioner Knutzen reported that since the December 11, 2001 meeting, she has attended a couple of other meetings on this issue. The first was with Paul Pendergast and Richard Allman. This meeting concerned the small business agenda, such as helping small businesses access services, get City contracts, etc. The second meeting was at the Center on January 11, 2002 with Jeff Anderson (Center Board Member) and Ann Tamar-Matis (Center Program Director). They talked about the task force and whether funding is available for the project.

Larry Brinkin stated that he is working on drafting the minutes from the December 11, 2001 meeting.

Commissioner Sparks stated that the meeting helped identify needs, and that it clarified that some agencies need to be a little more proactive.

Regarding the role of the LGBTAC, Commissioner Knutzen stated that having the Community Center house the task force lets us work within the big picture. At this time, the LGBTAC’s specific role is open for discussion. Commissioner Knutzen stated that we could have that discussion at our upcoming retreat. It could take the form of individual projects, e.g., working with Paul Pendergast and/or following up on the letters we’ve written. Others will be working on the whole picture, and will understand that we can work for them on discreet tasks. What is critical is that we defined the creation of the task force in broad terms in a holistic way as a human rights issue.

Larry Brinkin noted that we agreed we will no longer hold Economic Empowerment Task Force meetings, but will still bring these issues to the LGBTAC meeting. Commissioner Knutzen stated that we would have some representation on the advisory committee that is formed and offered HRC staff assistance to that committee. Lisa Scheff suggested an LGBTAC field trip to the Community Center, and Commissioner Sparks suggested we might consider doing that as part of our retreat.

7. Recruitment:

Larry Brinkin reported that the press release published in the Bay Area Reporter listed a due date of January 31 for applications rather than January 17. As a consequence, we have a new timeline. The new date for our marathon interviewing session will be February 26, 2002. If we do not get enough applications, we will interview everyone. Scott Campbell, recruitment committee member, stated that he could attend the session on the 26th. On March 19, 2002, the LGBTAC will vote on the new members. The first meeting the new members will attend will be in April, so the retreat will be in May. Next month we will start talking about the retreat and form a retreat committee.

Larry Brinkin also reported that so far he has received only five applications, and encouraged everyone to recruit new members. Scott Campbell suggested that we might want to ask Betty Sullivan to post the announcement on her e-mail list.

8. Commissioners’ Report:

Commissioner Sparks reported that there have been a couple of Commission meetings since the last LGBTAC meeting. The January 10, 2002 meeting was a joint hearing between the HRC and Board of Supervisors committee, chaired by Gavin Newsom. The topic was on post-September 11 backlash and discrimination against Arab Americans. It lasted from 5p.m. to 10p.m., and included four and three quarter-hours of testimony. Ms. Sparks reported that the event was very moving. Every organization that spoke gave a 1-800 hotline number to report hate violence. One of the obvious things that the HRC can do is help coordinate these into one hotline. Another theme was the tremendous discrimination in the school district. Kids have been taken out of school and parents and administration have to escort kids between classes. Before September 11, there was not a single reported hate crime based on ethnic bias. After, there have been over one hundred. Commissioner Sparks suggested that the HRC could help coordinate already existing programs. She reported that Supervisor Newsom suggested the formation of task forces, and the HRC will presumably be an integral part of this. The Issues Committee met last night to talk about suggestions for HRC staff.

Commissioner Knutzen reported that the chair of the commission, Ghada Saliba-Malouf, is Arab American and has really stepped forward and played a role in putting the hearing together. The hearing, which was beautifully constructed, was great in giving the Arab American community a voice and was an important moment for the Arab American community in the Bay Area, San Francisco, and the nation.

Commissioner Sparks reported that the public access television channel aired the hearing in its entirety four times this weekend, and will continue to air it.

Commissioner Knutzen reported that at the Commissioners’ meeting prior to the hearing, they discussed the crime summit on violence in the African American community. The staff did a great job breaking down tasks the Commission will undertake to address violence in the city. This task chart will ultimately be posted on the HRC website.

9. Staff Report:

Staff member Ellise Nicholson reported on the recent forum on retail discrimination. Ms. Nicholson reported that the forum, which was put together by HRC staff and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, was exceptional. Numerous people gave personal accounts of the daily discrimination they suffered in public accommodations on account of their race. Representatives of both public and private organizations spoke about the services offered by their organizations and explained which laws protect from retail discrimination in all of its forms.

Larry Brinkin reported that the Director intends to appoint three staff people to every HRC committee. Assignments will be announced soon. Staff from the LGBT & HIV division will be appointed to other committees.

Mr. Brinkin reported that a second session of the Gender Talk would be announced in the next Harvey Milk catalogue. Mr. Brinkin further reported that he has been working with several organizations to form a legal collaborative at the Community Center, which will offer legal referral service and host legal clinics. The LGBT & HIV division will also be getting a new intern, LGBTAC member Jordy Jones, who is a graduate student at San Francisco State. Mr. Jones will be working on creating a transgender resource guide. A tentative date of January 28, 2002 has been set for a meeting with the police on transgender issues. Finally, regarding the letter from the Mayor’s Office to department heads asking them to collect LGBT data, at the request of the Mayor’s Office, Mr. Brinkin reported that the LGBTAC will need to revisit that issue and start with a few big departments.

10. Old/New Business:

No Old/New Business was discussed.

11. Announcements:

No new announcements were presented.

12. Adjournment:

The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m.