In This Issue
- Executive Director’s Message
- Staff News
- We've Moved!
- Ensuring Justice for Lateisha Green
- Say My Name!
- Working with the NYC Public Advocate to Ensure Improved Access to Healthcare
Executive Director’s Message
Greetings, and welcome to TLDEF’s winter quarterly newsletter. Change is certainly in the air, and we've got a lot of exciting news to report on that front. We've relocated our offices to New York City's Chinatown neighborhood and are now settled in and at home. We've expanded our staff by hiring an additional attorney. And our advocacy has increased substantially. The Name Change Project, for example, with more clients and lawyers participating than ever before, has become a model of public interest/private bar collaboration fulfilling community needs. From a caseload almost exclusively in New York City, we now find ourselves providing legal assistance around the country. We're always aware of the limitations on our resources, but we're also determined to respond to discrimination wherever it happens.
We've worked hard over the past four years to get to this point. But we haven't done it alone. The support of foundations, corporations, and people like you has been essential to our growth. When an organization is as young and small as ours, there are just no two ways about it: we wouldn't be here without your help.
I believe in equal rights. I believe that gender-based discrimination is wrong and harmful to everyone - transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight. That's why I work for TLDEF and transgender equal rights. Yet for all the success we've had to this point, we can't pretend that the economic circumstances around us don't present significant challenges to our ability to achieve equal rights. They do. And we need your help now.
The support of individuals like you makes up a large portion of our budget. At heart, we are a grassroots organization, and we rely upon people who believe in our core mission. Please make a difference! If everyone acts now and makes a tax-deductible donation of $40, $60, $100, $200 or any amount of your choice, the impact will be immeasurable. Click here to make a gift online through our secure web site.
I hope that you’ll enjoy reading about our work in this quarter’s newsletter. And I hope that you'll contact us with your feedback. We love hearing from you!
As always, thank you for supporting our work for equal rights. We wish you a wonderful holiday season, and a happy new year!
—Michael Silverman, Executive Director
We’re very excited to introduce you to the newest members of the TLDEF team. Dru Levasseur joins TLDEF as a Staff Attorney after serving two years as a law clerk to the Justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Dru initiated and chairs the Transgender Committee of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Law Association of Greater New York (LeGaL) and is a member of the Legal Issues Committee of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). While in law school, he worked at the ACLU of Connecticut, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Transgender Civil Rights Project, Western Massachusetts Legal Services, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. He received his law school’s Public Interest Scholarship and the CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Sexual Orientation and the Law. He initiated and co-organized New England’s first-ever Transgender Pride March and Rally, which was attended by a thousand people in Northampton, Massachusetts in June 2008. He has spoken at Yale Law School, UConn Medical School, Northampton Pride, and Lavender Law. Dru received his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from the University of Massachusetts and his J.D. from Western New England College School of Law. We’re thrilled to have him, and he’s already making a tremendous impact on our advocacy.
We’re also fortunate to be able to welcome our star intern, Diane Chan, who has been working with us full-time since October. Diane graduated from Northwestern University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and international studies. At Northwestern, she concentrated her studies on the relationship between health and politics, and in particular, on the political, social, and cultural dimensions of the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to interning at TLDEF, she worked as an intern at the HIV Law Project in New York City. She has also served as an intern in various congressional offices, including the office of Congressman Chris Van Hollen and the office of Congressman Brad Sherman.
With our staff and our practice expanding, it was time for us to leave our first home on Avenue A to set up shop in new digs on the Bowery in New York City's Chinatown. With space to meet our current and future needs, we think our new home will enable us to grow as we continue to expand and enrich the services we provide.
Our new address is:
New York, New York 10013
Our telephone, fax and email contact information remain the same.
Our office is terrific and we’re settled in. We were lucky to receive tremendous donations of office furniture to help us get situated in our new space. But there's one thing we need more than anything: computers, especially laptops. If you’re upgrading to a new computer or are just interested in making a tax-deductible computer donation, please contact us. We can really put it to good use.
We mourn the loss of Lateisha Green, a young transgender woman murdered in Syracuse, New York in an apparent hate-motivated crime. We're working with her family to ensure that those responsible for her death are brought to justice. Lateisha was shot and killed outside a house party on November 14. Local media reports indicate Dwight R. DeLee, 20, shot her because he thought she was gay. Many questions remain unanswered at this point in the investigation, but we’re doing everything we can to ensure that the investigation is thorough and that all those responsible for Lateisha’s death are held accountable. We’ve called upon the Syracuse Police Department and Onondaga County District Attorney's office to fully investigate Lateisha’s death as a possible hate crime.
Lateisha's death came just as activists around the world gathered to honor those killed because of their gender identity and expression on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20. Her death also came less than two weeks after Duanna Johnson was found dead in Memphis, the result of a still-unsolved crime. Earlier in the year, a surveillance video captured a police officer beating Duanna, who was also transgender, and spraying her with mace inside the booking area of a local jail as a colleague held her to the floor. The Memphis Police Department fired the two officers after a local television station broadcast the video.
Duanna and Lateisha's untimely deaths highlight the need to implement comprehensive hate crimes protections for transgender people. New York State law includes sexual orientation as a hate crimes category, but does not include gender identity or gender expression. In response to Lateisha’s death, we called upon Albany lawmakers to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would add gender identity and expression to New York State’s hate crimes law.
It's been a little over a year since we launched the Name Change Project and we couldn't be happier with the results. What started out small has blossomed into a project nurturing relationships with eighteen of the world's most prestigious law firms, more than 120 lawyers, and over 150 community members who have been served by the project.
Through the Name Change Project, we help some of the most marginalized members of the transgender community on the road to making their legal identities match who they are. Without the hard work and dedication of the lawyers working in the Name Change Project, the vast majority of the project's participants would have no legal representation. Many would be unable to complete the name change process.
We've leveraged the support you've given us into a project that exponentially magnifies our ability to do good and help the community. We're grateful for your support and for the support of the lawyers, law firms and foundations who help make the Name Change Project possible:
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP;
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP;
Davis Polk & Wardwell;
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP;
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP;
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP;
The Morrison & Foerster Foundation;
Morrison & Foerster LLP;
The Paul Rapoport Foundation;
Proskauer Rose LLP;
Ropes & Gray LLP;
Shearman & Sterling LLP;
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates;
Steptoe & Johnson LLP;
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP;
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP;
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP; and
White & Case LLP.
If you or anyone you know needs help with a name change, please contact us.
We applaud Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's release of her report last week "Improving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Access to Healthcare at New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Facilities." It chronicles the barriers lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers often report they face when they try to obtain basic health care. We worked with the Public Advocate's office to ensure that the report reflected the difficulties that transgender people experience when seeking health care.
As the report makes clear, transgender people face tremendous discrimination in the health care system. Often, it simply fails to meet their most basic needs. And the result has been a community-wide disengagement from the health care system that we must remedy.
We work to improve access to care for transgender people through our Access to Health Care Program and community organizing project, the Transgender Health Initiative of New York. Over the past year, we've made substantial progress working with the New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation (HHC) to improve access to care for transgender New Yorkers, and we expect some very exciting things to emerge from this collaboration. Consistent with its mission to serve all New Yorkers, HHC has embraced the challenge of improving care for transgender patients. We’re going to continue our work with HHC and Public Advocate Gotbaum to ensure transgender New Yorkers have access to the same high-quality healthcare as everyone else.