NJ’s Transgender Equality Task Force issued report centering trans folks

The New Jersey Transgender Equality Task Force issued a report on the lived experiences of trans New Jerseyans on Wednesday. From a six-month mission of research and community conversations centered on assessing legal and societal barriers to transgender equality, the report provides recommendations to the governor and legislature on ways to improve the lives of transgender people and ensure equity. 

In 2017, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law establishing a statewide Transgender Equality Task Force, making New Jersey the first state to do so. Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s advocacy and education organization for the LGBTQ community, worked behind the scenes advancing the law’s passage.

The 2018 FBI Hate Crime Statistics released last week indicated New Jersey had an increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ people. In 2017, 51 people were targeted based on sexual orientation; in 2018, the number rose to 53. Additionally, the FBI report showed seven people were targeted based on their gender identity in 2018 versus none reported in 2017. A Security.org study released in September ranked New Jersey 11th in anti-LGBT attacks, with 10.3 percent of all hate-motivated incidents in the state targeting the LGBT community. 

“With hate crimes against LGBTQ people on the rise in New Jersey, Garden State Equality is acutely focused on building a more affirming culture in our state with policies and protections to ensure that transgender New Jerseyans can live with safety and dignity,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director for GSE in a release. 

The Transgender Equality Task Force report titled “Addressing Discrimination Against Transgender New Jerseyans” includes recommendations to mandate all-gender designations for single-stall restrooms in government facilities, develop an office of LGBTQ affairs in state government, create an ongoing commission on transgender equality and implement a public education campaign focused on how family acceptance and support of transgender children promotes well-being, reduces risk, and can save lives.

“As our LGBTQ community faces threats from the Trump administration, New Jersey has always been and will continue to be on the front lines to protect the rights of our LGBTQ community,” said Governor Phil Murphy in a release. “This report is a testament to our State’s unwavering commitment and belief that every resident deserves equal protection, regardless of gender identity.”

Governor Murphy announced that his administration will examine all recommendations put forth by the Task Force, which also involve the collection of sexual orientation and gender-identity data across state agencies, LGBTQ antidiscrimination training for state employees, state-sanctioned public outreach, including the creation of dissemination of “Know Your Rights” materials, and law enforcement guidelines that ensure respectful treatment of transgender people, mandating “appropriate search procedures, respectful communication including proper use of pronouns, and a prohibition of profiling based on transgender status.”

The report further asks the Juvenile Justice Commission to develop comprehensive policies for dealing appropriately with transgender youth in the juvenile justice system.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that his office would take three immediate steps. Those include the LGBTQ Equality Directive with protocols that all law enforcement officers must follow to avoid “impermissible harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” a public awareness campaign about rights under the Law Against Discrimination, and a new policy that ensures LGBTQ juveniles are treated fairly in housing, facilities and programming, search restrictions, medical and mental health care and confidentiality.

Fuscarino said, “The report and recommendations of the Transgender Equality Task Force are a groundbreaking blueprint for advancing the true, lived equality of trans New Jerseyans. We are endlessly grateful to Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal for swiftly and decisively implementing policy changes, and we are immediately advancing work with their offices to faithfully implement each and every recommendation from the Task Force’s report.”