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State Attorney General Joins Friend of The Court Brief Supporting Transgender Equity for Veterans

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has joined a friend-of-the–court brief supporting transgender rights for veterans in the case Fulcher v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The brief defends a veteran’s right to health care coverage from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) for medically necessary care such as sex reassignment surgery.

“It is unacceptable for the federal government to discriminate against our transgender veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, by denying them coverage for necessary medical care,” said Attorney General Becerra. 

“In California, we make sure medically necessary care is covered because no veteran should be unable to receive care their physician says is critical. Across the country, the least we can do for veterans is provide the health coverage they need,” he said.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to ensuring that California veterans are treated equally when seeking medically necessary services from the VA.

This case presents an issue of public health and transgender equity, as this is the first time an appellate court will address transgender rights to health care outside of the prison context. California state law prohibits discrimination by private insurers. In fact, it provides such coverage for procedures like sex reassignment surgery through Medi-Cal and CalPERS.

Becerra joined the attorneys general of Washington, Connecticut, Hawai’i, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia in filing the amicus brief.

A copy of the brief filed is available at oag.ca.gov/news

Activism

New Documentary Unveils Pauli Murray, Little-Known Civil Rights Activist, Feminist

I’ll admit it; I was not familiar with Pauli Murray.  Honestly, Murray’s extraordinary accomplishments in the years before and after the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement are history lessons many of us didn’t know, until now.

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Pauli Murray/ Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

I’ll admit it; I was not familiar with Pauli Murray.  Honestly, Murray’s extraordinary accomplishments in the years before and after the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement are history lessons many of us didn’t know, until now.

An accessible compilation of mixed media running 91 minutes, “My Name Is Pauli Murray” unearths a revealing journey of extraordinary feats that pre-date the heralded stories of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.  Pauli Murray knew intimately what it meant to live a life that was out of sync—when even language wasn’t sufficient to define or describe a journey. 

Lawyer, professor, poet, and Episcopal priest, Murray was an iconoclast who pushed against the limits—both the conventional and strict legislation and the narrow thinking around issues of race and gender equity. The struggle wasn’t abstract: Murray’s own life —as an African American intellectual whose gender identity felt fluid —personified it. 

Born in 1910, in Baltimore, Md., Pauli was taken in at 3 years old by the maternal wing of the family following the sudden death of Pauli’s mother. Embraced by loving grandparents and two aunts—Pauline and Sarah—Pauli exhibited a proficiency in reading and critical thinking, assessing, early on, the vast discrepancies in conditions African-American families lived in as compared to their white counterparts. Murray’s formative years were spent in a segregated North Carolina where she was among the first to integrate classrooms, courtrooms and conferences to sit alongside the world’s most influential powerbrokers. 

That gulf of injustice settled deep inside. A visionary, Pauli Murray understood that the same arguments employed to assail Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial discrimination could be made to attack gender inequity — and, consequently, these pivotal insights became a professional signature. 

Confidante to President Franklin D. Rooselevelt’s wife Eleanor and  an inspiration to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who cites Murray in her first Supreme Court brief regarding the Equal Protection Clause), Pauli frequently stood in close proximity to power. 

Rejected by the University of North Carolina for being Black, and arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus, Pauli didn’t dodge conflict, even if there was no precedent or model. Yet, there’s often an excruciating price paid for being “ahead of one’s time.” 

Richly recounted in Pauli’s own voice—with archival audio drawn from intimate oral histories and interviews dating back to the 1970s — Pauli’s timely story is augmented by testimonies from a host of contemporary thinkers, educators, and present-day civil rights activists and there are many parallels to today’s ongoing struggle for racial and gender equality.

Murray’s story, artfully told, with the help of editor (pronounced syn-quay) Northern, a former Bay Area resident, and filmmakers Betty West, Julie Cohen, and Talleah Bridges. The film is showing at theaters now from Amazon Studios and releases on Prime video on October 1.

Northern is an artist, filmmaker, and editor who’s been working in documentary for over 18 years. He has edited numerous projects for PBS including “America by the Numbers” featuring Maria Hinojosa and “Your Voice Your Story.” He also spent 10 years working as a lead editor for Stanley Nelson’s Firelight Media (“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” “Black Panthers”). To date, he has over a dozen short films on permanent display at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, along with the 2021 documentary, “The One and Only Dick Gregory.”

I spoke with Cinque Northern about this absorbing retelling of Pauli Murray (b.1910-d.1985). Please see the link to a portion of our conversation below.

Download link
https://wetransfer.com/downloads/f45303a149989a34ad4a92a9d76cbf1820210927193714/a77cded8dbbca5c4c28756bea57a756620210927193714/14a142

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Bay Area

Who Is Janani Ramachandran, Candidate for Assembly District 18? 

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

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Janani Ramachandran/ Photo Courtesy of Janani Ramachandran

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

Post columnist Richard Johnson conducted the following interview with the candidate, which has been edited for length and clarity.

(RJ): Tell us about your background and upbringing?

(JR): I am the granddaughter of immigrants from a small village in South India who immigrated to this country for a better life, education, jobs and health care. My grandparents were represented by labor unions that eventually led to stable jobs, higher living wages, health care and decent benefits. I am grateful to have been part of a family that was lifted out of poverty because of the strength of their labor unions.

When I went to my undergrad at Stanford, I worked at a community health clinic for a few years serving teen moms and immigrant mothers while providing Case Management services for many folks. A majority of my work there was with survivors of domestic violence. Many were on the brink of homelessness.

(Later), I lived in Oakland and attended Berkeley law school and continued to do a lot of direct Community Services representing elderly tenants who were facing eviction. I worked on restorative justice programs to address community violence, interpersonal violence, and continuing to represent survivors of violence.

All of these experiences got me thinking about the corruption in many parts of the system whether it is Oakland Calif., local governments or across the country. So, I joined the City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission to determine where the corruption really lies, to uncover bribery and lack of transparency. 

(RJ): What do you bring to the table that others are lacking?

Firstly, real compassion. You know, we have a lot of leaders working in politics but are faking it, because they want political power. They are driven by ego and greed.  I have provided Community Services my entire life.  I’m driven to do this, because I’ve seen the unintended consequences of our laws that are not written with the interests of us and not written with the interests of communities in Oakland.

(RJ): Can you name two main challenges that you feel passionate about that would benefit the people?

(JR): One thing is raising the minimum wage because $15 does not cut it for anyone, especially here in the East Bay. In Oakland, if you made $15 an hour, you would have to work 89 hours a week for a one-bedroom apartment. Our wages are too low, and I want to raise the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

The second thing is housing. A lot of my work as an attorney was representing elderly tenants in Oakland who are being evicted and/or survivors of violence. Many of these people are being evicted despite the global pandemic. So, our state does not put any priority on tenants. 

(RJ): Far too many legislators in office tend to renege on their promises that govern them.

(JR): Corporate money is a huge reason why people don’t keep their promises. Our own governor, Gavin Newsom, promised that he would implement a “Medicare for All” system that would be paid for by the government. This system will save lives and save our state money. The only people that it would harm are big pharmaceutical companies, or big health insurance companies. 

These are the very industries that are lining the campaign’s pockets of even our so-called progressive Democrats, including my opponent who insists she is for universal health care. 

To the contrary, she’s gotten over $200,000 from the healthcare industry and Big Pharma who do not want a universal health care system because it’s going to impact their profits. This happens time and again! 

(RJ): What do you put first in your life to help you remain on the right path?

(JR): I believe in God and I’m spiritual. This is important to me because my spirituality guides me to make sure that I’m not operating in greed, but I’m doing so for the service of others.

(RJ): What is your position on LGBTQA issues?

(JR): I support them as I am LGBTQ myself. I identify as a queer woman and as a lesbian woman.

(RJ): How has women’s liberation helped or hinder the community?

(JR): It’s important that genders are equal, and we need to start treating all genders as equal. Women do not make the same money, and we earn approximately .35 cents to the dollar. 

We need to make sure that we have equality. We need to make sure that women have paid leave to take care of family members, children and elders without having to risk their jobs.  We have so many women who are incarcerated for reasons unrelated and even though they’re Victims of Crime themselves. We need to unpack this and dive deeper and make sure we have equality in so many different ways.

(RJ): What is your position on providing living spaces, employment training and substance funding to those who have paid their dues to society by serving their time?

(JR): Absolutely, we need to make sure that we are providing all the required social, mental, housing and employment opportunities for those who are re-entering society. We need to make those pathways easier, not more difficult in the way that we have them.

(RJ): Will you support more family visits (for inmates? Will you support legislation that requires education and training for inmates?

(JR) Yes. We need to provide all sorts of services and opportunities for all inmates. I previously volunteered in the San Quentin Restorative Justice Project. I learned so much from and about these men. The programs offered prepared them to engage in a conversation about growth, learning and the restorative justice process with fellow inmates and leaders. These types of programs should be funded more and eliminated.

(RJ): Given the fact that we live in a divided country, one blue and one red, how can you help to bring people together in unification?

(JR): We need to return to compassion and empathy. We need to see humanity and each other right now. But I need to say this is not only the case in California. It’s not just about blue versus red. You know, it’s about Democrat versus Democrat as well. I’m going up against an opponent who slammed it and she was a fellow Democratic and woman of color who slanders, comes up with lies, and dirty-nasty smear campaigns that violate all sorts of ethics. So, we need to look within our own party.

(RJ): Since marijuana has been legalized, (why are offenders still incarcerated)?

(JR): I don’t understand why we still have individuals incarcerated for crimes related to marijuana and cannabis. They need to have an immediate pathway to release and to be pardoned. It is unacceptable that we haven’t already implemented that. 

(RJ): How do you see the role of the police? Do they truly serve and protect the communities?

(JR): I know we need to hold police accountable. We really do need to make sure that police are not getting away with committing crimes and with a sense of impunity. Last year, there were 1172 people killed at the hands of police. How many of their families got any sense of justice? How many of those police officers faced justice? Few cases have been fully investigated.

(RJ): What should the voters know about you that they don’t already know?

(JR): I’m real, I’m authentic. I’m not going to be someone who makes empty campaign promises while turning my back on the people. When I say I’m listening to the people, I am. When I am elected, I’m coming back to make sure that I continue to hear from you and implement the answers. 

I want us to march together, protest together and fight together because politics can’t be the answer alone. It has to be politics along-side social movements that create change. We have to work together, and I will continue to ask for your feedback, ideas and solutions. 

(RJ): How do you see the recall of Governor Newsome?

(JR): I oppose the recall. If we as voters decide that we’re not happy with what he’s doing, then next year is an opportunity for voters to vote him out. I think about what those hundreds of millions of dollars could have gone towards instead of being used on a recall: public education, recovery, supporting small businesses, raising the minimum wage.

(RJ): Back to religion, how can churches assist someone in your position?

(JR): I’ve had the honor of speaking at several churches in Oakland with pastors inviting me to address their congregation. I also spoke to their church members who reside in East and West Oakland to share my message and connect with folks. I really appreciate having the opportunity to speak at churches.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Make Room for the Non-Binary

I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1957, who grew up in a very binary world. Everything from party affiliation to music preference was simplified down into an “either-or” mentality. Most of the time, what this really meant was that either you fit in or you didn’t.

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Person holds non-binary flag/Creative Commons

I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1957, who grew up in a very binary world. Everything from party affiliation to music preference was simplified down into an “either-or” mentality. Most of the time, what this really meant was that either you fit in or you didn’t.

Until recently, every form I’ve ever completed had two boxes to check for sex: male or female.

One can imagine the physical and mental health challenges that non-binary people face when their identities non-binary status are not recognized and instances assaults and abuse are underreported.

Everywhere I go, a similar dichotomy presents itself. Non-binary folks, whose gender identities are neither male nor female, are being erased and excluded from traditionally gendered spaces.

I identify as cisgender, which means that my birth sex (female) and gender (woman) align. I’m a Blesbian — Black lesbian — too, and, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I want to help by being an advocate for non-binary people, both within and outside of queer spaces.

Since 2020, many folks now introduce themselves with their name and pronouns: he/him, she/her, they/them, etc. This might be in part due to a year and a half of Zoom calls, where awkward clarifications of one’s gender identity can be easily avoided by listing pronouns next to names.

For cisgender allies of trans and non-binary people, stating your pronouns in your Twitter bio, office meetings, or the like is a way to help normalize the gender identities that exist outside of male and female. Gen Z-ers are leading this cultural shift towards tolerance of non-binary people in classrooms, on college campuses, and in the workplace. But some things are still the same.

In the first broad-based population study of non-binary folks, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law concluded there are 1.2 million non-binary LGBTQ+ adults aged 18 to 60 in the United States. That’s 11% of the LGBTQ+ population.

The study found that the majority of non-binary LGBTQ+ adults are young, urban and white. More specifically, 58% of these non-binary folks are white, 16% are multiracial, 15% are Latinx, and 9% are Black. Non-binary people are also less likely to be straight than their cisgender counterparts: most identified as queer, bisexual, pansexual or asexual.

Non-binary (abbreviated enby), gender fluid, and/or genderqueer are terms for gender identities that do not check the male or female boxes. They/them are often the pronouns they use, though some people use variations of she/they or he/they or others like ze/hir, xe/xem, hy/hym or co/cos.

Among LGBTQ+ non-binary adults, 82% reported experiencing emotional abuse during childhood, 53% were bullied and 11% were exposed to conversion therapy. Nearly 94% say they have considered suicide; 39% have attempted it, the study found.

We know that Black transgender women are being murdered at a high rate in the United States, with many of those deaths being underreported and those folks being misgendered. Of the non-binary folks in the study, more than half reported being physically or sexually assaulted.

One can imagine the physical and mental health challenges that non-binary people face when their identities non-binary status are not recognized and instances assaults and abuse are underreported.

As our racial reckoning in this country continues, it should be inclusive of genderqueer and non-binary folks, because not everyone fits neatly into a category or box. This lesson applies to everything, whether it be in discussions of race, gender, or other socially constructed identities that inevitably leave someone behind.

Healing should be inclusive. Here’s to more education and acceptance.

This column was produced for The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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