April 1, 2000
To the Editor:
Your article on the Empire State Pride Agenda Lobby Day on March 13 (“ESPA Leads Hundreds in Albany Lobby Effort,” Paul Schindler, LGNY, April 6) does not mention of one significant aspect of this year’s lobbying effort. The New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), the first statewide transgender political organization in New York, led the first formally organized contingent of transgender activists to lobby the state legislature on this or any other occasion. That contingent included NYAGRA members from Albany, Schenectady, Rochester, Westchester, Manhattan, and Queens.
NYAGRA members participated in meetings under the aegis of the Pride Agenda – including the meeting with Sen. Joseph Bruno’s staff – as well as in our own NYAGRA-led meetings with legislators and staff during which we discussed issues of special interest to the transgender community, such as transgender inclusion in the pending hate crimes bill and the Dignity for All Students Act. NYAGRA members also shared with legislators our concern over transgenderphobic decisions in divorce and child custody cases involving transitioning transsexuals and other openly transgendered people. And we informed legislators of our concern with the 1998 Department of Health regulation that bars Medicaid payment for hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery. For the legislators and staff with whom we met, it was the first occasion on
which they had met with the members of a transgender organization to discuss legal and policy issues important to the transgender community. And for most of the NYAGRA members involved, it was the first opportunity for them to discuss issues of concern with legislators. NYAGRA also chaired the first transgender caucus to take place at Lobby
Day. And we briefed members of the LGBT Health & Human Services Network on transgender issues during the training and planning session in Albany on March 12.
Hence the first organized participation of the transgender community in the Pride Agenda Lobby Day event was itself an important event in the history of New York’s transgender community.
NYAGRA Representative to the Hate Crimes Bill Coalition