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Gay Alliance commends expansion of care for trans youth by NYS Medicaid

By Rowan Collins, LGBTQ Academy Education Coordinator

On Wednesday, December 8, the New York State Department of Health formally issued a new rule to amend provisions regarding Medicaid coverage of transition-related care and services for transgender New Yorkers. This time, they expanded that coverage to include transgender minors, or those under the age of 18.

The Gay Alliance sees this as a major victory for transgender youth and their families across the state. Until last March, all transition-related care coverage was banned under a Medicaid regulation from 1998. Effective immediately, all transgender individuals on Medicaid will have coverage for medically necessary hormone treatment and surgeries.

A spokesperson for the health department stated earlier this week that the regulation will make “transgender care and services available, regardless of an individual’s age, when such care and services are medically necessary to treat the individual’s gender dysphoria.”

These medically necessary treatments will include pubertal suppressants (often referred to as “hormone blockers”), hormone replacement therapy, and gender affirming surgeries and services. Prior to insurance coverage these services, especially pubertal suppressants, have been considered to be prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of transgender youth and their families all across the state of New York.

The Alliance is extremely pleased to see the commitment of New York State to ensure access to proper health care for our transgender community members.

For more information and the text of the ruling, including an exhaustive list of surgeries and services now covered, please visit: docs.dos.ny.gov/info/register/2016/dec7/pdf/rulemaking.pdf

 

Billy Jackson, jumprope artist, talks about Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Billy Jackson front center.

Billy Jackson front center.

By Susan Jordan

Cirque Dreams Holidaze will perform eight spectacular shows at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre at 885 East Main St. from Dec. 13 through Dec. 18. Tickets are on sale now via ticketmaster.com, 800.745.3000.

Billy Jackson plays Skipping Reindeer and Comedic Maestro in Cirque Dreams Holidaze. Billy is featured as a jumprope artist and also conducts an interactive comedic Bell Symphony with audience participation.

He’s been jumproping for over 20 years.

Billy Jackson has performed with Cirque Dreams Holidaze since 2009 also appearing in Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, Cirque Dreams Rocks, Cirque Dreams Broadway, Cirque Dreams Splashtastic and Cirque Dreams World Tour for Armed Forces Entertainment. Since joining Cirque Dreams, he has been featured in his own personal jumprope groups on America’s Got Talent and MTV’s ABDC  (America’s Best Dance Crew).

Billy says, “I sort of fell into jump rope accidentally. I started it as an after school program in Louisiana where I grew up. My mom wanted me out of the house more because I had way too much energy and was difficult to keep up with. I attended many camps, workshops and competitions through high school. By the time I was a senior, I was a national and world champion and training up to five days a week for up to 4-5 hours a day. This was something nobody could have predicted — that I would completely latch into jump rope as a sport and later an art form.

“At 20 years old I sent an audition video to Cirque Dreams with my group at the time and weeks later found myself in my first national tour of Cirque Dreams Holidaze. I get to play a skipping reindeer alongside three other world-class jumprope artists. My roll within the show has grown over the years and I am excited to bring those characters and the show to Rochester!

“I am a dancer. I started out very young in gymnastics and dance. I trained in jazz, tap, lyrical, and clogging. I then fell in love with hip hop and music video style dancing. I love combining various styles of dance with jumprope as it elevates our performance to another level. I dream to one day dance behind Britney Spears.

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze is a family stage spectacular, from the Cirque Dreams international entertainment brand and it’s my eighth year touring with the production. This show takes the magic of circus and blends it with Broadway theatrics to create a holiday extravaganza. The moment the curtain rises, it’s like opening a holiday gift. We’ve got 30 international artists, over 300 dazzling costumes and 20 breathtaking acts. There’s something in it for everyone.”

Although Billy conducts onstage, he is not really a conductor. He said, “I’m not actually a musician, but I play the role of a symphonic conductor of sorts in an interactive comedic skit in Act 1. Five audience members are picked at random to ring holiday bells and I get to have fun with them with a big surprise at the end of the scene. Audiences love it and every night it’s a bit different based on who is chosen to participate and the audience in general.

“We’re thrilled to be coming to the Auditorium Theater and can’t wait to spend the HOLIDAZE with audiences in Rochester!”

Trans employee wins discrimination case

A former employee of an installment loan company in Lake Charles, Louisiana has prevailed in his sex discrimination case. Tristan Broussard filed a federal complaint against the company in April 2015 alleging that he was fired from his job after the company learned that he is a transgender man. The case then proceeded before an arbitrator, who ruled that the company discriminated against Broussard “because of his sex” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Courts across the country have repeatedly recognized that Title VII, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects transgender workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is the primary agency charged by Congress with interpreting and enforcing Title VII, has also made clear that employers cannot fire or refuse to hire employees because they are transgender.

During Broussard’s first week on the job, he was called into a back office and instructed by a company vice president to sign a document stating that his “preference to act and dress as male” was not “in compliance” with the company’s personnel policies.” The arbitrator found that Broussard “involuntarily resigned in order to escape an intolerable and illegal requirement imposed by the corporate office—that he act and dress only as a female.” The order directs the company to pay Broussard more than a year of pay, as well as emotional distress damages.

“I am very happy to have this ruling,” said Broussard. “I just wanted to work hard and do my job and I hope this ruling will allow other employees the chance to do the same.”

Broussard is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Altshuler Berzon LLP, and Delaney, Robb & Rubin.

“No one should have to face employment discrimination or the fear of being fired simply because of their sex,” said Amy Whelan, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Attorney Casey Pitts, who is also representing Broussard said, “Transgender workers deserve the same certainty as others that their jobs and livelihood depend not on irrelevant characteristics, but on the quality of their work and the skills they provide.”

SPLC Senior Policy Counsel Scott McCoy added, “Transgender people experience extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty due to widespread discrimination in the workplace. Employers need to understand that there are legal consequences when they fire or harass their employees based on gender identity.”

“This is not only an important win for Mr. Broussard, but also for the entire transgender community in Louisiana,” said Ryan Delaney. “There is no place for discrimination in Louisiana or in our society as a whole.”

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