Garden State Equality is New Jersey’s statewide advocacy and education organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
GSE, in collaboration with community partners, led efforts to ensure nondiscrimination for transgender and gender nonconforming people in NJ, pass the most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the country, end sexual orientation and gender identity/expression change efforts in NJ (sometimes called conversion therapy), and bring marriage equality to the Garden State.
In this post-marriage environment, our main focuses are youth, transgender people, and seniors, and our work on those issues is informed by racial, economic, and disability justice concerns. GSE is working on campaigns to address safe environments for youth, improvement of health services that meet LGBTQ community needs, and respectful treatment of seniors. Beyond that, GSE supports NJ’s activist community by bringing an LGBTQ lens to the shared struggle for justice.
Taking on the Complexities of Transgender Discrimination
Even with nondiscrimination laws for transgender and gender nonconforming people on the books in NJ, we still need to make sure transgender people have improved access to health care and birth certificates that match their gender identities.
Not all transgender people undergo medical treatments to transition, but many do, and for those who do, that medical treatment (including hormones, therapies, and surgeries) is medically necessary. Unfortunately, most insurance policies in NJ do not cover those medically necessary treatments. GSE is working with community partners to change that.
As regards identity documents, you can only change the gender marker on your NJ-issued birth certificate if you have had gender reassignment surgery. This is deeply unfair. Again, some transgender people never undergo any medical treatments. Many people will take hormones, but never undergo surgery. Every transition is different, and our laws need to reflect this. GSE is actively working with the NJ legislature to pass a law to ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming people can change their birth certificates without having surgery first.
Creating Safe Space For Youth
At Garden State Equality’s Youth Caucus, youth from across New Jersey – LGBTQ, straight and questioning – learn to advocate for equality and school safety. Meetings take place every Monday from 3pm to 4:30 (on hiatus during summer months), either at a designated meeting place (usually 40 South Fullerton Ave, Montclair, NJ), or via Google Hangout. If you’d like to take part in Youth Caucus, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strengthening Anti-Discrimination Enforcement
GSE continuously aims to make sure LGBTQ-focused laws are enforced effectively. In October 2014, it arranged to have a designated liaison within the NJ Division of Civil Rights (DCR). This will allow GSE’s constituents—NJ’s LGBTQ population—to discuss their discrimination concerns with a specific point person at DCR.
DCR is a branch of NJ’s Office of the Attorney General, and it has the task of investigating complaints and otherwise enforcing NJ’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD), which provides nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and other identities.
This designated liaison program, which ensures our community members are talking with a sensitive, experienced member of DCR’s staff, is one of the most exciting things to happen in our organization’s history.
LGBTQ residents can get in contact with Ms. LeSter, the LGBTQ designated liaison at DCR, by calling GSE’s discrimination helpline at 973-GSE-LGBTQ, or filing a discrimination complaint at http://www.gardenstateequality.org/report/. GSE does not provide direct services, but will direct your information to Ms. LeSter.