Recently I talked with Jack Lorenz, Deputy Director of Programs and Development at Equality California (EQCA), about transgender health care and equality in the state of California. We discussed where to go in 2014 after the passage of California Assembly Bill 1266 (the School Success and Opportunity Act) and the release of new guidance from U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights that explicitly places gender identity and expression under Title IX protection. (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program that receives federal funds.)
EQCA, which fights for the rights of LGBT persons in California, is the largest LGBT advocacy group in the state. Jack oversees all EQCA's programs -- educational, advocacy and outreach -- as well as development, fundraising, special events and sponsorships. For the 13 years prior to joining EQCA, Jack was Executive Director of the Gatekeeper Foundation, whose work focused on advocacy and programming related to the fair and appropriate treatment of immigrants and other vulnerable populations. Prior to his work with social justice and civil rights organizations, Jack was a film and television studio executive, having worked for Disney, Universal and Mandalay Entertainment. Jack holds a master's degree in humanities from California State University.
In our interview, Jack talks about the new direction and changes at EQCA in 2014. Rick Zbur, a senior partner at the law firm Latham and Watkins, is becoming the new executive director in September. Rick has served -- and will continue to serve -- as president and chair of the board of the California League of Conservation Voters, the political action arm of California's environmentalist community. He formerly served on the board of Lambda Legal and was a founding director and vice president at the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation. Jack sees the new direction for EQCA as pacts and programs for the organization, and the implementation of the laws that EQCA has helped pass. The Equality California Institute is a nonprofit advocacy institute supporting pro-LGBT-equality candidates and making sure that all the pro-LGBT bills that have been passed get implemented in California now.
"Ignorance" and "fear" are the two words that Jack used to describe the discrimination against transgender men and women in public school systems and in larger society. Jack believes that the transgender community is the most marginalized community in America, and that only with acceptance and understanding can society overcome its fear of the transgender community. For the past two years EQCA, in conjunction with the Transgender Law Center, has focused on passing pro-transgender legislation to help transgender persons get the equality they need to become successful Americans. The only way to ensure fair and equal treatment of transgender persons is through the legislative process and the passage of bills.
Jack oversees programs related to the Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare") through Covered California at the Equality California Institute. Transgender persons in the state of California are now able to get full health care and surgeries associated with medical transition. Jack suggests that transgender persons find a certified enrollment counselor in their area to get full details about health care through the Affordable Care Act. For the first time in history, transgender persons can transition safely with affordable medical care and attention.
Jack also oversees EQCA's five annual Equality Awards, a series of formal galas and cocktail events held in San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Sacramento. Each year the Equality Awards recognize the individuals and organizations that have made an impact on the movement to secure full and lasting equality for LGBT people. Past honorees have included Facebook, Adam Lambert, Dolores Huerta, Molly Ringwald, Debra Messing, Arianna Huffington, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and California Gov. Jerry Brown. There are two more Equality Awards this year, in Los Angeles on Sept. 20, and in Palm Springs on Oct. 18. Jack says that the awards are a major fundraiser for EQCA and the institute.
Equality is for all, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
To hear the full conversation with Jack Lorenz, click here.
Follow Toni Newman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tonidnewman