About Jason Landau Goodman

Jason Landau Goodman is a law student at the University of Pittsburgh, and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. A recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Jason is a fifth generation Pennsylvanian from Lower Merion, PA.

Historic Election of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians


The 2017 General Election brought historic wins for LGBTQ candidates across Pennsylvania. Over a dozen out candidates were successfully elected or re-elected for local office.

Tyler Titus won his election for Erie City School Board – making him the first out trans elected official in Pennsylvania history.

Luis Medina won his election for Lewisburg Borough Council – making him the first known out public official in Union County, and first known out Latinx public official in Pennsylvania. (Luis is a co-founder of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress.)

Mark Barbee won his election for Mayor of Bridgeport, in Montgomery County – as he continues his service in being the first known out Black public official in Pennsylvania. He just completed his first term on the Bridgeport Borough Council.

We are proud to share the news of out Pennsylvanians and several parents of LGBTQ young people who have won their elections.

These wins would not have been possible without the trailblazers who ran before them. Rep. Mike Fleck from Huntingdon County, our first openly gay state legislator, lost re-election in 2014 after he came out. Out lesbian Fern Kaufman from Chester County ran for a state representative seat in 2010. Out gay candidate Eric Gutshall for Dauphin County Controller in 2015.  There have been many candidates for township, borough, city, and county governments who tried but did not prevail throughout Pennsylvania. They paved the way for the general public to accept LGBTQ people as public servants, ultimately making wins like this possible.

With 2,562 municipalities across the commonwealth, it is practically impossible to monitor every elected official in Pennsylvania. It is also practically impossible to assess the ‘outness’ of many individuals, some of whom may share their identities with close community circles but not with local media. We have decided to only list here who is ‘out’ in terms of their identities being public and widely known. For this reason, we generally use the phrase “first known out” person in a given context unless there is certainty otherwise. You are welcome to email us information on a publicly out elected who was not widely known before – and we’ll update our records! Photos and information noted below are from the public websites or social media of the candidates.

This election was historic across the nation. In Virginia, Danica Roem has become the first out trans state legislator elected in the nation. Andrea Jenkins will be joining Minneapolis City Council and become the first out black trans person elected to public office in the United States. Seattle elected Jenny Durkan, an out lesbian, as its new mayor. Lisa Middleton will be joining Palm Springs City Council and become the first out trans person elected to a non-judicial office in California. These wins are possible because of leaders like Harvey Milk from San Francisco, Kim Coco Iwamoto from Hawaii, and Ed Flanagan from Vermont. 


Lori Schreiber
Abington Township Board of Commissioners

Commissioner Schreiber has been re-elected to a fourth term on the Abington Township Board of Commissioners. Abington is among the largest townships in Pennsylvania, located in eastern Montgomery County and bordering Philadelphia. Commissioner Schreiber’s leadership was instrumental in Abington’s adoption of a local non-discrimination ordinance in 2012. She lives in Roslyn with her partner, Linda.

Mark Barbee
Bridgeport Mayor

Mayor-elect Barbee will become the first known out Black Mayor in Pennsylvania history. Barbee, 28, has just completed his first term on Bridgeport Borough Council. Bridgeport is located in central Montgomery County, bordering Norristown and outside of Philadelphia. 

Ron Strouse
Doylestown Mayor

Mayor Strouse was re-elected and will now serve a second term. Doylestown is the County Seat of Bucks County.

Tyler Titus
Erie City School Board

School Board member-elect Titus has become the first out trans elected official in Pennsylvania history. Titus, 33, is a therapist in Erie and father of two young children. 

Glenn Paul Wascovich
Hallam Mayor

Mayor-elect Wascovich is among the first out elected officials in York County. Wascovich lives in Hallam with his husband, Michael – who currently serves on Hallam Borough Council. Hallam is located in a rural area near the Susquehanna River, between the cities of York and Lancaster.

Ben Allatt
Harrisburg City Council

City Councilmember Allatt was re-elected to a second term. Allat lives in Harrisburg with his husband, Stephen. Harrisburg is our state capital, located in south central Pennsylvania.

Dan Miller
Harrisburg City Treasurer

Treasurer Miller was elected to his first full term in the position. Miller was appointed Treasurer by Harrisburg City Council to fill a vacancy in June 2016. He is also a former Harrisburg City Controller. Miller lives in Harrisburg with his husband, Carl. Harrisburg is our state capital, located in south central Pennsylvania.

Amy Zanelli
Lehigh County Commission

Commissioner-elect Zanelli will become the first known out County Commissioner in Pennsylvania history. Zanelli lives in central Lehigh County with her wife and three daughters. She will be the first out member of the Lehigh County Commission. Lehigh County is located in eastern Pennsylvania between Scranton and Philadelphia.

Matthew Fetick
Kennett Square Mayor

Mayor Fetick was re-elected to a third term. He is an out gay man and supported the local non-discrimination ordinance that was adopted by Borough Council earlier this year. Kennett Square is located in southern Chester County, about an hour drive west of Philadelphia.

Luis Medina
Lewisburg Borough Council

Councilmember-elect Luis Medina will become the first out local government official in Lewisburg – and the first known out Latinx public official in Pennsylvania. Medina, 29, is a counselor who received his undergraduate and masters degrees from the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. While a student leader at Bloom, he became a co-founder of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. Lewisburg is the county seat of Union County, located along the Susquehanna River.

LeRoy Stearns
Meadville Mayor

Mayor Stearns was elected for his first full term as Meadville Mayor. He was appointed as Mayor by Meadville City Council to complete the term of Christopher Soff in January 2015. Mayor Stearns had served on Meadville City Council from 1998 to 2015. Meadville is the county seat of Crawford County, located in rural northwestern Pennsylvania.

Sean Strub
Milford Mayor

Mayor Strub was elected for his first full term as Milford Mayor. He was appointed as Mayor by Milford Borough Council to complete the term of Bo Fean in May 2016. Mayor Strub is the Director of The Sero Project, a national organization comprised of individuals living with HIV who combat stigma and injustice, and is the founder of POZ Magazine. Before moving to Pike County in 1997, he ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in New York, becoming the first person to run for federal office who was openly HIV+. Mayor Strub lives in the borough with his partner, Xavier. Milford is the county seat of Pike County, located in northeastern Pennsylvania near the borders of New Jersey and New York.

Chris Dietz
Millersburg Borough Council

Millersburg Borough Council President Dietz was re-elected to a third full term. Dietz lives in Millersburg with his husband, Alex. Millersburg Borough is located in a rural region of northern Dauphin County along the Susquehanna River.

Dan Murphy
State College Borough Council

Murphy won his election for a seat on the State College Borough Council, becoming the first out member of the council. State College Borough is located in direct center of Pennsylvania, in the heart  of Centre County.

Josie Byzek and Jesse Gantt
Susquehanna Township School Board

School board members-elect Byzek and Gantt won their seats on the Susquehanna Township School Board. Byzek is a mother who lives in the township with her wife. Gantt lives in the township with his husband, Kevin, and son. This is the first known time that two out elected officials will serve on the same local legislative body at the same time.

Eric Elvanian
Upper Merion School Board

School Board member Elvanian won re-election to a second term to the Upper Merion School Board. Elvanian lives in King of Prussia with his husband.

Gregory Lynch
West Conshohocken Mayor

Mayor-elect Lynch will become the first out mayor of West Conshohocken. Lynch is a husband and father who has lived in the borough for over 13 years. For the past six years he has been a member of the West Conshohocken Borough Council, winning a special election in 2012. He has been Vice-President of Borough Council for the past four years. West Conshohocken is a small community located along the Schuylkill River in central Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia.

Several parents of young LGBTQ people also won their elections!

Alisa Bowman
East Penn School Board

School board member-elect Bowman won her election to become an East Penn School Board member. She lives with her family in Emmaus, outside of Allentown in Lehigh County. Her son is Ari Bowman, who is a 13 year-old trans boy who rose to international fame when he spoke out for trans inclusion before his school board in 2016. His mother will now sit on that very school board. (Alisa and Ari have both spoken with PYC in the State Capitol for our annual Pennsylvania Comes Out for Freedom event in 2016.)

Kathy Dahlkemper
Erie County Executiv

County Executive Dahlkemper won re-election to a second term. As the mother of an openly gay son, Dahlkemper has used her civic platforms, previously as a US Representative and currently as County Executive, to take action supporting LGBTQ equality.


This is a live post and will be updated as new information comes in about the 2017 General Election

State Senate Committee Set to Vote on Ban for Trans Healthcare in CHIP

We have just learned that tomorrow morning in the State Senate, Sen. Donald White (R-41) will be introducing an amendment to ban trans healthcare coverage in the CHIP re-authorization bill in committee.

The Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides free or low-cost healthcare insurance coverage for youth and families who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid. Since 2016, CHIP has included gender confirmation healthcare coverage.

Sen. White is the Chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The votes are not looking good for us to stop the amendment in committee. Instead of listening to medical professionals about the harm this proposal would cause, this State Senate committee is set to rapidly report out this bill.

The CHIP re-authorization bill is HB 1388. Below is the proposed amendment. We do not know how many trans youth receive gender healthcare under CHIP, but it could be in the hundreds. We know that cutting off hormones, therapy, and other gender healthcare access would be devastating.

This ban on trans healthcare under CHIP would begin on January 1, 2018.

We believe it will be most helpful for our networks to contact Sen. Jake Corman (R-34), the Senate Majority Leader, to express your support that trans healthcare for youth is critical to preserve. You can contact Sen. Corman at jcorman@pasen.gov or phone his office at 717-787-1377. This bill would also need to go through the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-16) and can be reached at pbrowne@pasen.gov or 717-787-1349. You can look up your own Senator here and call or email them to share your support for trans inclusion in CHIP.

We want to fill the meeting room tomorrow with supporters. Our Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine will be there.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, October 18th, at 9:30am in Room 461 of the Main Capitol. If you are planning to attend, please wear PURPLE to show your support.

Our Facebook event for the committee meeting is here.

From PYC, working directly with and representing trans youth throughout the commonwealth, we will be organizing visibility and action around this development as quickly as we can.

We will share more information as becomes available.

Non-discrimination Bill Reintroduced in the State Senate

For the sixth legislative session, an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination bill covering employment, housing, and public accommodations was introduced in the State Senate. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) are again prime sponsors of the bill, now SB 613. Upon reintroduction, the bill has 16 co-sponsors, which includes three Republicans and 13 Democrats. The bill was referred to the State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon).

PA Trans Youth Roundtable Forms

In the immediate aftermath of the US Departments of Justice and Education withdrawing their Title IX guidance supporting transgender student inclusion, the Pennsylvania Youth Congress convened an emergency state meeting of young trans Pennsylvanians in Harrisburg. This meeting welcomed over 20 trans youth from all across the state to meet with Physican General Dr. Rachel Levine to discuss the issues occurring in our state’s schools. The afternoon meeting also included a press conference, featuring remarks from students in Pittsburgh and and the Pine-Richland School Districts.

The PA Trans Youth Roundtable plans to meet again to grow into an corps of young trans leaders in Pennsylvania.

67 Racist High School Mascots in Pennsylvania

At least 12% of Pennsylvania (brick-and-mortar) public high school graduates come from a school with a racist mascot.

For over five years, the Pennsylvania Youth Congress has been keeping meticulous records of school board policies as they relate to LGBTQ inclusion throughout the commonwealth. This is a very intense process, which involves the tracking  of numerous policies across 500 districts. Many districts do not share their policies online, so this research has us sending regular Right to Know requests, which requires financial resources and can take months to resolve. We are proud to have collected this information and finally have the ability to collate our findings in producing a landmark report on the status of LGBTQ-inclusion in Pennsylvania school district-level policy this winter.

As an intersectional social justice organization, we would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to identify other ways through policy that Pennsylvania public schools make education systems unsafe for students. After seeing dozens of outright racists mascots in our policy research, we knew this epidemic should be clearly brought to light on a statewide level.

Racist mascots create a hostile school environment for both Native students and students of conscience by promoting wholly offensive imagery as a core community value.

For further reading  on this issue, please go to Native writers and perspectives. A national, Native-led organization was formed in 2014 to challenge the use of racist mascots in the United States in Not Your Mascots. Their website had a ton of information and shares ways to get involved. The National Congress of American Indians has a useful website summarizing this history as well, and is a partner of the Not Your Mascots organization.

In Pennsylvania, there have been campaigns mounted by students at some of these schools to change their mascots.

Recently, the student newspaper at Neshaminy High School in Montgomery County took a bold stand against their mascot being the “R*dskins.” A major battle erupted in 2013 when The Playwickian was refusing to print “R*dskin” in their paper. A complaint was filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which in 2015, ruled the school had 90 day to change their mascot. The legal and community process is ongoing surrounding alleged violations of First Amendment.

Our research is based on the 584 brick-and-mortar public high schools who graduated students in 2016. We identified 67 schools as having racist mascots. Using the most recent enrollment statistics available from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), 59,251 students are enrolled at these schools identified with racist mascots schools. That is about the population of the Lancaster, our commonwealth’s 10th largest municipality. These schools are located all throughout the state. In context with all PDE-designated public school district entities that graduated students in 2016, this means that at least 12% of Pennsylvania (brick-and-mortar) public high school graduates come from an institution with a racist mascot.

Racist Public School Mascot Map

[As of December 2016]

We did not count ethnic-inspired mascots such as the Vikings, Trojans, Scotties, or Dutchmen as racist. While they may present ethnic stereotypes, they do not promote and are not rooted in white supremacy. We also found two schools with Quakers for a mascot. This is felt as inappropriate by many Quakers, but again, not based in white supremacy. 

Several district names are inspired by Native tribal nations located in their regions: The Mohawk School District, in Lawrence County (about halfway between Erie and Pittsburgh). Their mascot is the Raiders.  The Iroquois School District in Erie County has Braves as their mascot.

Of all 584 high school mascots identified, Indians was only second in popularity to Panthers, which were in 26 schools.

Here is a breakdown of the offensive names and their usage:

Mascot NameNumber of High SchoolsStudent Population
Big Red 1494
Chiefs 1713
R*dskins 22,973
Red Raiders 53,887
Warriors 2015,744

We can all learn from the strength and commitment of the students at Neshaminy, and others who are actively resisting racist mascot names. These changes will not happen just by identifying mascots as racist. There are many personal conversations ahead in these communities about how much harm they cause people – with students, civic leaders, and ultimately, school board members. 

The time to take action is always now.



Today’s Update from Pine-Richland; Amicus Brief Filed



Today, Lambda Legal fought in federal court for a Preliminary Injunction to bar the enforcement of an anti-trans policy adopted in September by the Pine-Richland School Board. The policy is the center of the federal lawsuit, following months of contentious school board meetings. The resolution that was adopted was a directive to the district administration to bar trans students from using the facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Today’s hearing before Judge Mark Hornak lasted almost six hours, beginning at 9:30am. Judge Hornak’s decision on the Preliminary Injunction is forthcoming.

The Lambda Legal attorneys representing the three trans student plaintiffs were Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Kara Ingelhart, and Christopher Clark. The Pine-Richland School District is represented by the Pittsburgh law firm Maiello, Brungo, & Maiello.

Last Wednesday, November 23rd, through the help of Lambda Legal, the Pennsylvania Youth Congress filed an amicus brief along with THRIVE of Southwest PA in support of the trans student plaintiffs in Pine-Richland. The brief features the experiences of transgender students throughout the commonwealth, and is shared below.

In response to the brief being submitted, attorneys for Pine-Richland asked the court to reject it. Lambda Legal defended the brief’s submission before the court. On Monday, Judge Hornak approved the brief’s submission before the court.

More updates to come soon…


At Dawn, We Rise


This has been a devastating day for many of us. The results of this election have opened floodgates of bigotry and hatred to flow through. We are now in a profound moment of global history, which will test the strength of people of conscience. Yet, as dark as the days ahead may be, we will always find the light.

Please take a moment to read our statement of action tonight. We recommit ourselves to meaningful rural LGBTQ youth empowerment and eradicating white supremacy.

While we had a beautiful evening two weeks ago opening our state LGBTQ youth advocacy center, we are now called to use our power and place for urgent action. We will share three key ways below that you can get involved to support the LGBTQ youth movement in Pennsylvania, including the opportunity for young advocates to attend our regional mobilization meetings in the coming weeks which will extend throughout our nine regions across the commonwealth.

PYC State Headquarters Opening Reception – October 25, 2016

We send our love to those who have been threatened with great harm. We will continue to be in solidarity with people of color, immigrants, indigenous people, those with disabilities, women, Muslims, Jews, and everyone who has been intimidated with violence and hatred.

PYC’s mission has always been clear: We are empowering our generation of leaders to be effective advocates in local and state government. We will continue to successfully pursue our mission and create meaningful change.

Since we established PYC in 2011, we have centered much of our work on supporting rural LGBTQ youth. There is great concern for the shifting national landscape as it relates to the safety of LGBTQ people in our rural communities, where those who harbor hatred may feel emboldened in these days ahead. We want to assure you that we are with every young rural LGBTQ Pennsylvanian, and we will rise with you.

We will be redoubling our efforts to equip young rural LGBTQ Pennsylvanians with the necessary tools to advocate in their communities for human decency and intersectional social justice. While some organizations focus primarily on flashy fundraisers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh alone, literally flying over our heartland, for years we have been in the trenches throughout rural Pennsylvania. We look forward to expanding our advocacy efforts across the largest rural population of any state in the nation.

We imagine our world where rural Pennsylvanians of conscience are fully equipped and empowered to talk with their neighbors about social justice. The status quo of dismissing rural leadership is unacceptable, certainly as we consider the impacts our rural electorate has on American democracy. Our rural communities can hold the United States together – or cement our division apart.

As people of conscience, we will persevere in going high, regardless of how low future events may try to pull us down. In the pitch black, we believe our light can shine and grow.

We have hope that those who are surrounded in hatred and violence toward our diverse communities, can be successfully met with our stronger capacity to find human decency in one another.

Indeed, we are at a scary crossroads where so much of our recent progress in human history is up to be erased.

We do not make any bones about how white supremacy has and continues to play an unfortunate role in our political systems. We reaffirm our commitment to eliminating white supremacy, racism, and xenophobia wherever it exists. We will not rest while any of us is under attack from our own government and communities.

Our commitment to transparency and accountability leads us to share with you our reflection: We recognize the longtime inadequate support for these critical, intersectional social justice efforts. In the next chapter for our nation, we must ask each other clearly: Will you help? Will you get involved? Recent national investments into Pennsylvania on LGBT issues have been sent through unaccountable politically-connected enterprises rather than community-based intersectional social justice organizations like PYC. We hope you join us in building a community movement worthy of your investment.

Governor Tom Wolf Visits PYC’s 2nd Annual PA Comes Out for Freedom Event  – October 26, 2016

Earlier this fall, we shared with you three important ways you can support LGBTQ youth advocacy in Pennsylvania. We implore you to consider getting involved today to safeguard the lives young LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.

1. Keystone Pride Alliance

For Youth and Young Advocates

Friday, November 18th
Erie-West: Allegheny College, 4-5pm
Pittsburgh and Southwestern PA: University of Pittsburgh, 7-9pm

Saturday, November 19th
North Central: Lock Haven University, 2-4pm
South Central: PYC Headquarters, 6-8pm

Sunday, November 20th
NEPA and Lehigh Valley: East Stroudsburg University, 1-3pm
Philadelphia and Delaware Valley: University of Pennsylvania, 5-7pm


2. PYC Leadership Council

For Young Pennsylvanians
  • If you are a young Pennsylvanian interested in supporting the Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth movement in a broader way, consider joining the PYC Leadership Council. Members of the council are advisors to the organization and participate in a monthly giving circle to the organization. Click here to join!


3. Keystone Partners

For All Friends of Pennsylvania
  • Supporting LGBTQ youth leadership with a monthly donation will allow us to sustain and grow our operations. For a monthly gift starting at $10, you can join our donor circle as a Keystone Partner. You’ll get special insider updates on PYC activities and agenda. Click here to become a Keystone Partner!


PYC Constitutional Convention in Harrisburg August 6, 2011

The most powerful words that come to our mind are given to us from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Constitution that was drafted in 1960, which we adapted into the founding documents of PYC in 2011:

“Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear, love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Peace dominates war; faith reconciles doubt. Mutual regards cancels enmity. Justice for all overcomes injustice. The redemptive community supersedes systems of gross social immorality.

Love is the central motif of nonviolence. Love is the force by which God binds man to himself and man to man. Such love goes to the extreme; it remains loving and forgiving even during hostility. It matches the capacity of evil to inflict suffering with an even more enduring capacity to absorb evil, all the while persisting in love.

By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.”

PYC State Leaders Meeting at Bloomsburg – November 5, 2016

There are many, many advances in LGBTQ civil rights that are threatened to be taken away. The spirit of the current administration has been embracing of LGBTQ people – and that is expected to disappear. Fear is on the minds of countless LGBTQ people throughout our nation.

Though we may be scared for our future, we are also fully ready to push back and fight for justice and freedom. This fear is not just because we happen to be LGBTQ, but that many of us live at the intersection of being LGBTQ and a person of color, a woman, a person with a disability, immigrant, Muslim, Jewish, and other marginalized identities, who have been targeted for harm. We fear for our nation not just on social issues, but on our economy, environment, and education system.

The arc of the moral universe certainly bends toward justice, no matter in times when the arc has been made longer.

Today is the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or night of broken glass, which was a massive program across Nazi Germany which resulted in mass destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues, business, and hundreds of murders. This morning, several Swastikas were found emblazoned on buildings in Philadelphia. This is our reality, yet we can work to change it.

We understand this is a very difficult time for many of us. Please know, you are absolutely worth fighting for. Please call any of the hotlines below if you want to talk with someone.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 (online chat available)
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860

We ask all allies and accomplices in this work to contact us at anytime if we can be helpful to you. Please let us know where and when to be there, and we will be with you as we can.

You may reach out to us anytime. I can personally be contacted by email at jgoodman@payouthcongress.org, and our phone number is 717-743-1035.

We can – and must – work together to ensure violence and hatred do not harden our nation and commonwealth. This is possible when we all get involved, mobilize, and take action.

Thank you for your continued leadership and support. We are counting on your help to ensure we not only survive, but realize the light ahead and thrive.

  Yours Always,

  Jason Landau Goodman
  Executive Director

Pennsylvania Comes Out for Freedom 2016

The Second Annual Pennsylvania Comes Out for Freedom event was held in the State Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. The event is a formal community observance of both LGBTQ History Month and National Coming Out Day in our State Capitol. This year, speakers included Former State Rep. Mike Fleck, Chair of the PA Board of Probation and Parole Leo Dunn, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Hannah Smith Brubaker. Community leaders included Ari and Alissa Bowman, Dr. Michele Angello, Alonda Talley, Suzanne Oliva, and Nykolai Blichar. We also had a special performance from Oscar Williams, who was in Fun Home on Broadway.

We were thrilled to welcome Governor Tom Wolf for this special event. He was able to meet the speakers who came in from across the state.


PA Courts Now Prohibit Gender Identity Discrimination

UJS Policy UpdateWe are thrilled to share that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has revised the Unified Judicial System’s non-discrimination policy to include protections on the basis of gender identity and expression. This policy is now in effect at every court under the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, including the Superior, Commonwealth, Common Pleas, and Magisterial courts. The policy must be adhered to by court employees, as well as district attorneys and lawyers engaging in court-related matters.

In June 2016, we approached Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward to propose this update. Judge Ward brought the proposed amendment to the Supreme Court which adopted the policy in in July. A judicial system-wide memo was distributed in August to all Justices, Judges, Magisterial District Judges, and state-level judiciary employees announcing the new policy.

We regard the amended non-discrimination policy as a seismic shift toward ensuring dignity and respect for transgender Pennsylvanians.

Actions that are now prohibited range from harassment by court employees toward transgender people, to prohibiting judges from discriminating against transgender people in open court. Additionally, court employees who are transgender are now explicitly protected against discrimination and harassment in their workplace. To address violations of the policy, members of the public and court employees may file a complaint which will be handled as are other cases of discrimination within the state judicial system.

Throughout the commonwealth, transgender people have shared how judges, court employees, prosecutors, and attorneys have been known to discriminate and demean them, both in personal interactions and in court proceedings. However, as the update reflects, the judiciary includes many judges who are supportive of fully respecting transgender people.

This is a significant moment in ensuring justice for all in our judicial system. Many transgender Pennsylvanians have too often had terrifying and traumatizing experiences in our judicial system. We are incredible proud of the Supreme Court’s declaration that transgender people must be regarded with dignity. This policy is instrumental in paving the way forward for openly transgender judges to serve across the commonwealth.

Ciora Thomas, founder of the transgender women of color support network Sisters United in Pittsburgh, reflected on the importance of this update. She said, “I am thrilled to know a safer and dignified future for trans people is becoming a reality. Now we can stand in front of any judge and be respected as women, men, and people, without being misgendered or incorrectly named. We now have the dignity we deserve as American citizens.”

Several years ago, Ciora was before a local magistrate for a minor traffic citation, where she was relentlessly harassed by court employees and the judge. In open court, the judge only referred to her by her birth name and forced her to remove her hair. She complied in the dehumanizing process in order to avoid judicially-imposed consequences. She would now be able to file a complaint and see through a charge where the court employees and judge could be disciplined.

Deja Alvarez, Director of the LGBTQ Home for Hope in Philadelphia, the first LGBTQ homeless shelter in Pennsylvania, said that the new policy “will help empower us to fight against any injustice and bias perpetrated against Trans* communities in the courts. This is a landmark moment in ending discrimination in a system that directly affects our ability to live, where our community is often unjustly put through the criminal justice system at alarmingly high rates.”

The full policy can be found online at the Unified Judicial System’s website, along with the complaint forms.

Pennsylvania Birth Certificate Update

On August 8, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced it has updated its policy on how an individual can change the sex marker on their birth certificate. 

The new policy allows for a Pennsylvanian to amend their birth certificate’s sex marker through a note from a physician stating they have received gender transition care. This is a change from the prior requirement to demonstrate gender confirmation surgery as the threshold to update a birth certificate. 

The National Center for Transgender Equality has posted a quick summary of the steps that need to be taken here.

Below is the updated policy from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.