Thursday, January 17, 2008
Try for a moment to imagine an America where equal opportunity really does mean everyone — even people who are transgender. That was the legislative vision the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was supposed to uphold. But then came the recent Congressional shenanigans that have threatened to leave transgender people in the lurch and out of the bill.
Here’s the deal: In 31 states it’s perfectly legal to fire someone just for being lesbian, gay or bisexual, and in 39 states for being transgender. So the need for an anti-discrimination bill is compelling. Today, it is illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, and disability.
It’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to that list.
However, the most recent version of ENDA only adds sexual orientation; gender identity and expression have been stripped out.
Permit me to offer a personal perspective. My husband is a transgender man. We were married this past New Year’s Eve. When I first met Marcus, he was known as Margery. Not until he was 40 did he feel brave enough to face down the prejudice and act on what he had felt since childhood — that the female body he had been born into was the wrong sex. Thanks to modern medicine, Margery was able to medically transition and legally become Marcus.
Unlike many transgender people who get fired when they transition, Marcus did not have to worry about his job. His employer, a major New York Stock Exchange firm, was enlightened: The HR department even did a Transgender 101 seminar for his co-workers. His firm is one of the 152 Fortune 500 companies that recognize that giving transgender employees equal treatment simply makes good business sense, and have the written policies to back that conviction up. . . .
There’s been a lot of chatter about race and gender in the last week amongst the chattering class, hasn’t there? Has this discourse even once risen above the level of competing interest groups and how their votes might be disbursed?
In contrast, here is a very thoughtful and thought-provoking article (hat tip to Ted - thanks for pointing this out). Becoming a Black Man is actually broader than the title implies. It explores the different ways in which racism is experienced by men and women, from the perspective of people who have personally experienced both. There is a deep knowledge in this community of the way race and gender work in our society, knowledge that no one else has. It’s extremely powerful. One man profiled by the author, Louis Mitchell
finds that he’s in a unique position now to mentor young Black men. As someone who came of age in the lesbian community and has feminist politics, Mitchell jokes with Black boys who talk about “fags” and refer to women as “bitches.” He pulls the teenagers aside and uses a bit of reverse psychology, telling them that it’s okay if they’re gay. When the teens protest that they’re not, Mitchell says, “You have no respect for women, and you’re fixated on gay men. What am I supposed to think?”
Who else could both understand the urgency of doing this kind of intervention, and be in a position to do it? Another transman I know tells people this: “When I was a woman, I was a feminist. Now that I’m a man, I’m a virulent feminist.” What he means is that he now understands much more clearly how unexamined and nearly invisible gender bias can be, bias that insidiously constricts and censors each of us. Ways in which other people interacted with him when they thought he was a woman only became visible and subject to analysis once he had the perspective of interacting with people as a man. So there is this entire universe of knowledge about gender that is only accessible through the experience of transgender people and the freedom of transgender people to share it.
Some of this knowledge is already available - for instance, we all “know” about Driving While Black - but becomes known in a much more decisive and enriched way:
“I always wear shoes I can run in,” Park says. She concedes she knew that Asian women were exoticized, but “it’s one thing reading about something in a book and another to be running down the street.”
The value of this knowledge goes far beyond the individual who attains it, too; we all collectively benefit from the articulation of experience that would otherwise remain invisible to us.
Listening to Monica Roberts, it’s hard to imagine a time when she wasn’t a leader. She’s adamant that Black trans people need their own spaces. For example, she says, there’s a lot of hostility in the white transgender community toward Christianity, and some of that is justified. But when it comes to Black trans folks, she says, it’s impossible to just walk away from the church. “You can’t leave out Christians if you want people of color” at a conference, she says. “We were all raised in a church.”
This truth, the need for this separate space, is also paradoxically laying the groundwork for Christian churches universally to become welcoming of all their children. The refusal of trans people of color to walk away from the church will require the church to grow. This isn’t something being “forced” on anyone through legislation or the courts. It simply is. . . .
by Monica Roberts
Like many peeps in the transgender community I was incensed, but not surprised by Susan Stanton's unfortunate and ignorantly naive comments. She echoed crap that I've heard for over a decade from Barney Frank and HRC when she stated that America isn't ready for transgender civil rights.
It was ironic because her St. Pete Times interview came out literally 24 hours after I posted a commentary warning that she was being groomed by HRC to become the next spokessellout.
"I think we need to do a whole lot more educating before we’re going to be able to realistically have the support on the national level to get this passed. I personally don’t feel denying the rights of one group should be perpetuated unless everybody has those rights."
But in the spirit of Dr. King's birthday, instead of excoriating Susan for her less than enlightened comments, I'd rather 'ejumacate' Ms. Stanton.
Susan, since you're a newbie to living as a minority, let me hip you to something since you spent the past forty plus years basking in white male privilege.
America is NEVER ready to grant rights to people it despises.
The despised folks have to fight tooth and nail, claw, scratch, cajole, protest, write, march, shame, embarrass, vote, call out and educate until America does the right thing and finally has the moment of clarity that says, 'hey, they're right, it is wrong to discriminate against these people and we need to do the morally right thing and correct it." . . .
This resource identifies important health priorities for transgender people and was compiled by the National LGBT Health Coalition with the input of multiple individuals and organizations, including Philadelphia's Transgender Health Action Coalition (THAC) HealthPriorities_Trans.pdf
By Daisy Hernández
Louis Mitchell expected a lot of change when he began taking injections of hormones eight years ago to transition from a female body to a male one. He anticipated that he’d grow a beard, which he eventually did and enjoys now. He knew his voice would deepen and that his relationship with his partner, family and friends would change in subtle and, he hoped, good ways, all of which happened. What he had not counted on was changing the way he drove.
Within months of starting male hormones, “I got pulled over 300 percent more than I had in the previous 23 years of driving, almost immediately. It was astounding,” says Mitchell, who is Black and transitioned while living in the San Francisco area and now resides in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Targeted for “driving while Black” was not new to Mitchell, who is 46 years old. For example, a few years before transitioning, he had been questioned by a cop for simply sitting in his own car late at night. But “he didn’t really sweat me too much once he came up to the car and divined that I was female,” Mitchell recalls. . . .
You've got to have a sense of cosmic patience with a play like "Looking for Normal," a flawed script receiving a pretty good staging by a new company called Artisphere Theatre.
Jane Anderson's 2001 comedy-tinged-drama about a husband who, after 25 years of marriage, finally admits to and acts on his long-buried belief that he should have been born a woman is a pioneer in the nascent world of transgender theater. Vanguard plays like this generally aren't very good pieces of mainstream drama - they tend toward the preachy and the pedantic, the histrionic and the terribly, terribly earnest.
Anderson's effort is more accomplished than many of the scripts that characterized, say, the early stages of the national gay theater movement or the local beginnings of Asian-American drama. With a background in television writing, Anderson has a good ear for the witty line. But she has a terrible eye for structure.
Setting the story in present-day smalltown Ohio, she makes Roy, the protagonist, a regular, church-going guy who works at the John Deere plant. He's not too free with his emotions and he has some garden-variety dysfunction in his family. When the knowledge of his inner self becomes too powerful, he's compelled to spill the beans during what his wife, Irma, thinks is a routine "tune-up" of their marriage with their family pastor. . . .