November 07, 2007
Who among us is the neediest?
Posted by: Chris
The House is (finally) debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (view it by webcast on CSPAN here), and Republicans have already tried to press for a vote to include transgender protections, a clear sign that they know it would kill the measure.
As the House takes up ENDA and Tammy Baldwin's transgender amendment, it's worth testing the "third rail" of the internal LGBT debate here. It's an article of faith almost, for the professional activists who are pressing a "trans or bust" ENDA strategy, that T Americans are "most needy" when it comes to federal civil rights protections.
The whole game of comparing neediness is rarely beneficial, but since the claim is made so regularly, I wonder whether it's really the case. Consider the following, taken straight from the Human Rights Campaign's transgender FAQ:
- Can Transgender People Adopt Children? Transgender people are not prohibited from adopting under law
- Can Transgender People Get Legally Married? Although marriage is not yet a legal option for gay or lesbian people in any state, it is already an option – and a reality – for many who are transgender.
Just last week, the United Methodist Church decided that a pastor who transitioned from female to male could remain in the pulpit; this same mainline Protestant denomination recently defrocked a minister after she publicly acknolwedged she is gay. That's because many religious faiths don't have the same specific objections to gender identity as they do to homosexuality. Even as backward society as Iran executes homosexuals while subsidizing gender reassignment surgery.
A document called "Transgender Tools," produced by HRC for use by employers, notes "a growing consensus that transgender people are covered under state and federal sex discrimination statutes":
In the past few years, an increasing number of federal courts have interpreted federal sex discrimination laws to cover gender identity and expression, particularly in the area of impermissible sex stereotyping. In practical terms, this could mean that employers could be held accountable for anti-transgender discrimination in their workplaces.
Almost every story of transgender workplace discrimination I've seen involves the complicated issues surrounding the limited time period when an employee actually transitions from one gender to another, raising legitimate questions about use of restrooms and locker rooms, photo credentials, dress codes, health insurance and the like. These issues are complicated and serious, and they are also once-in-a-lifetime, at least at their most severe.
The website for the National Center for Transgender Equality, the leading trans rights group, does not include a single detailed story of workplace discrimination, at least that I could locate. It did, however, include some false and offensive "talking points" to be used to defeat workplace rights for GLB Americans:
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is one community and the community ONLY wants to move forward together with one unified bill. CALL TODAY!
This is, of course, a lie. The HRC poll released this week confirmed what was absolutely evident anecdotally: the vast majority of LGBT Americans favor passing the compromise ENDA if the votes aren't there for transgender protections.
None of this is to suggest that transgender Americans don't need workplace protection; of course they do. But T Americans already enjoy all sorts of basic civil rights denied to GLB Americans, including marriage, joint adoption and some workplace protection. To call them the neediest among us is a claim without support.
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