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    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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    1. Andoni on Nov 7, 2007 4:08:19 PM:

      I would bet that transgendered people can sponsor their foreign partners to come to this country and gain a green card too. Does anyone know for sure?

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 7, 2007 5:08:34 PM:

      Oh absolutely they can, at least all of those who can marry.

    1. Rachel Owens on Nov 7, 2007 5:42:06 PM:

      I can't marry my partner. Your example only applies to some transsexuals, some of us were born in states that don't allow us to modify our birth certificates.

      Legally speaking, as far as I can tell, I can't marry EITHER sex.

      I've been terminated multiple times, I transitioned years ago in graduate school. Whenever a background check is done on me, since I cannot modify my birth certificate, I am instantly outed and often fired. Since I cannot modify my birth certificate my undergraduate school won't modify my transcripts either, which means soon as someone wants verification of my degrees, I'm instantly outed.

      So far I've been terminated from seven positions for being transsexual. I've had over twelve interviews 'withdrawn' once they got my transcripts. My GPA was already on my resume, so it leaves only a few reasons that it could have been done.

      I'm lucky to make more than 15,000 a year, despite having a Master's degree. The only jobs that could care less about what I am are minimum wage drudgery.

      So pardon me if I have some resentment towards those who manage to live in exotic locales like Brazil and question why you can even ponder what life on the 'bottom' of things is like.

    1. Dave on Nov 7, 2007 6:12:44 PM:

      Stop trying to build up resentent for the Transgendered. For someone who whines from afar while he lives it up with his significant other -you have no empathy for others.

    1. Scott on Nov 8, 2007 11:51:33 AM:

      Yes, it does look like transgenders do have better legal protections. However, social acceptance is much, much lower. Probably, in part, due to their much lower numbers. While less tangible, social acceptance would need to be factored into a "neediest" determination. I dislike such a comparison and attempt at ranking but it is good to explore where various groups are at.

    1. Steve on Nov 10, 2007 1:06:21 PM:

      I think the question is irrelevant. Sexual orientation issues are very different than gender identity issues. The gay rights movement was hijacked by adding the T approximately eight years ago. No civil rights group asked us if we wanted to add T to our struggle. It was done for it, without our knowledge, and without our consent. That being said, civil rights for people with sex changes is a good thing. Sacrificing 35 years of gay civil rights struggles for transgender rights is WRONG politically and morally.

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