Thursday, October 25, 2007

JMO - Rights and protections

I've been only kinda' following the progress of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through Congress, especially after Representative Barney Frank decided to withdraw the inclusion of people with gender identity in the Act. This is sad because it drops protections for a group of people in our country that really need the protection from discrimination. There are many reasons for this, and while some larger corporations are implementing new policies on workplace protection, the vast majority of transpeople don't work for those companies.

This is important since the cost of a transperson's transistion is expensive as most health insurance carriers don't cover the costs of medical treatments necessary or required for a full transistion, and the costs of legal, personal and other expense associated with a transistion are staggering. This easily starts at $20-25,000 and can easily be $40-50,000 or more. Many transpeople simply can't afford it and often live in less than a full transistion, putting the biggest, and the most important, expenses into the future with hope.

This is why transpeople, who are otherwise just as normal as everyone else, need the protections, to simply live and work in the world like all of us. And it's the misinformation that has prevaded the media and many people's understanding of transpeople, see Lynn Conway's Web page of successful transwomen. And I've already written about the differences between gender presentation and gender identity.

Anyway, I'm deeply disappointed by the withdrawl of transpeople in the new ENDA. It's clearly discrimination of a marginal group of people who will feel even more marginalized as the gay and lesbian community will have their protections, leaving transpeople out on the street wondering what happened. You can hide being gay or lesbian in your employment, and while many transpeople pass as their (mind) gender, you can't hide being a transperson because the legal requirements to change your legal sex will out you to your employer.

But my interest here is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the ENDA. I read the republican and religious right's view of it (sorry, no links to those who oppress people). They miss the point of their argument by an old fashioned country mile. They should know better, but they're simply using political rhetoric than truth and reality. It's NOT about rights, it's about protections.

And that's the issue. It's not violation of any part of the Constitution or Amendments to extend protections to homosexuals and transpeople. It's done for the rights and protections of a lot of other groups in several ways, but mainly to provides rights in their employment and protections against discrimination. "And?, you ask.

For one there are rights for women to get maternity leave and men to get maternity-care leave. There are rights for people to get family sick leave to care for other members of their family for short-term and longterm health care. This is a right of every employee and companies have to ensure they provide the minimum without either not employing them for potential time off, denying employees the time off, or firing them for taking the time off.

For another there are protections from work and workplace discrimination for a variety of reasons. You can not hire or fire a woman for simply being female and the potential for becoming a mother. You can't fire women for becoming pregnant and having a child. They can't discriminate against the disabled and must provide ways they can be a fully functioning employee. You can be fired for harrassement of someone's race, ethnicity and sex/gender.

So, adding sexual orientation and gender identity is a normal extension of these protections in the ENDA. These groups deserve the protections. It's about all of us, the whole human diversity in this country. Anything less is unconscionable for an elected representative of the people. We deserve better and they deserve to be and act better. For all Americans, and especially transpeople.

There are no boxes on a job application or an employment record asking if you're, (a) hetereosexual, (b) homosexual, (c) bisexual. But there are boxes asking if you're, (a) male, (b) female. And if your birth sex is different than your gender, you are stuck having to explain. Or you lie. If you are already an employee and want to transistion to change the box you checked, you have to come out to your human resources office and likely every other employee where you work.

That's the difference. A transperson is facing our societial norms about sex and gender. They often present themselves differently, such a cross-dressers, gender-queer and others, but tranpeople want to live fulltime to become physically and legally the gender their mind identifies as. It's not a hard thing to understand and really accept. Unfortunately some don't easily "pass" as their gender, and make people uncomfortable. They often suffer the consequences of this throughout their life.

While transpeople have now been included in the Hate Crimes laws, many don't want to see the reason to extend it to normal life. But as it now stands House Resolution 3685 will show what Congress really thinks of transpeople. The truth of someone's values, when it comes down to the real decisions, isn't what or who they include but what or who they exclude. So, why are tranpspeople not people?

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