Employment Discrimination: Where do we go from here?

Cross-posted in Orange

Once upon a time…

That’s pretty damn vague.  Re-cue the music.  On September 30, 1992 a teacher told students in 1 pm CDT abstract algebra class that no matter what they heard about their teacher before the next meeting of the class, they should try to concentrate and study for the exam.  The teacher told the students that all Hell was likely to bust loose and there was a good possibility that they would have a new teacher by the next meeting of the class.

But they should try to concentrate and study for the exam. 

Then the teacher dropped her books in her office, walked the carefully prepared letter  down to the office of the Chair, who was not in at the moment, and laid it on his desk.  Then the teacher went to Little Rock for an appointment with a therapist…and the official beginning of hir transition.

It was not lost on her that this was also her deceased father’s birthday.  But he wasn’t using it anymore, so it might as well be hers as well.

[The graphic at the right is entitled Scarlet Letter.]

That shit did hit the fan.  And it continued to do so for nearly 8 years.  For all of that time I patiently tried to teach people what it meant to be transgendered.  My words and my teaching ability were the only defense I had.

Well, except I had tenure.  If I hadn’t had tenure, I would not have gotten it.  That goes without saying.  The University of Central Arkansas didn’t award tenure to anyone they even suspected was GLBT. 

It was touch and go, however, about whether they would invoke the moral turpitude clause to get rid of me.  Then I could sue them.  And they could demand a jury trial.  And the good citizens of Faulkner County, AR could determine whether or not I was a moral person.

They did try to bait me into abandoning my duties.  For the good of the team, you know.

If I hadn’t have had tenure, I would have been fired.  That is a certainty.  That is the fate of most transfolk.

For fifteen years I have spent whatever time I could manage trying to teach people what it means to be someone like me.  The entire point of that effort is that I felt…and still do…that nobody should be treated like I was and, as I said to my boss,

You can’t hire me based solely on my gender.

You can’t fire me based solely on my gender.

What business is my gender to you?

And I have tried to be a voice speaking out in favor of those less fortunate that I, first through PFLAG (my daughter is a lesbian), as a member of the Women’s Project, and as a board member of the Arkansas Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  I have worked incessantly for GLBT rights…and tried to convince people that the T belonged there.

And on Friday, the T was removed from GLBT in the House of Representatives.  Fifteen years of education, of a small army of transpeople walking the halls of Congress to educate our senators and representatives flushed down the toilet without even a vote.  Every promise we were given during those years was violated.  If this is not betrayal, I don’t know what is.

Yet there are gays and lesbians, even some straight people, who have been trying to tell us we are wrong, that we haven’t been betrayed.

Representative Frank:

I believe that it would be a grave error to let this opportunity to pass a sexual orientation nondiscrimination bill go forward, not simply because it is one of the most important advances we’ll have made in securing civil rights for Americans in decades, but because moving forward on this bill now will also better serve the ultimate goal of including people who are transgender than simply accepting total defeat today.

I am a lesbian.  I am not included in coverage by this bill.  Without the gender identity words, neither are you, if you happen to be a gay man who is too nellie or a dyke who is too butch.  Because the bill lets the employer claim he’s not firing you for being gay or lesbian, but because of a reason that is not covered.


I want to focus on that last line.  I want to know how we are eventually going to included.  We have been left behind and left behind and left behind at every step of the process, traded as bargaining chips so that gays and lesbians could gain some rights at every level.  Rights have been gained for gays and lesbians, but not transpeople, in the cities, the counties, the states.  At each step, we were told someone would come back to help us.  It hasn’t happened yet.

When, I ask, has anyone ever come back to help us?  What few rights we have, we’ve won through the courts…without the assistance of gays and lesbians, who have moved on to their own selfish concerns. [Sorry for that…we’ve been accused lately of being selfish for wanting some rights for ourselves.]

But I’ll play the game.  I’ll assume, against all that has happened in the past 15 years, that you really mean it, that after ENDA is the law of the land, you are willing to try to get a law passed that only covers gender identity and that you seriously believe you can make that happen.

How?  I want specifics.  Surely we can ask for that much.  I want to know what each and every one of you is going to do to help us gain that protection.  Especially you gay and lesbian folks who think you know who we are but appear not to have a clue when you open your mouths.  Organization needs to start and it needs to start now.

I don’t have enough years of life left to wait for another generation.

Are you going to educate yourself on this issue?  Are you going to do the work?  Are we going to see an even larger army of gays and lesbians marching those halls to teach ever senator and representative what it means to be transgendered and how come we deserve the same rights you win? 

How about everyone here at Daily Kos sign up for a senator or representative to educate?  They are impressed by numbers.  I suggest about 5 to 10 for each congress-critter.  And you will have to return, time and again, to make sure they stay informed.  Apparently one broadside from the AFA about “men in dresses” is all it takes to destroy a lot of work.

Helpful hint:  While some transfolk are indeed “men in dresses,” these are not people who would do so at work.

If you want information about how it was done, please feel free to ask.  We have done this work that has been undone. 

But now it’s your job.  You need to start with a plan.  We are curious as to what it is going to be.


Skip to comment form

    • Robyn on September 30, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    It would be nice if a collaboration was generated.  I’m expecting excuses.  I’m expecting to be told how we don’t matter when compared to gays and lesbians.  I’m expecting to be belittled and demeaned.

    I can take it.  I posted my “I can take it” music over in the Pony Party this morning.


  1. at Daily Kos. As to your comment here:

    I’m expecting to be told how we don’t matter when compared to gays and lesbians

    I have not seen anyone say this.

  2. it is beyond my feeble efforts of understanding to grasp how one chooses who should get civil rights and who not…who should be protected and who not…

    too confused and angry to even hope to understand…

    • Alma on September 30, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    I can commit to sending at least one a month to Rep. Conyers, and Sens. Levin and Stabenow. 

    I would however need help formulating the letters.  I feel that no matter how much one reads on the subject, that one is still ignorant, to a great extent, without having lived through it.  Reading about it is much different than feeling it happen, no matter how good the writer writing about it is.

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