Friday Philosophy: Protections we don’t have

Have you ever worried that you might be fired if you gave any inclination that you might be straight?  You can be…with impunity…in any state which does not give equal employment protection based on sexual orientation.

It’s true that it rarely happens that someone would be fired for being straight, but it has happened.

To my knowledge, nobody has every been fired for being cisgender (i.e non-transgender).  But there is no reason, in most states, why it couldn’t happen.

The examples of people being fired for being transgender are too numerous to include.

That’s the thing about laws protecting gender-identity or sexual orientation.  They are for the protection of everybody, not just GLBT people.

I am hesitant to broach this subject, because most of the times when I have done so, I have had people tell me that I shouldn’t whine (or whinge)…that I should talk instead about how much better my life is now that I have successfully transitioned.  The truth is that my life is better and I am very pleased with it, but it is still the case that when people are getting their toes stepped on, it is not going to stop unless someone speaks out about it.

Silence is death.  More formally:

It is very hard to live with silence.  The real silence is death and this is terrible.  To approach this silence, it is necessary to journey to the desert.  You do not go to the desert to find identity, but to lose it, to lose your personality, to be anonymous.  You make yourself void.  You become silence.  You become more silent than the silence around you.  And then something extraordinary happens: you hear silence speak.

–Edmond Jabes

If I do not speak for us, who will?  I promised myself nearly two decades ago that nobody should ever be treated as badly as I believe I was (Changing sex in a small town) when I transitioned.  I have dedicated my life to that mission.

I had an interesting discussion a few days ago with someone who didn’t have any background about the struggle for rights for gender-variant people.

It’s all pretty straight-forward.

Fair housing, equal employment opportunity, equal treatment by law enforcement and health care, and the right not to be beat up every other Thursday.  The hate crimes law helps with the last one.  They will now at the very least count transgender murder victims.  The health care bill was gutted of anything pro-gay (see next paragraph), as I am given to understand.  But the right not to be fired for just being GLBT seems like a no-brainer, as is the right not to be evicted for the same reason.

Re: the health care reform issue:

[I]mportant measures specifically addressing the needs of LGBT people and people with HIV – ending the unfair taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, permitting states to offer early HIV treatment under Medicaid, collecting critical health data on LGBT people and addressing discrimination in health care – [were in the House bill but] are not a part of this [reconciliation] bill.


Oh, and equality in public accommodations.  It shouldn’t be right that a restaurant could refuse to serve me or a hotel not give me a room just because I am a transwoman.

One of those public accommodations is the right to piss in comfort when away from home.  I’m likely the only member of this blog who was actually arrested for using a public restroom.  While I was in transition, I was traveling across the country by Greyhound, who I had contacted prior to the trip…and was assured that there would be no problem with the bathroom issue.  In Boise, a citizen objected to me being in the women’s restroom and called the cops.  I was arrested and had to use all the cash on me to post bail.

Let’s just say that the next time I went west, I drove…and made it a point to drive around Idaho, through Nevada and Eastern Oregon, in order to visit my family in Portland.

Of course, every time there is mention of granting gender-variant people some sort of legal protection, there is mention of the possibility of someone claiming to be transgender in order to abuse women and/or children in a women’s restroom.  There is no proof that this has ever happened, but that seems not to matter.  There is a long history of adult males abusing children in their charge, but we still let children live with their fathers.

DADT is not going to let transfolk openly serve in the military, though more than a few of us are veterans, for all the respect that might earn us, which is minimal in my experience.  I wrote about that once upon a time.  I wrote some about my military service here:  Inside the Walls.

Denial of an opportunity to make a living is the single most damaging and pervasive form of discrimination against transgendered people. Even more systematically than lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people, transgendered people are routinely targeted for work place discrimination and almost universally unprotected under existing laws. There are few transgendered people who not have experienced loss of employment, denial of employment, or underemployment solely because of their transgendered status. For transsexual people in particular, initiating the process of gender transition frequently means permanent loss of a profession or career. In addition to the impact on individual transgendered people and their families, this discrimination has a tremendous social and financial cost. Because so many transgendered people are excluded from employment, transgendered people are disproportionately driven into poverty and/or unwanted dependence on public assistance. Transgendered people also confront many related forms of discrimination, including denial of basic civil rights and protections in housing, public accommodations, and health care. Transgendered people are also frequent targets of hate crimes: verbal threats, hate mail, harassing telephone calls, and acts of physical and sexual violence committed by the same persons who target lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

National Journal of Sexual Orientation Law, Vol. 3, Issue 1

There is a way to alleviate this, or at least get started to do so.

The Bills:

H. R. 3017:  Referred to the Judiciary, Administration, Education and Labor, and Oversight and Government Reform committees. Hearings held September 23, 2009 in Education and Labor committee

S. 1584:  Referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  Hearings held 11/5/2009.

How can you help?

We need a vote.  How is it fair in any way to deny us knowledge of who is opposed to us having equal rights?  Without that knowledge, we have no political power to effect any improvement in the situation.  We were promised a vote in April by Barney Frank.    I don’t believe we had a vote today…which means that promise has gone by the boards.

But Barney has since backed off that promise.  Now it is “coming soon”.

We’re used to that.  But isn’t there any sense of fair play we can call on?  Shouldn’t we have a vote?  Please call your Congresspeople.  We beg you.


In the House there are 202 co-sponsors and 223 likely yes votes.

In the Senate there are 51 confirmed and 55 likely yes votes.

Write your Rep.



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    • Robyn on May 1, 2010 at 00:06

    …that when I post links to somewhat lengthy videos (16:05),  people go see them and never come back.  I hope this doesn’t happen tonight.


    13-56% of transgender people have been fired for being transgender.

    13-47% of transgender people were denied employment on the basis of being transgender.

    22% have been harassed verbally or physically in the workplace.

    • Robyn on May 1, 2010 at 01:06

    …available in Orange.

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