Ethan St. Pierre

My Special Reality

Filed By Ethan St. Pierre | July 30, 2007 2:42 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: employment discrimination, ENDA, hate crimes against LGBT people, Matthew Shepard Act, transphobia

"Why don't you just demand your rights as an American instead of asking for Special Rights?"

Transgender Americans are not asking for special rights but for the same rights that other people have. The fact that transgender Americans are NOT treated equally in employment, housing, credit..etc. begs for legislation to stop discriminatory acts towards transgender people. Transgender Americans are not asking for rights that others don't have. Transgender Americans are not asking to be treated better than everyone else or to have something that other Americans don't have.

When I began transitioning on the job and I started exhibiting male characteristics, I was fired from my job and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I was told by every lawyer that I did not have a case because there was no law to protect transgender people from being fired in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I was not fired because of real or perceived sexual orientation but I was fired specifically based on my gender expression. The Human Resource department was very careful in being explicit as to why I was being fired. My story of anti-transgender discrimination isn't unique, there are hundreds just like it. So I ask you, where do we go to demand these rights? Where exactly was I supposed to go to demand justice for losing a job where I had spent years working holidays and weekends, sacrificing time that could have been spent with my family?

Demanding your rights as an American and not Special Rights
for Hate Crimes Victims and Survivors. "A Murder is a Murder, shouldn't we all be treated the same?"

Where was Robert Eads supposed to go to demand his rights when no doctor would treat him because he was a transman? As a result, he died with ovarian cancer.

Where was Chanelle Pickett supposed to go to demand her rights when she was brutally murdered by William Palmer, only to have her family, friends and a whole community watch him get sentenced to 2 years in prison, the maximum sentence for assault and battery?

Where was my aunt, Debra Forte supposed to go to demand her rights when she was beaten, strangled, stabbed three times in the chest, and every bone in her neck was broken by her killer, Michael Thompson? Thompson ran from the police and then turned himself in 2 weeks later only to be let out on bail. Where was my family supposed to go to demand compassion when the police came to my house and repeatedly referred to my aunt as "he," even though she transitioned in 1961 and had been living as a woman for 34 years?

Where was my mother supposed to go to demand her rights when the police told her that her "brother" had been stabbed to death but when my brother and I arrived at the morgue to identify her body we were faced with the horrific reality that she had been beaten beyond recognition?

Where was the justice when we had to tell my grandfather that his child had been taken from him in a senseless act of violence, that his child was brutally murdered for no other reason than that she was a transsexual?

My grandfather died a few weeks later when his heart gave out.

Where was the justice when Michael Thompson plea bargained with the district attorney and was sentenced to 15 years in prison? The District Attorney was afraid that if they went for 1st degree murder that the jury wouldn't be sympathetic to my aunt's "lifestyle."

My family was beyond angry that the district attorney didn't go for 1st degree murder, and, after Chanelle Pickett's killer was sentenced to 2 years (her killer was tried for murder 1), the district attorney called my mother to say, "See? We told you what would have happened."

There have been 8 murders of transgender people here in Massachusetts and only 2 of those murders have been solved. In both instances the killers turned themselves in. There are now 380 transgender people (that we know of) who have died because of anti-transgender hatred or bias and more than half of those murders remain unsolved.

It would be nice to think that we are all human and therefore we should all be treated as human beings, that we should all be treated fairly and that all laws should apply to all of us. The simple fact is that we are not and we are dying as a result.

We are not disposable people and if Congress can't pass a law that sends that message, they might as well just paint a target on our asses.


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Great post. I often find myself so engrossed in my own world that I forget it's not just about my rights as a lesbian but about OUR rights as human beings. You just reminded me to raise my awareness and that of those around me.

I'm not sure why, as a people, we tend to gloss over difficult things. We dumb it down and as we franticly try to appeal to the lowest common denominator, we smudge and smear the facts.

Transgender violence is a huge problem that often gets overlooked as the legal system tries to avoid juror bias. What better way to ensure that excuses like "gay panic" and "trans panic" are never acceptable than the Matthew Shepard Act? And then we get to start working on ENDA.

Actually, the Matthew Shapard act won't ensure that panic defenses are not used. The State of California had a hate crimes law in affect during the time Gwen Araujo was murdered. The panic defense was used and not one of Gwen's killers got convicted of committing a hate crime. It prompted state LGBT organizations to fight to eradicate the panic strategies. The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160), was signed into law in the state of California on September 28th 2006.
We need to keep passing similar laws in other states.

Sue Robins | July 30, 2007 10:43 PM

In times past we would transition in the job slowly give people a chance to keep up with the change and time to look for another job. When we changed jobs then we could be more like ourselves. Usually this approach worked just fine.

Now, why didn't I think of that? (-;

Sue Robins | July 31, 2007 12:00 AM

Gee
I don't know.
It worked for me in 1980.
We do have to consider those around us.
Transition involves more then the person you see in the mirror when you brush your teeth in the morning. It involves those around us. We owe it to them to give them time to get use to who we need to be. Take it slow and things will be fine.
That is the time tested way of doing things.
For every person who loses their job because they transition too quickly five of us have no trouble.

Take care,

Good first post, Ethan.

I'm beginning to think that Sue will be one of my fave commenters on this blog. Yeah, why don't people just get new jobs when they're fired from their old ones? Gosh!

Sue,
I was lobbying congress for transgender rights long before I transitioned. I did all the things I was supposed to do. Went to HR..etc..etc.
I'm happy that you are working for a company that has accepted your transition. I know other folks who have not had a problem but on the flip side, I know a number of other transgender people who have lost their jobs, not because they transitioned too fast but simply because their employer didn't want a transgender person to work there. That type of discrimination doesn't only happen to transgender people but also to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.


Sue Robins | July 31, 2007 12:39 PM

Alex;

You do post some thought provoking content, this tidbit is one that is one that is worth discussing.
As for getting fired 49 of the 50 states are “at will” states meaning your employer can fire you for any reason they wish, they don’t have to give you one. If you and others want to change how LGTB people are treated in the workplace you have to start with that issue.

I went through all of this 27 years ago when I first came out. The old saying “you have to go along to get along” does apply in this case.

Take care
May Peace be with You.

Sue Robins | July 31, 2007 12:45 PM

Ethan;
Because of the At-Will issue an employer can fire you for any reason they want, they do this by letting you go without giving you a reason. It doesn’t matter if you are Gay or have Red Hair. That is what needs to be corrected; an employer should be obligated to give a reason for termination. By the way I am retired now and work part time when I need a little extra money.

Take care,

Right but regardless of at-will employment a employer who gives you a reason for termination (as in my case)should not violate an EEO policy or unlawful discrimination.
Having a Federal, State or local jurisdiction nondiscrimination law sure doesn't hurt.
In my case and many others like it, it certainly would have helped.

hi ethan,
I had the pleasure of listening to you on the,"strictly Confidential" with Peter. We all so enjoyed listening to you on Peter's show.

One thing you said that struck me and I found so true. If we have a President and government that does not support GLBT community, than how do you expect the rest of our society to support the GLBT community?

I never heard of, "Right Wing Christians" until Bush got into office.

I believe if people let down their Christian swords, our culture as we know it would be more accepting and loving towards all people.

I am a happily married straight woman but I am tiring of all this nonsense that this Bush administration has bestowed upon our society. Why are we fighting the differences of others? Whether it be gender, race, country, religion, looks,social status, right to choose etc. Where did all this hatred come from towards people who are different from ourselves? Other countries such as: Canada, Germany, France, Spain, are much more accepting and tolerant of others. Is it because Americans are so obsessed with religious ideologies.

My fellow friends at the H.O.R.N chatroom are more Christ like than any Christians I know.

Ethan, you are a wonderful man. I am so proud of you and your willingness to speak out and support your peers. We all felt your heart and soul. You are amazing.

Keep speaking the "TRUTH" and one day us GOOD DOERS will prevail. We live our life by example, not by evil doings and words.

I am becoming bitter of the way Americans act and treat one another. And it is not in the name of Christ so much it is in the name of hatred and indifferences. We can do better than this!! I know we can.

I said my peace.

KEEP ON !!!!

chinodeb,
Thank you for the kind words. It was such a pleasure to be a guest on Strictly Confidential, Peter was an amazing host. I think he did a great job of projecting the audiences energy and that helped a lot.
Thank you so much for listening and wanting to understand.

Be well,
Ethan