Editors' Note: Jude Stevens is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man.She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination.
You have the right to be fired.
You have the right to remain silent.
You do not have the right to an attorney.
Anything you say will not help you and will most certainly be used against you.
Unless you are straight. You have the right to be straight and cisgender.
You don't know what I am talking about? Read on.
HELP WANTED: I am recruiting you to end straight, cisgender privilege. I am a very well employed, with all rights granted by the US government, married, straight, cisgender, white collar, white woman. And I need you. That's right. I have everything. And I need you. In fact, it's not just me. It's we. Who are we? Keep reading.
Did you know that you have the right to be fired just for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? In 38 states you can be fired for your gender identity or gender expression. In 29 states you can be fired for being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Let's put that in a different perspective. In 12 states out of 50, you are protected if you are transgender. Twelve. That's a little more than 20% of states. In 21 states out of 50, you are protected if you are LGB. Twenty one.
You can give up this right. You can fight. You have the right to relentlessly advocate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. You remember ENDA, don't you? That legislation that has had various forms for at least 16 years, probably more? But isn't ENDA dead? It is if we let it die. A small group of activists started talking. We know that if ENDA does not pass in this term, and if Democrats lose seats in the Senate or even the House, then ENDA will die. Again. We decided to do something about it. Who are we? Keep reading.
We are pushing ENDA this summer. How will we do this? We will not march on Washington D.C. Washington D.C. will come to us. We need one to five people from every state to visit their Senators. We need one to five people from every Congressional District to visit their representatives. Every summer, Senators and Representatives are back home. We are going to make appointments. to visit with them or their staffers. We are going to publish the schedule. And when I say we, that includes you.
We are asking YOU to volunteer to visit your Senator or Congressperson. If you choose to volunteer, we will train you on what to say and do. We are asking every group out there that supports ENDA to speak up. We invite all LGBT groups. We invite straight allies. We invite people who have never spoken up, never made a phone call. We do not care if you are Gay, Inc, GetEqual, GLAAD, a blogger, NEM, Equality Across America, PFLAG, or just an individual. We are not enemies with each other, no matter what our differences.
As a straight woman, a straight ally, I am going to tell you this. There is a wide range of thinking about strategies in the LGBT activist community. The strategies range from not rocking the boat to rocking the world. Working inside the system, disrupting the system. These discussions are all valid. You know why? Because none of us has the magic answer to what will create change. So we try different approaches. The sad part is that we argue about them, sometimes in non-constructive ways.
But I know one thing. If you do nothing, nothing will happen. I know that it cannot hurt to go directly to our representatives, face to face. I know that it cannot hurt to call them, email them, fax them. How do we know this? Because we have seen it work for other groups, including our enemies.
We do have a top priority list. Senators who are on the fence. Why? Because we know the House will pass ENDA. It has 202 sponsors. The problem is the Senate. And until the Senate votes are there, the bill will stay in committee.
In order to break this cycle of insanity (and it is insanity), we must intervene.
We must get the votes from the Senators. We will be publishing our strategy soon. I can hear you now. You have called your representative. You have emailed, written letters, sent faxes. You have attended protests. You think marriage equality is more important. You think DADT is more important. Here is news for you. DOMA and DADT can fall. But their fall does not ensure protection from being fired.
Who are we? We range from Washington insiders to radicals who believe in direct actions. We range from straight to gay to lesbian to transgender. (Wanted: Bisexual to join our team.) We range from atheists to ministers. We range from college students to ready-to-be grandparents. We are a small group of people. We have no name. We have no money. We are not asking you to stop using other strategies. We are not asking you to be assimilated or pledge allegiance. We believe in the power of voices. All voices.
I cannot guarantee success. We have no magic wand. We are not delusional. We understand the system. We understand the need. And we understand that some Senators are afraid. But we are not afraid. We may fail. But if we do not try, failure is guaranteed. It's that simple.
What do I, as a straight, cisgender woman, gain from this? Nothing for myself. Everything for the world. I cannot be fired for being straight. So I do not want to hear that you are protected in your state, that your employer has protections or that you feel it cannot happen to you. I do not want to hear that you do not have time for a phone call or an email. Because this is a community. If one is not equal, none are equal.
I want you to volunteer. One simple mission. Tell our representatives we need ENDA. It's time. It's long overdue.
Your right to be fired will remain guaranteed. Unless we pass ENDA. So where do you sign up? Reply here - or go to the Facebook group ENDA Summer 2010 for more information.
More "LGBT Lessons for Straight People" can be found on Jude's blog, jaysays.com. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.