Waymon Hudson

First ever hearing on gender identity in the workplace

Filed By Waymon Hudson | June 20, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Diane Schroer, gender expression, gender identity, House Committee on Education and Labor, Shannon Minter, transgender

The House Committee on Education and Labor's subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing on gender identity in the workplace on Thursday, June 26. Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) will chair the first ever congressional hearing to focus on gender identity and discrimination against transgender employees.

Among those on the speaker list is Shannon Minter, the transgender man who is the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights who recently argued on behalf of marriage equality in California, and Diane Schroer, a transgender veteran who was denied a job as a national security analyst when she transitioned. Also speaking will be a transgender employee from a Massachusetts HIV/AIDS service organization, as well as a representative of a Fortune 500 company that protects its employees against gender identity discrimination.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and even many heterosexual people challenge gender boundaries and may be the victims of discrimination as a result gender-identity/expression based bias. In fact, studies of "anti-gay" discrimination indicate that up to 75% of such discrimination is caused by a reaction to gender expression, not actual knowledge that someone is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Sexual orientation language does not cover a large portion of the discrimination we face. It is a giant, glaring loophole that is used against all of us. This is truly an issue that affects the entire community.

This is a much needed step to educating Washington politicians, and the general public, on employment discrimination due to gender identity and expression. We have to come together as a community to push for fully inclusive legislation that includes gender expression and identity in it.

Let's hope that this is another step towards protections for our transgender brothers and sisters, as well as all people who face discrimination based on their gender identity and expression.

Watch a video from the ACLU about Diane Schroer's experience with transgender discrimination.

iPhone users: Click to watch

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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 20, 2008 11:26 AM

Thanks for posting this video, Waymon!! I've seen it before and consider it one of the best--especially for reaching "Middle America."

You'd think that people involved in intelligence would understand that "David," with his deep, dark secret, would have been a much larger security risk than Diane.

But hey, that would require a modicum of "intelligence," wouldn't it?

The one glaring hole in the speakers that i've heard lined up for this hearing is lack of representation from the community most affected by transgender discrimination, African-Americans.


I posted an article on my blog updating transteen Rochelle Evans life a year after she battled the Fort Worth Independent School Distric for the right to transtion. One of the things that stood out in it for me was that even though she was willing and ready to work and earn money, she reported that she has been blatantly told by one employer in that area he wasren't going to hire her, while others hinted in a roundabout way that her being transgender was the reason they wouldn't hire her.

If you're going to make the case and blow up the perception in minority communities that transsexualty is just a 'white thang', then the faces that we present tho te world, especially when it comes to events like this have to reflect the diversity of our community.

And no, throwing one Latino or Asian face in a sea of white ones and saying 'people of color are covered' doesn't cut it.

In an emergancy board vote, the board members of the Transgender American Veterans Association voted 9 out of 9 to pay for the plane ticket for Autumn Sandeen to be present at the hearings to blog this for all of us. Autumn is not only a 20-year Navy veteran and one of the top trans bloggers in this country, but she once served as TAVA's Secretary. However, it would be nice to have others there as well.

Over and over again, the members of TAVA have given me cause to be proud of them. This is another one of those times.

That is great news, Monica H! It will be great to have Autumn there to cover the hearings! A big thank you to TAVA.

Monica R, I'm not sure about African-American representation in the speaker line-up. I am checking on it for you and will let you know when I find anything out. Thanks!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 20, 2008 12:02 PM

Monica, you are absolutely right.

Would I be exaggerating to say that, like the struggle for LGB rights in general, the trans struggle has been dogged by a lack of African-American representation? And an absence of focus on the issues that hit the African-American community much harder?

The African-American FtMs I transitioned with have all had a much harder time than I've had. Much harder. They are transitioning visibly from one disenfranchised community--black women--into the demographic most feared and discriminated against in our culture--black men. And they are doing it without benefit of having been socialized as black men from infancy.

The toll has been devastating. Two friends turned to extremist fundamentalist (and homophobic) Christianity, another committed suicide. Can I totally blame racism for these outcomes? Of course not. Maybe they would have been the same had these three FtMs been white.

But I know how hard it has been to transition and live as a proud, fairly contented, and basically well adjusted white transman, navigating the undercurrents of sexism, homophobia, and classism. I can't imagine adding the huge challenge of racism on top of that.

It's past time that white LGBT activists started recognizing--and responding to--the gaps in our movement.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 20, 2008 12:05 PM

Monica, I am surprised, but then I know so little. Duanna Johnson has been the subject of a post by Alex twice in two days. I don't believe anyone who reads this post considers transeuality to be a "white thing."

You and I know that it isn't the case, but we're preaching to the choir here.

When I say that the perception of transgender issues in communities of color is 'just a white thang', I'm referring not only to what is said internally inside our communities by our enemies, but by rank and file peeps as well.

They are paying attentio to the fact that transpeople are getting increased face time on shows such as Larry King and Oprah, and now an upcoming congressional hearing. But what stands out is that the part of the GLBT community representing 13% of the US population is repeatedly not seen speaking elequently for themeselves and their brothers and sisters.

in fact the only show that regularly has African-American transpeople speaking on it is the 'Tyra Banks Show'

When you have a powerful group of 43 African-American lawmakers (the Congressional Black Caucus) not seeing someone who looks like them and shares their ethnic and cultural heritage represented in this historic hearing, one of the members of that group is running for president, and then you try a few months later to lobby them for their support on a GLBT bill, you not only reinforced the erroneous perception by your actions, that's not a smart political play either.

I've been hearing about this hearing for some time now, and while we are probably expected to be celebrating it, I'm given over to skepticism and ennui. It could be a very good thing for the T community. I agree with Monica Roberts that there should be a greater voice given to the concerns of T people of color, but I realize that there would be criticism of any group of 4 people chosen to testify. In general, the 4 names I've seen mentioned as witnesses are good choices.

My concerns lie with the involvements of Barney Frank and HRC, obviously. HRC is the organization of the big lie, and Barney Frank has a long and distinguished history of stabbing us in the back. I've spent a lot of time in my youth watching Congressional hearings, and no matter how good our witnesses are, the questions asked and the directions the questioning takes, will strongly affect whether these hearings raise consciousness about transgenderism and transsexuality in a positive or negative way. The end result could be extremely positive, if the witnesses are allowed to go into great detail about their personal job loss issues and allowed to give statistical evidence for the fact that we all know is true: that T people face employment discrimination on a massive scale. It could also be negative, if the questions force the witnesses into a framing a picture of transgender people as misguided jokes. I've seen both happen to witnesses on the Hill, and there are Congressmen out there who are brutally skillful in the game of making people say things they, or those they're representing, will regret later.

I'm not saying this to try to criticise anyone, only to caution all involved. Careful, folks, careful, and don't let us get our hopes up unreasonably high as a community. One thing I am certain of is that Barney Frank is only doing this hearing so that he can say, "See, I support T people, lookee, I had this hearing for you." I don't trust Frank and never will, and I only trust HRC to lie, where T people are concerned.

We'll see. I know, if it's on C-SPAN, I'll be setting my vcr to tape it. I salute TAVA for sending Autumn Sandeen to blog it. I hope good comes of it. But count me as suspicious, very very suspicious.

I wanted to pass this info along to our readers as well. It just landed in my inbox:

"For those of you following up on this, we're asking folks who live in the committee members' districts to call and urge them to attend. The
general congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121.

Subcommittee members are:

Democrats (13)
Robert Andrews, NJ, Chairman
George Miller, CA
Dale Kildee, MI
Carolyn McCarthy, NY
John Tierney, MA
David Wu, OR
Rush Holt, NJ
Linda Sanchez, CA
Joe Sestak, PA
David Loebsack, IA
Phil Hare, NH
Yvette Clarke, NY
Joseph Courtney CT

Republicans (10)
John Kline, Ranking Member MN
Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, CA
Kenny Marchant, TX
Charles W. Boustany, Jr., LA
David Davis TN
Peter Hoekstra, MI
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, WA
Tom Price , GA
Virginia Foxx , NC
Timothy Walberg , MI"

That is a good video....

But I'm interested to hear in the results of this meeting. I guess I'll be tuning in to Autumn...