Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

NY Governor Paterson To Be Honored At Trans Event. Why?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 06, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Christine McGinn, David Paterson, Governor Paterson, Kimberley Reed, Kye Allums, Laverne Cox, Michael Silverman, New York, Prodigal Sons, TLDEF, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

The progress of transgender and transsexual civil rights has been slow and halting in New York State, but there is no surer mark of progress than when the powerful bend to notice our struggles.Paterson.jpg

On Monday, May 23, 2011, the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund will mark its 6th anniversary. Its special honoree is the Honorable David A. Paterson, 55th Governor of the State of New York.

What has Governor Paterson done to deserve this honor? My headline reflects my somewhat dyspeptic Bilerico view of the trans advocacy scene, but to the question "Why?" there is, in this case, a somewhat happy answer. Governor Paterson has stood up for trans rights in a state where trans civil rights have been consistently denied. New York State hasn't got much to celebrate about trans rights, but what little there is originates with the Governor. New York is the state where gay advocates made a deal with the devil to exclude transgender and transsexual people from statutory protection. In 2002, in order to pass a sexual orientation-only civil rights bill, gay advocates strongly opposed gender identity protections. People from out of state think "New York" means "New York City," but it's not so, Dorothy. Most LGBt advocacy groups then moved blithely onto a full court press on marriage rights, with a few making a token effort on the GENDA bill.

In a state like this, filled with feckless politicians and craven advocacy groups, trans civil rights has been at the bottom of the barrel, and it takes special courage to say, hey, wait a minute, fellas, this ain't right. Governor Paterson has done that, and good for him. Well, you ask, what exactly has he done? Well, I'll tell you. But please take a moment to support the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund's 6th Anniversary event, another lone voice in the New York State wilderness. We must support those who are moving the ball forward.

Governor Paterson noticed our struggles when, on December 16, 2009, he announced that New York would be the ninth state in the Union to have an executive order protecting public employees from discrimination based on gender identity. He also signed New York's Dignity For All Students Act into law, the first New York State law to include specific protections based on gender identity. He is also a strong supporter of the NY Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act legislation, which has unfortunately floundered in the dysfunctional New York Senate.

While Governor Paterson definitely deserves thanks for his active support, he deserves even more thanks for his willingness to the guest of honor at an event that is explicitly about transgender rights. How many of our state's highest executives have done that?

The event, to be held at the Chelsea Art Gallery, is hosted by the talented Laverne Cox, a woman who had led by example as a successful and proudly-out trans woman. It will also honor Dr. Christine McGinn, founder of the Papillon Gender Wellness Center, Kye Allums, the NCAA's first trans basketball player (though it looks like GWU ended his season early for specious reasons), and Kimberly Reed, director of the award-winning documentary Prodigal Sons. I'm thrilled to be honoring these out and proud heroes.

I'm also proud of the the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has been in the forefront of the fight to end trans discrimination, fielding lawsuits in partnership with major law firms to fight job discrimination, refusal to correct birth certificates, and clarify marriage rules for trans people, to name only a few. Michael Silverman, Esq., TLDEF's executive director, has been tireless, and deserves to be honored himself.

I'm co-hosting the event, so let me not forget to remind you to click here to get more details and to support the event. Last year's event was fabulous and successful, and I hope you will join us to make this year's event even more so.

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Chris Cook | May 6, 2011 1:48 PM

Sounds like a wonderful event.

I assume that the sponsor firms, many of them law firms, are all inclusive of TLGB in their diversity, but how many are employing transgender attorneys or staff?

Now that would really be worth knowing, and maybe celebrating.

NYC got their trans protections back then at the cost of all of us who live upstate. The sellout wasn't just gays and lesbians, it included self appointed trans leadership at the time.

It was the last straw for me and trans activism. Won't do it again, won't support it again.

I am less enthusiastic about Governor Patterson. While he was in office there was a young trans woman in state custody who had requested gender appropriate clothing and toiletries, the request was denied by the state, and Gov. Patterson publicly defended the denial saying, "if we give in to this what's next?" WAMC broadcast the clip during one of their news programs. I had been a big fan of his up to that point.

Chris, I'd be willing to make an educated guess that not a single one of those large New York firms knowingly employs any trans attorneys.

The last time I checked, there were exactly 2 (two) attorneys working in New York law firms who had transitioned on the job (me and one other person), out of a total of some 40-50,000 attorneys at New York firms.

I've heard nothing to indicate that the situation has changed since I transitioned 6 years ago, although, of course, I wouldn't necessarily know.

It's nice that the firms work on these sorts of cases pro bono, but it means very little in terms of their own hiring practices.


PS: I know Michael Silverman and agree that his organization does a fantastic job. And I will try to be there at the event.

If only the LGB were as invested in GENDA as the Governor. I know, snowballs in hell... still after the 2002 dirty deal one would think that more than lukewarm lip-service would be coming from ESPA...

I was told last night by a gay blogger at my synagogue that GENDA is less controversial than the marriage bill, and that it now has enough votes. Time to check in and find out what votes are committed. I'll try to find out and report,

What has that got to do with it, Jillian?

It just means that more resources need putting in to marriage equality, they don't have enough to do anything else. It increases the value of GENDA as a bargaining chip too, trade that away and maybe they'll get across the line this time.

Yes, I'm cynical.

One of the many reasons I ♥ Jill Weiss:

I had to go look up the word, "dyspeptic." Yes, that does seem to reflect the Bilerico worldview, doesn't it?

Bah. I think we go down pretty well.

You know what I mean. :)

Bil, sometimes the posts on this site make me apoplectic.

I wish the NYS legislature would just hurry up and pass the marriage convenience bill (NY State already recognizes legal same sex marriages performed in other states) so the false friends and hidden enemies of trans equality will go home. Then, maybe, gender nondiscrimination law just might get to be heard about.

I'm sick to death about hearing about same sex marriage with a rare bit of lip service given to GENDA. Once they pass the marriage convenience bill then the trans community and its real allies will have some oxygen that was formerly all used up by the cis LGB political organizations.