Friday, May 8, 2009

E and J Day, NY and GENDA

I think I need to get a laptop computer when I'm in funds again. My desktop compy is in the Library/Office of my house and it takes me out of my kitchen.

I read a blog today, The Curvature that talked about one woman's experience at this year's Equality and Justice Day, in Albany, New York, on April 28th. It echoed a great deal of my experience and also my conclusions. It seemed very clear that, once again, trans people and their issues were pushed behind marriage equality.

When Governor Patterson made the announcement, a few weeks before E&J Day, that he would be introducing a marriage equality bill I was filled with dismay. I thought this would be the year for GENDA, the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act. It was widely known and pretty much accepted that marriage equality legislation had no chance in the state senate. I felt that, finally, the GLB community would have nothing to distract them from their promise of 2002 (when sexual orientation was added to NY nondiscrimination law), that they would, "come back" for gender variant people. The governor's announcement changed all that.

I then realized that this may just be a brilliant political ploy! With all of the right wing opposition to civil marriage equality being highlighted, with all the noise about "protecting marriage," there would be perfect political cover for those who wish to vote for protection while not wishing their center/right constituents to notice. The heat and smoke of a civil marriage debate is perfect for minimizing the political cost, if there ever really was one, of voting yes on GENDA.

I determined that the tone of E&J Day would provide a clue as to how much the GLB community would come to the same conclusion. I figured that the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) would loudly and publicly fan the flames for marriage equality while telling the meeting facilitators to concentrate on GENDA and the Dignity for All Students Act, a bill to protect youth, TLGB youth included, from bullying in schools. Too bad that's not what I perceived. The meeting facilitator for my district was a trans woman from Rochester, New York and we were able to get all three issues on the table. I felt lucky in this because there was no real instructions from the leadership to present GENDA first. As a matter of fact, on one sheet of the handouts, one titled, "What we are seeking from our elected officials," the first issue listed was marriage equality.

Well, I guess I should have expected it, and I guess I did, to a point. So now GENDA finds itself stuck in a senate committee waiting for a vote to get it to the full senate. ESPA is publicizing a call in day, date as yet undetermined, to try to get it moving. I don't expect a lot of GLB support in this, however, so I decided to send a letter, on my own, to the Investigations & Government Operations committee of the New York State Senate:

Dear Senators,

I am writing today to urge you and your colleagues in the Investigations and Government Operations committee to approve of and vote for bill #S02406, commonly known as the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA), in order to pass it on to the full Senate. I believe the need for this bill is critical and that it's passage is long overdue.

While the current furor over same sex civil marriage rights is raging at full force I believe that this bill is more important by way of its impact on people's lives. Those people, like myself, who do not express their gender in stereotypical ways are still vulnerable to harmful discrimination that leads to the loss of jobs and housing along with denial of public services without the benefit of legal recourse. It matters not what sexual orientation a person has, gender identity and expression are separate issues based on identity, not sexual attraction. The Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act (SONDA 2002) does not include gender expression and identity and does not protect us from the kind of harm that New York nondiscrimination law was written to prevent.

Some opponents of this bill have incorrectly concentrated upon the public accommodations portion and specifically on bathrooms, changing and locker rooms. The argument is that a gender identity and expression law would expose women to, or somehow protect, male predators when they enter ladies bathrooms and commit crimes. Examples are not given because they do not exist. The argument is made with no proof or example from the 13 states and almost 100 other counties, cities and towns that already have passed similar laws, the first in 1976! Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and New York City are among those places that have similar laws with no reported problems. The fact is that nondiscrimination law that includes gender expression and identity has never caused the kinds of problems its detractors in New York and elsewhere say it will.

While I consider civil marriage equality to be very important, I believe that GENDA is vital. The ability to marry a same sex sweetheart is pretty worthless if you can't get a job no matter what your qualifications are or if your landlord has thrown you out of your home because he doesn't "rent to your kind." Being married to a person of the same sex doesn't help when a bouncer throws you out of a bathroom or restaurant because some paranoid and ignorant customer made a complaint about your appearance rather than behavior.

In conclusion, I think this bill is vital and will not cause the harm its opponents predict with no evidence. I am asking you as a lifelong, law abiding, citizen of New York State, please join your colleagues in the Assembly, pass S02406 out of your committee and ensure its full passage in the New York State Senate.

I would like to urge everyone who reads this to either copy/paste or write your own letter and send it to the members of the committee. Trans people and their allies cannot rely on anyone else to take their bull by the horns. It's our job. Here are the email addresses:,,,,,,,

I will participate in the ESPA call in day when it's announced. I urge everyone else to also. I want to remember not to rely on organizations whose main focus is the gay and lesbian community, however. Let's help them help us but let's not think we can do nothing else for our own good.

1 comment:

  1. You rock!!!

    Thanks for going to lobby... not once but twice, and doing an incredible job.

    My greatest frustration has been getting lgbts off their rotund bums and into action.

    You. YOU get up, drive endless miles just to drive more endless miles to get to sit and talk about the need to be included in BASIC CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTION so that you can then get back in a bus and drive endless hours to get in a car and drive endless hours home.

    You rock!

    Don't get dismayed. It will happen. But... you are right... it won't happen just because we NEED or WANT it to.

    It will happen because we MAKE IT happen. There must be effort to create this change.

    You rock. You get up off the sofa and turn of the tv and do something towards that end. You rock!