Well, here it is nearing the end October and I haven't visited with you in months! It has been a relatively uneventful summer so there was little to get me going enough to write about. The leaves are now falling and the days have been cool and generally wet. Winter is just around the corner.
One thing that kept me busy was my involvement with the Rainbow Pride Connection LGTB Conference at Chautauqua Institution, in Chautauqua, New York. The conference was quite a success, with almost 100 people attending (140 people attended the lovely concert given by the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus), and plans are underway to have another conference next October 2nd.
I received an email a week ago from the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) asking me to contact my state senator to ask her to support same sex marriage equality. Pretty much all New Yorkers are aware of the idiotic stalemate that was induced by a Republican power grab last June in the New York State Senate. What they may not be aware of is that the stalemate prevented the upcoming vote on the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) as well as the vote on marriage equality for same sex couples. Since that time the governor, David Paterson, has called a few special sessions of the Senate in order to take care of urgent business that was neglected. What has been conspicuously missing from these sessions has been any talk about these two important civil rights measures.
What has been conspicuously missing from ESPA's public statements is GENDA. All I hear, again, are requests to lobby for same sex marriage rights. The governor himself has mentioned them yet GENDA is nowhere to be seen! What the hell is going on? It seems a repeat of the 2002 Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act (SONDA) is happening once again. Transgender people are being ignored, being thrown off the bus once again! Does anyone think the GLB community will devote the resources that are needed to pass GENDA after they get marriage equality along with their 7 year old inclusion in New York's nondiscrimination and hate crimes law? Look what happened in Massachusetts. It's been 5 long years since the GLB community received marriage equality there yet the transgender population is still without basic protections. They currently have legislation pending in their legislature to remedy this but I haven't heard anything about it in months. Obviously, it isn't the priority that marriage equality was.
The New York State transgender community was told to wait their turn, to wait until the GLB community came back for them. Here we are seven years later, still waiting and watching while so many political resources are drained on an issue which, while it's certainly important, does nothing to enhance the quality and even survivability of life for the transgender community. This cannot continue. I will call my state senator (Cathy Young) again, even though she has come out publicly against same sex marriage rights, and I will ask her to support GENDA and if there is enough time, to support marriage equality. I cannot wait any longer for basic civil rights protections. WE NEED GENDA FIRST!
I sent the following email to Governor Patterson via his website. I urge all of you to join me in this effort:
Dear Gov. Paterson,
I am appalled by your recent promotion of same sex marriage rights while transgender individuals such as myself still lack the basic civil rights protections we so desperately need and which would be awarded by the passage of the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act.
We need you to point out that being married to your same sex sweetheart is of little use if you can still be legally thrown out of your apartment, fired from your job and denied services in the public sphere because you don't fit within someone else's idea of what gender you ought to be or look like. While same sex marriage equality is important, non discrimination law that includes gender identity and expression is vital. It's a matter of survival for a great many New Yorkers.
Please use your position to promote GENDA first. Once that's done, marriage equality will be just as easy as it is now to pass. If marriage equality comes first, I fear transgender New Yorkers will NEVER see the protection they so desperately need.
Jamestown, New York