Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dallas Area Regional Transit throws woman under the bus

One of the most trying, and frightening aspects of transition for me was having my name changed and then personally having to go to all the organizations, stores, banks, etc. that have records of me, to make the changes in their databases. New York State requires that a legal name change be published in an official legal notice that contains the person's old name, current address and new name before it's finalized. Coming home from work the day mine was published, I half expected to see a mob with torches and pitchforks at my door. Fortunately, no one noticed. Makes me wonder why they call them "legal notices."

A woman in Dallas, an employee of the Dallas Area Regional Transit (DART) system went through a similar process in her state, for a gender marker change instead of a name change, but for her the process didn't turn out as well. Actually, not very well at all. When she went to her employer with the court order asking them to change their records, instead of acquiescing, they went back to court and started the preliminary steps in order to sue, prompting the judge who originally gave the order to rescind it! Just think about this for a minute. Say you had a change done in your life, maybe you got married. Say you went to your employer and asked them to change your last name to your spouse's and update the records to indicate you were married and, instead of complying with your request, your employer went to court which promptly nullified your marriage. How would you feel about that?

This woman had her genital realignment surgery three years earlier. She made compromises with previous transphobic policies that her employer instituted against her. She followed medically established, international, standards of care, willingly went through the legal and common practice for changing her records yet her employer decided she was not qualified to determine how she would be known to the world. And the judge who gave the order rescinded it because of pressure from DART attorneys who used the fact that their nondiscrimination rules prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation but didn't include gender identity.

This is an example of how cissexual (opposite of transsexual) society negates and oppresses those who are born with the condition known as Gender Identity Disorder. The state told this woman, "I don't care who you say you are. You will be what WE tell you to be!" It also shows the egregious harm that can still happen to gender variant people when, as is the case in New York State, sexual orientation is covered in nondiscrimination rules and laws but gender identity isn't.

It's also a perfect example of why this country need to pass the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) that is currently in Congress waiting for action. After eight years of waiting, New York is no closer to providing civil rights protections for its gender variant citizens and we surely don;t have to be told that this kind of law won't be passed in Texas anytime soon. ENDA needs to be passed and signed by the president. Sexual orientation and gender identity also need to be specifically added to the groups protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To do any less is to passively approve what happened to that woman in Dallas and what happens all over the country against people because of who they love and who they are.

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