Monday, May 31, 2010

A baby step, perhaps

Senator Stachowski's office still couldn't confirm his commitment last Friday when I called. GENDA has moved from the Investigations and Government Operations committee to the Judiciary Committee so I guess that can be counted as progress, although I'd quantify it as a baby step. The following is the test of the letter I wrote to my state senator:

May 28, 2010

Senator Catherine Young

Room 513

Legislative Office Building

Albany, New York 12247

Dear Sen. Young,

I’d like to thank you for sending me a letter last March 25 replying to my telephone call regarding the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA, S2406). Since action on this bill is becoming more imminent, I’d like to address the point you raised about this bill.

Your letter stated, “Senate Bill 2406 would open all public accommodations, including restrooms, high school locker rooms, health clubs, dorm rooms and other single sex residential facilities like homeless and family violence shelters to both biological genders dependent upon how a person chooses to self identify.” I‘m troubled with how you singled out public accommodations, particularly those that are separated by sex. First of all, the bill is also about preventing unfair and harmful employment and housing discrimination. I guess I should be encouraged that you have no issue with two thirds of the bill’s scope, however, your point makes little sense when I consider that transgender people already use public restrooms and other facilities based on their gender identity and expression. Indeed, there’s nothing in the law now that prevents them from doing so. In addition, the bill’s language does not prevent the formulation of reasonable regulations and processes designed to minimize disruption and maximize the dignified and respectful treatment of all people in other areas where our culture separates us by sex. Finally, I’d like to remind you of the 13 states and over 100 counties, cities and towns (including Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and New York City) that have similar laws. The first one was passed in 1976, in Minneapolis, 34 years ago! The predicted negative consequences, such as the ridiculous assertion that predators will use such laws to get away with gaining entry to women only spaces and commit crimes, have never been shown to happen. The presence or absence of a nondiscrimination law does nothing to prevent or encourage criminal activity nor does the presence of such a law excuse it.

With the latest news showing that Senator Stachowski has pledged to vote yes on this bill I’d like you to publicly pledge a yes vote as well. I would like you to affirm the American ideal that discriminating against someone because of who they are and what they look like, rather than what they do and how they do it, violates their civil rights. I would like you to pledge a yes vote for all of the gender variant people who live in your district. You might be surprised how many of us there are, because we can still be legally discriminated against in New York we tend to hide in order to avoid the harm that discrimination can wreak on our lives.

My personal experience has been impacted by the absence of this non discrimination law. I have been unemployed for almost a year and a half now, and have been refused a chance for a position with a former local employer that I was very qualified for because of my gender identity and the steps I have taken to accommodate it in the past. The absence of this law causes real harm to real people. Please do what you can to repair this problem. Publicly pledge and vote YES on S2406.


Unfortunately, I doubt this'll work but I can't not try.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Is it finally going to pass?

I read a very good piece of news this morning which, if accurate, illustrates a very good chance that the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) will pass and be signed into law this year! According to the Housing Works, an organization, "committed to ending the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness,"Senator Bill Stachowski of the 58th NY Senate district (which includes the city of Buffalo) has committed to voting yes on GENDA. That brings the number of committed yes votes to 32, the minimum required to pass the bill.

I am very grateful to Senator Stachowski for making this commitment, especially in light of his active opposition to same sex marriage rights, something I think he's wrong about. My senator, Catherine Young (57th district), is sadly not part of the list of those who will vote yes. In a written reply to a phone call I made to her office regarding this bill (S2406) she took the opposition's tactic, one that has no evidence behind it, of making it all about bathroom and locker room access without acknowledging the complete absence of evidence that similar laws have caused problems in such spaces (well, maybe some problems for those who would like to hold on to their supposed special right to discriminate against people that make them feel icky). She also ignores the real issues GENDA is designed to correct: harmful and prejudicial discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing and public accommodations. I'll write her office again with hopes to convince her of her error. We'll see if she supports prejudice and discrimination or not.

The Housing Works blog mentions a June 1st lobby day but doesn't provide much specific information about that., only a contact name, email and phone number. The don't mention Buffalo or any other western New York locality so I wonder if I'll have a chance to go. I also note that nothing about this is on the Empire State Pride Agenda website nor have I heard any announcement from them yet. I've emailed them for confirmation/comment.

Stay tuned! This thing could be HUGE!!

UPDATE: I emailed ESPA and they don't seem to know anything about this. I also called Sen Stachowski’s office in Albany and was unable to get confirmation of his commitment to vote YES on S2406. His receptionist mentioned his previous opposition, and yeah, she talked about bathroom predators using the law to get away with crimes (sheesh!) but I reminded her that was just scare mongering and that such things have never happened in the places that already have similar laws. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Let's get it moving!

With ENDA getting closer and closer to death's door, these statewide nondiscrimination laws become all that much more important. H1728 in Massachusetts, GENDA in New York, the trans inclusive bills in Wisconsin, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Nevada, Maryland and Delaware ALL need to be fought for. They need to be fought for BEFORE marriage equality (in the states where is isn't the law already) so that TBLG people can be assured of a fair chance at employment because they need it for survival's sake and because an employed person has more economic power to support the fight for equal protections and equal treatment for all of the other issues that affect their community.

I've been unemployed now for 17 months. At least one job opportunity has been denied me because of who I am, never mind that I was extremely well qualified for the job. I'm sure other opportunities have been lost because of discrimination as well - I've sent out hundreds of applications -
but this is one that I am certain was denied me because of trans/homophobia and misogyny. This harmful discrimination is legal in New York State, Massachusetts and in 36 other states in a country whose ideal is supposed to be equal protections for all people, not just the "right" people.

The cowardly politicians will never move on these laws as long as they hear more from the radical (ie fascist) "religious" right wing than they hear from the GLTB and allied communities. We have to drown out the hateful propaganda from groups like the "Traditional Values Coalition," "Focus on the Family," "MassResistence" or the "New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms" and the only way to do that is to get off your inertia, pick up the phone or a pen and call/write/visit your legislative representatives to tell them how important these bills are and how egregiously wrong their opponents are. Most people support equality when the whole truth is given to them but they won't get it if we stay silent.

Speak out for your community!

Speak out for your GLBT friends and family!

Speak out for yourself!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's about LOVE

A cartoon I did a couple of years ago, inspired by all the idiocy about bathrooms when gender identity inclusive laws are being discussed. I was going to use it in the Buffalo Pride parade that year, for the float built by one of my support groups, the Transgender Couples of Western New York, but the float never came to fruition. The group will again have a table at this year's Pride parade in Buffalo, June 6th, and barring any adverse act of G*d I'll be there. Stop by, say hello, and buy a bottle of water for a good cause!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bathroom paranoia coming to New York

A recent article by Charlie Butts, at the inadequately named "OneNewsNow" (it should be named "OneSidedNewsNow") tells us that the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) which has been languishing in a New York State Senate committee, will "soon" be coming up for consideration. I wonder how he knows this, perhaps he has sources unavailable to me, but what I was told is that GENDA wouldn't be considered until after the budget mess was cleaned up. Since the state budget is now more than 40 days overdue, with no progress in evidence, I'd imagine he might be exaggerating just a bit. On the other hand, if one uses the logic that the more overdue something becomes, the more likely it will be settled soon, he may have something.

Of course, being a "religious" right wing pundit, Mr. Butts immediately launched into the favored tactic of fear mongering based on imagined horrors that "could" happen in public restrooms. Like his compatriots in Massachusetts, he called GENDA a "Bathroom Bill" and like his compatriots everywhere, he is making things up to scare people.

Mr Butts mentions Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (whom we can thank for the lovely graphic about GENDA), who maintains that, "It (GENDA) would open all public accommodations, including restrooms and high school locker rooms, to both biological genders if an individual chooses to identify his or herself as the opposite sex. So, your [readers] should think of things like cross-dressers, transvestites or even potential child molesters who are just looking to get access to those facilities."

This would be funny if it weren't so harmfully idiotic. How are people kept out of inappropriate restrooms now? Of course neither Mr McGuire or Mr Butts address this question because it would illuminate the intellectual bankruptcy of their position. Never mind, they seem to ask us, that public restrooms are already open to anyone who wishes to walk into one, no matter which gender they are presenting as. Never mind, they insist, that inappropriate behavior anywhere, especially in public restrooms, is against the law and will remain so after GENDA is passed. Pay no attention, they apparently demand, that similar laws exist in 13 states, Washington DC and over 100 counties, cities and towns - including New York City, Albany, Rochester and Buffalo - with NONE of the doomsday scenarios they are broadly hinting at in evidence at all.

In my previous blog post I noted that this tactic has failed more than once. Yet the supporters of harmful discrimination still use it. I guess the reason they keep resurrecting this failed strategy is that they have nothing else to replace it with, which is indicative of the vacuous nature of their argument.

They got nuthin' and they knows it!

GENDA has passed twice in the State Assembly already. Not one of the assembly members who voted yes on this bill has paid any political price that I know of. This kind of nondiscrimination law has scored majority support in more than one poll of New York's citizens. If the state's legislature can finally get their shit together and pass a budget and if the "HRC-Jr" Empire State Pride Agenda can shut up about marriage equality for a few weeks, this bill can and should be made law.