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.

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