Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Everyone Matters: Dignity and Safety for Trans People

Recently, several Massachusetts organizations released a 10-minute online video called Everyone Matters: Dignity and Safety for Trans People, featuring the personal narratives of four trans individuals discussing the impacts of discrimination on their lives – with a special focus on employment discrimination. The organizations’ responsible for producing this film are now using it as an educational tool helping non-trans people understand how this kind of discrimination hurts the greater trans community along with highlighting the very real need for laws to explicitly prohibit it.

According Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), “transgender people are widely unemployed and vastly underemployed,” with 56 percent of transgender people being fired from their places of employment, 47 percent being denied employment and 21 percent being harassed either verbally or physically on the job. Even though it’s clear that employment discrimination destroys the lives of trans people, no law in Massachusetts or at the federal level explicitly protects trans people from this unnecessary and malicious treatment.

Everyone Matters comes at a critically important time as the Massachusetts legislature will soon begin debate on a “transgender rights” bill – An Act Relative to Gender Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes - that will add Massachusetts to 13 other states, Washington DC, and 102 counties and cities - including Boston, Cambridge and Northampton –making protections for trans people explicit, uniform and visible to the general public. It will include gender identity and expression in the state’s nondiscrimination statute and will amend the existing hate crimes law.

The film also reinforces why it is so critically important to pass a fully inclusive federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Even when the fair-minded legislators of Massachusetts rightfully enact this bill into law, 36 other states will still be left without uniform protections for trans employees, making an already vulnerable population even more susceptible to blatant violence and discrimination. The passage of an inclusive ENDA that includes protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity will send a clear message to employers, mandating that they judge job applicants and employees by the quality of their work rather than what gender box they check.

Keeping the spirit of PFLAG’s tradition alive, we encourage you to share your personal narratives with your state and federal legislators. If you live in Massachusetts, please be sure to participate in the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition’s lobby day on Tuesday, April 17th from 10 am – 1 pm. If you don’t live in Massachusetts but would like to help, please call your federal legislators today and ask them to support a fully inclusive ENDA. They need to hear from all of us about the experiences that trans people, family members, friends and allies face in the absence of laws affirming the right to freedom of gender identity and gender expression.

-Rhodes Perry

And be sure to watch the video clip of Everyone Matters below...

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