Faced with staggering rates of bias in the workplace, transgender people and their families are convening on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 16 to advocate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). This legislation would extend protections against discrimination on the job based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A near-universal 97% of transgender people who responded to a survey on discrimination had experienced some level of harassment on the job, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, organizers of the lobbying effort. Among the 6,450 people who answered the survey, a shocking 26% had been fired simply for being transgender. Rates of poverty were also stark, with transgender people with an annual income less than $10,000 at more than twice the national average. For transgender people of color, the numbers were even worse, with Latinos and African Americans in poverty at four and five times the national average respectively.
"In the face of numbers like this, we absolutely must do everything we can to protect people's jobs and create a working environment where transgender people—and everyone else—can work safely and with dignity. Americans firmly believe that we should all be judged on the quality of our work, not on who we are. That's what we are advocating for," commented Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
ENDA has strong support in the House of Representatives, with 198 co-sponsors joining Rep. Barney Frank, who is the author of the measure. This is the highest number of sponsors to date on legislation that will positively impact the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Senate support has been steadily growing. Advocates are calling for prompt action from both chambers and are very optimistic about the measure's chances of passage.
Also scheduled is an awards ceremony to honor allies in the movement for transgender equality, on Monday, March 15 at the National Press Club from 7-9 p.m. This year's award recipient is Bishop Yvette Flunder from City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco. The communities of faith and social service programs that Bishop Flunder has nurtured through the years are known for their inclusiveness of transgender people. She also leads The Fellowship, an organization of African American religious leaders and communities affirming transgender and same gender loving people.
On Tuesday, March 16, approximately 200 people—transgender people, their families and allies—are expected on Capitol Hill for numerous appointments with legislators. There they'll make their case about the urgent need for federal protections in the workplace. "Not only does it have a positive impact on lawmakers as they learn more about transgender people and our lives, it also empowers our members as they urge their Representatives and Senators to represent the true diversity of their constituency," noted Justin Tanis, one of the organizers of the event. "It is very powerful to see families going together to speak up for ENDA and to see the wide range of transgender people standing up for ourselves and our rights."