Mixed Thoughts on ENDA

| Nov 8, 2007
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vid00004-001_0002.jpgBy now, you’ve probably heard that ENDA passed the House of Representatives. It’s now headed for debate in the Senate, and if it passes that Democratically-controlled body, it’s on to the White House for a probable veto. (Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.) I’m not happy about the removal of “transgender” from the bill, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some other misgivings and thoughts.

The libertarian in me has a problem with protected classes of any stripe. I tend to think an employer has the right to hire and fire based on whatever rules and regulations they set. I also think that this hypothetical business is free to fail, based on those rules and regulations. If they fire talented employees because those people don’t meet the expected gender presentations, then that business will eventually suffer.

But that’s in a perfect world. In our reality, if a man gets fired for wearing a dress at home, or plans to transition, it can be tough to find a new job. Ask Susan Stanton about it sometime. Read through the TGForum Library. There’s story after story about trans-people getting fired. (Scroll down for a sampling.) It’s something I worry about frequently. Do you?

So, what to do when idealism clashes with reality? Go with what’s concrete and work toward the ideal.

Just about every other “class” is protected in the United States: You can’t fire someone because of their skin color, their political affiliation, or their religious beliefs. So, why can you fire us?

A person doesn’t chose to be black, or white, or Asian, or Hispanic. Just like they don’t choose to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

But, you may counter, while they may not chose to be different, they can chose to act, or not act on it. True, true. However, I’d argue that no one is born Republican or Democrat. There has never ever been a baby born as Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Mormon, Muslim, or Jewish. Sure, they may be baptized, and raised in the faith, but they can always pick their own path. Yet, the law protects these choices, and not our expressions of gender identity.

The idea behind anti-discrimination laws is to phase out hatred and bigotry over time. Each new generation is expected to grow up used to the idea that you can’t single out someone because they are different.

If everyone is special, then no-one is.” It’s an argument I’ve heard against “special rights”. Okay. I’m all for that. It satisfies my libertarian side. Let’s get more people under the umbrella. Let’s level the playing field for all. Don’t fire someone because their hair is loud. If they do a good job, who cares?


Another random thought for any of your friends in the GLB communities who support the decision to remove TG from ENDA: Would it be okay if we left out bisexuals? Would you still support the bill if it protected gays, but not lesbians?

The non-inclusive ENDA bill, designed to prohibit discrimination, is, ironically discriminatory.

Remember these people? And where are they now?

Peter Oiler

Dana Rivers

Phylicia Barnes

Kristine Holt

Wynd Harris

Tammy Fisher

Alyssa Williams

Just to name a few.

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Category: All TGForum Posts, Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

Ronnie Rho has been writing for Transgender Forum since May of 1999. One of these days, she'll get it right. She's been described as the "world's most famous recluse," but only by people who don't know her very well. She is unmarried, and lives in Cincinnati.

Comments (3)

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  1. says:

    Good pooints. Laws don’t keep you from being fired. Laws don’t keep you from being attacked. Empathy and understanding do that. And the more empathy and understanding we generate, the less need we’ll have for the laws.

    Laws are easier though. Goodwill requires getting out and doing something. And I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but the fact that we were thrown under the bus by the HRC is indicative of one thing – in the whole GLBT, we’ve allowed ourselves to be the most expendable. What happened with ENDA was tragically ironic and reprehensible, but we’ve been riding the G and L coattails forever – settling for the scraps they were willing to throw us and saying “good enough”, because we didn’t have to work for it. Gay bars, anyone? This wa merely a scrap they weren’t willing to toss our way, and we didn’t do enough to demand it.

    So yeah, what the HRC did was sick. But we could be hitting those streets a lot harder than we are, working on that empathy thing and just generally being more of a visible presence. At this point, gays and lesbians are a part of day-to-day living, but trans people are still oddities.

  2. ronnierho ronnierho says:

    Another good point I neglected to mention. Real change doesn’t come from the top. It comes from the street.

  3. angela_g angela_g says:

    I’ve always felt that while you can try to legislate changes in the way people think it takes a really long time for the changes to show up. Look at the Civil Rights movement in the 60s and how there is still prejudice and racial based discrimination today. They may not be able to fire you for being black but the law can’t make the rascist boss any less rascist. If a law was passed tomorrow saying you couldn’t fire people for being TG, trans people would still be denied employment and fired from jobs when they were outed. Transphobic employers would find some other excuse to get rid of them. The answer is education and everyone of us is a teacher. Any time we are out mingling in society we have to do our darnedest to present a picture that says TGs are not threatening, not dangerous and not abnormal in any other way than our TG qualities. I’m not saying you need to be bland—or be the life of the party, but the more the public sees us out and about in stores, clubs, restaurants, the less of a curiosity and enigma we become. Just as there are some places in this country where racial discrimination is ebbing there are places where transphobic attitudes are changing. It’s a long voyage and while some legal protection would be nice a warm smile may be the best weapon. And don’t tell me a smile won’t save you from a TG phobic attacker. I know that. The smile is for the general public who aren’t going to hurt us but won’t ever get to know us if we act furtive, paranoid or otherwise strange. The smile helps them to get used to us, approach us and get to know us as people rather than some label they’ve heard. The blackjack in your purse if for the phobic attacker.

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