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Transgender Protection On Tap

by Thomas MacMillan | Apr 5, 2011 11:18 am

(33) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall

Thomas MacMillan Photo New Haven has explicit laws prohibiting discrimination against men and women. But what about men who were once women? Or women who identify themselves as men?

If three aldermen have their way, the city will soon have new legislation protecting all people from discrimination based on “perceived gender identity and expression.” That means transgender New Haveners will be covered for the first time.

Aldermen Michael Jones, Justin Elicker, and Matt Smith officially put forward the ordinance amendment at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen. The measure is now headed to committee for review.

Click here to read the proposed amendment. The proposal would add “gender identity” to the list of bases upon which the city prohibits discrimination in hiring, contracting, or city services.

After Monday’s meeting, Smith and Jones spoke about the bill as a proactive measure that simply clarifies existing laws.

Jones said his work on the bill was not prompted by any recent incidences of discrimination. He said there may have been some workplace discrimination against a transgender Yale cafeteria worker in 2005. Rather, he was inspired by the activities of a campus group called Fierce Advocacy, which has been working on a similar law at the statewide level.

Smith said the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee will vote on that bill Tuesday and that 13 other states have already passed such legislation. See coverage of the statewide initiative here and here.

Jones shared some statistics from a national study on transgender discrimination, which indicate widespread workplace discrimination based on gender identity/expression. Among 88 respondents in Connecticut, 83 percent reported experiencing harassment on the job, 27 percent lost a job, 24 percent were denied promotion, and 43 percent were not hired for a job. The study also found discrimination in housing, health care, and services.

Smith said the new bill is way of “reaffirming the values that we all share. ... It’s a really good progressive move forward for the city.”

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posted by: Greg on April 5, 2011  11:23am

Right on, this is a good step for the city to make.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 5, 2011  11:36am

I hope this affects somebody. If not, it’s not worth spending 5 minutes on it. Shouldn’t that be a benchmark for legislation or are we just jumping on the latest fad out of Hartford? Given our rather extreme issues in the city, one might want to focus on something that affects at least 5 citizens.

posted by: Atwater on April 5, 2011  11:51am

I disagree with the Aldermen, this is a superfluous action. I think that private and public employers should be able to hire who they want for whatever reasons they want. Personally I wouldn’t hire a transgender person and I wouldn’t want the government telling me I had to. Social liberalism is important, but it should not come at the expense of liberty.

posted by: streever on April 5, 2011  11:57am

Nice proposal folks.

posted by: Fairhaven Dave on April 5, 2011  11:59am

Why are elected officials spending time “clarifying existing laws” when we have a city with huge areas that look like war zones in third world countries and at least four murderers at large?  These pet projects are an insult to our community when people are dying and living in squalor due to criminal oppression.

LEGISLATE some ways to get the police to clean up this town.  Folks who have had their genitals modified (or not) will be fine leaning on our existing laws until it is safe for ALL those who wear garments to walk down the street.

posted by: roger huzendubel on April 5, 2011  12:10pm

of all the problems in the city we choose this ? theres hard working people getting screwed out of money and deported, people starving and this is what matters most to these people ? go ahead and attack me for thinking differently than you people but i think we got biggr fish to fry.

posted by: Pleased on April 5, 2011  12:43pm

Good for the three aldermen for being proactive about this. Noteworthy, Roger, it’s easy to think that are other issues that are more worthy of our leaders’ time, unless you’re transgendered and likely face some degree of discrimation every day. Imagine the outrage in our community if something happened, and then everyone wondered why we didn’t have measures in place to protect tansgendered people to begin with?

posted by: sally tamarkin on April 5, 2011  12:59pm

Does this “affect somebody?” If the statistics in the article about how CT residents are impacted by discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression aren’t compelling enough, feel free to look at the national trends. They’re alarming. http://transequality.org/Resources/NCTE_prelim_survey_econ.pdf.

roger huzendubel, thank you for bringing up the fact that people are rightfully preoccupied with important issues that have profound impact on their daily lives. As an ally to the transgender community, I am happy to point out that there is nothing more crucial to all of our lives than having a fair shake at obtaining and keeping gainful employment, equal access to housing, and enjoying the rights and protections afforded to fellow New Haveners and CTers. No one should have to live in fear of losing a job for any reason unrelated to job performance. That’s a basic protection and I think we can all relate.

Thank you for championing fairness and equality, Mike, Justin, and Matt.

posted by: robn on April 5, 2011  2:27pm

The less people we discriminate against, the better chance we have of finding the best person for a particular job…and that, my friends, is exactly what New Haven needs.

posted by: robn on April 5, 2011  2:31pm

Sorry…meant to write “individual”, not person….(we also have puppies working for the city and i hear they’re doing a fine job.)

posted by: Noteworthy on April 5, 2011  4:12pm

Sally:

The last known case of transgendered discrimination was in 2005 - 6 years ago. National statistics are meaningless unless they are germane to New Haven. Gary Holder-Winfield in his quest to reverse the death penalty and just about everything else, routinely uses statistics that have nothing to do with either Connecticut or New Haven. If we are to believe this is an issue here, we need local facts. Otherwise, this is a fad, pushed by Yale students and others who inundate us with their latest, greatest cause and in four years, move on and leave a mess for the rest of us.

And for the record, what’s the point of pushing something like this when anything we do will be superseded by the state legislation now pending? And are there protections in this legislation to keep a transgendered person from wandering into the wrong bathroom? What public bathroom would they use?

posted by: streever on April 5, 2011  4:39pm

Noteworthy:
Why shouldn’t these three alders work in a proactive way to make sure the same civil rights available to you & I are there for everyone else?

Do you think the lavish salaries they earn for their efforts makes them required to only work toward the absolute most effective piece of legislation for the absolute largest possible constituency?

I always find people arguing that others are wasting their time to be a pretty specious argument. One can easily make the same argument in reverse.

posted by: Fairhaven Dave on April 5, 2011  5:08pm

The bad reaction to this article is not small minded or phobic.  It’s based on the idea that you need to make a city SAFE before you can make it FAIR.  Concentrating on projects like this while people are killed and living in squalor might understandably be considered very “let them eat cake” to a lot of folks.

posted by: Mike Jones on April 5, 2011  5:18pm

Noteworthy:

This legislation is in no way a fad: it’s been enacted by 13 states and over 140 municipalities over the past 40 years. We’re simply behind.

There is a bill before the General Assembly that would also change the state’s non discrimination codes for the same purpose, but that bill has been risen before and not enacted, although we hope it will pass this time. Even if it does pass however, I’m almost certain that the City would have to amend its current non-discrimination language to make it consistent with that language anyway. In the best case, the statewide legislation will pass and ours will be consistent with that, and in the worst case, that effort could be unsuccessful and we could still take this important step forward.

I’m also sure that you’re aware of the Connecticut statistics that were listed in the article; they demonstrate that discrimination against transgender people occurs more often than every six years and that there is a pressing need for efforts like this to protect that population. You’re going to struggle to get statistics that deal with transgender people in a single municipality because we’re talking about a smaller population that is often forced to remain in the shadows. You will hear from New Haveners who have been discriminated against because of their gender identity as this proposal moves forward.

Lastly, the issue of transgender people misusing restrooms is continually used as a distraction by folks who refuse to acknowledge the rampant discrimination that transgender people face. Put simply: the issue of bathrooms is a non-issue.

Transgender people do not “wander into the wrong bathroom.” People will use the bathroom appropriate for the gender with which they identity. If someone masquerades for the purposes of walking into a bathroom in which they don’t belong, they will be held responsible just as they are now.

posted by: Bruce on April 5, 2011  6:07pm

Atwater, it is because of people like you that we need laws against discrimination.

There are likely many cases that simply don’t get reported or noticed.

posted by: eli on April 5, 2011  6:46pm

We’re worried where a transsexual can poop, yet a homeless man still has NO options?
This is just stupid.  More fodder for the crazies at Fox news and the Tea Party Patriots. 
Lets learn to deal with big issues before we spend time with this stuff

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on April 5, 2011  7:17pm

It’s about time.  Let’s find all the groups who are continually harassed, threatened, and not hired when qualified, and help them, too.  Everyone who wants to work deserves a fair chance.  Everyone.

@Noteworthy: You’re right.  But it will affect someone, and those around them won’t even know it.  But they will.

@Atwater: You can’t discriminate and ask people their age, coupled situation, or a lot of other things.  If you don’t like it, only hire your family and friends.

posted by: CMS on April 5, 2011  7:34pm

It’s worth the time because of people like fellow commenter Atwater, who said, “Personally I wouldn’t hire a transgender person and I wouldn’t want the government telling me I had to.”
Acceptance and understanding is a step in eliminating violence from our streets. Let’s not forget about the important rights of all of our citizens because a few choose to be violent. And let’s not be indifferent because of other problems. I commend the aldermen for this move.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
— Elie Wiesel

posted by: streever on April 5, 2011  7:44pm

Eli,
Props to you for actively working on the issue of homelessness.
Shame on you however for criticizing the proactive and tolerant work these dedicated volunteers are doing.

posted by: Sally Tamarkin on April 5, 2011  7:47pm

Noteworthy:
First, every single instance of discrimination ever doesn’t always make it to an official record in the best of circumstances i.e. when the discrimination occurs based on something that *is* protected under the law. So, imagine how difficult it is to report discrimination when you’re so marginalized that you’re not even in a protected class. Who do you tell? Will they listen? How do you seek them out, what is the remedy, etc., etc.?

That said, we do know of discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression happening in CT. As far as local facts go, the article listed the facts that Mike cited. They are facts from CT residents.

Feel free to also take a look at the testimony of almost 100 people (all CT residents) who testified on in support of a bill at the state level at a public hearing in the Judiciary Committee (http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CommDocTmyBillAllComm.asp?bill=HB-06599&doc_year=2011). Many of them are transgender people talking about employment discrimination they have experienced.

You wanted local facts, right?

posted by: roasty on April 6, 2011  8:13am

Ald. Jones,

I have always felt that I was a Native American trapped in a white male’s body - can you fight for my rights to some of the casino winnings?  I am being discriminated against because people “perceive” my “identity” me to be a white male.  Help!

posted by: Leila Crockett on April 6, 2011  9:24am

It is great to see so much tolerance and support for members of our community who often have no audible voice. Touching…

posted by: Lra on April 6, 2011  10:20am

Eli - As Streever said, kudos for working on homelessness issues. It is a serious problem in New Haven that doesn’t get enough attention.

But caring about the homeless population and caring about the transgender population aren’t mutually exclusive. Indeed, trans folks are homeless hugely out of proportion to the general American population. Why? Because they are routinely fired/harassed on the job/not hired in the first place, and are routinely denied housing or kicked out of their homes. I urge you to watch the testimony that Sally Tamarkin linked to, in which *lots* of people tell personal stories of the discrimination they or their friends and family have faced, often here in CT.

This proposal and the state bill just approved by the Judiciary Committee would guarantee that people cannot be denied work or housing simply because of their gender.

This *IS* a homelessness issue.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 7, 2011  4:38am

...  The point being made is that the city has significant, serious systemic problems that affect ALL 123,000 people who live here, or in the alternative, thousands, or hundreds. There is ZERO evidence there is a transgender discrimination problem in New Haven. So, our representatives are spending time solving a non-problem and that necessitates not spending time on real problems. That’s the only point being made.

Mike Jone:
The statistics noted in this article in fact, are not really statistics. These numbers are derived from a survey of people who claim to be part of the transgender community. 88 biased people with an interest in passing this legislation, took the survey. 6500 took it on a national basis.

While you think the bathroom issue is a distraction, tell that to a mom with a child in the women’s bathroom when a cross dressing male enters the facility; or a dad who stands by the doorway as his young daughter enters the women’s bathroom alone. Those who have no children can’t possibly understand, let alone empathize with a parent’s fear and concern. It’s not fake or specious.

posted by: Atwater on April 7, 2011  9:14am

The BOA’s job is not to legislate morality, nor is it any government’s job. Private businesses should be able to select their employees based on whatever criteria they choose.
Civil rights legislation does little to impair discrimination. Employers simply work around the laws and cover their discriminatory practices. The BOA should not be wasting their time on this issue.

posted by: Leila Crockett on April 7, 2011  10:14am

@Noteworthy
At least some of the evidence you seek regarding discrimination can be found in the content of your own post. It would seem that you are asserting that transgendered individuals present a threat to children. While your bathroom fears may not be “fake” they are certainly based in fear that is seemingly driven by ignorance. FYI Pedophiles are 97% male(not transgender), mostly white with a mean age of 27. If you are truly concerned about who will be sharing a bathroom with children, I think it is a waste of your time to oppose this bill when there is “literally” 0 evidence that there is a transgender pedophilia problem. It sounds like you should be concerned more with a bill that will keep white men from sharing bathrooms with children. Also, because someone cross dresses, does not mean they are transgender.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 7, 2011  10:14am

The NHI has a new editing standard. If you’re a FOB (Friend of Bass) you can say what you want. If you’re not and you respond by calling out the specious attacks for what they are, you’re zapped. In responding to Streever’s comment, my response was redacted unnecessarily, was not overly harsh or personal. If that’s all it takes to get edited, then perhaps Streever and those editing our comments should get new jobs. Streever is publicly elected and is subject to criticism just like everybody else especially when he is a serial poster.

If you’re that concerned over our comments, you should take your own advice and look at your headline on this subject: “GOP freak-out fails to water down bill.” The GOP hardly freaked out which makes the headline both inaccurate as well as inflammatory.

[Editor’s Note: We do try to take out the parts of comments where people call out other people by name, and just go to the substance of the argument. Otherwise threads devolve into two or three people sending increasingly hostile personal remarks each other’s way, hijacking the thread. And btw, you’re making assumptions about who my friends are, but that’s OK.]

posted by: streever on April 7, 2011  11:44am

I am actually surprised that PB allowed any of the anti-bill comments to be posted—while public officials are open to criticism, I’d like to see the actual merit of their ideas criticized, instead of the people themselves criticized.

I personally would rather see substantiative discussion about issues & ideas, than sound bites and criticisms with no grounding.

Noteworthy: I see us as colleagues in our “serial posting”, and am sorry that I have apparently offended or angered you. I do wish Paul had let you post where I’d made a specious attack against another poster, because it wasn’t my intention, and I’d like to offer an apology for it if it came across that way.

posted by: streever on April 7, 2011  11:56am

Oh, one correction:
I am not an elected official. I believe in criticizing public officials for the way they spend tax payer money & the way they represent constituencies, but I do not agree that any one who has a public life should be open to any and all attacks by anonymous figures.

I was elected by members of the democratic party to support & identify strong democrats in a very small neighborhood and encourage them to engage in public service. I think I’ve done an OK job of this. I welcome any criticism of my work on this, but am uncertain as to why I should be criticized for my opinion—as an individual who is using his own name and identity to share his opinion.

It does not advance the dialog—it does not advance the discussion on the bill—it does not have any bearing on what actually happens with the bill.

posted by: Zoe Brain on April 8, 2011  7:52am

There are two main groups opposed to the bill:

Those who think discrimination doesn’t happen; and those who discriminate and want to continue to do so.

The fact that the second group exists, and is so well represented in the comments here, completely debunks the first argument as comprehensively as all the facts, figures and statistics do.

It can reasonably be said that NH has more important issues to deal with first. But if that argument is accepted, then there will *always* be more important issues, just as there have been for the last 35 years since such legislation was first enacted. The same argument was made in 1964, against the Civil Rights Act, and for the same reaaons. “Later” means “Never”.

Enough is enough. The problem has existed for far too long. Fix it.

posted by: Fairhaven Dave on April 8, 2011  1:02pm

Nobody is saying discrimination is not an actual problem.  The opposition (since you seem to be intent on diving the argument into halves…) feels this is like complaining about the color of the sails, while the hull of the boat has a big hole in it.  A stupid thing to extend our efforts on while people are being killed, starving, and homeless.  It belongs in the same drawer as plastic bag and leaf blower bans.  Glorified photo op wrapped in feel-good-do-nothing statements. 

I’m willing to bet the bulk of taxpaying New Haven residents and businesses who are directly impacted by day to day activity in our city think this is a foolish way to spend our time.  The uber-liberal contingency can insult, obfuscate, and throw googled statistics and quotes around as much as you want.  All you are doing is pushing people who are on the fence, who pay attention to what is ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY HAPPENING around them, toward voting GOP by acting so ridiculous. 

Big Love to All regardless: From a tax paying, property owning, parenting, gun toting, arts degree holding, bagel eating, gay loving, anti drug law, Caucasian, Buddhist, biking, New Haven citizen of ten years and counting.

posted by: Zoe Brain on April 8, 2011  8:12pm

“The opposition (since you seem to be intent on diving the argument into halves…) feels this is like complaining about the color of the sails, while the hull of the boat has a big hole in it.  A stupid thing to extend our efforts on while people are being killed, starving, and homeless.”

Killed - on November 22nd, Trans people hold a Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we remember those of us slain over the past year, not for what they did, but who they were.
There were over 120 names on the list last year, the youngest only 18 months old. No-one I knew this year, but the list contained a friend of mine last year, strangled and then burnt to death.

Starving - “# Respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with household income of less than $10,000.
# Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace, and one in four were fired because of their gender identity or expression.”
- National Report on the situation of Trans people in the USA

Homeless - “# Housing discrimination was also common. 19% reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. One in five respondents experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression.
# An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population.”
- Ibid

I lost another friend in Texas not that long ago. She’d been refused refuge in a homeless shelter, not because there was no room, but because she was Trans. A veteran of the US Marine Corps, she froze to death on the steps of a Lutheran church that night.

Another friend, finally exhausted by the unremitting hatred she experienced every day, and with no legal recourse, ate her gun. That case at least made it into the papers, her name was Christine Daniels, a reporter for the LA Times. So many of us die, sometimes quietly freezing to death, sometimes after hours of horrific torture, and it rarely gets remarked upon so no-one knows about it. All we can show are the dry, dusty figures, statistical evidence that others casually dismiss while comparing the issue to plastic-bag and leaf-blower bans.

That shows the scope of the problem: that one segment of the community is treated as disposable waste. Not so much because of the malice of the few, but the ignorance of the many that the problem is real, exists, and significant.

posted by: Livesinfairhaven on April 8, 2011  8:57pm

To me, this issue is overkill for a place like New Haven.

Everything has come full circle now and it’s time to write anti-discriminatory legislation for middle-aged white males.

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