Notes From The ENDA "Sidelines"
Black Wednesday. It sure has been keeping the transgender activists busy — there are so many voices, using all the skill sets the have at their disposal to add to the complex dialog. I’d like to highlight a few transgender voices.
Christine Daniels’ story is an example of what a law protecting people against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity can do for LGBT employees. The Gender Nondiscrimination Act of 2003 (AB 196) changed the employment climate in California; the Los Angeles Times didn’t fire her. The Times may have accommodated her transition without legislation, but as it is they don’t really have a legal choice whether or not to accommodate her — they are required by law to accommodate her transition.
I met Christine a few months ago, and we’ve become friends. Little did I know back in April, before we’d met, how much that transgender non-discrimination employment law affected my friend Christine’s L.A. Times sportswriting gig:
You are reading this [blog] right now, in no small part, because in 2003 the state of California passed its version of ENDA, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act (AB 196). Back in early March, I scheduled a meeting with a person in The Times’ human resources department to do some exploratory research about transitioning at The Times. I was told, “Well, The Times cannot discriminate against you because California has a law in place.”
She went on to say:
Well. That was worded somewhat more bluntly than I wanted to hear. But it was also comforting. I had protection. I could be myself, and I could continue to draw a paycheck. From those crude beginnings, I was able to work with HR and my editors to formulate a transition strategy that enabled me to not only change my byline and keep my job but boost my career to an all-time personal fulfillment level. Today, I am writing 3-4 columns a week for the Times Sports section along with two blogs, including this one.
I realize I am lucky. California is one of about a dozen states with such protection for transgender employees. My friend Susan Stanton did not have that kind of backup in Florida and lost her job as Largo city manager in February despite a long and outstanding record of public service.
(more stories, NCTE newsleter started — after the break)My friend Kelly Moyers and I were talking tonight; we both attended a community subcommittee meeting tonight here in San Diego discussing web issues for our community transgender group. Kelly is a programmer over at Sun Microsystems. DiversityInc is going to profile her in an article soon — I believe she said it was going to be in the magazine’s December print edition. She also transitioned within the last couple of years, and told me her transition at work has been relatively easy; we were both wondering aloud tonight if she’d have had such an easy work transition without AB 196. We both knew the answer.
The stories pretty much highlight reality: sometimes good behavior by corporate America has been because laws were what first required the good behavior.
Over at Left In San Francisco, guest blogger Susan Stryker wrote a piece entitled It’s Your History-Use It! Talking Points for Tran-Inclusive ENDA Activists (it’s available in PDF format over at UnitedENDA.org). To quote the bio found at the bottom of the article, Susan “earned her Ph.D. in United States History at UC Berkeley in 1992, the same year she transitioned male-to-female, helped found Transgender Nation, and got fired from her first job for being transgendered.”
There are so many key points in Susan’s history lesson, but I’ll just quote an excerpt from her item number 6:
When did organized gay activism start in the United States?
Henry Gerber founded a short-lived group in Chicago in 1924 called The Society for Human Rights, which was inspired by his contact with the homosexual emancipation movement in Europe. The first long-lasting groups were the gay male-oriented Mattachine Society, founded in 1950, and the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian group founded in 1956. One important development in the immediate post-World War II period was that gay and lesbian people began to understand themselves to be members of a minority community that was being denied its civil rights. Part of this came from the perception of many gay and lesbian people that they had served honorably in the war (or on the home front) but were not treated as full and equal members of society.
Transgender people began to think of themselves the same way, at the same time. The first organized transgender group, The Society for Equality in Dress, was founded in Southern California in 1952. It didn’t last very long, but published two issues of a journal called Transvestia. Later, in 1960, one member of The Society for Equality in Dress, a cross-dresser who later started living fulltime as a woman, took the name of her old group’s publication and launched the first successful transgender publication the United States. This second Transvestia was published into the 1980s. The magazine’s founder, Virginia Prince, also founded national organizations for heterosexual cross-dressers, such as The Foundation for Personality Expression, and the Society of the Second Self.
Prince (still alive in her 90s as of this writing) is the classic example of a homophobic trans person, but that didn’t stop the federal government from arresting her in 1959, through the same kind of sting operations it used to arrest gay men. At the time, individuals who used the U.S. mails to send letters to prospective sex partners could be charged with using the mail for obscene purposes. Prince got caught, and charged with a felony, because one person she was corresponding with (who turned out to be another cross-dresser pretending to be a lesbian) was having his mail surveilled by the federal government.
Trans and non-trans people, gay and straight, were subjected to the same kind of paranoid McCarthyite repression of anything outside of procreative heterosexual reproduction-and you could fall outside of that for reasons having to do with your gender expression as well as your sexuality. While we may not always like being in the same boat as a GLBT community, we all wound up here together for a reason.
Susan’s piece is well worth the read.
Lastly, Mara Keisling over at the National Center for Transgender Equality has announced the start of a Daily Update on ENDA email. You can sign up on the mailing list here to read her daily reports, of which she says:
…Now that there are dozens of people working fulltime and thousands engaged in a lot of different ways on getting a transgender-inclusive ENDA passed, we are going to try to take a few minutes every evening for the next two weeks to explain what’s going on. It will be kind of an informal blog style.
I made a PDF of the first email, and posted it here.