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A Latino/a response to ENDA

AN URGENT LETTER TO CONGRESSWOMAN LINDA T. SANCHEZ

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
 
Dear Congresswoman Sanchez:
 
The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, on which you serve, is scheduled to vote within the next two days on H.R. 3685, the version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) that excludes gender identity protection.  

As leaders of the Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community throughout the United States we respectfully ask you to vote against approval of this version of ENDA and – instead – insist on a committee vote in favor of H.R. 2015, the version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) that includes gender identity protections which would make employment discrimination against transgender people illegal.  
 
You might be aware that these bills have drawn a tremendous response from various local and national LGBT organizations and leaders – as well as non-gay allies – who overwhelmingly recognize that stripping away gender identity language from ENDA would leave the transgender community without protections against discrimination.  

And, as often is the case in the Latino community, the heated dialogue that has ensued might be considered by some as something that might pertain to the LGBT community but might not be of concern to Latinos living in the United States.

Those of us who have signed this letter, believe nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the last few decades, the LGBT movement in the United States certainly has made tremendous strides towards being recognized as equal citizens and yet, what is little known is that the Latino LGBT community and our Latino straight allies have been an integral part of this civil rights movement.

During the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, seen now as the launch of the modern gay rights movement, Sylvia Rivera emerged as one of the key figures standing up to discrimination during those fateful nights, along with other Latina women who happened to be transgender.

And, while it is unarguable that the general environment for gays and lesbians has greatly improved since the Stonewall Riots, thanks in no small part to Sylvia and other Latino trangender heroes, the same cannot be said for transgender people who are probably almost as vulnerable today as they were then.  

Some in the gay community have argued that the ‘T’ as in “transgender” is not part of the gay community but, if you really think about it, when people discriminate against a person based on their perceptions of who we are as gays and lesbians, their discrimination is often based on their perception of gender roles and not only sexual orientation.  

This is particularly true of the Latino community which often confuses the issues of gender with sexual orientation as if they were interchangeable.  Spanish language newspapers and television news often refer to transgender individuals as gays and gay Latinos are often asked what their gender role is in bed – whether a gay man is a “woman” in bed or a lesbian woman is “a man” – which speaks to how these issues are sometimes seen in the general Latino community.

Furthermore, for those of us who are transgender, have transgender friends and/or work with transgender communities, we are direct witnesses to how vulnerable the community is to being discriminated particularly in gaining employment.
 
For these and many other reasons, we know that it would be unconscionable to pass an ENDA bill that leaves the transgender community – and the Latino transgender community in particular – behind.
 
On behalf of the Latino LGBT leaders listed below in alphabetical order, we look forward to hearing from you.  If you need additional information or would like to ask questions about this statement, please contact me XXXXX
 
Sincerely,

Gloria Nieto

Signees:

*Noel Alicea, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York, NY
*Marta Donayre, Love Sees No Borders, Sunnyvale, CA
*Andres Duque, Mano a Mano @ Latino Commission on AIDS, New York, NY
*Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, ALLGO statewide people of color organization, Austin, TX
*Nila Marrone, LATINO PFLAG – NYC, PFLAG for Families of Color and Allies in NYC (PFLAG is an acronym for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
* Lisbeth Melendez, political consultant, Washington, DC
* Gloria Nieto, former member of the Democratic National Committee, San Jose, CA
* Pedro Julio Serrano, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Washington, DC
* Herb Sosa, Unity Coalition/Coalicion Unida, Miami, FL

* Affiliations appear for identification purposes only, signatures do not imply that those affiliations endorse this letter unless otherwise indicated

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