The good news is that a transgender rights bill passed in Massachusetts today. The bad news is that it does not provide safe access to bathrooms because of a manipulative ad campaign.
Massachusetts became the 16th state to add transgender citizens as a protected class. Huffington Post reports that the law:
“not only adds protections to the state’s civil rights laws against employment, education, housing and credit discrimination, but also adds gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crimes law.”
HuffPo also notes that a provision preventing discrimination in public accommodations was dropped two days before the vote because of objections from Massachusetts House Republicans. Conservative organizations Focus on the Family and Family Research Council ran radio ads warning parents that they can no longer let their children go to the bathroom alone. Hear the one of the radio ads below:
The critics of the bill also put up a fancy website that includes the extra creepy line “protect the privacy and modesty of prepubescent little girls”. I don’t think I would want the author of that line to use the bathroom with my children, but whatever. The site lays out their rationale for opposing the bill:
Among the negative consequences of this law are: a) school children would be taught that they can change their gender if they want and b) women and children would be put at risk since access to sensitive areas such as single-sex bathrooms, locker rooms, and c) women-only fitness facilities would be open to anyone, regardless of biological sex, and d) anyone speaking out against it could be charged with a “hate crime.”
You gotta love the vague “put women and children at risk” line. They don’t know what’s going to happen! Probably something rapey and scary though. That’s why the tough guys are running radio ads and starting websites to protect the helpless women of Massachusetts.
I guess my question is the same as the one raised by the Transgender Law Center in their report (.pdf) on bathroom safety for transgender people, which is: Why do you assume that your children are safe right now? If a guy wanted to walk into a public bathroom and commit a crime he could. There’s no bouncers checking for vaginas at the door. The only things that maintain the safe space in a public accommodation is 1) The presence of other people or 2) cameras or other security. Allowing transgender access would change neither one of those. Even if a man were to specifically try to impersonate a transgender person in order to gain access to these spaces, do the critics of the bill picture the other women (or transgender women) in these spaces just allowing that impostor to sexually assault other women? You might as well not let you child do anything alone because transgender people are everywhere. We might run into you at the ice cream shop! You’re never safe.
And lastly, let’s just note that if we made it easier to change our gender markers on official identification, this would be easier. Then we could all change our identification to match our gender identity and the bouncers that are currently protecting women’s restrooms all over the country (American Heroes!) wouldn’t have to check everyone’s vagina all the time.
Police are still asking the community for leads in the murder of Baltimore transgender woman Tyra (Anthony) Trent.
Detectives don’t know why Tyra was strangled and left in an abandoned building 9 months ago, and they are asking the community to assist with any leads about the case. Her body was found by a man looking for his dog.
Her friends hope that her death will bring attention to the hardships that the transgender community faces in Baltimore. Tyra will be remembered as part of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th across the country.
Two transgender Fort Collins High School students, one who identifies as male and one who identifies as female, say they are forced to use the staff restrooms instead of the student restrooms. Dionne Malikowski says she was suspended for trying to use the student women’s restroom.
In an interview with K-USA TV in Colorado Dionne says that the school administrator’s told her that they had warned her before and suspended her for three days when she tried to use the women’s restroom almost one month ago. Kurt Peters, who identifies as male, says that he was also disciplined for using the men’s restroom, but he received only a warning from administrators.
The school has not commented on the specific incidents, but they did mention that they do not have an official policy toward restroom use for transgender students. Most school districts and most municipalities likely do not have policies that govern the use of restrooms, and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute has a list that includes only three states and two cities.
This is something states, cities, and school districts are going to have to face eventually. The Transgender Law Center has three solutions (.pdf):
Add another victory for PFLAG. The Howard County Council is moving to make gender identity a protected status under county law, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in housing and employment.
Howard County is a suburban county between Baltimore and Washington, and it will be the third jurisdiction in Maryland to add gender identity as a protected class after Montgomery County and the City of Baltimore. Howard County neighbors Baltimore County, which was the site of a recent brutal beating of a transgendered woman that went viral on the internet. That assault was prosecuted under Baltimore County Hate Crime Laws.
County Council member Courtney Watson credited PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) with introducing the idea for the legislation and working to get it passed. Well done.
A transgender woman was approached on busy Valencia street on Monday night by a man who threatened to kill her several times because she was transgender.
The victim received only minor injuries because she was able to use mace to fend off the attacker.
And to make a bad situation worse, an article describing the incident in the San Jose Mercury News refers several times to the victim as a man, when the victim identified as a woman. It can’t be said enough journalists: pronouns are incredibly important if you care at all about transgender sensitivity. Seriously.
I walk Valencia Street nearly every day and it is frequented by many people in the LGBT community. Transphobia exists everywhere – even in the queerest neighborhoods in the queerest city in the U.S.
UPDATE: According to the Bay Area Reporter the attacker was arrested and has now been released. He is apparently a transient (not surprising in this part of town), and the DA’s office says that the case has “been discharged for further investigation”.
The City of Seattle Office of Civil Rights has announced that it will now cover transgender related procedures for City employees.
Seattle Gay News reports was the result of several months of negotiations between several City Commissions, and that agreement was actually reach months ago, but the formal announcement was timed to coincide with the open enrollment period for City employees. There were two particularly positive elements in the decision, one being that the decision acknowledge the danger of not offering benefits to City employees:
The commissions pointed out that City employees denied health care coverage because of their gender identity could develop debilitating secondary medical conditions, be at higher risk for suicide, and experience increased psychological distress.
The decision also received strong support from City employee unions, which came as a surprise to LGBT Commission Co-Chair Tiffany Nelson:
When we met with the union reps on the healthcare committee – at first I was reluctant to meet them – all these straight white guys from the union. But they were extremely supportive. It was a wonderful surprise for me!’ she said.
A positive development all around. Seattle joins Portland and San Francisco among major cities offering trans-inclusive healthcare benefits.
California Jerry Brown has signed two bills that strengthen transgender rights in California. The Transgender Law Center has the details. One bill will make it easier for transgendered people to change their birth certificates, following the Obama Administration’s example regarding gender changes on Passport’s. The second bill will strengthen California’s non-discrimination laws by adding “gender identity and expression” as a protected status under California law.
I’m especially excited about the employment discrimination action. Employment is the biggest obstacle facing the trans community, and this bill is a step in the right direction.
The title pretty much explains it all. A police officer was driving drunk when he hit a car in which the driver and passengers were transgender and started shooting. It is unclear whether he started shooting before or after the collision, but fortunately he was drunk enough that he didn’t kill anyone. According to the Washington Examiner, the cop has had previous alcohol related offenses, so the fact that the victims were trans in this case may not have even been a factor. One hopes that this will be the last straw that ends his employment with the Washington D.C. police department.
Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut signed legislation on July 6 that bans discrimination based on a person’s “gender identity or expression”. The Raw Story notes that GLBT groups used a report (.pdf) from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that noted the unemployment rate for transgendered people is more than twice the national average.
More and more states have moved to protect transgender individuals, including California most recently.
An MtF transgendered woman is the first openly transgendered firefight in New York City.
Although she’s not likely to be the last. And who knows? Maybe she’s not even the first. From the New York Post:
The male-to-female firefighter has been openly welcomed by the FDNY, even as a Brooklyn judge handling a discrimination lawsuit against the department has blasted it for its lack of diversity.
The tall blonde, who now goes by Brooke, is a third-generation firefighter, with her father still on the job. The Post is withholding her full name.
Around Metrotech headquarters, where she is currently assigned, the famously macho department — almost 100 percent male with only 32 women on the job — is taking her transition in stride.“It’s a tremendously courageous decision,” said one fellow firefighter. “Hopefully everyone will be supportive.”