Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New report proves urgent need for transgender equality and justice

Post by Director of Upstate Organizing Sheilah Sable

The results of the recent survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) present a troubling picture of everyday life for transgender Americans, who endure blatant discrimination without the benefit of legal protections. The findings of the survey, which was completed by 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals across the country, present compelling statistics, previously unavailable and inaccessible. Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says that the discrimination faced by transgender people mirrors anti-gay and lesbian biases “taken to the life-threatening extreme.”

The scope of the information gathered implicates nearly every system and institution in the country as part of the problem of transgender discrimination, including families, medical providers, educational institutions, law enforcement and government agencies. Such widespread discrimination and blatant disregard for transgender people’s lives contributes to the disturbingly high levels of unemployment, homelessness, illness, addiction and incarceration that plague the community. Nearly 90% of respondents reported harassment, mistreatment or discrimination in the workplace, underscoring the urgent need for government protections for a community encased by intolerance.

Here in New York State, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) would add gender identity and expression to New York’s human rights laws, making it illegal to be fired from a job, evicted from a home or denied a loan simply for being transgender or gender non-conforming. The community already exhibits a striking degree of perseverance to overcome immense adversities that would be extremely challenging even under circumstances where this level of discrimination didn’t exist, such as becoming homeless or losing custody of your children. NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling praises the resiliency of this “marginalized yet determined community,” saying “their honesty and strength should be rewarded by our very best efforts to change the story so that… discrimination will yield further.”

The Pride Agenda recently outlined a blueprint for how to meet the health and human services needs of the LGBT community, including transgender-specific measures like encouraging government agencies and medical facilities to be inclusive to transgender people, ensuring appropriate medical care, and reducing the risk of violence in jails and homeless shelters. To learn more about the various workshops and educational materials offered through the Pride Agenda, aimed at achieving equality and justice for transgender and gender non-confirming New Yorkers, please contact me at ssable AT prideagenda DOT org.

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