Monday, August 8, 2011

The Work for Equality Continues

15 states and the District of Columbia have passed a law protecting transgender people from discrimination, but New York is unfortunately not on that list. Our state is still without a statute protecting transgender people from discrimination in basic areas of civil rights like housing, credit, employment, education and public accommodations. As a result, in most parts of this state, you can get fired, kicked out your home or thrown out of a restaurant or store simply for being transgender.

Clearly this is wrong. All New Yorkers should be treated fairly and equally under the law. Legislation that would extend civil rights to transgender people has been introduced into the state legislature every session since 2006, yet it has never been voted on in the New York State Senate. We cannot claim to have achieved LGBT equality without a statewide transgender non-discrimination law being introduced, voted on and passed by both the Assembly and the Senate, then signed into law by the Governor. Our work continues.

Share Your Story

One truth we’ve long held that was hammered home during the recent successful marriage campaign is the vital importance of sharing our stories. We, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied New Yorkers, need to talk about why it’s important to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Testimonials and stories from transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers about the daily realities of their lives are especially vital in educating people, especially those who already support transgender rights but struggle to articulate the compelling reasons why. We hope you will share your story about why New York State needs protections for transgender New Yorkers. Email our transgender rights organizer, Christopher Argyros, at cargyros AT prideagenda DOT org.

Broadening Transgender Equality and Justice
The public education work of the Empire State Pride Agenda helps change hearts and minds, not just so that we can pass a transgender civil rights bill, but so that all New Yorkers, including transgender New Yorkers, can live their lives with dignity. One third of transgender New Yorkers have been homeless. 74% have experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, while 20% reported losing a job and 37% reported not being hired because of their gender identity or expression. 28% of transgender New Yorkers report having experienced a serious physical or sexual assault motivated by transphobia or homophobia. Since no single piece of legislation can solve these problems overnight, we’re working many different avenues to further transgender equality and justice.

In early January, the Pride Agenda worked closely with Governor Cuomo’s office on re-issuing the Executive Order prohibiting discrimination in state employment on the basis of gender identity and expression. We’ve been supporting the Governor’s Office and the Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights to develop the policies procedures and training that go along with these guidelines. We have also been collaborating with other civil rights groups to urge the New York State Department of Health to improve the arcane and intrusive requirements to change gender markers on birth certificates. And through our Pride in Action programs we have been working with supportive companies and progressive unions to implement fair and inclusive polices, contracts and practices for transgender members, employees, clients and customers.

What’s Next

In ongoing efforts to establish strong, committed and powerful allied voices in support of the transgender community, our outreach to local and statewide leading women’s organizations grows each week, and includes groups like the League of Women Voters of New York State. Similarly, we are broadening and highlighting the support of police chiefs from major cities like Albany and Rochester. This public support will play an important role in emphasizing that passage of a transgender civil rights law in New York State is an important safety issue.

We continue to educate allies — LGB and straight New Yorkers, including supportive legislators — about the challenges faced by transgender individuals all over New York. Together we are mapping out a clear-cut, detailed campaign both to pass the transgender civil rights bill and to achieve broader equality and justice.

But in order to be successful, we need your energy and advocacy. We understand that some people may want to share their story anonymously or semi-anonymously for comfort or safety reasons. Please let us know if this is the case and we will respect your wishes. Email our transgender rights organizer, Christopher Argyros, to share your story – or to get more involved in the transgender equality and justice campaign in your community.

Join us. Our work continues.

In solidarity,

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

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