Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Please Don't Feed The Meme

Nondiscrimination laws are established to mitigate the excessive hardship and suffering segments of our society can experience. My sense of morality based on my religious convictions stress the need to provide for social justice. Pope Francis expressed “Inequality is the root of social evil”. In the words of Vice President Biden, transgender discrimination is “the civil rights issue of our time”. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking claims of transgender discrimination to investigate and administratively adjudicate when warranted.  However there is opposition to providing anti-discrimination protection to transgender individuals because of misconceptions about gender and gender non-conformity, and over safety concerns in sex segregated spaces.  Yet because of prevalent and systemic discrimination, transgender and gender non-forming Marylanders have solid basis for why statewide protections in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations are required and should be codified into state law and thus any petition drive be rejected.

Currently seventeen states, with Maryland soon to become the eighteenth, and the District of Columbia provide for protections to transgender individuals representing 47% of the country. In Maryland, four jurisdictions, Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Howard County and Baltimore County previously established laws to provide protections for transgender individuals.These jurisdictions represent 47% of the state’s population. 

Injustice at Every Turn
, the 2011 survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in conjunction with the National Center of Transgender Equality, found that 71% of Maryland participants reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job, while 42% experienced an adverse job action, such as being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion. Additionally 12% of respondents had a household income of $10,000 or less, compared to 4% of the general population. 
These are clear, persistent and overwhelming examples of discrimination against transgender Marylanders which deny them the opportunity to fully participate in public life, a life other Marylanders receive. The non-establishment of codified protections in the State of Maryland for individuals based on their gender identity and/ or expression will leave some Marylanders without full and equal protection which are afforded most other Marylanders.

In Macy v. Holder, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handed down a ruling in favor of Mia Macy, a transsexual woman denied a position the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives after disclosure in a background check showed Ms. Macy was transitioning from male to female. She was prior to discovery of that fact,  been promised the position over the phone pending the background check. The EEOC stated
 “[T]he Commission hereby clarifies that claims of discrimination based on transgender status, also referred to as claims of discrimination based on gender identity, are cognizable under Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibition….”

The scope of the EEOC ruling providing protections to workers is limited. It is also an administrative ruling and as such subject to change. It is but a tool to seek a remedy. Real protections happen when statutory law is implemented fully including the enforcement vehicle. In Maryland, that vehicle is the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. Having spoken to MCCR’s General Counsel, Glendora Hughes concerning MCCR pursuing claims after the Macy decision, she assured me until gender identity is added to the Annotated Code of Maryland, her office will not take claims based on gender identity discrimination. I have also spoken to the Executive Director of MCCR, Cleveland Horton specifically about the implementation of the Fairness for all Marylanders Act, and they are prepared to take a lead role in that charge.

Opponents to codifying protections into law have stated as their primary oppositional claim that such laws will open sex segregated spaces up to predators and cause increases in rapes and assaults by men against women. In Maryland the first jurisdiction to pass protections for transgender residents was Baltimore City in 2002. There was no opposition as this City ordinance passed without any attention from opponents. However, by the time Montgomery County passed a bill to provide protections in 2007, opposition had formed and their narrative had been developed.  The claim presented by opponents to gender identity protections in Maryland, state that men will be allowed in the lockers and restrooms with women. Furthermore that such encounter will produce increases in sexual assaults. Dr. Jacob claims assaults by strangers in bath rooms will rise.

In 2012, Dr Jacobs while testifying in opposition to the Baltimore County ordinance, continued with her claim that 4 sexual assaults were committed in Montgomery County since the successful passage of their non-discrimination ordinance.  Fortunately, Montgomery County Police Chief, J. Thomas Manger, provided a letter to the County Council in which he stated
“I am writing to clarify information that has been brought to my attention regarding alleged sexual assaults in Montgomery County. It was brought to my attention that there is an allegation stating that since the Transgender Law was passed in our county we have experienced four (4) rapes by men dressing as women and lying in wait for their victims in ladies restrooms.

The Transgender Bill was passed by the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, November 13,2007, and it became law shortly thereafter. Since this law has been in effect, we have had no reported rapes committed in restrooms by men dressed in women's clothing.”

How prevalent should the “predator” claim be, if what is being alleged is true?

According to the US Bureau of Justice statistics the percent of sexual assault committed by a stranger was 26%. In 2010 the total reported cases of rape/sexual assault were 188,380. This means approximately 49,000 sexual assaults were the sort which Dr. Jacobs claims. However, remembering back to the statistics in reference to how much of the country is currently covered by laws protections people based on gender identity, only 47% of the county is covered. So Dr. Jacob’s claim could only have weight on approximately 23,000 of these reported cases.

Statistics suggest that with approximately 23,000 sexual assaults potentially happening in 47% of the country where gender identity laws exist; there will be examples of assaults specifically attributed to any alleged “loop hole” or "flaw" in such bills. To date, no true cases can be cited. If there was just a one-tenth of one percent spike because the claim might be true, we could find 23 cases per year. These laws have been on the books since 1975. There should be literally hundreds of incidents. We wouldn't even be having this conversation if there were. The lack of verifiable evidence and no strong argument for making claims that gender identity laws will threaten the security of women and girls in sex segregated spaces demands we reject this false claim, once and for all.

Don’t give into the fear and the misinformation, don’t sign that petition.

Visit to get the FACTS about the Fairness For All Marylanders Act.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stand For Fairness

TransMarylanders celebrated a big victory when the Fairnessfor All Marylanders Act passed the General Assembly, there's no denying our opponents made it ugly at times. Now they're considering an attempt to roll back the progress we've made.

Weknow the majority of Marylanders support fairness for transgender people, but misinformation is confusing even some our friends. As coalition partners we are working with the MarylandCoalition for Transgender Equality to launch a public education campaign called "Stand for Fairness."

Showthat YOU Stand for Fairness: Pledge to stand with transgender Marylanders andsupport the Fairness for All Marylanders Act.
Stand for Fairness is a multi-media campaign aimed at demonstrating the broad support for fairness for transgender Marylanders and clearing up misconceptions about the bill. With FAQs, videos highlighting transgender Marylanders and their allies, and YOUR support, we'll spread the word that Maryland stands for fairness for our entire community.

Showthat YOU Stand for Fairness: Pledge to stand with transgender Marylanders and support the Fairness for All Marylanders Act.

This is just the first step. We have work to do to uphold fairness for ALL Marylanders. 
Thousands of calls, emails, meetings with legislators and postcards from constituents made the difference during this year's legislative session. Together we can keep up the drumbeat and ensure that everyone is able to work for a living, have a roof over their head, and eat lunch at a restaurant without being denied basic rights just for being transgender.

Keep an eye out for more Stand for Fairness actions, and let us know you stand for fairness by signingthe pledge today. Then help spreadthe word on social media to engage your friends and community.