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Statement by Dr. Paisley Currah, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York before the General Welfare Committee of the New York City Council concerning Int. No. 754 presented on May 4, 2001.

 Mr. Chairperson and Members of the General Welfare Committee:

            Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify on Int. 754.  I am an associate professor of political science and coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York.  For the past three years, I have been involved in a research project that examines municipal and state non-discrimination laws that specifically include gender variant and transgender people.  Taken together, the terms “transgender” and “gender variant” describe anyone who in some way does not conform to gendered stereotypes.  This may include transsexual people but also includes masculine appearing women and feminine appearing men.  (I believe others will talk more about this terminology.) 

            As you know, Int. 754 would add a definition of gender to New York City’s Human Rights Law.[1]  Adding this definition will make it clear that all gender-based discrimination constitutes a violation of that law.  In New York City, as elsewhere, transgender people face severe discrimination in virtually every aspect of social life—in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, marriage, parenting, and law enforcement, among others.  This discrimination is rooted in the same stereotypes that have fueled the unequal treatment of women, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, and people with disabilities—that is, stereotypes about how men and women are “supposed” to behave, and about how male and female bodies are “supposed” to appear.  Because most courts have found that existing sex and gender non-discrimination laws do not cover people who are “gender different,” legislators across the country have taken on the task of ensuring that transgender people are protected from discrimination by passing bills very similar to Int. 754.

This bill, then, is not a new concept, but representative of a growing trend in the law as the reality of gender-based discrimination is brought to light and as people at risk of losing jobs and housing ask for help.  Minnesota passed a statewide anti-discrimination law in 1993 with no ill effects on employers or landlords. In 1975, Minneapolis passed the first local ordinance prohibiting discrimination against transgender people.   In the last 25 years, at least 32 other localities around the country have enacted similar ordinances.   These cities as culturally diverse as Ann Arbor, Louisville, and Tucson, as small as York, Pennsylvania, and as large as San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta.  (Although no other state has yet extended comparable legislative protections to transgender people, several have taken significant steps in that direction.  This week, the Rhode Island House passed a bill adding gender identity and expression to its non-discrimination laws.  This year, other states have introduced similar legislation.)

All told, about 3.8% of the U.S. population are now covered by some form of transgender-inclusive non-discrimination law.  If Int. 754 is passed, New York will become the 34th jurisdiction in the country to ensure that no one is discriminated against in employment, housing, and public accommodations because of they do not conform to traditional stereotypes about what is means to be a man or a woman.  I strongly urge you to support this bill.

I would be happy to supply with you with any additional material on this topic, and answer any questions you might have.



[1]  “The term ‘gender’ shall include actual or perceived sex and shall also include a person’s gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth.”