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Adapted from Paisley Currah and Shannon Minter, Transgender Equality: A Handbook for Activists and Policymakers (NGLTF and NCLR, June 2000)
Question: Why is this legislation needed?
Answer: Transgendered people face serious discrimination, not only in the workplace, but also in housing, and in public accommodations.
- Many pre-operative transsexuals are fired the moment their employers find out about their plan to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
- Transgender people who cross-dress only outside the workplace live in fear that their employer will discover that fact and fire them.
- Transgender people often face severe discrimination when we try to find a place to live.
- Many transgender and gender variant people are denied equal treatment in public accommodations. We are asked to leave restaurants, hotels, stores, medical facilities, and educational institutions. We are denied credit. We are refused access to restroom facilities.
- Our community should take a stand against this invidious gender-based discrimination. Everyone deserves to live and work with equality and dignity. No one should lose their job, or be denied a place to live, because of their gender identity or expression.
Question: Isn’t this kind of discrimination already illegal? Isn’t it covered by sexual orientation or gender discrimination laws?
Answer: So far, most courts have not found that laws prohibiting sexual orientation or gender discrimination apply to transgender people. We would be happy to provide you with a brief overview of the case law on this question.
Question: Does this mean women will have to share bathrooms with men?
Answer: This law will prevent people from being forced to use bathrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity. Like everyone else, transgendered people need access to safe and dignified restroom facilities.
- Right now, in our community, there already are cases in which people are required to use bathrooms inappropriate to their gender identity – when trans women are forced to share bathrooms with men, or trans men are forced to share bathrooms with women because employers and providers of public accommodations do not have a sensible bathroom policy in place. This legislation will help resolve those awkward situations, not create them.
- Many employers have successfully dealt with the issue of restroom usage on a case-by-case basis. Human rights departments in cities that have transgender non-discrimination laws, such as
, have produced compliance guidelines that take the needs of transgender employees and their employers into account. San Francisco
Question: Will this law encourage cross-dressing in the workplace?
Answer: There has been no “outbreak” of cross-dressing in workplaces in the jurisdictions that have adopted such anti-discrimination provisions. The City of
has had a transgender-inclusive non-discrimination law since 1975, and there has been no influx of cross-dressers into the workplaces in that jurisdiction. Minneapolis
- Like non-transgender people, transgender people simply want to go to work in clothes that conform to their gender identity, clothes that they feel the most comfortable wearing.
- Nothing in this bill would prevent an employer from enforcing a written dress policy. This legislation simply means that employees may dress in the type of clothing that conforms to their gender identity.
- Many women already “cross-dress” in the workplace by wearing what used to be considered traditionally male clothing, such as pant suits. The case law is beginning to catch up with changing ideas about gender-based clothing; so should our human rights bill.
Question: Are we going out on a limb here? Is our jurisdiction going to be the first to adopt this kind of law?
Answer: As of February 2003, 55 jurisdictions in the
had passed non-discrimination laws that protect transgender people. US
- Transgender civil rights legislation has passed in jurisdictions as varied as Ann Arbor, Boulder, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Tucson, San Francisco, and Seattle. The state of Minnesota added trans-inclusive language to its human rights law in 1993.
- Lucent Technologies and Apple Computers have adopted non-discrimination policies that protect transgender people. Other high tech corporations are also currently considering adding gender identity and expression to their equal opportunity policies.