Justice Is Indivisible: Non-Discrimination Must Include Gender Identity
Donna Rose is an advocate and blogger for the transgender community.
The original Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) legislation filed earlier in 2007 included provisions banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This bill would protect anyone - lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight, and/or transgendered - from employment discrimination based on who they love or how masculine or feminine they appear. The bill had widespread support from the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) community, but Congressperson Barney Frank, one of its major sponsors, expected it to lose in a House vote, and so introduced a watered-down version removing protections based on gender identity.
In protest, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and more than 360 organizations rallied against the new bill, maintaining that the GLBT community should not be divided. The one major gay rights group that did not join in this struggle was the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). On November 7, 2007, the US House of Representatives passed the revised bill. Donna Rose, the first openly transgendered member of the HRC Board of Directors, submitted her resignation letter to the HRC in protest of its position on ENDA. Excerpts of her letter, originally published on her blog, follow.
Transgender is not simply the 'T' in GLBT. It is people who, for one reason or another, may not express their gender in ways that conform to traditional gender norms or expectations. That covers everyone from transsexuals, to queer youth, to feminine-acting men, to masculine-appearing women. It is a broad label that cannot be confined to a specific category of people. It is anyone who chooses to live authentically. To think that the work that we are doing on behalf of the entire GLBT community simply benefits or protects part of us is to choose a simplistic view of a complex community. In a very real way, the T is anyone who expresses themselves differently. To some it is about gender. To me, it is about freedom.
The [previous version of] ENDA would have guaranteed that GLBT people would not get fired from our jobs because of discrimination and prejudice. It would have made a strong statement that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable.
In 2004 the HRC Board voted to support only fully-inclusive Federal legislation. That decision paved the way to my participation with the organization. Less than a month ago, HRC President Joe Solmonese stood before almost 900 transgender people at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta to pledge ongoing support and solidarity. In his keynote address he indicated that not only would HRC support only a fully inclusive ENDA, but that it would actively oppose anything less.
An impressive coalition of local and national organizations has lined up to actively oppose the divisive strategy that would leave some of our brothers and sisters without workplace protections.
This effort has galvanized community spirit and commitment in ways few could have imagined.
It has demonstrated to those who would divide us that anything less than full inclusion is unacceptable. Organization after organization has seized the moral high ground knowing that this is a historic opportunity that cannot be squandered, and that it is our moral obligation to ourselves and to generations that will follow to make a loud, clear, unmistakable statement that we are a community and we will not be divided. There is a single significant organization glaringly missing from that list. The Human Rights Campaign has chosen not to be there.
I will not give in to my frustration and disappointment that Joe Solmonese's words of less than a month ago have proven to be hollow promises. Although I can find any number of logical and personal reasons to continue in my capacity as a Board member, I cannot escape the moral implications of the decision before me. I hereby submit my resignation from my post on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign effective -October 8, 2007.
I align myself and my energies with the groundswell of community sentiment that has universally stood to oppose this divisive strategy. I urge the Board and the leadership to reconsider their position and the join a unified community that supports a single all-inclusive bill.
I call on my brothers and sisters at the Human Rights Campaign,
for Speaker Pelosi, and Congressman Frank, and for equality-minded
leaders everywhere, to lead by example and to do the right thing.
To Get Involved
- United ENDA www.unitedenda.org
- Transgender Law and Policy Institute 328 Flatbush Avenue, Box 312, Brooklyn, NY 11238, www.transgenderlaw.org
- Donna Rose's blog www.donnarose.com
- Understanding Transgender Issues: Donna Rose’s Story, a training film watchable on the HRC site and available on a dvd.
- International Yogyakarta Transgender Human Rights Principles