Friday, May 14, 2010

Barney Frank on Transgender Rights

Congressman Barney Frank, long a courageous advocate for gay and lesbian rights after coming out himself, is taking a firm stand on his current bill in the House. Despite grumblings and rumblings from moderate and right wing allies and opponents, Frank is determined to keep in the bill on employment discrimination a section protecting transpeople. His bill three years ago included such a provision, and he was persuaded to remove it, only to see the bill fail in the Senate anyway. Here is the nice article the Boston Globe ran today on the issue.

I believe the bill referred to is HR 3017 (link to Open Congress), one of 2 bills Frank has introduced as the Employment NonDiscrimination Act of 2009. This was introduced on Sept 23, 2009 and committee hearings have been held. The related bill, HR 2981, of the same name, was referred to committee, after being introduced on August 29, 2009. There is a related bill in the Senate, S1584, also called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009. It likewise includes "gender identity" as a protected class, at this time.

Transgender rights is a wedge issue that sometimes splits the GLBT community. The issue is fraught or frightening for many people, but it helps if you have met and spoken with transgender individuals and understand their issues. The best way to understand is to meet the people and hear their stories. These are people who feel that they were born into the wrong body type -- a woman trapped into the body of a man, for instance, or vice-versa. And they either choose to live as the opposite gender, or even to pursue the hormonal and surgery treatments to actually pursue the physical changes that will make them more comfortable in the body they have. In either case, this is not a passing fancy or a minor issue for them, but a life-deforming problem. And they are willing to give up everything in order to correct the imbalance in their life. People lose their careers, their families, their status, over this when they decide to come out and make this change in their lives. You can imagine a highly paid stock broker announcing to his wife that he is actually a woman trapped in a man's body and intends to pursue that life. Is his employer going to keep him on? Is his wife going to stay with him during this? If they have kids, wow!

I applaud Congressman Frank for his courage on this one! Good for you, Barney! These people need your support. Even in Massachusetts, where same sex marriage has become a matter of course, we can't seem to get a bill for transgender rights protection passed in our own state legislature! If you feel the same, please send him an e-mail of support, because you KNOW he's getting a lot of hate on this one! Here is his official web page. NB: I went there and he really resists getting e-mail from any but his own constituents... I guess you can send support for this bill to your own congressman and senator. You could try, I suppose to suss out the correct e-mail for his district and send an e-mail anyway, but I hope his staff are watching blogs.

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