The T, the final letter in the acronym, the group that some think shouldn’t be included, the group at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to understanding, support, and equality.
There is a stigma to the T; a sort of misunderstanding or refusal to understand. A bit of the “them” vs “us” under this rainbow umbrella. Why?
First off the T is the last letter to be added to the acronym. It stands for Transgender which in turn stands for such a variety of things… transsexual, transvestite, cross dresser, drag queen, intersexual,… The T is about gender identify, not about sexual orientation and for this reason, more than any other, the group is often pushed aside… even by their rainbow allies!
What we in the LGB part of the umbrella need to remember is that equality for all means equality for all the disenfranchised, for all those labeled by mainstream or the religious right as freaks, all those who aren’t afforded equal rights based on popular vote or opinion. We need to be reminded that while being gay, lesbian, and even bisexual has gained ground in terms of acceptance over the last few decades, being trans has much further, in some ways, to go.
We need to remember that there is still no protection for the trans community in the military, that in many, if not most, states there is little, if any, protection for trans people in terms of jobs, housing, medical benefits, or safety. California has made strides… but we still have a long way to go.
Which is why I was so excited to read about the two, (2!) new bills signed into law yesterday.
The first is the Gender Nondiscrimination Act which makes “gender identity and expression” its own protected category at work, at school, in housing, at public accommodations, etc. The second bill, the Vital Statistics Modernization act will make it easier for transgender people to get a court-ordered gender change and updated birth certificate.
Here are a few more details from the press release :
• The Gender Nondiscrimination Act (AB 887) takes existing protections based on gender and spells out "gender identity and expression" as their own protected categories in our nondiscrimination laws. By making these protections explicit, people will more clearly understand California's nondiscrimination laws, which should increase the likelihood that employers, schools, housing authorities, and other institutions will work to prevent discrimination and/or respond more quickly at the first indications of discrimination.
• The Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433) will alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when we have identity documents that do not reflect who we are. The bill will streamline current law and clarify that eligible petitioners living or born in California can submit gender change petitions in the State of California. The Vital Statistics Modernization Act conforms California's standards to the standards set by the United States Department of State for gender changes on passports, and it makes common-sense changes to the law that ensure the process is simple for qualified petitioners to navigate.
Kelly Lynn Campbell vice president of Trans-E-Motion, a local trans advocacy group , who personally lobbied for these laws earlier this year, was ecstatic about the news when I interviewed her last night.
“AB 887 (the Gender Nondiscrimination Act) is really important for the state at large, but for the central valley specifically, For many, the term “gender” was not understood as gender identity or expression, Basically, this law clarifies the existing nondiscrimination laws allowing trans employees a resource and a recourse if there is discrimination.”
She continues, “As for AB433 (The Vital Statistics Modernization Act), this is a really really big deal. Most trans individuals can’t afford the $20,000 (minimum) costs associated with having gender reassignment surgery. This law allows trans individuals to have legal paperwork that accurately reflects who they are prior to having surgery. This is especially important in terms of employment by keeping your trans history private. Background checks will now be able to reflect the correct gender and thus avoid confusion or the possibility of being outed.”
Thanks are due Governor Brown, Assemblymember Atkins and Assemblymember Lowenthal who championed these laws into being. And big thanks are due to the tireless work of the trans community and their allies for striving to make CA a safer more equal place to live… for all the letters!