Back in June I wrote about Kristen Beck, who was came out as transgender after a career as a Navy Seal. She shares the process in her memoir, Warrior Princess: A US Navy SEAL’s Journey Coming Out Transgender.
Kristen is back in the news after having spoken out about ENDA. She has the current platform to speak about our issues (i.e. reporters are going to listen to her for awhile when she speaks).
In a country where workers can be fired for expressing their gender identity, people are not free.
ENDA survived markup by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee Wednesday morning. ENDA would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of characteristics that may not be used as basis for discrimination against workers.
There’s been no action on ENDA since 2010. There has been no vote in the Senate for 17 years.
–Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
According to NCTE’s 2011 discrimination survey, Injustice at Every Turn, 91% of transpeople report having faced some form of discrimination in the workplace. 63% had faced “a serious act of discrimination”, which is defined as
events that would have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally
…such as job loss due to bias, loss of housing due to bias, homelessness, assault, sexual assault, or incarceration.
The unemployment rate for transpeople at the time data was collected was twice the national average. Transpeople are four times more likely than than the general public to be living on less than $10,000 per year.
But what we as trans people know is even when trans people have jobs, they’re usually dramatically under-employed and they often have to have multiple jobs to make up difference between what they had before they came out and what they were now earning.
And it could be much worse. Transpeople of color experience much higher rates of discrimination.
Black transgender people had an unemployment level of 26 percent — two times the overall rate. And 34 percent of transgender African Americans reported living below the poverty line, with income of less than $10,000 a year. This was more than twice the rate of transgender people of all races (15 percent) and four times that of the general African-American population (9 percent). More than 20 percent of black transgender respondents reported being HIV-positive, compared with 2.64 percent of transgender people overall. And 49 percent had attempted suicide.
Beck said that ENDA is important not only because of the protections provided, but as a means of educating people that transpeople can be fired from their jobs in 33 states with no recourse. Two weeks after the publishing of her book, Beck lost her government job. She was later hired back to the same job, but at a lesser role, as a part-time consultant. She has not been able to find full-time employment as of yet.
Right now I’m relegated to making recommendations to people who don’t know how to use systems. But I’m the same person. I have all the same experiences, all the same education. I have had hormone therapy, and lost a little strength, but there is virtually no change about what I can do.
The ENDA bill is going to mean a lot to me. Just for the pure fact that I can show up for work in a dress in more than 30 states and just for that one reason, I could be fired on the spot. There’s no recourse for that. I just find it hard to believe.
When I start to speak about this to a lot of my friends, way more than half the people find that very surprising. I have to explain to them the way that employment works and how discrimination works. If employees are discriminated against, you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all that? This is the land of the free, but I am not free.
No doubt any version of ENDA will include an exclusion for the military. It is still against regulations (not against a law such as DADT), for a person to come out as transgender. Under current regulations coming out would be grounds for dishonorable discharge, no matter how honorably the person had served before coming out.
One of these days it’s going to be acceptable, but the amount of considerations that you need to take, as far as the Department of Defense, and as far as trans people in the military, I say just hold on. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Do a great job. We know we can do a great job. We’ll see some changes probably in the future. It’s gonna happen.
Beck has not yet been disillusioned, which is quaint to see.
“I’m excited that our country is starting to catch up,” she said of the ENDA hearing Wednesday and recent same sex marriage victories in the Supreme Court. “We are really going to be the land of the free.”
The reality is that even if ENDA gets a full vote in the Senate, which is not obvious, the likelihood of it even coming to a discussion in the House is exceedingly slim.
So we have to take our pleasure in statements like the following, from Freedom to Work:
Today’s vote is a monumental step forward for gay civil rights in this country and an important moment in the fight to end workforce discrimination. We applaud the leadership of Senator Harkin, Senator Kirk, Senator Merkley, Senator Murkowski, Senator Hatch and many others who made today’s vote possible. Taken with the Supreme Court rulings last month, today’s vote shows that the tide has turned and the movement for full LGBT rights will not go backwards. Those who continue to stand in the way of the march towards the freedom to work, like the Republicans who voted against the legislation today, not only find themselves on the wrong side of history they find themselves on the wrong side of the founding principles of our country – justice and freedom. We will continue this fight to ensure this vital legislation passes the full Senate, the House and is signed into law by the President. Because it is far past time that all people in this country have the freedom to work.
You can sign the petition urging President Obama to sign an executive order adding workplace protections for LGBT Americans working for government contractors.
I’d love to believe that something positive is going to happen with ENDA this time. And Charlie Brown no doubt believes that Lucy won’t jerk the football away this time.