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From the Executive Director: A Call To Action!

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Posted

October 16, 2007

Dear Supporter,

Many of you are aware of the extraordinary events last week surrounding the

introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would ban

discrimination based on individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In a

last minute maneuver, the Democratic leadership moved to strike gender identity

provisions from the bill, but had put it on hold after cries of outrage from most of

the national LGBT leadership.

The argument from both those against and many for the new bill has focused on

“transgender inclusion.” And there is no doubt that transgender Americans need such

protections and would benefit from them, are still routinely fired when they

transition or come out, and remain among the most vulnerable members of the LGBT

community.

Yet it is very disappointing to see both foes and even many friends ignore the other

constituencies who are harmed by gender identity and expression discrimination. It

is especially remarkable here in Washington, DC, our nation's capital, where each

year the A-list of the gay community hikes up the hill to Adams Morgan to compete in

drag for the title of "Miss Adams Morgan." Where the poster for this year's DC Gay

Film Festival features a drawing of Abraham Lincoln seated solemnly in the Lincoln

Memorial – but wearing 3-inch heels and a skirt. Where the head of the Mautner

Project for Women once auctioned taking off her usual suit to put on a dress and

pearls for three thousand dollars. And where the gay community comes together on

17th Street each year to stage their annual "High Heel Race" – for men.

None of these necessarily have anything at all to do with being transgender. Which

is to say there is a good bit of denial among some gay leaders about just how much

gender expression is inextricably connected to both gayness and homophobia.

Nowhere is the connection between sexual orientation and gender more clearly

illustrated than in the ongoing march of gay and lesbian plaintiffs through the

courts system to allege unfair treatment, harassment, or termination because they

weren’t considered masculine or feminine enough: Anne Hopkins, a senior manager

passed over for promotion for being “too aggressive” and looking "too masculine,"

Medina Rene, a Latino gay man harassed by coworkers and management who considered

him effeminate, or Darlene Jespersen, a lesbian who was fired for refusing to wear

make-up and high-heels under a new dress code.

Workplace discrimination because of gender intersects with race as well. Desiree

Goodwin sued Harvard Library alleging that although she was highly qualified, she

was repeatedly passed over for promotion because managers told her she looked “too

feminine” and considered her too “sexy” to be taken seriously.

Goodwin’s rejoinder is that as an attractive African-American woman in an

mostly-male, all-white environment, she was perpetually hyper-visible to managers

who were highly attentive to her dress and appearance instead of focusing – as they

presumably would have with a white male employee – on her qualifications and

performance.

Gender discrimination even affects straight employees. Joseph Oncale was harassed

and sexually menaced by male coworkers because they thought he wasn’t macho enough.

According to the EEOC, such cases of male-on-male locker-room harassment now account

for nearly 1-in-7 new cases of sexual harassment.

The list goes on and on. And unfortunately, it will continue to go on and on, so

long as and gay, lesbian, and straight employees can be discriminated against based

solely on their gender expression.

To continue equating gender protections in ENDA with helping only transgender

employees seems to me not only wrong on the facts, but to be willfully ignoring

things that everyone knows to be true. And it risks tokenizing transgender

Americans by acting as if they are the only ones who struggle with gender

non-conformity, again something which we know is not true.

At some time, gender prejudice harms almost all Americans. When we combat gender

stereotypes, we help all Americans. It's that simple. That’s why gender identity

provisions must remain in ENDA. And GenderPAC will continuing working for an ENDA

that protects all of us, and refuse to settle for, or support, anything less.

Congress has postponed a vote on the stripped-down, substitute ENDA but will

schedule it soon. So please act quickly. Call to your Representative’s office now.

The Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121, and after giving them his or her name you

will be quickly connected.

A staff-person will answer. Please tell them you are a constituent and you support

an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes gender identity (the bill number

is HR-2015).

Tell then you strongly oppose any bill like HR-3685 which would strip out, postpone

or strike gender identity protections.

The outcry from grassroots people like you has already postponed the vote once.

Congress is listening on how to proceed. Let them hear your voice, the time to fight

for gender justice is now!

Riki Wilchins

Executive Director

GenderPAC

TAKE ACTION!

TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES YOU SUPPORT THE EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT (HR

3685) ONLY IF IT INCLUDES GENDER IDENTITY PROTECTIONS! CALL THE CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD

TODAY AND ASK TO BE CONNECTED TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE: 202-224-3121 OR VISIT THE U.S.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WEBSITE www.house.gov.

The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) works to ensure that classrooms,

communities, and workplaces are safe for every person whether or not they fit

stereotypes for masculinity or femininity. To learn more about GenderPAC, visit

www.gpac.org.

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