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    There is an unfortunate debate now going on within the Democratic Party regarding whether to include gender identity in the federal Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) now being considered by the U.S. Congress, an important bill that stands to protect millions of Americans from workplace discrimination. Our leadership seems in disarray on the issue, scheduling floor votes only to pull them.

    Gender identity is at the core of the discrimination issue; not only transgendered individuals, gays, and lesbians suffer from this form of discrimination. Effeminate men and masculine women face tremendous discrimination regardless of their sexual orientation; indeed, sometimes, heterosexual men and women who defy gender stereotypes face even more discrimination than homosexual men and women who conform to gender stereotypes.

    Why are we even having this discussion? When Colorado passed a statewide ENDA last session, it included gender identity without a murmur. Specifically, our Colorado Senate Bill 25 defined sexual orientation as "a person’s actual or perceived orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status." Some legislators supported it and some opposed it, but none cited the gender identity issue as the reason for their opposition. The very fact that the issue of excluding gender identity is being raised at the national level demonstrates the paramount importance of including it.

    I am sick and tired of hearing our DC leaders say that an inclusive ENDA cannot pass. Who are the US Representatives who would vote to eliminate workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity? Are there any? Let them step forward so we can focus on changing their minds and their hearts. Their position makes no sense.

    Ending workplace discrimination only for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals but not transgendered Americans would be the equivalent of passing a civil rights act that prevents only discrimination against Latinos and Asians, but not Blacks. Because the groups left behind are a smaller percentage of the population, it will be more difficult to ever include them.

    Let us be honest; the gay and lesbian communities are better organized, larger, and stronger than the transgendered community. If the bulk of the gay community gets their protection through a narrow ENDA bill, it will be much harder to ever include gender identity. As a gay man, I want nothing more than to end workplace discrimination nationally. But my hands will not be soiled with the guilt of undermining our real chance to protect the rights of our whole community including those who defy prevailing gender stereotypes.

    A friend of mine is a public school teacher who recently transitioned from a female to a male.  The fear and worrying that he went through, even at an enlightened school in an enlightened district, were very real. I can only imagine what those who defy gender stereotypes face in less progressive communities.

    The closet is a terrible place for gay men and women who have to hide who they are; like all of us, I was there. The threat of losing their jobs keeps many gay people in the closet in their professional lives, which is why a federal ENDA is so very important. The temptation to seize our victory is great; the scent of victory sweet; we know that even the most narrow victory would have an enormous, positive impact across America, particularly in areas where discrimination is the norm rather than the exception.

    It pains and saddens me greatly to say it, but a narrow victory would come at the expense of the larger battle for equal rights. Such a victory would undermine the moral underpinnings of our movement. We are all in this together. The brave and deserving gay men and women who face potential professional repercussions for living openly and honestly might need to stay closeted just a little bit longer so that we can all emerge from the closet together and celebrate the full rainbow of gender diversity.

    Our community should stick together and push for one ENDA, a national law that we can all be proud of, that protects all Americans from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The LGBTQ community has made great strides in its battle for equality in the last few years, but we must remind Congress that you can’t spell equality without the T.

Jared Polis, former Chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education, is currently running for US Congress
www.polisforcongress.com

Originally posted to Jared Polis on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 03:13 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Put up a tip jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, corvo, atdnext

    (post a comment) - it is traditioin around here ;)

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. - Sam J. Ervin, Jr.

    by tiponeill on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 03:25:49 PM PDT

  •  is it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Colorado Luis, atdnext

    a conspiracy?  I haven't followed this too closely, but wonder if removing the transgendered from the bill is a way to get some from the left not to vote for the bill while most republicans won't anyway.  While I have no proof of this at all, I just wonder if it's a tactic somehow orchestrated by the right wing so as to increase the chances no bill passes.

  •  Well, it seems rather obvious that ANY kind of (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johne, corvo, craigkg, cfk, atdnext

    discrimination against any group of people is wrong and all persons, no matter their religion, gender, favorite football team, or sexual orientation should be protected from being discriminated against.

    I guess one persons obvious is another persons discrimination.

    Another day, another devalued Dollar. -6.00, -6.21

    by funluvn1 on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 03:34:14 PM PDT

  •  I prefer a an ENDA that includes the "T" in LGBTQ (6+ / 0-)

    I share your dismay over the lack of courage displayed by our leadership on this issue. I fail to understand the logic (or even the political fallout) of NOT including the transgender community in this legislation. To divide the community in this manner is morally indefensible, IMO.

    "Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you" ~ Pericles

    by Chrispy67 on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 03:35:14 PM PDT

    •  naive question (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      atdnext

      what does the "Q" stand for in LGBTQ?

      •  Queer and questioning. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johne, atdnext

        Here's the link.

        "...the Edwards folks do not endorse Brittany's crotch."

        by Pager on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 03:48:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  There are two "qs" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tiponeill, sberel, johne, Chrispy67

        The fully representative acronym is LGBTQQI
        Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex

        The "Q" stands for "queer",

        Queer theory's main project is exploring the contestations of the categorization of gender and sexuality. Queer theory embraces the notion of a "normal" identity, in favour of the subversive. Theorists claim that identities are not fixed – they cannot be categorized and labeled – because identities consist of many varied components and that to categorize by one characteristic is wrong. For example, a woman can be a woman without being labelled a lesbian or feminist, and she may have a different race from the dominant culture. She should, queer theorists argue, be classed as possessing an individual identity and not put in the collective basket of feminists or of colour or the like. However, Queer Theory is more akin to a personal philosophy as it is unsubstantiated with regards to what would per se constitute a theory.

        •  so in that sense (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BCO gal

          the word queer is no longer a label?  Or am I just getting too semantic?

          •  anti-label (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            juls, sberel, johne, corvo, Chrispy67

            Yes, the modern queer theorists would see "queer" as an anti-label.

            It's complicated by the fact that the origin of the term was a (derogatory) label, but the language was deliberately appropriated by the queer theorists as an anti-label.

            ok, now back to my campaign work....

            Jared Polis
            www.polisforcongress.com

            •  It so happens (0+ / 0-)

              I am re-reading a great book for my sermon on Sunday (Which, I may which to take part of your essay for as well).

              The book is Exile & Pride, Disability, Queerness, and Liberation, Eli Clare.  If you have a chance to see him speak, go, he's wonderful.  He has a lengthy discussion of the word queer, which is juxataposed with a discussion of the use of the word freak among disability activists.

              Let me see if I can give some of the sense without typing in three pages:

              Queer has accomplished a number of things for the l/g/b/t individuals and communities who have embraced it.  The word names a reality.  Yes, we are different; we are outsiders; we do not fit the dominant culture's definition of normal.  Queer celebrates that difference rather than hiding or denying it.... Queer names a hugely diverse group of people.  It brings dykes, faggots, bi's, and trannies in all our variation and difference and overlap under one roof: it is a coalition-building word. ...

              But I want to push the thinking further.  How do people who have lived in shame and isolation create community and pride?  How do we even find each other?

              He then discusses the pink triangle.. as an easily identifiable symbol of queerness.  It is an identifier, but also a witness to memorialize the gay men who died in the Holocaust.  And a symbol of pride, of co-opting the oppression and turning it to the community's own use.

              These functions - marking identity, expressing pride, insisting upon witness - go hand in hand, all three important for any marginalized community.  In our search for liberation, we can sometimes turn the language and symbols most closely reflecting our oppression into powerful expressions of pride.

              Then he discusses the potential to use the symbol and lose the history.  In particular the reaction of his Jewish lesbian friends to the triangle.

              Their questions and disbelief ask me to unwind the act of witness from the expression of pride.  Both witness and pride strengthen identity, foster resistance, cultivate subversion.... We also need to remember that witness and pride are not the same.  Witness pairs grief and rage with remembrance.  Pride pairs joy with a determination to be visible.  Witness demands primary adherence to and respect for history.  Pride uses history as one of its many tools.... We cannot afford to confuse, merge, blur the two.

              Go get the book, anyway.  It's got a lot of great essays.  I think this discussion really brings out some of the tension involved in using any of these pride symbols.  If you know what you are doing, and don't lose track of the history, I think they are good.  

              But it's interesting, "queer" is a very hard word for some people.  One of the strongest reaction in our congregation's welcoming congregation workshops: a middle-aged straight lady who couldn't get her head around using the word as a pride word.  She just found the word offensive.  

              Support the troops (for real)! write to any soldier

              by sberel on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 07:02:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, sberel

    I'm too weary to say anything else.

    Robyn

  •  tip jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    craigkg, brenda, Transactivist

    So what do you all think?

  •  Jared - sorry I missed this! (0+ / 0-)

    Excellent essay.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:49:09 AM PDT

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