Transgender in the Workplace

Congress will be voting on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) soon, and if an editorial in this weekend’s New York Times is any indication, and inclusive version of the ENDA is likely to pass.

A combination of factors can explain the current political environment. There has been an increase in media attention to transgender issues in the past year. And there has been a grassroots movement that has been spearheaded by transgender individuals for equality in the workplace. The internet has made a world of difference in people’s access to information. So the transgender community is in a much better position now than it was just ten years ago.

Author Vanessa Sheridan has a new book out called The Complete Guide to Transgender in the Workplace to help businesses get up to speed so that their employment practices are in compliance with the ENDA. Sheridan says that she was inspired to write the book because she wanted to reach a wide audience with her writing. “This book is immensely important because an inclusive ENDA means that every business must be open to hiring and retaining transgender employees. When ENDA becomes law, companies will have to at least consider the issue, whether they want to or not.” Read the rest of this entry »

Where Are We on ENDA?

Guest blogger Dr. Jillian Weiss has a J.D. and a Ph.D. in Law, Policy & Society. Currently Associate Professor of Law and Society at Ramapo College of New Jersey, she has conducted research involving hundreds of companies and public agencies that have adopted “gender identity” policies. She publishes a popular blog on the subject of Transgender Workplace Diversity, and has numerous research publications on the subject of gender identity.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, HR 3017, is pending in the House of Representatives, and has the public support of 164 Members of Congress. Another 40 are likely to vote yes, but have not yet made their support of the bill public, as far as we know. This makes a total of 204 in the yes column. 218 are needed for a majority in the House. Passage is likely, but we’re not yet clearly there as of today. You can get the specifics on our spreadsheet. If you’re in one of the swing districts (highlighted in yellow), call your Representative. (There is a link to contact info on the spreadsheet on the top right.)

The bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate. Our estimates suggest there are currently 58 likely yes votes, and there are a few Democrats whose support is unclear, and a few fair-minded Republicans who may be willing to cross party lines in favor of job equality. You can get the specifics on our Senate spreadsheet.

Legislation will probably be introduced in the Senate soon, and we will want to ask our Senators to co-sponsor the legislation when that happens. Hearings will probably held in the House in early fall, featuring testimony for and against the bill, followed by a vote in the House, if party leaders determine there are enough “yes” votes for passage. If and when passed in the House, the bill will hopefully go to the Senate for a vote shortly thereafter. Whether or not it gets to a floor vote depends again on party leaders determining that there are enough yes votes for passage. If and when passed in the Senate, it will go to President Obama for signature. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Pass ENDA: US Legislator of the Day

Guest blogger Jillian Weiss will be posting, from time to time, a link to the U.S. Legislator of the Day.

This link will allow you to email a legislator who is undecided on ENDA, and tell him or her of your support for HR 3017, an inclusive ENDA that protects both sexual orientation and gender identity from job discrimination.

So without further ado, here is TODAY’S LEGISLATOR OF THE DAY: * * * drum roll please * * *

Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana

Rep. Ellsworth is a Blue Dog Democrat, but he voted for ENDA in 07. He’s undecided on this year’s ENDA bill, HR 3017. Please let him know why an inclusive ENDA, protecting both sexual orientation and gender identity, is important to you and yours.


Tel: 202-225-4636

I’m not going to give you a script, because otherwise these letters will be disregarded as astroturf. You just tell ’em in your own words why HR 3017 (ENDA) is important to you and yours, if it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Where Are We on ENDA?

Guest blogger Dr. Jillian Weiss has a J.D. and a Ph.D. in Law, Policy & Society. Currently Associate Professor of Law and Society at Ramapo College of New Jersey, she has conducted research involving hundreds of companies and public agencies that have adopted “gender identity” policies. She publishes a popular blog on the subject of Transgender Workplace Diversity, and has numerous research publications on the subject of gender identity. She is the coordinator of the Inclusive ENDA group on Facebook. These are her words. . .

ENDA has an excellent chance of becoming US law this year, if the grassroots gets smart and gets targeted. The House is almost there, with 200 Representatives having taken a public position in favor, and 60 more likely yeses out there, bringing us well over the 218 needed for passage. The Senate is going to be more of a firefight because of the larger and more split constituencies that they represent, but there are probably (I emphasize probably) more than the 60 needed to preclude a filibuster. ENDA is also the greatest good for the most people, for it will have a direct impact on a larger segment of the LGBT community than any of the issues on our plate. Most of us work, and far fewer are hate crime victims, serve in the military, or want to get married.

The right to discriminate against us is the right to keep us unemployed and underemployed and marginalize both our economic and personal lives. Furthermore, the House is very, very close to a clear and public majority on ENDA, and the Senate now has the power to shut down any filibuster after the seating of Senator Franken, with probably enough votes to do it. Read the rest of this entry »

Chastity Bono Changing Gender from Female to Male

In news from late yesterday, Chastity Bono has announced that she is changing her gender from female to male and the process began just after her 40th birthday.  He will now go by the name of Chaz. Very little details are being provided on the announcement and Chaz is not currently available for media comment other than to share (through publicist):

“He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones,” Bragman said. “It is Chaz’s hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his ‘coming out’ did nearly 20 years ago.”

Here’s a smattering of news clips on the announcement:

Here at Queercents we have lots of great information on transgender finances, transgender financial discrimination, and how to pay for sexual reassigment surgery from the very people living this experience every day.  It’ll be interesting to see how celebrity status does or does not impact Chaz’s experience.  Stay tuned as I’m sure our writers will be all over it.

Photo: Cover of Bono’s book.

Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life coaching for lesbians to help you gain the clarity, confidence, and courage you need to have success on your own terms. Get the free eCourse “5 Steps to Turn Fear Into Freedom” at her website

Will Online Campaign for an Inclusive ENDA Go Viral?

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss has a J.D. and a Ph.D. in Law, Policy & Society. She is currently Associate Professor of Law and Society at Ramapo College of New Jersey, she has conducted research involving hundreds of companies and public agencies that have adopted “gender identity” policies. Dr. Weiss is also Principal Consultant for Jillian T. Weiss & Associates, a consulting firm that works with organizations on transgender workplace diversity issues. She has trained hundreds of employees at corporations, law firms, diversity trainers and governmental organizations. These are her words . . .

Representative Barney Frank stated in an interview in the Washington Blade this week that ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a proposed federal law that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will be re-introduced in the coming months.  The “gender identity” provision would protect employees from discrimination based on non-conformity to gendered stereotypes of identity and expression. In the last introduction of the bill in 2007, “gender identity” was originally included, but was later removed into a separate bill because it appeared to some in Congress that there was insufficient support for its inclusion. This move was very controversial within the LGBT community.  Ultimately, the split ENDA bill containing only sexual orientation (referred to by some wags as “SPLENDA”) won the vote in the House, but the gender identity-only bill was not brought to the floor.  The Senate did not bring either bill to its floor either.

The section of the article discussing ENDA is available by clicking here.

In a hopeful sign, Congressman Frank said he expects congressional hearings on ENDA before the measure sees a vote because lawmakers must still be educated on the bill’s gender identity provisions. This suggests that Congressional Democrats are now more committed to the necessary education efforts than at the time of the last introduction. While hearings were held on the issue of “gender identity” last time, they were held only after “gender identity” protection was stripped from the bill. While there is more momentum behind an inclusive ENDA now, the education piece is still crucial. Read the rest of this entry »

Money, weapons, and power: a response

Ashley’s recent post about the challenges of being transgendered in Weapons Of Mass Destruction Part I deserves a proper response. I intend to respond to Part II separately in an upcoming post. She writes:

It seems to me that we Transgendered, as a group, are not overly prosperous.  Oh, I know that some of us are, but they seem to be the exceptions.

She goes on to relate some stories about the economic hardships of various transgendered people she has known – hardships that come about because certain people shun the transgendered. In the stories, their employers fire them or refuse to promote them. Then she states that society “uses money as a weapon against the transgendered”:

Think about it.  Money is the perfect weapon.  You can’t exist in this world of ours without it.  And to get it you have to work.  Deny access to work, you deny access to money.

At first I assumed she was speaking figuratively. I soon discovered she wasn’t. First she cites Marx and then attempts to use historical references to support her thesis: Read the rest of this entry »

Transgender Job Bank Offers Transgender Employment Resources

According to national statistics, unemployment rates for transgender individuals is three times as high as the unemployment rate for the rest of America. Ashley’s post this week is a stark reminder of these statistics. The Transgender Job Bank was launched in July of 2008 to address this need. I caught up with the site’s founder and Executive Director Jillian Barfield to get the scoop.

1. Why was The Transgender Job Bank founded?
In 2007 I attended the Southern Comfort Conference. Joe Solmonese, the President of HRC was invited to give the keynote address at a banquet attended by 800+ transgender people, many of them leaders in our community. He talked about how HRC was 100% behind trans people and would never accept a non-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which was currently being debated in Congress. A short two weeks later it was reported that HRC had begun to actively lobby AGAINST the transgender inclusive version of ENDA going so far as to use what they call their Congressional Scorecard to threaten members of congress to either vote against the inclusive version of ENDA or be given a bad score.

The LGBT community responded in an unprecedented manner condemning HRC’s actions. Some Congresspeople also stood with us against the discriminatory legislation despite the fact that they were later to receive a bad scorecard from HRC.

The Transgender Job Bank was founded in response to those events. Read the rest of this entry »

Weapon of Mass Destruction II: This isn’t about money

“…But when a long Train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…”

Thomas Jefferson wrote that. It’s the fifth sentence in the Declaration of Independence. It’s my favorite sentence in one of my favorite documents. It is also the most important sentence in the entire document. It is both the Founding Father’s explanation of, and justification for, committing high treason.

In much less eloquent early 21st century English here’s what it means:

If a wrong exists in society, it is not just the right of the people to act to correct the wrong; it is their moral and ethical obligation to do so.

Based on some of the comments to my last piece, what I am going to say next may come as a surprise to some: I don’t write about money. I write about something more important. Read the rest of this entry »

On Money and Power: A Different View

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

As a queer-identified person with a transgender wife, there is absolutely no question that we have sometimes felt the sting of discrimination. There have been times when we’ve been rejected by family members, or by people we thought were our friends. There have been times when we’ve questioned whether the reason we didn’t land a particular job or were laid off had more to do with who we were than our qualifications, skill level, or the current economy. There is no question that the life of a transperson is often difficult, but our experiences have shown that it’s not as bad as some people think.

Recently, Ashley posted several articles that outlined the difficulties she and other transfolk have encountered in finding employment, health insurance and appropriate health care. While I certainly don’t want to minimize her experiences or the experiences of others, we’ve found that it is possible, and not that difficult, to find decent employment, insurance and health care.

We’ve all heard the horror stories. We see them on the Internet, in the newspaper and even occasionally on television. We know bad things happen to good people, and those are the stories that make the evening news. Stories of happy, quiet and content transpeople who transition and make successes of their new lives rarely make headlines. They just disappear into the larger society and move on.

How do I know about these people? It’s because we and our friends are part of that group.

Read the rest of this entry »