Category Archives: Employment

The Little-Known Decision Which is the Biggest Pro-Trans News in Years (CORRECTION)

SweetSuccess
For the life of me I do not know why this isn’t being shared by every transperson on Facebook.

Amidst all the hoopla about Obama saying he will sign, then promising he will sign, then saying signing is imminent of an Executive Order mandating that all government contractors must have non-discrimination policies for LGBT workers, a major improvement in transgender rights has been missed. Yesterday, the United States Department of Labor announced the following:

As we celebrate Pride Month and approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the Labor Department is reaffirming its commitment to equal opportunity for all. That’s why we are updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to clarify that we provide the full protection of the federal non-discrimination laws that we enforce to transgender individuals.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center, along with the Employment and Training Administration, will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex.  While the department has long protected employees from sex-based discrimination, its guidance to workers and employers will explicitly clarify that this includes workers who identify as transgender.

This was interpreted (wrongly) by me from the press release to mean that every business covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for non-discrimination of employees was subject to this. However, a later clarification made it clear that this ruling ONLY applies to the United States Department of Labor. The confusion lay in their use of the work “employers” in the press release.

Mea culpa. The announcement has much less scope than I believed, although it does cover the 17,000 (estimated) employees of the United States Department of Labor.
Justice and Identity.

A Roundup of Four Negative News Items

SouthCarolina
Hey, you can’t say I didn’t warn you…as I’ve gone through the news feeds from mid-week relating to transgender news, yours truly has picked out four post-worthy items which you may not have seen. None of them are especially positive, but neither are they catastrophic. And a couple of them are so over-the-top as to be somewhat silly.

We begin with the case of a gender-variant South Carolina teenager who was forced to remove their makeup prior to having their photograph taken by the DMV. This isn’t especially surprising – first off, it’s South Carolina. I mean, it’s only been legal to whistle on the Sabbath for 3 years now, so you have to expect some lack of tolerance. Second off, it’s the DMV – for crying out loud, if there ever was a domain of senseless, arbitrary, and random application of rules it’s there. Going to the DMV is sort of like entering a Salvador Dali painting, where up is down, right is purple, and number 12 is carrot. So yeah, this wasn’t too difficult to predict…

spy
Next up we have some sad news, as some timbertool (or timbertools) decided to ruin the Trans Pride LA Festival film screening by calling in a bomb threat. It was the second bomb threat of the Pride event, and one which had to be taken seriously given the appalling level of violence shown towards our people.

dawnennis
Next we have the case of ABC News Assignment Editor Ben Sherwood, who came out as transgender in the summer of 2013, and changed their name to Dawn Ennis. Then, after taking steps to transition, declared that they had a bout of transient amnesia, and that they never really were transgender. Then suddenly, they’ve gone back and discovered that no, really, they really were transgender. Now they have been fired from their job, and they are blaming anti-transgender discrimination. Well…folks, you will look until your eyes fall out to find a more pro-transgender person than I, but I’m also wondering why anyone is surprised that an employer might have some concerns over a person who is cisgender-no they aren’t-yes-they-are no-they-aren’t… Honestly, I think this would be difficult for most employers to handle, aside from the fact that there’s no proof or convincing evidence presented to say that it even is a discrimination case.

satan_computer
Finally, we get to comedy time, where the arch-conservative and anti-transgender Linda Harvey, of Mission America, claims that Satan, yes Satan, is behind the growing acceptance of transgender persons in America. It would be easy to dismiss her as another harmless flake…except that she has a lot of followers who believe everything she says. Never underestimate the evil that some will perpetrate all in the name of “fighting evil” (cough…thousands tortured and murdered by witch hunters…cough).

Obama Drafting Executive Order On LGBT Job Discrimination

enda
I realize I’m a day late in posting this, but I do know many folks still haven’t heard the news, and it’s important to make certain this is disseminated.

As I reported in February, President Obama has the ability to use an Executive Order to mandate that all government contractors must have non-discrimination policies in place to protect transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees. There are many estimates of how many Americans this would actually protect – the Huffington Post is reporting about 16 million (link below), but my analysis indicates that depending upon how broadly one considers a company to be a “Federal contractor,” such a move could cover more than 40 million workers. What’s more, supplier agreements could have trickle-down effects which would result in even more workers being covered.

Well it appears that President Obama is indeed about ready to sign such an order into law, with the smart money giving next Monday as “the” date. Congress can override such an Executive Order, but given the composition of the Senate it is almost impossible to do so. Some are wondering if this is a sign that the Democratic Party expects to lose their margin in the Senate after the mid-year elections, or even lose their majority status, and thus President Obama is trying to get this in place to build precedent before a Republican Senate would be sworn in next January. Honestly, no one knows.

Obama Drafting Executive Order On LGBT Job Discrimination.

Defense Secretary Hagel ‘Open’ to Transgender People Serving in Military

Some further encouraging news for those in the transgender community who wish to serve their country in the nation’s armed forces. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says he is open to reviewing the ban on transgender service. More explicitly, he says:

“The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated because it has a medical component to it. These issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don’t always provide that kind of opportunity … I do think it continually should be reviewed. I’m open to that, by the way. I’m open to those assessments because, again, I go back to the bottom line. Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it. This is an area that we’ve not defined enough.

If he’s going to do something, he had best do it in the next 2 years. There is at least an even chance that the transgender-friendly Obama Administration will be instead replaced with a transgender-hostile Republican Administration, so getting as much passed and as much set in precedent as possible before such a thing may happen is critical.

Hagel ‘Open’ to Transgender People Serving in Military – Washington Wire – WSJ.

Good Grief! Texas Transgender Teacher Banned From the Classroom After Her Suspension

I reported earlier on a transgender substitute teacher in the quaint hamlet of Peyton Place Lumberton, Texas, who faced losing her job after bigoted parents complained about her transgender status. In the last news update, Laura Jane Klug had triumphed and won her job back.
Or wait – it turns out that the school district has given her a job which bans her from the classroom! From the article:

Last week, Klug accepted a full-time position with the district through the end of the school year, but as a condition of employment, she promised not to detail what her new position involves. She was able to confirm to Lone Star Q, however, that she is not working as a teacher.

Unfortunately, it’s a decision which Klug is being forced to take:

“I said I’m willing to do whatever because I really need a paycheck. It doesn’t make me very happy, but I think it should placate [the parents] somewhat.”

I think it’s terrible that the school has to resort to economic pressure to try and sweep this under the rug. The article notes that Klug might still have a lawsuit against the district, but that may be difficult to do in reality.

Texas Transgender Teacher Banned From the Classroom Following Suspension | Advocate.com.

Pentagon’s ‘Human Goals’ Charter Excludes Trans Civilian Workers – But It’s Not That Bad, Really

This is a disappointment for our community, yes, but the practical impact is actually highly limited and not as bad as some bloggers are claiming. Why do I say this?

  • It doesn’t set into stone or provide any additional backing for the exclusion of transgender workers. In fact all it does is just simply pass us by. This is actually good, because then it’s a much simpler policy decision process to just clarify that transgender workers are included.
  • As the article notes correctly, the civilian workers are already protected under the EEOC decision in Macy v. Holder, which impacts all Federal workers covered by the EEOC, which includes the Department of Defense.

In fact, in a more detailed look at this topic at the Washington Blade, there is some more encouraging information given in the form of some official quotes:

But there is no reference to gender identity. Transgender people are barred from service in the military because of medical regulations, despite growing efforts among LGBT advocates to push for openly transgender service.

Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesperson, said “gender identity” wasn’t included in the section for civilian workers because it would fall under the category of “sex” in the charter.

“The Department did not specifically list ‘gender identity’ in the civilian equal employment opportunity section of the Human Goals document because discrimination against a transgender individual could be covered as a form of prohibited ‘sex discrimination,’ which is listed in the charter,” Christensen said.

Regarding the absence of “gender identity” from the military service portion of the document, Christensen said “there are no plans to change” to change the policy on transgender service.

“The Department considers that service members must serve in austere environments, many of which make necessary and ongoing treatments related to sex reassignment and many other conditions untenable,” Christensen said. “Policies on military personnel and health care regarding transgender members are intended to meet the needs of the services, which include the ability to deploy to and serve in austere environments with limited (and perhaps no) access to medical care for prolonged periods on little or no notice.”

While many may believe that this medical justification is merely thinly-veneered bigotry, remember that it wasn’t that long ago that we were excluded on the basis that we were “guilty of moral turpitude,” “disruptive to troop morale,” or even “mentally ill,” as opposed to having medical needs.

In short, this is a disappointment but it’s not really a snub and it’s not a step backwards for us, merely a missed step forward.

Pentagon releases ‘human goals’ charter that excludes transgender civilian workers – LGBTQ Nation.

Transgender Texas Teacher Triumphs

After a contentious school board meeting in Lumberton, Texas, a transgender substitute teacher who was suspended purely on account of being transgender (after complaints from concerned parents the usual transphobic bigots was reinstated at her job.

This is awesome news, although it’s clear form this and other reports on the incident that the sole reason the School Board decided to keep her on was fear of a costly EEOC lawsuit – one which they would likely lose. Some comments from the parents are either saddening or disgusting, depending upon how much credit you want to give them.

“This has caused elementary students to be confused. Asking questions of their parents wondering why a female teacher has facial hair,” said one parent.

“We’re just now talking to our kids about the birds and the bees. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to explain this. He hired in as a male. He is a male,” said another parent.

Just think about explaining your bigotry to your kids someday. Like when I heard a woman in her 70’s say once “well, white’s only drinking fountains were just a ‘thing’….everybody did it.” Nope, nothing wrong there!

Transgender substitute teacher returns to work – Tucson News Now.

Transgender Substitute Teacher Upsets Lumberton, Texas Bigots

Sometimes I wonder about whether I would have been a good mom. Whether I would have raised my children properly and taught them how to respect others, be courteous and conscientious, be open to other cultures and new experiences, and face the world guarded yet unafraid to step up and do the right thing.

And then I read about “concerned parents” like the ones in this article, and I snort and think “well hell, I can’t do worse than them.”

The basics of the story, which my friend Danna (a transgender schoolteacher herself) pointed me to are simple and sadly familiar.

Act 1 – Invasion: The transgender teacher, also known as “the Satanic Succubus in Clouds of Sulfur (SSCS),” worms her way into the classroom to “teach” her unholy agenda, telling such lies as the South lost the American Civil War and the Earth is NOT 6,000 years old.

Act 2 – Discovery: Brave soldiers of goodness and light uncover the SSCS, and bring her into the light of Jesus. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to burn her at the stake (thank you very much, evil liberal Supreme Court!), but they can ensure that she will never work again!

Act 3 – Counterattack: The SSCS enlists her unholy allies – the transgender “activists,” the “ACLU,” the “Southern Poverty Law Center,” and (gasp!) the EEOC of our Muslim conqueror, Sultan Obama.

Act 4 – The Final Battle: the forces of good and light gather throughout the state, and ultimately chase the evildoers back to New Sodom (California). Texas secedes from the United States. No one notices any difference.

Transgender substitute teacher upsets Lumberton ISD parents – 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas.

Police Blotter – April 2, 2014

Captain Roberta MonellIt’s pure coincidence that I have two Police Blotter posts in a row – it seems like there have been several law enforcement-related transgender stories lately.

This post features one positive and two negative stories. Let’s lead with the positive one, the story of Captain Roberta Monell, who is also our featured main photo today. Twenty years ago the 49-year-old Roberta – born Robert – started dressing female while working as an investigator at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. She bravely used the more feminine version of her name, ignoring criticism and losing her job. She went bankrupt, then became a truck driver for five years. In 2000 she reapplied to the police department but was rejected. She took them to court and won, was hired, and fought through the ranks to eventually become a captain in the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office. Facing mandatory retirement after a solid career she enjoys, she said:

“I wanted to prove that transgender people are just as normal as everybody else. We just identify with the opposite gender,” she said. “But we’re still human beings.”

Toilet_Terror
Next, we have a negative item – the case of a transgender student who allegedly was harassed beyond all belief by campus security at a North Carolina Community College. Why would I report what right now appears to be a “she-said-and-the-other-side-can’t-get-its-story-straight” piece? Because her story is very believable – I’ve seen verified cases where the same thing has happened to other transwomen. I think reading about the Keystone Kops routine of the school administration could be useful for being forewarned about how “trans toilet terror” can turn really ugly even in a professional setting.

Amira_Gray
As negative as this story of a transgender woman being harassed by police during a routine traffic stop is, what is heartening is that she’s standing up for her rights and suing their asses. Amira Gray, a 26 year-old transwoman from New Jersey, alleges that she was:

…was pulled over while driving through North Bergen six months ago, she was humiliated, she said, by the police officer calling her “Mr.” And “sir.”

Almost three weeks ago, Gray sued the North Bergen Police Department, saying she was a victim of discrimination, targeted because of her sexual orientation, and accused of driving on a suspended license despite proof that it was not suspended. Police impounded her car.

Unfortunately the article does not talk much about Ms. Gray’s case, but there is a video with her and her attorney which is worth viewing quickly.

Police Blotter – March 28, 2014

Police_Measuring_Skirt_LengthPoliceman Chuck Peyton checks to see if the old-fashioned bathing suit worn by actress Myrna Ross complies with 1933 Redondo Beach ordinance banning women’s suits that are more than 3 in. above knee.

This “police blotter” posting contains three law-related stories involving the transgender community – one positive, and two negative.

Let’s start with the positive, and discuss a new program by the Department of Justice to train local police officers across the nation to better protect and serve transgender persons. As National Public Radio reports,

The new initiative is aimed at helping police identify hate crimes and build trust with a community that law enforcement officials say is too often reluctant to report crimes.

“It’s clear that such a training is as necessary as it is overdue,” Associate Attorney General Tony West said at a ceremony unveiling the program. “Because too often, in too many places, we know that transgender victims are discouraged from reporting hate crimes and hate violence due to their past negative interactions with and perceptions of law enforcement.”

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said it was unacceptable that transgender people don’t report crimes against them “based on the community’s fears about law enforcement’s support and perceptions.”

“This is not a result that can or will be tolerated by the Department of Justice, and it runs counter to the very role your community public safety officials want to promote,” Cole said.

Strong words which I hope form a new basis for trust between our people and law enforcement.
Francesca_QuarantaOfficer Francesca Quaranta

Now a negative report – last November I reported on the case of a Connecticut police officer who filed harassment charges against her department after coming out at work. Unfortunately for Officer Francesca Quaranta, an investigation undertaken by the City of Middleton, Connecticut has found “no evidence that a transgender police officer was subject to discrimination or a hostile work environment.” Now, I report this as bad news not because I’m passing judgement on the city – I’m sitting 1,500 miles away and know nothing at all about the case, although I can point to a history where discrimination against our people is the norm, rather than an exception. It’s bad news because Officer Quaranta obviously feels she was the victim of harassment, and this investigation provides no closure for her.

Finally, a story no one wants to see, but which we need to report upon, because the haters out there will report on it, and we need to be informed so we can be ready for those who want to “teach the controversy.” A Columbus, Ohio transgender woman is being charged with one felony count each of sodomy and child molestation, resulting from an alleged incident between the defendant and a 15 year-old boy. The accused, Christopher Antwain Russell, told police that the teen claimed to be 18 years old. Reading the details as reported in the link above, it really appears to be a case of “she said, he said,” with little to no physical evidence.

What’s the truth? I’ll keep an eye open for developments.

No Clear Message from the Obama Administration Over ENDA Executive Order

Obama_SigningOK, this is a little long, but I really need to lay down some background first about what could, if fortune favors us, be one of the most important transgender advances in recent history.

The President of the United States has some modest authority to use Executive Orders to direct how the Federal government behaves, so long as such orders are lawful. For example, the President could in theory order that all Federal employees must wear pink on Fridays, unless or until the Legislative Branch (Congress) passed a law forbidding such, or the Judicial Branch (the Supreme Court) declared such an order to be un-Constitutional.

This power, however, also allows the President to influence broad areas of America indirectly by directing how Federal contractors must behave if they are going to be qualified to bid on Federal projects. This is an incredible amount of implicit power, as a very large number of American companies are Federal contractors, or else wish to bid on Federal contracts. Wikipedia has an impressive list of the top-100 Federal contractors, and the total number of employees among these companies are in the millions. Take a look at the list – is your company on it? Mine does tens of millions of dollars of Federal work every year, and we probably are barely in the top-1000.

The total number of Federal contractor employees is not public data, and I struggled with a variety of half-baked sources and WAGs, often from Tea Party “conspiracy” sites. As best as I can tell, there are perhaps 7-10 million employees working for companies which are performing on Federal contracts, and perhaps 20-30 million employees of companies which have pursued Federal contracts. If you add this to the number of employees in the Federal government itself (4.3 million), we have somewhere between 11 to 44 million employees in the United States who would be potentially impacted by any Executive Order impacting Federal contractors.

Given that the total size of the employed United States workforce is about 144 million, and you can see that at a minimum we’re talking about 8%, and at most 31% of the American workforce is potentially impacted by an Executive Order.

So now that I’ve bored you with some statistics, now to the heart of the matter: to be blunt, President Obama has within his authority the ability to declare that all government contractors must have a strict non-discrimination policy in hiring, firing, and worker treatment to protect gender identity and gender expression, sexual preference, and sexual identity. In short, overnight President Obama could potentially make the lives of a very large percentage of the transgender community better overnight!

An order such as this would help get unemployed transgender persons off the streets and into the workforce, allowing them to start living better lives. It would protect the innumerable closeted transgender persons, who live in fear every day of being outed at work and losing their livelihoods. And it would change the entire dialog and force the issue to be confronted among many employers who aren’t even currently Federal contractors. As the size of our Federal government grows the attraction of the money available for private companies will increase, leading more and more discriminatory companies to throw in the metaphorical towel and enact their own anti-discrimination policies on their own.

However, according to the Washington Blade (link below), the Obama Administration is giving some mixed signals on whether or not they will use an Executive Order to do what the House of Representatives refuses to do – enact ENDA in any way, shape, or form.

I won’t spin the story below – it speaks for itself. There appears to be some confusion over where in the process of “consideration” an ENDA Executive Order lies. This sort of confusion is hardly new – President Obama’s staff have been historically much better at keeping secrets than past Administrations, so I don’t really think one can say for certain what will happen. President Obama may be concerned about the November elections, as the possibility of losing seats in the Senate, and more in the House, is a clear and present danger due to dissatisfaction over the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a “Obamacare”).

I hope that President Obama does enact an Executive Order ENDA soon, so precedent can build to help create change. The 2016 Presidential election is entirely up in the air, and a backlash from the masses sending in a Conservative President could easily result in a repeal of any Executive Orders which were thought to be “too Liberal.”

W.H. adviser says ENDA executive order ‘under consideration’ : Washington Blade – America’s Leading Gay News Source.

New Virginia Governor Signs First Executive Order of his Term, Prohibiting Discrimination Against LGBT State Workers

I’m impressed that Governor McAuliffe made protecting LGB, and especially T state workers his first Executive Order of his term. It’s a much welcomed change from that of his Democratic predecessor, who claimed there was not enough discrimination against LGBT persons to warrant something as drastic as a law. Right…

McAuliffe signs executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state workers – LGBTQ Nation.

Transwoman Does Good – Amanda Simpson Takes New Leadership Role

AmandaSimpson
Transsexual woman Amanda Simpson was named today as the new Executive Director of the U.S. Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF). Her mission in her new role will be to implement large-scale renewable energy projects for the United States Army. Using solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy, Ms. Simpson will take the reins in guiding the Army towards meeting its goal of 1 gigawatt of renewable energy generation for the Army by 2025.

Some of you may recall that President Obama appointed Ms. Simpson Simpson in 2010 to be the Senior Technical Advisor to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security. With multiple degrees under her belt and an exciting past – even flying as a test pilot for Hughes Aircraft – Ms. Simpson is certainly up to the task.

Great job, Ms. Simpson!

Army EITF Site.

Younger Americans Back Transgender Worker Protections

TransgenderProtections
Most of us know that protections for us in the workplace are few and far-between. We also saw that for the first time the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate with protections for transgender workers included, although the Republican-controlled House is refusing to even consider it on ideological grounds alone.

This report was a survey of how many Americans back protections for LGB and T workers, and pretty unsurprisingly, there is a clear inverse proportion between age and acceptance of our people. What is disturbing about it, however, is what I call the “equality gap.” This term refers to the gap in support between LGB and T persons, which in this poll, on a nationwide basis, is shown as being as 9%. So 9% of Americans say “yes! Protect LGB workers! But not those creepy transpeople, like, yuck!”

I must also use this post as a vehicle to post my disappointment in President Obama for not mandating by Executive Order that all government contractors include LGBT protections. Most medium and large companies in the country have some government contracts they work on or supply, and an order such as that could easily roll in protections for more than half of us overnight. OK, I’m not horribly disappointed, as he’s done wonders for our community, but that one move, helping to give us more secure sources of income, would make perhaps one of the largest improvements in our condition in history.

Younger Americans Back Transgender Worker Protections – NationalJournal.com.

Audrey Gauthier: First Openly Transsexual Union President

Audrey_GauthierIn fact Audrey, recently elected president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 4041, representing Air Transat flight attendants, is only the second transsexual union leader in the world.

The article doesn’t talk much about Audrey’s life or changes, mainly about the changes she has planned as union leader.

Audrey Gauthier: First openly transsexual president of a union local in Canada | rabble.ca.