Just a quick reminder that tomorrow Tuesday 9th October at 6 pm will be the Kansas City event for the Ten Days of Trans Demands. It will be at Kansas City United Church of Christ, 205 W 65th St, Kansas City, Missouri 64113, and there will be many speakers on being an ally and an advocate in the workplace. For more details, see the Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/250229949013821/
I need to preface this post with a disclaimer: the transgender engineer who is the “star” of the film is me. Black & Veatch released a video today as part of a series called #BeYouBV, which tells the stories of many professionals with the firm who have diverse occupations, hobbies, or lives. This Spring I was named one of several B&V Trailblazers, and was filmed for this video which tells a little bit about my life and how I used the support I received from everyone in my life as a platform for my advocacy.
The film features my good friend Ari Copeland, a senior water scientist at Black & Veatch who is also a transgender man. He’s the bearded guy I’m hugging and talking to, and who is helping to present to the crowd. Also featured in the film are my wife Fiona, who is a frequent contributor to this site, and who runs the Kansas City SOFFA group. My good and long-time friend Ceri Anne is shown on Trans Talk, and several other friends and co-workers appear. Some of the short video was shot at 90.1 FM KKFI, where we broadcast Trans Talk from.
If however you don’t use Facebook, you can also find the video at this link.
Hello everyone – I’m going to be giving a presentation at the Plaza Library this Sunday about being transgender in the workplace, joined by my co-worker Ari Copeland. We are going to be discussing how we crossed both sides of the gender divide in our transitions, and this presentation should be of interest to not just the transgender community, but women and men in science, technology, engineering, and math who are interested in gender studies and gender relationships. Of course it’s completely free!
(A film crew will be present for this event, but *no one will be filmed without their prior express permission.*)
A brochure image is below, as is a map to the library.
Location: Plaza Library, 4801 Main St., KCMO
Time: 2:00-3:00 pm, Sunday, May 14th.
This story has fired up my blood today, and I’m mad as hell. Not to repeat the Advocate overly much, but the basics are that Karis Ann Ross, age 37 a lead Special Education teacher at a Milwaukee German Immersion school, took her own life over Thanksgiving, 2014.
In her suicide note she apparently didn’t mince words, saying she took her own life due to bullying from specific, named co-workers. The situation was reportedly brought to the school’s principal, and with no effective response. After her daughter’s death, Karis’ mother, Madeline Dietrich, wrote an open letter to the Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. In this letter, the most telling part of the story was the following:
There were four professionals working in Ms. Ross’ classroom, a lead teacher and three teacher’s aids. Each were human beings, and each were women. But three were cisgender, while only one was transgender. Three were black, while only one was white. Three were paraprofessionals charged with supporting the lead teacher’s direction, while only one held a master’s degree and professional teaching certificate. The differences in race, education status and gender identity fostered an environment where Ms. Ross was regularly subjected to intimidation and resistance by the majority group.
Ms. Ross repeatedly informed the building principal, Dr. Albert J. Brugger. It had gone on for years, but in the weeks leading to the moment Ms. Ross chose to end her life, numerous emails were exchanged between Ms. Ross, school officials and the medical community, all pointing to a crisis which went largely ignored by Dr. Brugger, who rather than mediating or intervening in the conflict, chose to play down the situation and avoided any direct involvement with Ms. Ross and her aids. It is clear by the timing of the suicide, which took place the Saturday afternoon before Ms. Ross knew she must again face the hostility of her support staff and the indifference of her principal the following Monday morning. Each aide was named in Ms. Ross’ suicide letter, along with Dr. Brugger, as the primary cause of her grief. Transgender people are too often rejected by friends, employers, landlords, and family, and are forty percent more likely to attempt suicide than the mean population. Ms. Ross was rejected by the very MPS employees whose job it was to assist her in caring for profoundly disabled children.
What I want to do is say something loud and clear to all the people who know me here in “Transas City.” If you are one of my transgender sisters or brothers and you are being bullied at work, and you need help, you need to contact someone. Right now. One of my best friends is Madeline Johnson, a senior law partner and a woman who has fought for the rights and protection of the transgender community more than most anyone I know. Her contact information is MMJohnsonLaw@gmail.com. If you are being harassed, abused, or mistreated at work because you are transgender, tell her about it. Maybe she can help.
Or at worst, if you just want someone to talk to about being bullied at work over being transgender, message me on Facebook or mail me (if you don’t have my personal mail reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll try to give you some advice on what to do. I don’t promise anything, but maybe I’ll come up with something. Or reach out to your friends, your family, and remember that your job is not worth your life. Do NOT sit there and take the bullying and harassment and think that suicide is your only way out!
If you or someone you know are an LGBT young person (ages 24 and younger) struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals needing support can contact the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.
Saks, which holds a score of 90 in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI), is accused of firing a transgender woman for being transgender. Not only has Saks claimed in defiance of all precedence and government directives that transgender discrimination is not covered by Title VII, but they have also claimed that violating their own employee handbooks – which prevent transgender discrimination – is not a big deal because they are not “contracts as a matter of law.”
HRC has of course suspended Saks’ CEI rating as a result of this action, but it really seems to be apparent that more than just that would be called for, in terms of boycotts.
I love this article in the Village Voice about Brooke Guinan! Not only is she making it in one of the toughest and butchest professions there is, but she’s textbook “out and proud” as a transsexual woman!
But some of her fellow New Yorkers, the ones she’s saving the lives of, don’t exactly seem to give her 100 percent support.
“Every day is a process of getting on a subway and wondering how many people look at you, wondering if they know that you’re trans or not. Every day is a learning experience in gender roles, how you fit in your society, what gender roles you accept and what ones you see for the fabrications that they are.”
What is worse is seeing the comments some trolls leave behind on her poster, or the FDNY Facebook page and other articles. People saying things like “I’m a man wearing makeup” or “it’s gross.”
“You have people who not only want to take away your gender identity but there are people who want to take away my humanity and turn me into an it,” Guinan says. “It took a really long time for me to get to the point of [saying], This is me. This is my truth. This is my identity.”
Her Department does give her support, although increasing gender diversity in the Fire Department of New York will be an uphill battle at best, especially since a mere 41 of its 10,200 firefighters are women. Wow.
Transgender professionals who are out and proud are uncommon. The higher demands of the corporate environment are bad enough, but when you are someone who directly sinks or swims based upon the reaction of your clients, the situation becomes even more dicey. And for the case of attorneys who have their own practice, sinking is more common than swimming.
My best friend in the world, Madeline Johnson, is an attorney who is an out and proud transgender woman, and she has had to fight years to build a successful practice. This article tells of another transgender attorney, Katie Sprinkle of Dallas County, Texas, and how she fought to make her way in the business world. And how she, like my friend Madeline, continues to fight on behalf of her clients every day.
For 58 years, author Faith Eileen Bryan lived what any reasonable person would call a “normal” life – married, with a family and a career. Faith also was not Faith; she was “John,” the name given to her at birth by parents who never knew their son was really their daughter.
“For me, “normal” was defined in the standard gender binary terms,” says Bryan, author of an upcoming new book, TRANSforming Normal: Ten Stories That Will Change How You See Transgender People. “You were either a boy or a girl.”
Bryan, 61, who came out as transgender in 2012, says society is redefining what is considered normal and acceptable in terms of the growing LGBT presence, and part of that transformation must include how society perceives transgender people.
“I believe there is a general perception that transgender individuals are somehow flawed, not ‘normal’ or in some other way do not make a positive contribution to the social construct,” Bryan says. “This work hopes to portray our community in its most human terms.
“We have careers and families, dreams and hopes like anyone, yet we do this in the face of extraordinary amounts of misinformation, blind hate and ignorance. This is what TRANSforming Normal is about … showing that transgender people are just like anyone.”
The book, projected for Summer 2015 publication, tells the stories of 10 remarkable people who work in a variety of careers: an air traffic controller, a baggage handler, an advertising sales person, a movie director/HIV counselor, a writer, an attorney, a chemical engineer, a beauty pageant director/politician, and a performance artist.
Oh, and they all just happen to be transgender, and all are actively working to advance equal rights for their LGBT sisters and brothers.
“These are vibrant and passionate people who care about others,” says the author. “People need to know that we’re not all drag performers or sex workers. Most of us have jobs, families, mortgages or rent payments, and dreams of something better. In other words, we’re normal human beings.”
Bryan, a former newspaper journalist and editor with 30 years’ experience who now teaches business and management for an online university, says this topic is not widely covered in previous works.
“A substantial body of scholarship exists on this topic that is based in scientific and medical research, and political discourse,” she says, noting there is a growing discussion of the increasing social impact of the transgender community.
“This book seeks to shine a positive light on that aspect of the transgender reality and to help fill the gap in understanding that exists between the societal mainstream and our community,” says the author. “My hope is that my book with help foster understanding where little exists.”
To donate to this project, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/790423631/transforming-normal or http://www.gofundme.com/es9mgs
To learn more about the author and to read her blog, go to http://www.faitheileenbryan.com
This is it! After many “false alarm” posts on Facebook and blogs, Obama finally put pen to a policy which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for both the Federal government and Federal contractors. As I’ve posted before, this is potentially a large number of employees in the United States – 11 to 44 million in total – and could lead to many more companies putting anti-discrimination policies in place due to the “trickle-down effect” which often impacts suppliers of government contractors.
Read more at the link below:
Obama Urges Congress to Ban Job Bias Against Gays – NYTimes.com.
With the recent court case involving Hobby Lobby and its desire not to cover certain kinds of birth control because of its owners Christian beliefs, you might think that Hobby Lobby also has issues with transgender employees.
You would be right. And, oddly enough, partially wrong.
Meggan Sommerville is a Chicago writer whose blog Transgirl at the Cross explores her personal Christian faith and her life as a transgender woman. She is also an employee of 16 years at Hobby Lobby, and went through her transition while working there. She was not fired, her personnel records were updated to indicate her gender as a female, and her health insurance covers her hormones.
All isn’t great in the land of hobbies, though. Many of her medical appointments are not covered. While most of Meggan’s co-workers are supportive of her, a few will not use the correct pronouns. And as for the Hobby Lobby store she works in, they won’t allow her to use the women’s restroom. Meggan has to wait until no customers are around and duck into the men’s room as quickly as possible to avoid anyone seeing her when she comes back out.
It seems that Hobby Lobby is only willing to support her as a female employee up to some invisible point that they have determined without giving any full explanation of what it is.
So Meggan has done what I hope all transgender employees would do when faced with half-hearted attempts at support: she filed a complaint to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Her case was initially dismissed but is again pending before the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
Just as the issue of birth control, “Christian corporation” rights, and religious objections to non-discrimination policies are all again on the table because of last week’s Supreme Court ruling, Meggan’s case against Hobby Lobby could have far-reaching effects when it is resolved. Keep your eye on this one. It could mean the difference in how transmen and transwomen are treated during a transition at their workplace in the near future.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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…
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!