transgender Americans and the fight for equal rights

posted on Fri, Aug 24 2007 7:51 am by Family Equality Council

With Special Permission from Alex Blaze of the Bilerico Project, we are reproducing this powerful post in the Family Pride Blog to share with all of you.

"Why don't you just demand your rights as an American instead of asking for Special Rights?"

Transgender Americans are not asking for special rights but for the same rights that other people have. The fact that transgender Americans are NOT treated equally in employment, housing, credit..etc. begs for legislation to stop discriminatory acts towards transgender people. Transgender Americans are not asking for rights that others don't have. Transgender Americans are not asking to be treated better than everyone else or to have something that other Americans don't have.

When I began transitioning on the job and I started exhibiting male characteristics, I was fired from my job and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I was told by every lawyer that I did not have a case because there was no law to protect transgender people from being fired in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I was not fired because of real or perceived sexual orientation but I was fired specifically based on my gender expression. The Human Resource department was very careful in being explicit as to why I was being fired. My story of anti-transgender discrimination isn't unique, there are hundreds just like it. So I ask you, where do we go to demand these rights? Where exactly was I supposed to go to demand justice for losing a job where I had spent years working holidays and weekends, sacrificing time that could have been spent with my family?

Demanding your rights as an American and not Special Rights for Hate Crimes Victims and Survivors. "A Murder is a Murder, shouldn't we all be treated the same?"

Where was Robert Eads supposed to go to demand his rights when no doctor would treat him because he was a transman? As a result, he died with ovarian cancer.

Where was Chanelle Pickett supposed to go to demand her rights when she was brutally murdered by William Palmer, only to have her family, friends and a whole community watch him get sentenced to 2 years in prison, the maximum sentence for assault and battery?

Where was my aunt, Debra Forte supposed to go to demand her rights when she was beaten, strangled, stabbed three times in the chest, and every bone in her neck was broken by her killer, Michael Thompson? Thompson ran from the police and then turned himself in 2 weeks later only to be let out on bail. Where was my family supposed to go to demand compassion when the police came to my house and repeatedly referred to my aunt as "he," even though she transitioned in 1961 and had been living as a woman for 34 years?

Where was my mother supposed to go to demand her rights when the police told her that her "brother" had been stabbed to death but when my brother and I arrived at the morgue to identify her body we were faced with the horrific reality that she had been beaten beyond recognition?

Where was the justice when we had to tell my grandfather that his child had been taken from him in a senseless act of violence, that his child was brutally murdered for no other reason than that she was a transsexual?

My grandfather died a few weeks later when his heart gave out.

Where was the justice when Michael Thompson plea bargained with the district attorney and was sentenced to 15 years in prison? The District Attorney was afraid that if they went for 1st degree murder that the jury wouldn't be sympathetic to my aunt's "lifestyle."

My family was beyond angry that the district attorney didn't go for 1st degree murder, and, after Chanelle Pickett's killer was sentenced to 2 years (her killer was tried for murder 1), the district attorney called my mother to say, "See? We told you what would have happened."

There have been 8 murders of transgender people here in Massachusetts and only 2 of those murders have been solved. In both instances the killers turned themselves in. There are now 380 transgender people (that we know of) who have died because of anti-transgender hatred or bias and more than half of those murders remain unsolved.

It would be nice to think that we are all human and therefore we should all be treated as human beings, that we should all be treated fairly and that all laws should apply to all of us. The simple fact is that we are not and we are dying as a result.

We are not disposable people and if Congress can't pass a law that sends that message, they might as well just paint a target on our asses.
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