Trans discrimination sparks fight

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By Amber Peckham

One of the first waves of protest over the move in Congress to remove transgender people from an anti-discrimination bill came from the labor movement. Members of Pride at Work, an LGBT-focused labor coalition and the newest member of the AFL-CIO, held a press conference Sept 28 to announce they are withdrawing their support from the ENDA bill, and encouraging other LGBT advocacy groups to do the same.

The advocacy is having an impact – already, more than 20 LGBT organizations have come out against the move, and it’s entirely possible that the one-time landmark workplace-discrimination bill will lose almost all of queer community support.

“The need for gender provisions in this bill doesn’t apply only to those who are transgender, but also to, say, effeminate gay men, or lesbians who are ‘too butch’” said Robert Haaland, a representative of Pride at Work. “By picking and choosing who to include in their non-discrimination bill, these legislators are discriminating. It’s self-contradicting.”

“With the transgender community as arguably the most marginalized part of the LGBT community, they are really the ones who need the support of this bill the most,” added Masen Davis, a board member of the Transgender Law Center board. “Over 60% of transgenders in San Francisco are unemployed.”
Davis also expressed gratitude for the support of the labor community.
“If anyone is familiar with the ‘divide and conquer’ tactics being used on the LGBT community right now, it’s the labor movement.” he said. “It really heartens me to hear this voice of support from the labor community, because it means that maybe the bill won’t have to be divided, it can stay one, unified proposition.”

Pride at Work is calling on Pelosi to withdraw her support for the bill if transgender provisions are removed before ENDA is voted on, and is holding a vigil outside her office. If she were to do so, it is likely the bill would not pack the punch required to make it through a Congressional vote, and none of the LGBT community would benefit.

“That’s how the labor movement works; if you injure one, you injure all.” said Haaland. “And it looks like that’s how this bill is going to end up working as well.”