A bill to add gender identity to the list of classes protected against discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment got its first hearing last week in the Maryland state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Maryland law already prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, age, color, creed, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation and disability in the areas of public accommodations, housing, and employment.
Among those testifying in support of the bill (SB 212) was Catherine Hyde, Transgender Coordinator for Children and Their Parents at Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) of Columbia-Howard County, Maryland.
Describing her own path to understanding that her child is transgender, Hyde shows that the ignorance that is the root of discrimination against trans people can be overcome. In fact it must be overcome if we take to heart the best interest of children.
Good afternoon, thank you for letting me speak. My name is Catherine Hyde and I’m speaking in support of SB 212.
I’m parent to and 18-year old trans child, and I serve as transgender coordinator for PFLAG in this area.
I’m speaking on behalf of 30 parents in the area with transgender children ages 3 to 28.
Because they are transgender our children are being harassed at school and on the streets, forced to live off-campus, threatened with expulsion and fired from their jobs. Last year one of our children was raped. Too many of our children are suicidal because they are transgender.
Very few people understand transgender, I get that. I lived with my own transgender child for 15 years without understanding what it was.
But ignorance is not benign. When our 4-year old son wanted tutus and Barbie dolls a psychologist who did not understand gender encouraged us to allow only boy toys and clothing, supposedly helping the child. Two years later our 6-year old was threatening suicide.
Suicidal ideation in trans children is common. In fact trans people, as you’ve heard, attempt suicide at 25 times the norm.
So back to a therapist we went, who diagnosed depression and anxiety – understandable since we had been shaming this child for being herself.
You see, gender identity is not transient. It is not something that pops up one morning. It is with us our lives. But again, no one educated us on gender, and we did not stop the shaming. You see, ignorance is harmful.
My child was 15 when a story on NPR taught me what transgender means and how it can manifest in even very young children.
Our child transitioned in 10th grade and her depression and anxiety steadily lifted. But the harassment at school did not. Students regularly called my child “pervert” and “freak”. And though her friends stuck up for her only one adult ever intervened.
The harassment culminated when a police officer humiliated my child in front of the entire senior class because he didn’t understand transgender.
When an authority figure openly mocks trans people, what liscense does that give to the students who are already bullying my kid? Ignorance is dangerous.
Transgender people are disproportionately targeted for violence. In one study of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, trans people accounted for 40% of the police-initiated violence and 20% of its murder victims. Imagine if this were your child. Ignorance is deadly.
In our everyday lives our kids are pretty mainstream. They go to school, they play with friends. And our issues with them are mostly about things completely unrelated to their gender identity: clean your room, do your homework.
And we want for our kids what all parents want for their kids, that they be safe, happy, healthy and have productive jobs so they can move out of our house. [laughter erupts in the room]
My kid is lucky. Last year Howard County, where we live, passed protections. And just a few weeks ago Baltimore County where she goes to Towson now passed protections.
Now we need statewide protections for the kids across Maryland who are not so lucky. We need this legislation because it engenders education and reduces ignorance, which will help our kids stay safe and allow them to grow into the productive members of society that we all want them to be.
Visit Gender Rights Maryland‘s Facebook page for other snippets of testimony and to keep up-to-date on the status of the bill.