The following is a guest post by Sharon Brackett, Board Chair for Gender Rights Maryland. It was originally published in Baltimore OUTloud on November 16, 2012 and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Note from Laurel: Just as those of us in blue states must not forget the ongoing struggles of our friends and family in purple and red states, being a responsible member of the LGBT family means more than including T folks in Pride events and acronyms. It means not getting lazy in states like MD and MA where we LGBs “got ours” while our T sisters and brothers still remain 2nd class citizens. Take a well-deserved break, enjoy the celebration of the recent election results, then come back rested and ready to see to some unfinished civil rights business in January.
Written by Sharon Brackett; Board Chair- Gender Rights Maryland
As we are all now aware the election of 2012 was a watershed event for the LGB and T community. Marriage rights established in four* states, an out lesbian U.S. Senator, openly gay and lesbian, and even transgender candidates elected throughout the nation. And, of course, the biggest win, the return of Barak Obama to the White House. By all measures a huge success obtained on very narrow margins.
In Maryland, of course, we passed Marriage Equality, something I worked for along with so many others to make a reality. And now it is here. Come this January anybody can marry anybody. And that is great news for Trans folk as well. But it is not the end of our journey.
2012 has seen many great strides for Trans folk. The EEOC decision which effectively makes employment discrimination of Trans people no longer acceptable nationwide, which means they will take your case in any EEOC office, right now. The ruling last December by the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that declared that Trans people are protected by the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. The inclusion of Trans folk in Obamacare. And, of course, the removal from the DSM-5 of Gender Identity as a disorder—something that was done for gay and lesbian folks in 1973. And the enactment of Trans protections in Howard and Baltimore Counties as well as many many other policy changes at the federal level that have propelled Trans issues ahead. And despite this, we are so far behind.
Trans folk in our state have “Balkanized” protections. We only have civil rights protections in three counties and the City of Baltimore. You might be protected at home but not at work. Even with the EEOC decision on employment there remains the fact that our state has not codified in law the policies that are already in effect with the federal government.
There is no state or federal protection for housing unless you are in federally funded HUD housing. There are no state or federal protections for Public Accommodation. An inclusive ENDA will not change that. Something our LGB friends take for granted. But it runs deeper.
Trans folk do not have treatment coverage under most employer health insurance plans. Treatment which is often specifically excluded in that coverage for medically necessary surgeries, despite endorsements from the AMA and other responsible bodies. Trans people are systematically victimized by law enforcement and the courts. Certainly in the criminal justice system but especially so in the family court system that often strips parental rights or finds blame and exacts financial punishment for the transitioning spouse in a divorce. And of course there are the regular, and frequent, reports of the ultimate denial of civil rights, violence against and the murder of Trans people.
I have always made note of the differences between LGB and T communities. For the LGB community the biggest event of the year is usually Pride. A grand celebration often held with great fanfare with festivals, parades, concerts, and merriment. It truly is a happy holiday. The biggest event in the Trans community is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) held on Nov. 20th each year. It is the day that we honor, recognize and name our dead usually with candlelight vigils. A stark contrast. I hope someday that we come to a TDoR date and have no names to read other than those lost by accident, illness or old age. But I know that will probably not happen for decades or a generation or two. I will likely never see it.
And so as we all bask in the warm afterglow of friends being able to say “I do” and know that being gay and in politics is OK I worry that everybody will now fold their tents and call the job done. It looms large and I guess we will see shortly where attentions lie. So my challenge to our LGB friends is that now that you have what you wanted are you going to be ready join us in obtaining what we need and require and support us in obtaining that which you already have? Our basic civil rights.
In Baltimore the TDoR observance will be held Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, 12 W. Franklin Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. I hope to find you all present.
*Editor’s note: While freedom-to-marry advocates were victorious in all four states with marriage-related measures on the Nov. 2012 ballot, marriage rights were established only in Washington, Maryland and Maine. Minnesota voters soundly rejected an anti-equality constitutional amendment, but the state still has a heterosexual-only marriage law in place.