Rights bill must read ‘no transgender left behind’

Wandie Kabule

As an all-inclusive community, it is hypocritical to deny the rights of some to advance the rights of many. All human beings should have the right to be who they are, regardless of race, class, sex or gender. The idea that only a select few will be granted rights is absolutely appalling.

According to Equality California, more than 150 organizations have announced “the launch of a united campaign to win passage of a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” The groups have joined together to protect ENDA and the rights of transgender individuals.

For those not familiar with ENDA, the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce reports that it prohibits an employer from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The only openly gay man in the House of Representatives, Barney Frank, D-Mass., recommended the change to exclude transgender individuals from the employment non-discrimination bill. Frank stated that getting this bill passed would be a sign that we are “making progress.”

Frank has divided the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which needs to be united in this bill.

The only openly gay woman in Congress, Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is introducing an amendment to put transgender individuals back in. She is fighting back, protecting the employment rights of transgender individuals by using the words “gender identity,” instead of “transgender.”

Sexual orientation and gender identity need to be protected to ensure fair work practices. The bill also will protect the rights of those with gender characteristics not associated with their birth sex.

In an interview on National Public Radio, Baldwin stressed that we must “strive together” for equal rights and protections.

The Oct. 22 “Excluding transgenders shouldn’t stop gay bill” article in the Daily Forty-Niner downplayed the importance of transgender rights.

It stated, “With big issues such as this, you really have to learn how to pick your battles and realize you can’t win them all.” If we held that view about most crucial issues, nobody would have rights. Discrimination would run rampant if we simply “picked our battles.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin and religion. As recently as September and October this year, there are cases of discrimination that violate Title VII.

It is very clear that without specifically prescribed discrimination laws, companies will continue to violate basic human rights.

Without protection under the law, transgender individuals face harassment, ridicule and job termination on the sole basis of their gender identity.

Anyone interested in signing a petition to fight for all-inclusive equal rights for the transgender community can find one on the Transgender Law Center’s Web site at transgenderlawcenter.org.

As members of a progressive community, we have a right to at least attempt to “win them all.”

The above column, by Wandie Kabule, appeared in the Daily Forty-Niner (Cal State-Long Beach) Friday.