Suggested reading for county commissioners: Trans woman’s testimony on Texas ENDA

Posted on 30 Mar 2011 at 8:45pm
Meghan Stabler

On the same day that Congressman Barney Frank announced plans to re-introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a state version of ENDA was heard by a Texas House committee today. Testifying in favor of the bill, HB 665 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, were transgender woman Meghan Stabler of Round Rock, who’s a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors;  and Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas. No one testified against the bill, which was left pending in the House Economic & Small Business Development Committee.

Stabler sent over the full text of her prepared remarks, which we’ve posted after the jump. We should note that this is recommended reading for all members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

“I had previously submitted my testimony, but felt that it was important to deviate from reading it in order to capture the committee,” Stabler writes. “It worked, to the point of me seeing a few tears in their eyes once they understood that their fellow Texans are discriminated against. I had several questions from the members, and even when the session closed five of them remained behind to congratulate me for my testimony and to address further questions. Texas, this is the beginning of change.”

Economic & Small Business Development Committee

Texas 82nd Legislature Regular Session

House Bill No. 665

“Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act”

Prepared Oral Testimony of

Meghan Stabler

March 30, 2011

Thank you Chairman Davis, Vice-Chairman Vo, and Members of the Committee for allowing me the opportunity to testify before you today and to answer questions you may have. I am in favor House Bill No. 665, introduced by Rep. Villarreal, critical but incredibly simple legislation relating to the “prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

My testimony, and that of others, is given in the hope that you move forward with workplace protections, for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans and help stop discrimination in any aspect of employment.

My name is Meghan Stabler I am an IT business executive, a transsexual woman, and a transgender fairness and equality advocate. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national LGTB civil rights organization. I am also a member of HRC’s National Business Council, which is a group of business executives that provides real-world examples, advice and expert counsel on LGBT workplace issues based on corporate experience and knowledge, to the Human Rights Campaign.

As the saying goes, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as quick as I could.” I am proud to have become both a US Naturalized Citizen and to call myself a Texan. I live with my female partner in Round Rock, Texas. We are also labeled as a Lesbian couple and I have a 17 year old daughter. As I mentioned I am an IT Executive where several years ago as their technology and customer facing strategists I transitioned from male to female whilst on the job. It wasn’t easy.

The need for the protections offered in HB 665 is real. In particular for transgender Americans there is extensive evidence that transgender employees are regularly harassed, fired, not hired, and passed over for advancement without regard to their merit.

I experienced discrimination during and, following my transition from male to female. Let me share my story.

Since my earliest memories I felt different.

I did not feel right about my gender, “trapped in the wrong body,” so to speak.

This is known medically as Gender Identity Disorder.

Simply put, my emotional and psychological gender was not in alignment with my genetic, physiological sex. This is not an acquired condition; rather, it is an intrinsic part, a lifelong aspect of my being, something that I, and many others are born with. Despite all of the behaviors that I learned in trying to deny my true identity and feelings, this condition had been the source of unease and discomfort throughout my life. Eventually I received treatment through accepted medical practices for Gender Identity Disorder. While the types of medical or other treatments range widely, I took the necessary steps to change my physical gender from male to female.

Doing so did not change the person I was or my ability to perform my job, or as a matter of fact, any job, but finally dealing with this, lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. As a male in the workplace I enjoyed what I call “entitlements,” I enjoyed a successful career, in meetings I was seen as a leader and I had employment protections. As I began to transition it changed. Initially there was no policy of protection in my place of work, but over time my employer was willing to place EEO and Sexual Harassment policies in place. As a female in the workplace I see the “other side” of the business table, yet with a societal stigmatism labeled upon me as transgender, and like the majority of transgender persons I know, I faced workplace issues.

During my transition, I received a number of job demotions and was no longer a senior executive. As a result, I saw significant salary reductions, along with reductions in my participation and involvement in meetings, business transactions and customer meetings. As a result, I faced a monthly struggle to keep my house payments and related bills, while ensuring that I paid court-ordered child support. I had to use much of my savings to make up shortfalls and bill payments, including my daughter’s educational needs.

It has taken me several years to work my way back up to the level I was at pre-transition.

Having a job is so important to transgender people, without the income we may not have access to essential medications and treatments, or even expensive surgeries that enable us to slip back in to society in the new “legal” gender. Overall, I have been one of the fortunate few, yet I would like to cite a number of examples from friends here in Texas that were not so lucky.

The first is a story of a transgender friend who transitioned over 8 years ago, she was the Chief Technology Officer in a software company based here in Texas. Upon announcing her need to transition from male to female, she was terminated from her position. She faced immediate workplace discrimination. Over the coming months that evolved into years; her life savings dwindled to nothing despite her applying for many jobs at a range of skill levels. Over a 5 year period she was never hired for a job and eventually she relocated from Texas, taking her skills so she could start a new life.

Second is the experience of another good friend of mine, a commercial pilot here in Texas, who was placed on ‘paid-administrative leave’ within two hours of talking to her companies HR executives about her intent to transition from male to female. Within four days, the company asked for her resignation.

The clear national, moral and social trend is in favor of extending nondiscrimination laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression. Regardless of job performance or merit, today, in 38 states, including Texas, it is legal to fire someone because of their gender identity or gender expression and in 29 states, including Texas, because of their Sexual Orientation.

Adding “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression” does not create “special rights.” It simply affords protection from discrimination based on irrational and meritless prejudice. This legislature has already recognized the need for such protections and the appropriateness of such protections by passing and expanding the nondiscrimination statute over many years. All that is at issue today is whether your fellow Texans who are LGBT are recognized and entitled to be free from discrimination, or whether Texas will continue to allow discrimination against us.

The importance of nondiscrimination laws cannot be overstated. Symbolically, they say to citizens of Texas, judge your fellow citizens by their integrity, character, and talents, not their gender identity, or their race or religion, for that matter. These laws also say that irrational hate or fear have no place in Texas’s work place.

Hard-working friends and neighbors should not be denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise be discriminated against just because of their orientation or gender identity. It is time to bring Texas laws in line with the reality of American life and follow what so many other States, local municipalities and city governments have enacted over the last decade. It will also bring State law in line with the corporate world here in this great state.

LGBT Texans are people who can lead incredibly successful, stable lives, are dedicated parents who contribute immeasurably to their communities, this state, and our country.

I know — I am one of them.

Work is central to all of our lives. Our jobs enable us to support our families, develop our talents, contribute to our communities and our country, and realize our dreams. We all share the challenges of an economic downturn. But for far too many hardworking transgender people, those pressures are intensified by the fear that they can be denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise be discriminated against just because of whom they are. LGBT Texans, like everyone else, want their success to reflect their skills, ambition, performance and dedication. But this modest goal is not always a reality.

Because an employer in this state may legally fire, refuse to hire, or fail to promote an LGBT employee we are at a great disadvantage in the workplace.

America’s top corporations and businesses know, in order to remain competitive, they must recruit and retain the best possible talent, including members of the transgender community.

We are a country predicated on equality, occasionally road blocked by discrimination which is overcome through courage and fairness. Over the years, we evolve and embraced a more inclusive vision of what that means for this great country.

Given our country’s current economic condition and unemployment rates, it is even more absurd than ever to marginalize an entire group of workers based on gender identity. Passing HB665 will ensure that everyone can enjoy the freedom of life, succeed in the workplace and contribute to the state of Texas.

A sampling of major corporations headquartered in this state that has adopted non-discrimination policies to protect their LGBT employees include:

Chevron and Shell, Dell and BMC Software, American Airlines and Continental Airlines, Men’s Warehouse and JC Penney , Rice University and State Bar of Texas, Freescale and Texas Instruments.

They join over 337 Fortune corporations across who through policy, and real-world practice, have already assured workplace fairness and equality for LGBT employees. These corporations understand that embracing fairness and diversity is good for business, recruitment and retention.

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to testify today and look forward to addressing any questions you may have.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The following businesses are headquartered in Texas and have non-discrimination policies including sexual orientation and gender identity:

AMR Corp. (American Airlines) Fort Worth

Andrews Kurth LLP Houston

Apache Corp. Houston

AT&T Inc. Dallas

Atmos Energy Corp. Dallas

Baker Botts LLP Houston

BMC Software Inc. Houston

BP America Inc. Houston

Brinker International Inc. Dallas

CC Media Holdings Inc. (Clear Channel) San Antonio

Cinemark Holdings Inc. Plano

Comerica Inc. Dallas

Continental Airlines Inc. Houston

Convio Inc. Austin

CoreLogic Westlake

Dell Inc. Round Rock

DR Horton Inc. Fort Worth

Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. Plano

EGL, Inc. Houston

Freescale Semiconductor Inc. Austin

Fulbright & Jaworski LLP Houston

GameStop Corp. Grapevine

Haynes and Boone LLP Dallas

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. Plano

Kimberly-Clark Corp. Irving

Kinetic Concepts Inc. San Antonio

Men’s Wearhouse Inc., The Houston

National Hispanic Business Association Austin

Rice University Houston

Sabre Holdings Inc. Southlake

Shell Oil Co. Houston

Southwest Airlines Co. Dallas

Spectra Energy Corp. Houston

State Bar of Texas Austin

Texas Instruments Inc. Dallas

Torchmark Corporation McKinney

Vinson & Elkins LLP Houston

Waste Management Inc. Houston

Whole Foods Market Inc. Austin

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