Auditions for Resounding Harmony & The Women’s Chorus

Sing it like ya mean it

For those with major vocal talents, tonight could be your night. Think of it. Packed venues, a plethora of like-minded individuals all singing in unison. And those snazzy outfits. The philanthropic-based group Resounding Harmony holds auditions tonight for its fourth season as does The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, as it prepares for its upcoming season. Although each have criteria for auditioning, you shouldn’t have too much problem getting on the process. Unless you’re auditioning for both, then more power to ya.

DEETS: Resounding Harmony auditions at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, 3014 Oak Lawn Ave. 7 p.m. Visit website for more information. To register for TWCD auditions, visit here.

—  Rich Lopez

The Corporate View, Part 3: What the new CEI criteria means for transgender-inclusion, etc.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 3a

Since 2002, the CEI has emerged as the consensus benchmark for LGBT-workplace equality in the U.S. – it’s because of that status that the changes occurring in the criteria this year will have a big impact going forward.

When we started the last decade, 89 companies participated in the survey – and had to answer 10 basic questions. In the last cycle, the number of companies has grown to 477… and the survey now asks detailed questions on 40 specific policies and practices ranging from pension benefits administration to gender transition guidelines.  (377 of these companies scored a 100% rating… and these companies employ 8.3 million full-time workers in the U.S.)

Starting with the 2012 survey (to be sent in by June this year), the standards are higher and will really push companies who want to receive a 100% rating.  Two areas that are of particular interest:  spousal benefits equality & transgender health benefits.

Benefits Parity for Same-Sex families
Parity between employees with different-sex spouses and same-sex partners or spouses in the provision of the following benefits: COBRA; dental; vision; legal dependent coverage; bereavement leave; employer-provided supplemental life insurance for a partner; relocation/travel assistance; adoption assistance; qualified joint and survivor annuity for partners; qualified pre-retirement survivor annuity for partners; retiree healthcare benefits; and employee discounts.

The old criteria only required coverage of 3 or more of the above benefits – and while this may not be a big leap for most companies, it will require that the benefits be explicitly available to same-sex families.

In addition, CEI is now tracking those companies that are now offsetting the disparate federal tax treatment of these benefits for same-sex families.  (Current tax law considers insurance benefits to be “imputed income” even if you are legally married.)

Impact: For companies that are already at 100%, most (if not all) already are at parity – but this change should prompt a review to ensure that the benefits are in place and equally important: employees know about them.  For companies that are just now considering providing benefits to employees with same-sex partners or spouses, there’s no way to just “ease in” – or like the Obama administration, claim provision of benefits when clearly parity isn’t there.
Although no points are allotted for “taxing-up” salaries to eliminate the added tax burden, by including this in the survey (and potentially assigning points in the future), businesses are on notice to do a couple of things:  support changes in the federal tax code that would eliminate the added tax burden on employees (and additional cost of benefits administration to the business) and/or follow the leaders in this area to retain their best and brightest LGBT employees.

Of course, much of this could be completely short-circuited with full marriage equality in the legal sense at the federal level – and frankly, there’s a compelling fiscally conservative argument that says marriage equality would lessen the burden to business by eliminating dual compensation systems – and at the same time help simplify the tax system… not to mention making it easier to move employees around (and handle visa issues for bi-national couples) but I doubt you’ll hear from GOProud on that.

Transgender Health Coverage
Equal health coverage for transgender individuals without exclusion for medically necessary care is required.  This includes removal of “transgender-exclusion” clauses from benefits plans and includes clear language that affirms coverage, including services and benefits related to transition: short term medical leave; mental health benefits; pharmaceutical coverage (e.g., for hormone replacement therapies); coverage for medical visits or laboratory services; and coverage for reconstructive surgical procedures related to sex reassignment. 

To receive full credit in this area, coverage should have no lifetime or annual caps, conform to WPATH Standards of Care (SOC), and address delivery (network adequacy) among other requirements.

Impact:  Even if, as a transgender individual, you neither want nor need GRS, these changes should have a positive impact overall when it comes to medical care.  Removal of the transgender exclusion language that has been a standard for insurance companies can begin to erase the notion that anything transgender-related is “cosmetic” or not really medically necessary.

By requiring conformance of treatment to WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) and ensuring companies address health provider and network adequacy, will also have a large impact – even for those who do not work for companies that provide these benefits.

Adequacy of care – and standards – is something that everyone faces… but for the transgender individual (who is already dealing with enough), the current medical gauntlet is bewildering if not depressing.

WPATH has done a good job of defining SOC, but the health care system has yet to address issues of availability, certification, portability and coverage.  The new CEI criteria put a starting framework around this and are an important start. 

I would like to see WPATH SOC board certification as well as a physicians registry along with governance and monitoring within the health care industry – not something that’s in the CEI area, but to my mind is intertwined.

(See Part 3a for additional details.)

The rest of the changes

With the exception of the new “negative points” section which begins to grapple with anti-LGBT political activities, the rest of the change are more geared toward what I term “creating an inclusive environment”.

Key changes here deal with organizational competence – such as ensuring that new employees have training that includes employment non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies that explicitly include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues (ditto for diversity training for existing employees). 

This is an area that really benefits from having company operations in a state like California or Washington where the anti-harassment training requirements must include LGBT-specific elements in order to pass legal muster.  Most companies buy their training tied to the highest standard they have to legally follow and don’t buy something different for areas in the U.S. where that standard is non-existent or not as rigorous. 

Regardless, my recommendation is to make sure that someone who is LGBT reviews any training before it’s implemented to make sure that it really is inclusive.

One new element calls for allowing employees to self-identify according to sexual orientation and/or gender identity either in the company HR system or in a company survey… checking these systems for adequate privacy protections and opt-in/out procedures will be a must, but the overall thrust is about making sure that employee recruitment and retention efforts specifically include LGBT people.

The requirement for having an LGBT employee group or a firm-wide diversity council that explicitly includes LGBT employees remains – and it’s a critical piece to having the rest of the CEI actually happen.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin