Study shows high rate of discrimination against transgender people in Texas

Mara Keisling

Transgender Texans generally face even higher levels of discrimination than transgender people nationwide, according to a state-level breakout from a national study conducted last year.

Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas released the state-level figures Tuesday from the study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. The full national study is available online, and results from the Texas study are below. The national study included 266 Texas respondents.

In Texas, transgender people faced higher rates of harassment and assault in school. Nationally, 78 percent reported being harassed, but in Texas 85 percent faced harassment. Physical assault was also higher in the state at 46 percent compared to 35 percent nationally. Sexual assault in school was comparable at 12 percent nationally and 9 percent in Texas.

Texas doesn’t have LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination or anti-bullying laws. The state’s hate crimes law covers gays and lesbians but not transgender people.

Equality Texas called the rates of workplace discrimination in the state “alarming.” Chuck Smith, Equality Texas interim executive director, said the report graphically demonstrates the discrimination faced by transgender Texans.

“In our state, where the right of self-determination is so valued, it is unconscionable that anyone would be denied the ability to earn a living, to live where they choose or to be educated,” Smith said. “Equality Texas calls on the members of the Texas Legislature to join us in working to ensure that all Texans are given the ability to live as their authentic selves.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said some states have made a lot of progress toward ensuring safety, jobs and homes for transgender people. But she said “this research points out persistent gaps in the fair and equal treatment of transgender people.”

According to the report:

—  David Taffet

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

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

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.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Rep. Mike Villarreal talks about Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act


Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio introduced the Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act in the Texas House of Representatives (HB655).

The bill will be heard by the Small Business and Economic Development Committee. Most LGBT-related bills are sent to the state affairs committee where they promptly die.

If enacted, this Texas employment non-discrimination law would prohibit employers, employment agencies and unions from using an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression as the basis for employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotions, compensation or from subjecting an individual to different standards or treatment based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Religious organizations are exempt from the law and would be free to continue discriminating. No preferential treatments or quotas would be established in hiring.

According to a poll conducted for Equality Texas by Glengariff Group, 75 percent of Texas would support a law that made it illegal to deny housing or fire someone because of their sexual orientation. That same poll found that 69 percent of Texans would support a law that similarly protected transgender people.

—  David Taffet

Activists gather from across Texas to lobby for anti-bullying legislation and more

David and Amy Truong (standing, center) lobbied with 350 LGBT activists and allies from across the state in Austin

About 350 people gathered to lobby for anti-bullying legislation among other bills that would benefit the LGBT community. Among those at lobby day were David and Amy Truong, parents of Asher Brown who committed suicide in September, and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns.

The day was organized by Equality Texas along with 58 partner organizations from across the state. From Dallas Youth First Texas, Resource Center Dallas, Hope for Peace and Justice and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce were among the participating organizations.

Not all of the partners were specifically LGBT groups. Atticus Circle is a group founded in 2004 as a place for straight allies to organize for LGBT family rights.

First United Methodist Church on Lavaca Street across from the Capitol hosted Equality Texas for breakfast, a lobby day training session and lunch.

At a press conference on the Capitol steps, Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston announced that he refiled his anti-bullying bill as Asher’s Law. State Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio spoke about his Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

The Truongs spoke about stopping bullying. Amy Truong said that no parent should go to work in the morning and come home to find police tape around their house. Along with Burns, they met legislators who are key to moving the bills through the House and Senate.

—  David Taffet

Obama again mentions ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in State of the Union, but not gay marriage

HRC welcomes comments; GetEQUAL sees missed opportunity

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

President Barack Obama once again brought up the issue of gays in the military during his annual State of the Union address. Last year, he called for repeal of the federal law barring openly gay people from serving. This year, just a month after having signed a bill to repeal that law, the president urged universities which have barred military recruiters over the gay ban now allow recruiters back on campus.

“Our troops come from every corner of this country — they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

That drew applause.

“And with that change,” continued Obama, “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.”

That drew a brief standing ovation.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese welcomed President Obama’s words concerning the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” but added that “there remain a number of pressing issues for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when it comes to economic security.”

“The President and Congress can do much more to ensure the economic empowerment of LGBT people including ending the unfair taxation of partner health benefits, prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and ensuring that all married couples have access to the same federal benefits and protections for their families,” said Solmonese, in a statement released before the president delivered his address to Congress. “We look forward to working with this President and allies in Congress on the challenges ahead.”

But Robin McGehee, director of the activist group GetEQUAL, expressed disappointment.

“Tonight, President Obama missed an opportunity to lay out an agenda and strategy that continues progress made toward LGBT equality – removing the burden of being second-class citizens and acknowledging our families,” said McGehee, in a statement.

“Sadly, while national hero Daniel Hernandez sat with the First Lady to witness this historic speech, he did not have the luxury of sitting there as an equal – for that, our elected officials should be ashamed. It is time for the President to put the power of the White House behind the passage of legislation that would give the right of full federal equality to LGBT Americans. As a community, it is our promise and our obligation to continue the work of holding both the President and Congress accountable for the inalienable human rights, dignities, and freedoms we all deserve.”

He did not, as some LGBT activists had urged, set a new goal for Congress — repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

President Obama did include an openly gay man as one of his special guests in the House visitors’ gallery Tuesday night.

The man was Daniel Hernandez Jr., who was singled out by many news accounts as one of the heroes to take action during the Jan. 8 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. Hernandez, who was serving as an intern in Giffords’ Tucson office, rushed to her side and provided first aid that many have said saved the congresswoman’s life.

A number of Twitter messages from various people noted that Tuesday was also Hernandez’s 21st birthday. One Twitter message was from the account of Rep. Giffords, saying: “From the entire Giffords team: Happy 21st Birthday Daniel Hernandez! Sounds like you have fun plans tonight.”

CNN indicated it was the first Twitter message from Rep. Giffords’ account since she was critically injured in a shooting January 8. Giffords is still recovering from her wounds and is at a rehabilitation hospital in Houston.

Cameras scanning the gallery showed Hernandez early during the broadcast of the State of the Union. But Hernandez appeared to be standing near the back of the gallery, not seated near First Lady Michelle Obama, as expected.

In response to concerns about the hostile political environment, many members of Congress eschewed the usual seating arrangement of Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other, and sat together.

Three of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices chose not to take seats at all and did not attend the State of the Union address. They were the three most conservative — Justices Antonin Scalia, Sam Alito, and Clarence Thomas.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

If Obama fails to mention us in the SOTU, at least you can drown your sorrows at the Brick

President Barack Obama

Some LGBT advocates are calling on President Barack Obama to come out for marriage equality in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Others, however, say Obama should talk about anti-gay bullying. Bullying certainly seems more likely, but would it be too much to ask for Obama to address marriage (DOMA), bullying AND workplace discrimination (ENDA)?

In any case, you can take in the SOTU and wash it down with a few $2 Skyy Vodkas at the Brick, where Stonewall Democrats is hosting a watch party. From Facebook:

Come join Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and hear President Obama give the State of the Union address.
Social hour 7pm to 8pm
State of the Union 8pm
The Brick will show the address on their super large screen and just for SDD $2 Skyy Vodka drinks!
Come one and bring a friend or 2 or 10!
For more info please contact:
Travis Gasper at travisgasper@gmail.com or
Omar Narvaez at omar@stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org

—  John Wright

5 of the 12 House Democrats from Texas have failed to sign on as co-sponsors of ENDA

Cuellar, Green, Ortiz, Rodriguez voted in favor of 2007 bill

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, currently has 202 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The bill needs 216 votes to pass the House.

Five House Democrats who are uncommitted on ENDA — and haven’t signed on as co-sponsors — are from Texas. Four of those five voted in favor of ENDA in 2007, when the bill didn’t include gender identity.

HRC this week unveiled Countdown 2010, a grassroots initiative aimed at urging congressional action on both ENDA and  repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” And HRC listed Texas as one of the states where it will be focusing its efforts on ENDA.

This is a likely indication that HRC believes these five Democrats need to hear from their constituents about supporting a fully inclusive ENDA — and that they need to hear from them soon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised a vote on ENDA by the end of the year.

With that, here are phone numbers for the Washington offices of the five House Democrats from Texas who haven’t signed on as ENDA co-sponsors. If you live in one of their districts, you may want to give them a call. You may also want to contact them via the Countdown 2010 website. All except for Chet Edwards voted in favor of ENDA in 2007.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Laredo, Mission, Rio Grande City, San Antonio, Seguin): 202-225-1640

Rep. Chet Edwards (Waco, Bryan, Cleburne): 202-225-6105

Rep. Gene Green (Houston, Baytown): 202-225-1688

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (Corpus Christi, Brownsville): 202-225-7742

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (San Antonio, Eagle Pass, Fort Stockton, Del Rio): 202-225-4511

—  John Wright

Open letter to Pelosi

Calling on the Speaker of the House to keep her promise on ENDA

We are writing to express how extremely troubled we are that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives. We believe a floor vote must be scheduled for ENDA immediately.

It would be devastating for LGBT workers for this Congress to not complete its work on ENDA before the end of this session.

ENDA would be historic in the number of LGBT people who would benefit from its passage. During this economic crisis, it is more important than ever to prohibit the often-impoverishing effects of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Most LGBT workers have no protections from workplace discrimination. ENDA would provide legal protection against discrimination nationally.

Over and over we have been promised that a vote would be scheduled on ENDA, and these promises have been repeatedly broken. In 29 states, it is still legal to fire someone solely because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. And in 38 states it is legal to fire someone solely for being transgender.

The current version of the bill would outlaw discrimination on both sexual orientation and gender identity.

A 2006 study by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Transgender Law Center found that 60 percent of transgender people in San Francisco earn less than $15,300 per year; only 25 percent have a full-time job, and nearly 9 percent have no source of income.

Only 4 percent reported making more than $61,200, which is about the median income in the Bay Area.

More than half of local transgender people live in poverty, and 96 percent earn less than the median income. Forty percent of those surveyed don’t even have a bank account.

What this study reveals is that even in a city that is considered a haven for the LGBT community, transgender workers face profound employment challenges and discrimination.

A 2007 meta-analysis from the Williams Institute of 50 studies of workplace discrimination against LGBT people found consistent evidence of bias in the workplace. The analysis found that up to 68 percent of LGBT people reported experiencing employment discrimination, and up to 17 percent said they had been fired or denied employment.

Public opinion polling shows that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of making sure LGBT Americans get the same employment opportunities as everyone else. In fact, the latest surveys shows that nearly 90 percent of Americans support workplace fairness for LGBT workers.

As you know, in a few weeks, Congress will finish it’s legislative business for the year so that they can return to their districts to run for re-election. Last month at a LGBT Pride event, Congresswoman Jackie Spier announced to the LGBT community that not only would we not get ENDA before the end of the legislative session, that she did not think we would get it for five years because we won’t have enough votes in Congress again to ensure passage.

It is ironic that Congress plans on leaving town and going home to campaign for their own jobs while leaving thousands of LGBT workers without protections for the next five years. When 90 percent of Americans support workplace fairness, it is challenging to believe that anyone fears a backlash from the voters.

The time to pass ENDA is now. The American people support it; the politicians promised it. No more broken promises. We demand that a vote be scheduled now.

FROM: SF Pride at Work, One Struggle, One Fight, GetEqual, Harvey Milk Democratic Club, El/La, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Pride at Work.

……………………………..

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

CROSSPOINTS panel to address opportunities, pitfalls of being out at work

Dennis Coleman

The opportunities and pitfalls of being out at work will be discussed at this week’s CROSSPOINTS panel discussion at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 1 at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Equality March Texas is coordinating the six-week series, which will take a break next week for the holiday.

Union organizer Mike Lo Vuolo will moderate this week’s panel discussion.

CROSSPOINTS organizer Latisha McDaniel said five people are tentatively scheduled to be on the panel.

Dennis Coleman from Lambda Legal will offer a legal perspective on what rights people have to be out at work and what rights employers have to discriminate pending passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Laura Martin, LGBT community liaison officer for the Dallas Police Department, will give her perspective on being out in an organization with few other out employees.

Binet’s Andi Reis will talk about being an out bisexual.

Louise Young and Rafael McDonnell will talk about Out & Equal employee groups. Young formed the LGBT groups at Texas Instruments and later at Raytheon when they purchased her division from TI. McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at Resource Center Dallas.

“There are plenty of pitfalls to being out at work,” said McDaniel. “But I hope they talk about some of the benefits. Being able to concentrate on your work rather than on people finding out about your personal life.”

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which McDaniel described as the biggest example of workplace discrimination, will also be discussed.

—  David Taffet