Above is a screen grab of the transgender-less amendment to Dallas County’s employment nondiscrimination policy that was approved by the Commissioners Court earlier today. The sexual orientation-only amendment can also be found on page 113 of the Commissioners Court Briefing Agenda for today. As we reported earlier, County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, who spearheaded the amendment, said they thought sexual orientation included gender identity/expression, and apparently they didn’t consult with anyone from the LGBT community about the amendment. This includes lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez and gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who both have nondiscrimination policies for their county departments that protect transgender employees. Moreover, no one from the LGBT community contacted Jenkins or Garcia in the last three months to ensure that this amendment was drafted properly and on track for approval. We all share the blame for this, including this newspaper. Now, the Commissioners Court will have to be asked to go back and amend the policy again, which will take months and possibly draw opposition from the religious right — with its bogus claims about restroom abuse. This is extremely unfortunate, but that’s the row the LGBT community must now hoe. An entire segment of the community has been left out of this policy — a segment that is in fact more likely than gays, lesbians or bisexuals to suffer employment discrimination. After the jump is a letter from Resource Center Dallas sent to both Jenkins and Garcia responding to the new policy. If you’d like to contact Jenkins and Garcia to thank them for adding sexual orientation to the policy and ask them to also add gender identity/expression, here is their info:
411 Elm Street, 2nd Floor • Dallas, Texas 75202 • 214.653.7949
Dr. Elba Garcia
411 Elm Street, 2nd Floor • Dallas, Texas 75202 • 214.653-6670
County Commissioner Elba Garcia
Dallas County Commissioner’s Court
411 Elm Street, Dallas, TX 75202 VIA EMAIL
Dear Commissioner Garcia:
On behalf of Resource Center Dallas, we wish to thank you and the Court for voting to expand the County’s nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation. This effort is long overdue and demonstrates a commitment to fairness and equality. We believe the policy should also specifically enumerate protections for gender identity and gender expression. I’d like to discuss this issue with you at your earliest convenience.
I read the post on today’s vote on the Dallas Voice’s website. Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are three separate characteristics. As subject-matter experts who offer diversity training as part of our mission, these are the definitions the Center uses:
• Sexual orientation: A person’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and spiritual attraction to another person.
• Gender identity: A person’s internal and personal sense of being a man or a woman. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same; transgender people may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
• Gender expression: External manifestation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through “masculine,” “feminine” or gender-variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity.
The Center and others in the LGBT community assert that a policy would need to specifically enumerate all three characteristics for maximum effectiveness and protections. It simply makes business sense. As you know, both the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth already offer these protections for their LGBT employees, as does DFW International Airport. Also, a better understanding of the LGBT community will aid Dallas County in employment recruiting and retention, and in serving your diverse public.
You may have seen some of the stories in the Dallas Morning News last summer about the Center’s work with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) as it added gender identity to its nondiscrimination policies. This is part of our ongoing work with businesses, universities and governmental agencies including Dallas ISD, DFW International Airport and TABC as they strive to make their workplaces more inclusive. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Rafael McDonnell | Strategic Communications and Programs Manager, Resource Center Dallas
2701 Reagan St., Dallas, TX 75219