Friday, September 28, 2007

The Problem with ENDA

Well, Barney Frank is about to have his way, and attempt to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act without including gender identity as a protected class. He argues, as he has for years, that Congress is just not ready to include "transgender" people.

Unfortunately, Frank has a point.

The "transgender" activists are reaping what they have sown. Transgender is a very broad term, so broad as to be effectively meaningless. And the terminology used in most laws protecting "transgender" people is deliberately vague, so as to be as inclusive as possible. The problem is, not all "transgender" behavior is equal. What most people probably envision when speaking of "transgender inclusion" is protecting people who are transsexual, and who are either in the process of transition, or who are post-transition. What the law, unfortunately would do, is extend protection to just about anything that can be claimed as related to "gender identity." For example, it would theoretically protect crossdressers who suddenly decide to show up for work dressed as a woman.

The law only seems to have two limitations. It does not apply to churches and it would not force people to share facilities where total nudity is inevitable. It does not contain any provisions that would prevent people from effectively deciding what their "gender identity" is on a daily, or even more frequent, basis. Imagine if an employee is a crossdresser and insists that when the mood strikes "him," he will show up for work dressed "en femme." Now, some might say, "So what?" And in some cases, that might be a legitimate question. But suppose he is in a position that requires public contact, and well, his appearance is a bit less than credible. Imagine that problems that might cause for his employer.

Sadly, we have a situation where there is not good outcome. If the law passes with the current provisions for protecting "transgender" people, it will create a nightmare situation that may well result in serious backlash. If it passes without those protections, then any and all discrimination, including that against peoeple with legitimate medical needs, such as those with Harry Benjamin Syndrome, will become totally legal anywhere where there are not already laws in place.


Jackie said...

You make a good point about clear language. Yet, there are about a half dozen states with laws protecting gender-related identity in the workplace and the language seems to be clear enough to work fine.
Didn't ENDA have a "dress code" provision that addressed and would remedy the casual crossdresser problem?
I would think it possible to include gender language clear enough to include transpeople in a federal law.
I am lesbian, not transgender, but I know the contributions of the Trans community to the GLBT efforts over the years and I am unwilling to hang that community out to dry.

Just Jennifer said...

Yes, Jackie, you are correct. ENDA, as currently written, does include just such a provision. I should have checked that out, but instead, I reacted to some of the more outrageous claims made about the bill by some among the religious right.

LT said...

When you talk of the term TG being too broad consider this, The gay and lesbian community not only includes Gays and lesbians but also bisexuals, Queer culture, queer questioning and basically anyone whom wants to indenify. There are many trans folk who identify as gay and lesbian or queer. We have been part of the LGBT community for many years and why should we let one organisation and our goverment devide us now.

I feel we need to do everything in our power to force the ENDA bill to fail as long as the "T" is left out. This is our once in a lifetime chance to get this important piece of legislation passed. If we don't get it right we may never have a chance like this for a very long time to come and may never see it in our lifetime. I'm very disgusted in what the HRC has done to us here. I feel we need to actively block every bill going forward that has the "T" left out.

MamaR said...

"I am lesbian, not transgender, "

My understanding is the term transgender has changed from it's inception to where it is today.
Today just about everyone walking the earth could be consider transgender in one way, or one time, or another, including those who are lesbian.

This is because now the term encompasses what society says is not "normal" gender behaviour. As such most of society are straight, there for women loving women, men loving men etc all fit which makes the term too hard to list all those who might be considered to be under that umbrella.

Funny the mention of the gay and lesbian community encompassing others, if one remembers that history it used to be one umbrella, homosexual, which that community found wasn't how they wished to be referred to.

Gay was adopted then lesbian created, since the women wanted to be specifically identified for their differences.

At that time I don't recall this whole argument about why they can't be recognised as separate entities.

So why the huge issue with recognising the differences here if we can see queer, questioning, bisexual, lesbian, gay?