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July 7, 2012

Beyond Politics: LGBT Workplace Discrimination

By Joshua Fisher

A piece on the current catastrophe of workplace discrimination that people face based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Why ENDA won't work and why we must move beyond politics.


What are the stresses of going to work? Having to get up at an hour you don't want to? That it'll be a slow day? Or a busy day? Maybe you have a rude customer or you're the one who gets to clean the bathrooms? But then pay day rolls around and you get that check. The check that will feed you and your family, the paycheck that will pay for that show you want to see, that new car you want, or whatever it may be. And you feel confident that you'll stay at your position, with reasonable upward mobility, based on merit and ability, right?  

If you answered yes to that last question then you are a heterosexual cisgender person (If you are cisgender, then your identity matches your sex). Current workplace discrimination laws do not protect people based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

Now you might say, "So what? None of that is relevant to your work environment, go to work and do your job and worry about all of that on your own time."

But consider the Transgender person who has to use the unfinished restroom one floor down, because of their gender identity. Or the person who has to leave their workplace completely, so that they may use the restroom.

And if you don't think that's a big deal, then please feel welcome to leave your place of employment every time you have to use the facilities.

According to workplacefairness.org there are five ways you can be discriminated against for your gender identity and I'd like to discuss each of these.

"Many pre-operative transsexuals (transgender people) are fired the moment their employers find out about their plan to undergo sex reassignment surgery."

This causes a lot of problems. Sure, if you're a well to do youth at your first time, part time job, this may not be a big concern. But for a lot of Transgender people, they put their personal lives aside to 'get ahead' and they aren't losing jobs, but careers. And this is a problem. This discrimination is the discrimination that costs people their livelihoods. According to surgeryencyclopedia.com sex reassignment surgery (SRS) can cost any where from $7,000 - $50,000 dollars, depending on your gender. This excludes the cost of hormone replacement therapy and regular therapy, both of which you are required to pursue by law before getting SRS. (Don't forget to consider the lack of coverage Transgender people face in their healthcare plans, if they can afford healthcare at all.)

What if this is a dichotomy, what if Transgender people only have two choices, lose their job, or suppress their gender identity? Science suggests that suppression of one's gender identity can often lead to suicidal thoughts, and in the mindset of living in capitalist America, losing your job can cause serious depression as well. According to msnbc.com 41% of transgender people in the U.S. have attempted to commit suicide (which is 25% higher than the rate of the 'general population' as msnbc.com puts it) while 19% have reported being refused medical care because of their gender nonconforming status.

"Transgender people who attempt to wear clothing appropriate to their gender identity are disciplined, reassigned or terminated, based on a failure to conform to a company dress code policy that makes no effort to accommodate transgender individuals." I don't have a lot to say on this one, but I'll say to anyone who says, "They're just clothes! It's not a big deal." to a transgender person, consider saying that to the employer/manager/boss person. Because if the outfit doesn't hinder the ability of the person to do their job, then it shouldn't be a problem, for the employer, whereas suppression of one's identity is a problem for the employee. This is true if the person is Transgender, a crossdresser, genderqueer or just gender non-conforming. Clothes are clothes, but that's a different piece for a different time.

"Transgendered people have been refused access to workplace restroom facilities and harassed by coworkers and supervisors on the basis of their gender identity."

Workplacefairness.org gave me a two-fer on this one. One of which I've already discussed (restroom discrimination).

Harassment. Hostileworkenvironmentguide.com defines harassment as, "..an act committed by a person that makes another feel uncomfortable, offended, intimidated or oppressed."

People are harassed in the workplace for their gender identity and sexual orientation. They are held from promotions, they are taunted, being called things like, 'faggot' and 'queer', they are being refused access to restrooms, being told to dress against their gender identity and even being fired.

This is not equality.

And this brings me to the final point of the five mentioned on workplacefairness.org:

Many transgendered and gender-variant people are denied equal treatment in public accommodations, which can affect their ability to successfully function in the workplace. For example, transgendered people have been asked to leave restaurants, hotels, stores, medical facilities, and educational institutions. This discrimination may make it difficult, if not impossible, to successfully perform one's job.

All of this to say that this needs to move beyond politics. While breath is being held, if even that much is being done, waiting to see if ENDA will even come out of committee, people are being fired, harassed, suppressed and repressed in the workplace for no other reason then because of who they love or how they identify.

We don't need to wait for politicians in Washington, or in any city or state. We need to write to our editors to raise awareness. If you work for any small business, company or corporation that hasn't adopted a policy against workplace discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, talk to the owner, write to the shareholders or the CEO and demand equality. If you know someone being discriminated against in your workplace, by employees or the employer, stand up for them. Gather together a coalition in your community of people against workplace discrimination. Target places of discrimination and provide support to anyone wanting to come out at work.

People have power, this is beyond politics, this has to do with people's livelihoods and there lives. I hope you'll consider taking action.

Gender Identity Discrimination

Transgender Americans Face High Suicide Risk

Sex Reassignment Surgery

The Plain English Definition of Workplace Harassment

Submitters Website: http://www.longhairedpoet.blogspot.com

Submitters Bio:

I am a now 20 year old College student. According to PoliticalCompass.org I am an Anarcho-Collectivist which is something I strongly agree with. However I have a strong fascination with electoral politics. I guess I hope that one day they will actually work for the people, instead of the multi-national corporations. And that is a significant part of my crusade. I am against the big corporations that run the media, that own our politicians and that are behind the Military-Industrial complex that keeps us in perpetual war. I also advocate for an education that makes people independent of the system we currently live in. By teaching them how to grow their own food and by teaching them things like carpentry, sewing and cooking. Also, as a Lesbian Transgender, I am a strong advocate of ACTUAL LGBT* Rights. The right to marry is important, of course, but so are fair treatment and equal rights of the Trans* community in prisons, when it comes to buying homes and seeking employment and when it comes to adoption (which is something that the entire community is facing discrimination on). Lastly, I understand and accept my privilege as a middle - class Caucasian and I work everyday to use that privilege to better this world for everyone and not just myself.