Bil Browning

Naked Emperor Alert: Trans Employment Rights

Filed By Bil Browning | April 18, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Maryland, Mike Miller, state senate, trans employment, trans rights bill

When Maryland State Senate President Mike Miller, the Democrat who was supposed to be on our side during the recent transgender protections battle said this on Maryland Public Emperor_Clothes_01.jpgTelevision's State Circle, people were shocked:

"...The problem is this: I have senators that are not going to hire, uh, people with male sexual organs who wear a dress to serve as receptionists, okay? Umm, and so if they're not going to do it, so if the senators and house members themselves wouldn't hire someone in that category, how can we say to constituents that you've got to do this?"

So when Katrina Rose points out the obvious, I can only nod my head in agreement. When trans folk are regularly excluded from jobs inside of our community, the emperor has no clothes.

We must point this back at those who have given Miller's "legislative peers" license to have this attitude: The Gay Rights Industry™.

What would Miller's "legislative peers" have seen in terms of the Gay Rights Industry's™ opinion of trans people overall (much less trans women) as employee material back in 2001? And is the Gay Rights Industry's™ actual opinion of us really any better now?

Was the NGLTF mouthpiece who testified in Maryland for HB235 this year as an expert on trans issues a trans person?

Do not tell me that even the most transphobic of legislators can't put two and two together; so you have to be willing to acknowledge that fence-sitting, non-psychopaths can do the same math.

Outside of a few exceptions, Gay Inc. is as blindingly white and cisgender as the Out Power 50 list. With so few trans folk in position of leadership in LGB(T) organizations nationally, how can we fix this problem?

That said, Lisa Mottet, the Transgender Civil Rights Project Director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is a huge trans ally and one smart cookie. She's nothing to be sneezed at - and if the point is that gender identity shouldn't matter when hiring someone, how does that factor in for this situation?

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Cathy Brennan | April 18, 2011 6:20 PM

Are you kidding? Where did you ever get the idea that Mike Miller was on our side? Oh, and NO ONE who knows anything about Maryland politics was shocked by this.

The State House's Democratic majorities have been blocked by Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr., who has opposed gay marriage.

But not much longer. "We really feel like 2011 is the year," said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, the state's most prominent gay-marriage lobby group.

Miller has given his blessing to a committee realignment that all but ensures that a gay-marriage measure will make it to the Senate floor during this year's session, which starts Wednesday - and presumably onto the desk of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who pledged last year to sign it.

The important point is that Mike Miller is now on record as saying that any Trans Human Rights, no matter what they are, are inherently "Anti Family". PA or no PA. Employment or no Employment. It makes no difference, and if we try incrementalism, each battle is no easier than the last, and no harder than going for broke.

As Sharon Blackett wrote:

If we are to advance we need change in the Senate, and the current power structure. This is also going to require time and money. Until there is friendly leadership on the Senate JPR and with the Senate President ANY trans rights bill in Maryland is DOA. Regardless of content.
And remember, Mike Miller is notionally a Democrat.

Isn't there supposed to be a party platform on this?

Try looking through

It doesn't help that a senior member of the SEIU and former member of EQMD's board recently referred to Trans people as "Circus Freaks".

It's worth noting that Mike Miller was Senate President in 2001, when Gay,Inc scored its 100% Trans-free victory.

Yes, we must get our act together. We shouldn't discuss details over an open line, but he's vulnerable.

Cathy, way to hijack the comments! This isn't as much about Miller as his words and the naked hypocrisy of Gay Illuminati™ who do not hire transwomen.

and if the point is that gender identity shouldn't matter when hiring someone, how does that factor in for this situation?

Um, the same way affirmative action always works? And also: create a more trans-friendly environment in the organization/company so that people with a variety of gender identities apply for jobs.

Oh Bil this should be a fun thread.

I'm not going to only slam gay inc on this one because there is also transgender inc that works with them. NCTE and NGLTF a marriage made in hell for those who are serious about transsexual rights. Transgender inc has thrown heterosexual TS's under the bus.When you alienate and piss off the largest portion of the transsexual population by doing idiotic things you reap what you sow. It is their actions that have helped the Senator reach his conclusion about not wanting to hire a secretary with male genitals. It is also their actions that have lead to this in Texas!/notes/cristan-williams/speak-up-now-or-never/10150166638700750
It is also their actions that supported HRC throwing us under the bus during the first Enda go round anybody remember Mara Kiesling working towards building a relationship with HRC? If the shoe fits where it.Where are they on issues like the Michigan Music festival? Where are they on the fact that a large percentage of supposedly community supporting groups don't have any heterosexual TS or women of TS history on them? Where are they on letting the world know that heterosexual women of TS history are really just that heterosexual women? Why aren't they pointing to the medical studies that show that this a born as condition and the treatment is transition and surgery? When I hear Lisa Mottet and Mara Kiesling talk about these issues I might begin to believe they give a damn about all TS issues instead of thinking all there out to do is make a buck off them and get a name for themselves.

california panda | April 19, 2011 4:50 AM

I look at it a bit differently. If I can't get or keep a job because of Trans discrimination why should I bother advocating for Gay marriage? Marriage does me absolutely no good if I can't put food on the table or pay my rent. If those who are pushing for marriage want my help or any other people who I can bring along for the ride, then I want something in return. The right to work with with no butthead ignoramous demanding the right to peek under my skirt to see if I'm anatomically correct first. If you don't advocate for me then "right back atcha", sweetcheeks.

Right before that quote that Bil pulled the Democrat said:

I personally believe it’s antifamily, and so I am going to vote against it.

I could understand where the "antifamily" stuff was coming from with gays and lesbians in that we don't form heterosexual families, but trans people? What's anti-family about living your life as a gender you weren't assigned at birth?

My guess is this language is on the shelf, waiting to be taken off an used for anything that's "icky" and there ya go. What a douche.

Zoe, the Republican party since 1964 has consistently come out against ANY advancement in civil rights and when legislation is proposed to roll it back, guess who is front and center on it?

Miller and other Democrats who think like them need to be primary challenged.

The professional gay and trans orgs need to have a wide variety of transpeople involved in their leadership, and not just well to do short term transitioning white transpeople.

If you're going to claim that the TBLG community is a diverse bunch and diversity is this community's strength, its lobbying organizations and the faces that represent it need to reflect that diversity.

The problem is though MD is considered a liberal state it really isn't. Mike Miller comes from a county that handily voted for the Republican challenger for governor. In fact the Democratic governor only won I think it was 4 of the 26 counties in MD but the numbers of voters were larger there and he won by quite a majority. The rest of the state even when electing Democrats elect people like Mike Miller. They are Republican light and a true liberal has no chance of winning. It's just the nature of Maryland politics. The sad part was on both of the marriage equality bill and the transgender rights bill including PA we were sabatoged by supposed liberal members. A few African American legislators got pressure from their churches and not only voted against the bills but backed out as sponsors. Some of the white legislators backed out because of the threat of NOM and the Catholic church. Unfortunately both the Catholic Church and some of the prominant AA churches hold a lot of sway in our state.

I wouldn't say that Lisa Mottet is a friend of the transcommunity, but a friend of the Gay Illuminati™ and their agenda. If memory serves me correctly she was selling the meme that public accommodations weren't that important because Maryland's existing public accommodations had no actual teeth. What she didn't say was that the Maryland legislature was actively trying to STRENGTHEN existing public accommodation protections via HB285.

HB235 was supported by NCTE because the Gay Illuminati™ supports an ENDA strategy that is one of tokenism. I wrote about it here:
These "imperfect" state bills will forge a way forward for an "imperfect" ENDA. When that happens, I will call on NCTE to change its name to the National Center for "Imperfect" Equality.

Chris Daley | April 19, 2011 5:26 PM

This is such a ridiculous comment. Anyone who is honestly looking at the work Lisa has done over the last decade cannot assert that she is not "trans friendly" or a "trans ally." Anyone who does so is being disingenuous.

It is one thing to disagree with positions she has taken or strategies she has employed. In my experience she welcomes those conversations.

However, you lose serious credibility when you turn a policy or strategy disagreement into an opportunity to question her commitment to a community with whom she has worked for nearly ten years (her anniversary at NGLTF is this fall).



Chris, you have to question Lisa's commitment to trans rights when she openly advocates for a bill that trans people in the community tell you won't do the job and one on those transpeople is an IFGE Trinity Award winning attorney.

It's also a head scratcher when the report her own organization compiled in conjunction with NCTE documented the public accommodations problems that transpeople face.

Chris Daley | April 19, 2011 11:59 PM

Monica -

I actually see this discussion differently. I know you are incredibly well informed about work going on around the country and therefore most likely know the following but in case other folks who are reading the comments don't, I want to provide a little background.

I would guess that Lisa has been involved in advocating for well over 200 local or state trans rights laws since she joined NGLTF in 2001. I would further guess that anywhere from 70 - 90% of those laws (if not more) were fully inclusive of public accommodations.

My recollection (and others should correct me if this is wrong) is that the DC ordinance that Lisa helped to author and pass had, at the time, the nation's strongest language supporting a person's right to use gender segregated facilities (including in public accommodation) in the nation. Further (and I'll just have to ask you to take my word for this because the discussions were confidential), I have been in a situation with Lisa where she was nearly a lone voice calling for the expansion of a bill to include more protections than were in the draft language.

Based on that record, I don't agree that it is appropriate to question Lisa's commitment to trans rights. So when Marti calls into question the commitment of someone who arguably has the best track record of advocating for trans rights legislation in the nation's history (and that isn't hyperbole) simply because she isn't transgender, the accusation comes across as disingenuous.

Let's not forget, many transgender people supported the bill as written as the only opportunity available in 2011 to secure important protections for transgender people in Maryland. (In fact, I would guess -- and it is only a guess -- that these supporters included a fair number of award winning transgender attorneys). I have yet to read any supporter of the bill dismiss the need for meaningful public accommodations protections OR argue that they prefer a bill without public accommodations. All I've read is that people sincerely believed that the only Maryland bill that had a chance of getting signed in 2011 was one without public accommodations protections.

If this is what supporters believed, is it fair for them to accuse people who opposed the bill of being less than trans friendly because opposition to the bill shows a blatant disregard for employment protections (widely thought to be the single most important protection transgender people need)? And once this accusation is made, how do people on either side have any kind of real conversation?

I don't think these accusations serve any real purpose. For me, a discussion of what is the best legislative strategy for the community is much more productive. Is it an "all or nothing" strategy? "All or nothing" until the last possible second and then settle for what we can get? Start by proposing and advocating for all inclusive bills but support the bill that our legislative allies think they can pass? Fight for employment protections above everything else (and then include whatever else you can at the same time or come back for it later)?

I think there is a real community discussion that could and should come out of the Maryland experience. However, I think it is going to be really tough to have that discussion if everyone is busy employing accusations that don't reflect reality.

Apologies for the long response. I took the time to write it because I have a lot of respect for you and because I sincerely believe something positive could come from this experience if folks are open to it.

I would guess that Lisa has been involved in advocating for well over 200 local or state trans rights laws since she joined NGLTF in 2001.

Well, in her Maryland Senate committee testimony, she brought out the figure of 100.

Of course, she also talked about those 100 or so laws/ordinances utilizing language that would leave anyone who was not as in-tune with this specific issue as trans activists are with the impression that there was no daylight between HB235 and those other laws/ordinances.

Someone with the "best track record of advocating for trans rights legislation" must be presumed to know precisely what she is saying and how what she is saying is likely to be interpreted by the non-trans-expert ear.

when Marti calls into question the commitment of someone who arguably has the best track record of advocating for trans rights legislation in the nation's history (and that isn't hyperbole)

And how is it that she has been in the position for the last decade to generate that track record for herself? NGLTF - you know, allegedly the anti-HRC - sees no problem with presenting an implicit message to the world: We expect everyone else to be willing to hire trans people, but, even though there are a ton of 'em on the market with the academic and professional experience to do exactly what Mottet doing and present first-person narratives of discrimination while doing so (I guess I'm the only person who saw Prof. William Eskridge's testimony to Congress in support of ENDA which also included his own personal story of being driven away from a law profesorship because of being gay), we're going to stick with the non-trans person, because, know. Wink. Wink.

In the past I've used this illustration:

Remember in the run-up to the 2000 elections? When gay conservative were falling all over themselves to support George W. Bush, justifying that support with the delusion that there was no proof whatsoever that he was actually anti-gay? Well, what if - all other things being equal - he had turned out to be the stealth pro-gay candidate that those gay conservatives were asserting/implying that he was? What if he had supported - and achieved DOMA repeal? DADT repeal? An inclusive ENDA?

While that would all have been nice, it wouldn't alter one nagging piece of reality: He lost. The process that put him into the White House in 2001 was illegitimate and everyone knows it.

And that's where you, and everyone else, trans and non-trans alike, are who respond to this issue in any manner by pointing out that the non-trans people who occupy jobs in the gay rights industry that competent, experienced, non-insta-token - but un/under-employed by virtue of being trans - trans people could be filling are competent, experienced and possessing of credentials that apparently nullify any right that we rabble may have ever had to question whose agenda those people and their employers are actually working on.

Ten years ago - you know, not long after NGLTF hired Mottet - a board member of her organization showed up at a community meeting in Minneapolis following the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision in Goins v. West Group and said that one way to prevent such abominable decisions from occurring in the future is with more education on trans issues. I went up to her after the meeting and suggested that one way to further such educational efforts would be for organizations such as hers to hire trans people to do some of that educating. The look on her face in response to that was similar to that we see on Maggie Gallagher's face when someone calls NOM homophobic - like I'd sodomized her dog with a curling iron. To say that she immediately got overly defensive would be an understatement - first launching into a 'how do you know that we don't have any...' but stopping, something I've always presumed was because she knew that she really couldn't go there.

It wasn't because her emperor had no clothes.

Oh, her emperor and the others actually did have clothes - and still do.

But, as is the case with most nobility, such emperors aquire those clothes with resources that they take away from the people who need them the most.

And now, I'm off to England for the royal wedding - to make a bit of extra money by being a piece of human furniture at the post-wedding party for Prince Willie's regiment.

For me, a discussion of what is the best legislative strategy for the community is much more productive. Is it an "all or nothing" strategy? "All or nothing" until the last possible second and then settle for what we can get? Start by proposing and advocating for all inclusive bills but support the bill that our legislative allies think they can pass? Fight for employment protections above everything else (and then include whatever else you can at the same time or come back for it later)?
Absolutely. Whatever works.

We now know what doesn't work. Stripping out all but the minimum provisions still doesn't get the bill passed.

Living with the current crop in power, and watering down the bills won't get them passed.

Our only chance is to change the power structure. If we can do that, it will be no harder passing an inclusive bill than an anaemic one.

Chris Daley | April 20, 2011 8:07 AM

Zoe -

these are comments on which we can have a discussion. I actually don't draw the same lesson from Maryland that you do. It is not my understanding that the lead sponsor promised passage if public accommodations were removed. I understand her to have promised a bill with a greater likelihood of passage. It's possible that a bill with public accommodations would have never made it out of the House.

I do agree, though, that those Senators who voted to table the bill must be held accountable between now and the next session. To the degree possible, some may need to be challenged by a candidate with a greater commitment to equality. At the very least, though, community members with support from allies need to be in touch with these folks and let them know their votes were unacceptable and that any concerns they have (real or those they cite for cover) can be addressed.

"If we can do that, it will be no harder passing an inclusive bill than an anaemic one." I have to add that I have no idea why the Maryland bill would be considered "anemic." During the six years that I was at the Transgender Law Center, my colleagues and I spoke to more than 5,000 transgender people from all parts of California. My recollection is that the most common questions we got were about identity documents. Employment rights were second. Public accommodations, though, were a very small percentage of the calls.

Don't get me wrong, we got some calls and took some cases. And in our initial 2003 survey, Trans Realities, public accommodations were voted as the third most important issue by respondents. However, in terms of numbers of incidents of discrimination and impact that discrimination had on the community member, the issue fell far back in the pack.

I can understand why the Maryland bill could be labeled incomplete or inadequate. But, based on my experience of day-to-day contact with a diverse cross section of the community, "anemic" is not a word I'd consider using. we say in the Lone Star state, that Incremental rights dog won't hunt anymore.

In the 2K10's new rules. Education on trans issues to be done by the people who intimately know what it's like to be trans, the issues we face, and who will b affected by those laws.

When we do get the opportunity to pass a trans law, it will be comprehensive, airtight, have enforcement teeth for violating it and FIX the problems we deal with.

No more crumbs...