The Time is Now
Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., transgender people will speak before Congress about the devastating and pervasive problem of gender identity discrimination. What is so extraordinary (and at the same time so ordinary) about this hearing is that for the first time sitting before Congress will be a line-up of people who can speak to this issue with undeniable authority—authority that comes from the authenticity of lives lived as trans citizens in a nation where they are exposed to the most blatant and wrenching discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
NCLR'S Legal Director Shannon Price Minter will be among those who testify on the more technical aspects of the law. Diego Sanchez of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts will tell his story about being adopted, of being brought to this country as an immigrant child, and about pursuing the employment opportunities available in the U.S. as a transgender man. Sabrina Taraboletti will testify about losing her career in the space program after announcing that she would be transitioning. Also testifying is Diane Schroer, a terrorism analysis expert who was denied a job she had already been offered at the Library of Congress when she told them she was transgender, and whose case is still pending in the federal courts.
It is no accident that this hearing is taking place only a month or so following the creation of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis. 2nd) and Barney Frank (D-Mass. 4th) and with a bi-partisan membership. The Caucus demonstrates clear leadership on these issues, and signals that more—more work and more advocacy—is coming. Get ready, Congress.
Special acknowledgment and thanks for this historic event must go to Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Mara has been front and center in every facet of planning and preparing for this groundbreaking hearing, from briefing congressional staff, to collecting stories of discrimination from transgender constituents in the home districts of every committee member, to preparing witnesses. If it were not for Mara’s visionary leadership and tireless advocacy for the needs and interests of transgender people, this day would not be happening and the gains we’ve made would be far less notable. The entire LGBT community owes an incredible debt of gratitude to Mara for the dignity, brilliance, and grace with which she has led the charge to secure federal protections for transgender people.
In addition to the National Center for Transgender Equality, I want to acknowledge the tremendous advocacy of our dear colleagues at the ACLU, the Transgender Law Center, The Task Force, and the entire United ENDA coalition—whose effective lobbying on Capitol Hill helped bring us to this moment. It is past time that Congress paid serious attention to this problem, and for convening this hearing we can thank Chair Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J. 1st) of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.
We all have great reason and hope to believe that this will be the first step in ending the pervasive discrimination endured by our transgender brothers and sisters. Significant strides forward are possible, and as a community, we need to approach the new Congress united on the legislative front. I hope you will join NCLR in recommitting ourselves at this moment to work for an ENDA that protects all of us in this next Congress—the work on that effort needs to be happening in earnest right now. We should use the summer, especially, to contact our members of Congress and hold in-district meetings. Members of Congress need to hear from you—their constituents. Don’t wait for someone to call and organize you—call your member of Congress today to get a meeting set up during the Congressional recess. Timing is everything, and we don’t have a moment to spare. The history we make now means a better future for all of us.