Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Mikola De Roo , April 30, 2014
Hundreds of New York LGBT activists and members of the Transgender Rights Coalition—Housing Works advocates, volunteers, and clients among them—came together outside the Capitol for the state’s largest LGBT advocacy day, Equality & Justice Day 2014.
A crowd of over 300 New Yorkers—among them Housing Works advocates, volunteers, and clients; our allies at Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), and other LGBT activists and members of the Transgender Rights Coalition—gathered in front of the Capitol in Albany on Tuesday, April 29th, for the largest annual statewide LGBT advocacy day, Equality & Justice Day. The event’s theme this year, “Many Communities, One New York,” reflected the diversity of our LGBT communities as well as the legislative agenda reflected the needs of those communities.
This year’s clarion call to the legislators in attendance—Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, cosponsor of the GENDA bill, Senators Brad Hoylman, and Daniel Sqaudron, Assembly Members Harry Bronson, Deborah J. Glick, and Amy Paulin, and others—included:
• a Child-Parent Security Act, which seeks to address the insufficient legal protections between parents and their children when the parents are not married and when one or more of the parents are not biologically related to the child;
• a bill protecting LGBT youth from “conversion” efforts, attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, often under the guise of a “mental health professional.”
The number-one priority, however, remains the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a bill that ESPA, Housing Works, and other advocates have been fighting long and hard to get passed for over 12 years. GENDA would give transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Eleven New York State counties and cities offer some local patchwork protections, but in the absence of an inclusive state law, in many places across New York State firing someone, evicting them, or denying them access to adequate primary or preventive health care because of who they are and how they express their gender identity continues to be 100% legal. New York is also far behind the curve on this issue nationally: 18 states, D.C, and Puerto Rico have all passed and successfully implemented comparable discrimination laws.
Transgender community members Juli Grey-Owens and Andi Dier were both on hand for Equality & Justice Day and for a visible demonstration of the need for GENDA passage, one need look no further than their recent experience in Holbrook, Long Island. A mere four days before the Equality & Justice Day event, Grey-Owens, a longtime transgender advocate, Dier, and other members of the Long Island transgender community mobilized a protest in front of a local pub after Dier, a transgender woman, was mistreated by the bar staff there. According to Dier, she was trying to get into the bar, was denied admittance, and was questioned about the validity of her ID by a pub worker—because she didn’t “match” the gender on her driver’s license. Dier asserts that when she explained the disparity to the worker by saying she was transgender, the bar employee responded rudely, lapsing into transphobic slurs. The altercation escalated and Dier claims that it became physical, with other bar workers shoving her into a wall and a door and attempting to smash her cellphone.
As Dier noted in her interview with local Long Island News 12 during the protest, the incident highlights exactly how and why the transgender community has long been advocating for additional statewide laws protecting against discrimination: “I fear for my own safety let alone my basic rights.” GENDA was intended to address exactly this sort of situation, and the community groundswell making that case at Equality & Justice Day proved a timely face-to-face reminder to legislators on why GENDA’s passage is crucial and long overdue.
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