My name is Donna Cartwright, from the Diocese of Maryland. I am here to speak in support of Resolution D012, which calls of enactment of anti-discrimination legislation covering transgender and gender-different people at the local, state and federal levels.
Along with our gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters, transgender people suffer from severe discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Consequently, they suffer from high levels of unemployment, underemployment and homelessness.
During my transition from male to female in the 1990's, I was fortunate to keep my job. But many transgender people whom I met in support groups and at commnity events were not so lucky. Often most of those who shared those groups with me were unemployed, many of them for prolonged periods. It was common to encounter people who never worked in their profession or vocation again after coming out as transgender. And some had never had a real job (that is, one with a paycheck and a Social Security number); instead, they eked out a livelihood through sex work, street hustling and in cash businesses like hairdressing.
Their often harrowing stories both left me grateful that I had been spared such treatment, and inspired me to fight against the injustice experience by my transgender brothers and sisters.
The movement for transgender equality has grown greatly and achieved many successes since the mid-90's, when only one state and a handful of municipalities had anti-discrimination protection for transgender and gender-different people. Now 13 states, the District of Columbia and over 100 cities and counties have civil rights laws protecting us.
But far more remains to be done. Less than 40% of the U.S. population lives in state and local jurisdictions with anti-discrimination protection for trans people. Efforts are under way in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and elsewhere to increase protection at the state level. And the current versions of both the federal anti-discrimination and hate crimes bills would cover transgender as well as gay, lesbian and bisexual people. The success of those efforts would go a long way toward alleviating the personal suffering and tragedy experienced by so many transgender people and ending a terrible waste of human potential.
The Episcopal Church can help that goal become a reality by putting its weight behind civil rights and hate crimes protection covering gender identity and expression.
- Donna Cartwright