Representative Barney Frank spoke with Roll Call recently about the prospects of passing a transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House this year. Frank was optimistic, that is if you ignore the word “inclusive”:
…Frank said that he is optimistic about the vote count and that transgender protections will remain in the bill.
“There’s no chance of doing it without it,” he said of the transgender protections.
Frank said he’s told wavering Democrats that “the principle is the same. It’s discrimination.”
He said concessions were made in the drafting of the language to address moderates’ concerns. For instance, Frank said, transgender people with “one set of genitals” would not be able to go to a bathroom for people with another set of genitals.
And, Frank said, they also would have to have a “consistent gender presentation” in order to be able to sue for discrimination.
“They can’t sit there with a full beard and a dress,” Frank said.
So the protections will only exist for transgender folks who have had sex reassignment surgery? Many transgender folks opt not to have any type of bottom surgery. Many more simply cannot afford or access the procedures. And then there are all the folks who plan to have the procedure at some point but haven’t been able to yet. Will intersex folks also have to have genitals that fit into Rep. Frank’s acceptable binary boxes?
Many many folks who may or may not identify as transgender but fit under the broadly defined political umbrella do not have “consistent gender presentations.” They may identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, two spirit, drag kings and queens, crossdressers, none, or many of the above. Regardless, all these people experience the brunt of our culture’s gender-based discrimination for breaking the rules of the very narrowly defined compulsory gender binary. Everyone with a non-normative gender identity or presentation should be covered by ENDA. All of them may need and certainly deserve protection. And all should be afforded the basic right to pee.
An ENDA that is explicitly designed to exclude many transgender and gender non-conforming folks is not inclusive. An ENDA that is shaped to only protect those who conform most to non-transgender folks’ understanding of an acceptable transgender person is not inclusive. An ENDA seemingly designed to create division and exclusion within our community is not inclusive.
It’s a shame when gay folks who are otherwise privileged – in Rep. Frank’s case he’s a white, cisgender male, rich politician – end up putting forward political positions and policy that totally screws the most marginalized in our community.
The clear goal for ENDA this year, following the disastrous removal of protections for gender identity last time around, is to put forward and pass an inclusive bill. I committed to supporting an inclusive ENDA at the beginning of this process, and that is precisely what I will support.
You can let Barney Frank know a full beard and a dress gets you hot (or that ENDA should be genuinely inclusive, either way) by contacting him here.