Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Truth to the Table

From Historic Trans ENDA Testimony to the "Stalling" of a 2006 Antibullying Guide in MA  

Today has been a historic day for transgender people in the U.S.  Kylar Broadus, founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition, became the first openly transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate.  The subject of his testimony was the Federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act – ENDA—that has been stalled in Congress for several years now.  At our last General Convention in 2009, The Episcopal Church passed resolutions D012 and C048, putting us on record in support of an ENDA inclusive of gender identity and expression as well as of sexual orientation.

In his testimony, video of which can be viewed here, and a transcript of which can be found here, Broadus spoke of his transition (from female to male) as well as his work history.  Transition was for him “a matter of living the truth, and sharing the truth with the world, rather than living a lie and pretending to be somebody every day that I was not…. [I decided to] bring my full self to the table and to the world.”

He explained that as he came into a fuller sense of himself in the late 1980s-early 1990s, his work attire gradually shifted from women’s to men’s business attire, and his haircut significantly shortened.  His colleagues treated him well, but within six months of telling management of his decision to transition, he “was ‘constructively discharged’…. While my supervisors could tolerate a somewhat masculine-appearing black woman, they were not prepared to deal with my transition to being a black man.”  He concluded stating, “it’s devastating, demoralizing, and dehumanizing to be put in th[e] position” of being denied work because of being trans.

As it also emerged today, the same thing can be said for an anti-bullying guide produced under the Romney administration here in Massachusetts in 2006.  The Boston Globe reported this morning:  “Former governor Mitt Romney’s administration in 2006 blocked publication of a state antibullying guide for Massachusetts public schools because officials objected to use of the terms ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgender’ in passages about protecting certain students from harassment, according to state records and interviews with current and former state officials.”  While at the time aids to the governor publicly attributed the delay to a standard review process, in fact an email from May, 2006 revealed otherwise:  “Because this is using the terms ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgendered,’ DPH’s name may not be used in this publication,’’ wrote an official in the Department of Public Health.

In other words, the governor did not want to be associated with a guide for protecting youth who might grow up to be like Kylar Broadus, or any of the participants in Integrity’s new video Voices of Witness: Out of the Box. Gay and lesbian youth might be one thing, but bisexual and transgender youth were something else entirely.

A year and a half removed from the devastating landslide of LGBT suicides last fall, that covert distancing and delay looks even more unconscionable.  This afternoon Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley commented, “For the Romney administration to block a discussion on the impact of bullying on LGBT students was to fail to protect some of our most vulnerable children.’’

As General Convention draws near, one of the major priorities of both TransEpiscopal and IntegrityUSA is for The Episcopal Church to pass a resolution on the problem of LGBT bullying.  As Harry Knox recently reported, Integrity will be showing the film "Bullied" on July 8th.  Today's Senate testimony and Globe stories underscore the urgency of this work, particularly for bi and trans people, that, as Broadus put it,  all of us might be empowered to "liv[e] the truth and share [that] truth with the world."

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