Putting the T in LGBT

By By Luke Hinz

By Luke Hinz

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that supporters have called a landmark in civil rights legislation and have even compared to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The bill grants broad protection against discrimination in the workplace for gays, lesbians and bisexuals on a federal level. That sounds reasonable enough. The bill has been in the works since 1974 and has just now passed.

Supporters praised the bill’s passage, which also had the backing of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest equal rights organization for the LGBT community. Unfortunately, the HRC left behind a small part of the community in the bill’s fine print — the T.

T, of course, stands for transgender and transsexual and is the one letter not to make the final form of the bill. Democrats dropped language barring discrimination based on gender identity after several Republicans expressed doubts about the clause.

You would think that I wouldn’t even have to address this. You would think this wouldn’t even be a problem after our nation strived for universal equality in the past century, but the prejudice still lingers and I’m na’ve to think anything else.

It is hard to call this legislation a landmark when it has willingly left out members of society. The Democrats are as much to blame as the Republicans. They should have stood their ground and demanded this protection. Instead, they whimpered, rubbed their hands together and said, “OK, we’ll drop it for your votes.”

What’s even worse than the Democrats is the HRC, which has praised the bill despite its leaving transgender and transsexual individuals to fend for themselves.

It makes me think of those smarmy Disney movies where the main character finally gets an opportunity to hang out with the cool kids, but only if she ditches her loser friends. We all know how that ends in the movies — the main character sees the true value in her loser friends, rejects the cool kids and we all walk away feeling better about ourselves.

This movie, however, was made by Congress, and the HRC left its loser friends sitting on the bench the first chance it got.

Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, expressed his own dismay with the new bill. “What should have been one of the most triumphant days in our movement’s history is not,” he told The New York Times. “It is one of mixed reactions.”

Of course, people say that although the absence of the T in the bill is regrettable, it was necessary for its passage. I can only imagine the Civil Rights Act with a small clause saying Hispanics are not covered by the bill.

Nancy Pelosi argued that small steps often mark civil rights legislation, but we are well past small steps. Twenty states provide work protection for the LGBT community and it is high time this country got past this prejudice. It is hard to believe that there are still people in this country who want to restrict rights for one part of the population while keeping those same rights for themselves. I suppose that shows how na’ve I am.

To leave the transgender and transsexual population outside of the protection of the law now means it will be that much harder to protect it in the future. Representatives on the Hill will clap their hands in praise of the bill’s passage, then move on to other matters. Meanwhile, that T will languish on the shelves, forgotten and occasionally abused.

The last hope is the Senate, where Sen. Ted Kennedy has promised a similar bill to the one the House passed. Maybe the Senate can make the extra effort and scoot that T back onto the bill next to the LGB where it belongs, but I doubt it will. Here’s hoping the Senate proves me wrong.

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