The Connecticut Judiciary Committee was expected to vote this morning on HB 6599, An Act Concerning Discrimination. The text of the bill includes gender identity or expression in its anti-discrimination language. While I could not find any information on the results of today’s vote, I am optimistic that there will be a favorable result.
I spoke with a reporter from the Connecticut Law Tribune last week about HB 6599 and the importance of its passage. I couldn’t help but wonder why, in 2011, we still even need to debate why all people should be protected by laws against discrimination.
Opponents of the bill claim all sorts of outrageous things, the most unfortunate being that if we protect gender identity or expression, we’ll have to teach about it in schools. Here’s a thought: does anyone honestly believe that in an age where the internet is our primary source of information that children aren’t going to know what’s going on in the world? Here’s another thought: if a parent doesn’t want a child to participate in the health/sex education class in school that might mention that gender identity or expression exists, they can merely opt out. Problem solved. Besides, that whole “they’ll teach it in schools” argument was flawed when it was used in the gay marriage debate. It’s old hat. Worn and tired. Time to be scrapped.
If a person’s gender identity differs from that of his or her biological gender, they already know it. They don’t have to wait for someone to tell them about it in school. It’s not like little Johnnie is going to be sitting in a sex education class one day and his teacher will announce, “Hey boys, if you want to become a girl, we can make that happen.” And even if it were to happen, it’s not like little Johnnie is suddenly going to say, “Goodie, I think I’ll switch genders today.” It’s simply ludicrous to even use that as an argument.
According to an article posted on WFSB’s website, “[t]he Family Institute of Connecticut is actively opposing the bill. The group claims sexual predators could misuse the legal protections provided to transgendered people and would expose students to teachers who change their gender.”
What’s important about understanding and respecting differences in gender identity or expression is that such understanding and respect prevents bullying, violence, isolation and suicide. It’s a no brainer that when people are educated about things they may not previously have understood, they learn to be accepting and tolerant of those things. Not educating the public is always a dangerous option.
America seemed to wake up a while back when the rash of teen suicides linked to gay bullying was splashed all over the news. It started to click for a lot of people that we, as a society, need to teach tolerance and acceptance — not continue to enable the ignorance that fuels bullying. I spent a lot of time blogging on that important issue.
If a person’s gender expression differs from his or her biological gender, why is it so difficult for those around him or her to accept? Should we really be allowed to deny someone housing or employment because their gender expression doesn’t match our personal norms and beliefs? Do we honestly have the right to choose to deny another human being the choice to express who they truly are inside? I think history has already taught us plenty on those issues.
To learn more about gender identity/expression issues, contact ctEquality or Connecticut TransAdvocay Coalition.
And while you’re at it, read “More companies covering transgender surgery” which illustrates my point that education and acceptance make a difference.
This is an interesting post on one of the public hearings for HB 6599: Lawmakers Seek to Understand Gender Identity and Expression, Some Struggle
Read: In Transition [Connecticut Law Tribune article for which I was also interviewed].
Finally, if you’re interested in the real life story of a man who was brutally gang raped and later murdered when it was learned that his biological gender was female, pick up a copy of the DVD Boys Don’t Cry and/or The Brandon Teena Story.
[Notice: I am an Amazon.com affiliate and I may receive financial compensation for the purchase of the DVDs mentioned in this post].
Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog. Read my entire disclaimer.
copyright 2011 Irene C. Olszewski