C’mon Governor Cuomo—Let’s Pass GENDA Already

GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, passed in the New York Assembly on Monday and is now headed to the Senate, where it has failed the previous five times the Assembly passed it. A report issued yesterday by the NYCLU highlights just how essential this piece of legislation is:

A 2009 national survey that included 531 transgender people in New York found that 74 percent reported harassment or mistreatment on the job and 20 percent lost a job or were denied a promotion. In addition, 53 percent were verbally harassed or denied service at hotels and restaurants and 49 percent reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance. Also, 18 percent had become homeless because of their transgender status and 27 percent were either denied an apartment or were evicted. And 17 percent were refused medical care due to their gender expression, the survey said.

This is literally life or death for people, and Governor Cuomo hasn’t voiced his support for the bill yet. A version of GENDA has been passed in several cities (including NYC) but that won’t cut it—this is about the very most basic civil rights for trans and non-gender-conforming people. It is awesome that gay people can get married, and I appreciate the Governor’s outspoken support for that bill, but if he’s truly an advocate for LGBTQI rights, this right here is the bill to push through.

Without the guarantee of housing and jobs, trans people—trans women especially, and trans women of color especially especially—are at even higher risk for violence and abuse. The statistics are chilling. Trans women are more likely to be targets of violence, less likely to receive proper medical care, more like to be abused by cops, more likely to be raped. In the last month, Paige Clay and Brandy Martell were murdered, and CeCe McDonald is facing jail time for defending herself against a group of attackers screaming epithets and smashing glass in her face. The violence against trans and non-gender-conforming people is so endemic that the community has an annual Day of Remembrance to commemorate people killed because of their gender presentation JUST THAT YEAR.

GENDA is no joke, yet where are the celebrities leaning on legislators to pass it? Where is the news coverage? Where is Governor Cuomo? What’s Occupy Wall Street doing? This is the very most basic civil right stuff: the right to equal employment consideration, the right to housing, the right to medical care, the right to protection from police and (optimistically) by police. NYCLU’s Melissa Goodman:

“New York is really falling behind on transgender rights,” Goodman said. “We were a leader in the marriage fairness fight. It’s really time for New York to be the same kind of leader in the transgender equality fight.”

C’mon everybody. Let’s pass this thing.


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