GLAA to Council: Please allocate resources to fight transgender discrimination and unemployment
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GLAA to Council: Please allocate resources to fight
transgender discrimination and unemployment


From:Rick Rosendall
Sent:Friday, May 01, 2009 8:41 AM
To:D.C. Council Members
Subject:Please allocate resources to fight transgender discrimination and unemployment
Importance:High


Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
P.O. Box 75265, Washington, D.C. 20013

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dear Councilmember,

We urge you to give serious consideration to the attached testimony by our colleague Jeri Hughes, submitted on April 21 to the Committee on Aging and Community Affairs and the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development.

Discrimination against transgender people is a continuing problem requiring greater attention by the D.C. Council. Our transgender-inclusive Human Rights Act is not enough. Initiatives need to be created, and programs implemented. Transgender individuals need representation in key District agencies.

Transgender youth are bullied and harassed in schools. Adults are treated with gawking curiosity, or outright malevolence. That malevolence sometimes translates into physical violence. There is a subtler form of violence, that of poverty.

The transgender population in the District suffers unemployment at a rate ten times the national average. Most of that population lives far below the poverty level. This should not come as a surprise. According to information that Ms. Hughes obtained from the District’s Office of GLBT Affairs, only six out of 26,000 employees at District government agencies are openly transgender. More transgender women have been murdered in the last ten years than are presently employed in the District government’s own workforce. Whatever is being done, it is clearly not enough.

There are significant costs to the District as a result of transgender employment discrimination: HIV clinics, correctional facilities and halfway houses, courts, police services—all after the fact. Much of this could be avoided. The transgender community wants to work.

Thank you for your consideration. No one’s talents should go to waste in our city, and no one should be driven to the margins of society by discrimination.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs
www.glaa.org



Written Testimony of Germaine Anna Hughes;
Allocation of Funds to End Transgender Employment Discrimination

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” - Gandhi


Since the March 8, 2006 amendment to the Human Rights Act was implemented, the legality of transgender discrimination no longer exists – but discrimination, and the effects of that discrimination, most assuredly do. Legislation does not eliminate discrimination, and discrimination in regards to employment opportunities is a critical issue. I have provided information on the subject below.

  • The Office of GLBT Affairs (OGLBTA) provided statistics that of the approximately twenty six thousand (26,000) individuals are employed by District agencies, of whom approximately six (6) employees were openly transgender.
  • Transgender individuals have historically been denied the right to employment, and other basic rights afforded to others.
  • There are no programs within the District government dealing specifically with transgender employment issues, or transgender employment discrimination.
  • The Transgender Job Fairs held by the District did not result in a single individual obtaining employment, in spite of the fact that several District agencies participated.
  • Unemployment, and under employment, remain critical factors in the lives of those who identify as transgender.
  • A survey performed in the District estimated a 42% rate of unemployment in the transgender population, with 31% having an annual income below $10,000.
  • Those individuals most severely affected are transgender women of color.
  • Employment discrimination has become accepted by the transgender community as a “simple fact of life”. The transgender community does not trust authority, does not trust the government, and transgender individuals hesitate to seek assistance or file complaints.
  • The Office of Human Rights (OHR) employs thirty individuals. There are no known transgender individuals, nor any individual who is expert in transgender discrimination, employed at that agency.
  • In the three years since gender identity and expression have been added as a protected minority, only three (3) complaints have been filed that were specific to gender identity or transgender issues.
  • There are no programs or claim investigators in the OHR that are specific to the transgender community.
  • The Director of the OHR has indicated that an employee who was knowledgeable and sensitive to the needs of the transgender community would be an asset to the agency.
  • Many in the transgender community lack formal education, or lack the skills or experience required to obtain employment.
  • The Department of Employment Services (DOES) employs approximately 450 individuals, none of whom are openly transgender.
  • While there are services aimed to assist and accommodate specific populations (youth, seniors, disabled, Spanish speaking) there are no services at the DOES specifically aimed at serving the transgender population.
  • There is no specific contact person at the DOES where a transgender individual can be directed.
  • There are no experts at the DOES familiar with the obstacles peculiar to transgender employment, and sensitive to the needs of the transgender population.

The District of Columbia allocates significant resources in response to transgender discrimination and unemployment. Social Service programs provide housing for those who are homeless. The Department of Corrections provides housing and sustenance for those resorting to the sex industry to pay for their own survival. The Courts, probation, and ex-offender programs also expend resources. The District expends additional funds on health resources relating to HIV treatment and prevention, exacerbated by “survival” prostitution. All of these expenditures share a common denominator - they could be significantly decreased if transgender persons were simply provided an equal opportunity to work and live with dignity. For these reasons, it is in the District’s best interest to seek and implement solutions.

I have provided suggestions for steps that I believe should be taken into immediate consideration, and implemented at the first possible convenience that budgetary restraints will allow. They are listed below as follows, not necessarily in order of priority or importance:

  1. The OHR should expand the staff to include a minimum of one expert on the issues of transgender discrimination. The individual(s) should be extremely sensitive to the needs of the transgender community, as well as extremely familiar with the organizations and key individuals that comprise the District’s transgender community.

  2. A testing program should be initiated by the OHR regarding transgender discrimination in employment. The testing should first be directed at specific complaints, and followed in priority to District government agencies and District programs purporting availability to all District residents, and eventually expanded to include the private sector.

  3. The DOES should expand their staff to include a minimum of one expert on the issues of transgender discrimination. The individual(s) should be extremely sensitive to the needs of the transgender community, as well as extremely familiar with the organizations and key individuals that comprise the District’s transgender community.

  4. The DOES should implement an initiative to attract and serve the transgender community, to provide the training and services offered to all District residents, while simultaneously building alliances and contacts throughout the community with employers, public and private, that are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to those who are transgender.

  5. The OGLBTA should expand the staff to include a minimum of one expert on the issues of transgender discrimination. The individual(s) should be extremely sensitive to the needs of the transgender community, as well as extremely familiar with the organizations and key individuals that comprise the District’s transgender community.

  6. The OGLBTA should provide initiatives throughout District agencies that will focus on the issue of employment and other transgender based discrimination that presently exist.

  7. The transgender community should represent a reasonable demographic in the population of 26,000 employed by District government agencies and services. Measures should be initiated to add a ranking factor that would indicate “Expert on the issues of transgender discrimination. The individual(s) should be extremely sensitive to the needs of the transgender community, as well as extremely familiar with the organizations and key individuals that comprise the District’s transgender community.”

  8. This ranking factor should be an addition to the other requirements necessary to successfully satisfy the employment requirements and fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of the position - not the sole qualifying factor.

This ranking factor might appear particularly appropriate and useful in the DOES, Office on Aging, Office on African Affairs, Office of the Attorney General, Office of Disability Rights, DOC, MPD, Department of Education, Office of Human Resources, HIV/AIDS Administration, the Office on Latino Affairs, and any and all agencies with significant contact with the general public, or that are specifically involved in providing relief from discrimination and the promotion of equal rights. Transgender individuals, and those whom are expert in the issues they face, should be represented throughout every District agency.

These suggested initiatives are admittedly more than a simple declaration that discrimination is not acceptable, but will under no circumstance eliminate the discrimination suffered by the transgender population. The initiatives would serve as a beginning; as a foundation for those who are transgender to work together with the whole of society and live productive lives.

These initiatives would not cause a significant financial burden, and would in the long run serve to both enhance and celebrate the diversity of our population and reduce the negative effects that are so common to all forms of discrimination. We all appear, at least at face value, to want our children to grow up in a world that is free from discrimination. We have the laws; we have the words. They were first initiated in our own Declaration of Independence. They were clarified in our own Human Rights Act. It is time to honor the sentiments stated; it is the time to turn the words into reality.

Respectfully Submitted,


Germaine Anna Hughes
Dated: April 21, 2009


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