It’s an interesting and even startling statistic, depending on how you look at it: One-third of all U.S. citizens now live in communities that prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.
Until recently, that figure only included eight states (and various municipalities). New Jersey changed all of that last week, however, after it passed transgender nondiscrimination legislation.
For the purposes of the law, New Jersey defines gender identity or expression as "having or being perceived as having a gender-related identity or expression whether or not stereotypically associated with a person's assigned sex at birth." The concept of gender identity or expression is most often associated with the transgender community—which includes transsexuals, cross-dressers or transvestites, and intersex people—but it will also protect non-transgender people from being discriminated against in cases of gender expression.
"We are very proud of New Jersey’s legislature, and congratulate everyone in the Garden State on this momentous day,” Selisse Berry, executive director of San Francisco-based Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said in a release. “We hope that this is a sign of things to come and that 2007 may see nation-wide legislation to put an end to workplace discrimination based on sexual identity and gender identity or expression."
For many companies, last week's vote may be a source of some anxiety. For those who are unfamiliar with issues of gender identity and expression, there will be questions about how to create inclusive and equitable workplaces. Over the past 10 years, Out & Equal has worked with an increasing number of corporations, providing cultural education around LGBT issue and sharing best practices around equality in the workplace. At the 2006 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, more than 20 of the 93 workshops for business professionals specifically addressed topics related to gender identity or expression and the transgender community. The 2007 Workplace Summit will be held in Washington, D.C., Sept. 27-29.
Additionally, Out & Equal’s Transgender-specific diversity training program provides employees with an opportunity to become educated and overcome misconceptions and fears about one another. Out & Equal has a number of other programs to help LGBT employees, human resource professionals and executives eliminate discrimination in their businesses and organizations.
For more information, visit www.outandequal.org.