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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gains For Transgender People in South Florida

Gains For Transgender People in South Florida

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

via Straight, Not Narrow

Transgender is quietly becoming a protected class in South Florida as cities vote to prohibit discrimination against a group that faces tremendous challenges fitting in.

Palm Beach and Broward counties may extend the protection next, which could leave the broadest imprint by affording civil rights to people for their gender identity or expression. The movement accelerated with the March firing of Largo City Manager Susan Stanton, who transitioned from male to female this year.

"It shined a light on what this discrimination is," said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Stanton's attorney. "It really underscored how important it is to have these ordinances."

Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Tequesta and Oakland Park have approved nondiscrimination clauses this year either covering city employees or all residents. Oakland Park was the latest last week and Wilton Manors may consider adding transgender as well.

County ordinances would go further by outlawing discrimination in the workplace and housing in all cities and unincorporated areas. Thirteen states and more than 90 cities and counties already have such laws, with the first passed more than 30 years ago. Advocates hope local ordinances will lead to a statewide law, health insurance coverage for sexual reassignment surgery and greater acceptance.

Advocates, though, say it's not about cross-dressing. Employers would not be asked to modify dress codes. But such suggestions speak toattitudes about gender.

Advocates like to speak of transgender more broadly as gender expression and identity to cover more people than only transsexuals.

"The transgender community is sadly one that is almost like an underground movement because of the fear of the unknown out there," said Michael Emmanuel Rajner, co-founder of the Transgender Equality Rights Initiative. "They're living, breathing human beings. They should have the same rights as everyone else."

Treating trandgender people as human beings--pretty radical but it just might catch on.


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