Overcoming Distortion and Fear on Transgender Rights

Article excerpt

Nothing, it seems, causes more controversy than the efforts by victims of discrimination to stand up for their rights. From civil rights struggles to the fight for women's rights and the rights of the LGBT community, opponents of equal justice under the law vilify groups that are demanding not special treatment, but only justice.

The nationwide efforts to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which adds "gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability" to the list of groups protected from hate crimes, is a top priority of NOW and the LGBT community and many national and local groups. But it has also drawn fire from right-wing websites, organizations and agitators bent on sowing hatred and division.

Many communities hear of such attacks and say, "it can't happen here." But it does happen, all too often, especially when forward-thinking elected officials take a stand to put government on the side of justice and equality. Montgomery County, Maryland, has a reputation as one of the most progressive counties in the United States. So it comes as a shock that this county would be the target of a frontal assault by the forces of right-wing religious extremism.

But that's just what happened when word got out last November that the Montgomery County Council had passed a measure prohibiting anti-transgender discrimination, adding the county to the ranks of the 34 percent of the U.S. population covered by transgender-specific laws, including 10 states and the District of Columbia. Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, a National NOW Board member and former Maryland NOW president, introduced and championed the measure because she agreed it was the right thing to do.

For those on the lower end of the economic scale, transgender discrimination may mean housing difficulties, loss of job or career, and difficulty finding a job. For those on the upper end, fear of discrimination often locks people into undesired relationships and jobs, similar to how the fear of losing health coverage may paralyze those considering divorce or changing jobs. But everyone is affected by hate violence: Four transgender women were murdered in D.C. in 2004.

Liberal Battleground for Reactionary Forces

The 2004 election sparked a campaign by reactionary forces to make Montgomery County the battleground for a hateful agenda, unsupportable by the facts. …