Legislating equal rights for transgender people

A Boston Globe article talks about anti-bias legislation being discussed at the State House today. If passed, it would “add gender identity to the antidiscrimination law that protects people based on sexual orientation, gender and race. It would also amend the state hate crimes law to cover transgender people.”

Norm Spack, MD, from Children’s Hospital Boston’s Gender Management Services (GeMS) Clinic, has devoted much of his career to the clinical and psychosocial needs of transgender people, including recently co-authoring with the Endocrine Society’s international task force clinical guidelines for people who want to transition from the gender they were born in to the one they believe they should be. He’s glad for the protections the legislation might afford if passed, but has mixed feelings about what it says about society.

Transgender people are simply people, and it’s a sad commentary on our society that we need to apply special anti-discrimination laws for them as we have had to do in the past for victims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or race.

I don’t think of transgender people as “changing genders.” We have nearly 100 such individuals in our GeMS program and almost every one of them felt from early childhood that they were born with the wrong body. Therefore, rather than changing genders, trans people are affirming the gender they always had. They are changing gender roles, that, in some cases they could not change earlier due to bullying and discrimination.

Whether it’s race, sexual orientation or gender identity, we need to stop discriminating against people for being who they are.

3 thoughts on “Legislating equal rights for transgender people

  1. As a transgendered woman, I have had to survive violence and every sort of discrimination, if men and women are truely equal, then transsexuals ought to be afforded the respect given to other citizens. I am offended that my human rights are still “being debated” in my states legislature. Unless this legal protection is enacted, trans teens can expect to be only second class citizens in our supposed commonwealth.

  2. In Canada, we are trying very hard to get similar protections passed at the federal level. Bill C-389 would add gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code, offering trans and gender-variant people the same protections as are available on the basis of race, religion, and sexual orientation. It has already passed second reading and will go to committee in the fall.

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