LGBT Pride Month, same-sex marriage, equal rights for gays in the military, just to name a few, are all very familiar topics that have filled the headlines lately. The line between the conseravtive and the libral sides has been clearly drawn. We see and hear ads from both sides in the media nearly on a daily basis. National Organization of Marriage (NOM), supporters of The Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the Traditional Values Coalition are on one side of the battle with organizations like the Human Rights Campaign(HRC), National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defimation (GLAAD) on the other. We hear politians and celebraties voicing their views. So called religious leaders speaking out against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
My first questions would be, what is the reality in America? Are we treating our fellow human beings like equals or do we see them as something less?
I, unfortunately, am keenly aware of how many transgender people are being treated and discriminated against, when all I want to do is live my life like every other woman in the United States. One example of the inequality, in over half the states in America, I could be fired for just being transgender. Currently only 16 states have protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation Three out of five people in the U.S. live in areas with no such protections. Men and women have been verbally and physically harrased, discriminated against and even fired because they are either gay or transgender.
It has been up to companies themselves to take the lead in protecting their current and future employees. As of 2010, 46 percent of Fortune 500 companies had nondiscrimantion policies in place to protect transgender employees compared to only 5% in 2003. Also in 2010, 87% of Fortune 500 companies had policy protections based on sexual orientation. Policies set up by these companies to protect against work place discrimination are not created to bulldoze non LGBT employees. Individual beliefs and freedoms are what this country was founded on. "We are not asking them to change their personal beliefs; we are asking them to respect their colleagues." Ben Hladiel, Human Resources business partner at J.P. Morgan Chase.
Right now the Federal Government is considering the Employement Non-Discrimination Act that will protect employees in both the public and private sector from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Republican Representative Mark Kirk of Illinois is one of the key sponsers of this bill. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) "no Americans should have to live with the fear of losing their jobs simply because of who they are.”
Public opinion seems to side with these policies as well. According to a poll by Harris Interactive in 2005, "60 percent of heterosexual respondents stated that they would feel comfortable working with an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender co-worker." Also according to the poll, just by knowing someone who is part of the LGBT community makes a person "more inclined to support non-discrimination polices". In my own experience, having gone through a very public transition at work, I have been pleasently surprised by the overwhelming support I have recieved from my customers alone. Even now, two years later, I have lost only a few customers and many have told me personally that regardless of who I am, they are returning to me because of my talent, my customer service and according to one customer, my smile.
So I ask you, in your work place, in your shopping trips, are you showing that each person you deal with deserves the same fairness regardless whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender? How has knowing someone in the LGBT community changed your views on equality?