I made passing mention in my last blog post about this, but it’s time to finally give it the spotlight here: Last Thursday morning (June 1), three members of the Wisconsin State Legislature introduced to assembled media and the public a new piece of legislation currently seeking co-sponsorship from fellow legislators. The proposal, as with any piece of legislation (federal, state, or otherwise), has a grand name: The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. And a press release announcing the proposal succinctly sums up the bill’s importance:
“A bill that would add protections to Wisconsin statutes against discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or gender expression.”
And with the bill’s introduction came a press conference, a moment of which is shown in the below Capital Times photo (source link here).
As the sign at the podium indicates, the bill is an effort to ensure “fairness and dignity for all,” regardless of the gender they identify as and present to the world. One would think that such a proposal isn’t necessary here in the 21st century, but they’d be wrong: While Wisconsin has protections based on sexual orientation, the “T” portion of the LGB&T Railroad is still subject to the risk of discrimination and shunning in parts of our state. And while last week’s victory in federal court involving Ash Whitaker, a trans boy from Kenosha who sought to simply use the school restrooms associated with the gender he displays, is very good news to hear, Wisconsin statutes as they stand right now still do not afford anti-discriminatory protections based on gender identity and expression. (I’ll get to the ins and outs of the existing and proposed laws later in this post.) Yeah, I know, we’ve made great strides on this road, and yet we still have a lot of miles to travel.
As you can see in the above photo, state legislators, supporters, and members of the trans community are still voicing the need for the Wisconsin legislature to pass this proposal. I may be a simple crossdresser, but I do consider myself part of the broader transgender community. And I’m proud to say that in my recent out-of-the-house ventures, I’ve become acquainted with some of the real people you see in the above photo — my trans sisters and brothers. We face a lot of scorn from cis-gender people who do not condone our true lives, yet we share many of the same desires, concerns, and stories many in the cis-gender community also have. (I’d love to tell some of them here, but modesty and confidentiality forbids.)
The connection I’ve built with the people you see above makes me sad that I was unable to join them in person on our important day last Thursday. Just as many people (trans or otherwise), I had to slave away that morning to earn a living. Yes, I may have been at the State Capitol “in spirit” that morning, and watching the announcement on Facebook later was beautiful. But actually being there, even if I had been in drab male mode, would have enforced the fact that I stand by and support my trans sisters and brothers.
However, what is important is that I voice my support for The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act in any way I can. I’ve shared information about the bill on Twitter, so that’s a start. I’m expressing my support here, so that’s another step. More important than all of that, though, is doing some real arm twisting via an important route — contacting my representatives in the Wisconsin State Legislature. And if you’re a fellow Wisconsinite that supports this bill, you can do it too. Just head to the legislature’s website, enter your street address under “Find My Legislators,” and up pops the names, office numbers, and e-mail addresses of the State Senator and Representative for your districts.
And from there, you — yes, you, my fellow Wisconsinite (*nudge nudge* hint hint*) — can send to your own legislators your e-mail of support of The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. To help inspire your letter writing, I’m including below what I plan to send to my own representatives, words that I thought long and hard about before committing them to keyboard and computer screen. Your message doesn’t have to be an exact copy of mine; heck I would recommend you send them your own positive thoughts, stories, and research as they’ll be more authentic than the unfounded boilerplate hooey the bill’s opponents will send without prior reading (or prior thinking). Know, though, what whatever words of support you provide can help push this proposal closer to law, even if it faces a Wisconsin legislature and governor’s mansion controlled by a party who has a reputation these days for dissing all things LGBT.
(A couple of things before I start: My own representatives, for the record, are from the Democratic Party, hence some references to “the other side of the aisle.” Also, I did some research in presenting these words, but it may not be as thorough as I would hope; if you’re reading this and come across something that needs clarification or correction, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Plus, I’m not good at letter writing, and this is coming from someone who writes a blog. Nevertheless, please don’t let my imperfect articulation dissuade you from knocking the socks off of your own representatives’ feet with your own plea for support.)
Dear Senator and Representative:
As your constituent, I am writing to you in support of The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. (I hope you don’t mind that I refer to it as the Gender Identity Act for brevity’s sake.) Perhaps you’ve heard that three of your colleagues announced this important bill last week and are circulating it through the Legislature for co-sponsorship (it’s numbered LRB2364 according to this update). It is my hope that you will act as co-sponsors and supporters of the Identity Act, if you have not done so already, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Perhaps both of you and your colleagues have already seen the bread and butter of the Gender Identity Act, but I will remind you of what it will do: The act, if and when it becomes law, will strengthen existing Wisconsin anti-discrimination statues so that no person will be discriminated against based on their gender identity or gender expression, regardless of whether that gender matches what’s shown on official documents. The act will positively affect such fields as employment and job services, housing and public accommodations, public education, insurance, and even national guard and jury duty services — all of which are fields important to Wisconsin’s economy and the livelihood of all of its citizens.
Now, I imagine you or several of your colleagues, especially those on the other side of the aisle, are thinking Wisconsin doesn’t need a law such as this, that we already have something like this on the books. Well, with all due respect, let me remind you of a couple of facts:
First, not every county and municipality in Wisconsin has laws on the books that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or expression in fields such as employment. Sure, we here in Dane County enjoy such protections; Milwaukee County does as well. But that’s not the case in places such as Kenosha, where a trans teenager can now finally use school washrooms that match the gender they present to the world… but because of the gender they present to the world may not be assured of utilizing the knowledge, skills, and talents they gained in school. The Gender Identity Act will help assure that that teenager will be judged by their abilities more than their gender.
Secondly, as Wisconsinites, we can take pride in the fact that in February 1982, our state became the first in the nation to enact into law legislation that prohibited discrimination, based on one’s sexual orientation, in fields such as housing and public and private employment… and with bipartisan support and the pen of a Republican governor no less. But that law only assured that Wisconsin citizens would not be discriminated based on who they love or who they may be attracted to. Sadly, that law left out gender identity/presentation protections. (The legislator who introduced it, I have learned, has regretted not including protections for trans people in that legislation.) That’s why the Gender Identity Act is such a necessity today, as it will positively affect the estimated 58,000 people living and working in the Badger State who are trans or non-binary. Fifty-eight thousand! That’s not an insignificant number by any means.
As I noted in that last paragraph, the trans community has been left marginalized while the gay/bi/lesbian community is enjoying the respect and rights the cis-gender community has always had. Indeed, the trans community still faces the ugliness of marginalization: Poverty. Harassment. Shunning. Sexual harm. Physical abuse. Threats. Suicide. And worse. And all because of the gender they identify as and present to the world.
I hold no illusions of the Gender Identity Act becoming be a cure-all for what faces the trans community. Indeed, the party in control of the levers of power in Wisconsin’s government (and on the proverbial other side of the aisle as you) seems beholden to those who want to reverse the wonderful advances of the broad LGBT community. Even when taking out state politics, these groups still cast their evil eyes towards those who live as openly gay, bi, or lesbian, desiring to reverse the gains they have justly gained and destroy Wisconsin’s progressive reputation. And now, their last(?) line of hate is to take dead aim toward the trans community, wanting to push them beyond the peripheral, out of sight and out of mind.
Despite all that, I wish these people on the other side of the aisle would lay off their intransigent streak and, as I have personally done and perhaps you have done as well, see trans and non-binary people as real people and productive citizens. Just as with cis-gender people and gay/bi/lesbian people, we in the trans community have our own everyday concerns, from what to wear or eat, to where to live or work, or even wondering how our favorite teams will fare this season. (Go, Brewers!) As your colleagues’ announcement so plainly stated, the Gender Identity Act “rests on the simple concept that transgender people are people.” And since they are indeed human beings and not something akin to freaks of nature or perversions of society, they should have the benefits of fair treatment that their fellow Wisconsinites enjoy. Simply put, it’s fair treatment and not special treatment that the trans community is seeking, the better to move their lives, and our state, forward.
When referring to the trans community in conversation or online, I note them as “my transgender sisters and brothers.” I say this as I consider myself part of the trans community despite presenting as a female only on occasion (I live as a male most everyday; “cross-dresser” is the term that would best fit me). But I do not voice my support for the Gender Identity Act out of my concerns only. Sure, there are times when I fear my occasional presentation as a female would disrupt my professional life and personal security. But I voice my support for the act more out of a concern for, yes, my transgender sisters and brothers, those I have met personal as well as those I have not:
- The woman in Superior who fears their she’ll lose out on that job because she is in the process of gender reassignment.
- The male in Milwaukee unable to find decent housing because prospective landlords discover he is transitioning from female.
- The high schooler in Stevens Point who, because of their fluid display of gender, fears scorn and teasing from their fellow students.
- The Middleton man afraid his small business will shutter before it even opens because he dares to work under a female alias.
- The devoted patriot in Appleton who will be denied entry into the National Guard because their gender doesn’t match what’s on their birth certificate.
- And, yes, the cross-dresser in Madison fearful of the harm that may befall them if they step out of the house dressed up.
It’s people such as these who will benefit from the legal protections the Gender Identity Act will provide — but only if you will voice your support for it, encourage your colleagues to also endorse the act, and especially invite those from the other side of the aisle to join in.
I, along with my fellow members of the trans community, our supporters, and everyone in the great state of Wisconsin eagerly await your endorsement of The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. This is an important piece of legislation that will help Wisconsin’s economy, its citizens as a whole, and our long-held reputation as a forward-thinking state. Thank you for your consideration of my sincere thoughts.