Hurray for speaking out on behalf of proposed law that sets the expectations that people be treated equally ("Time for 'Chrissy's Law,'" Jan. 20).
I take exception to your title for this important law, however. It is officially called "The Fairness to All Marylanders Act of 2014."
My exception isn't caused by any lack of concern for how Chrissy Polis, a transgender woman, was treated. It was appalling. In fact, so appalling that I was the primary organizer for the rally at McDonald's that was attended by hundreds and covered by national and local media. My concern is that your headline failed to recognize important issues at play.
The first is that as a society we believe that everyone should be treated equally. This isn't a bill for Chrissy. This is a bill for our neighbors, co-workers, family members and those they love.
The second issue is that this bill is about ending discrimination for people who simply want to do the things most people take for granted, like go to the doctor's and get treated, shop, dine at a restaurant, watch a movie, buy gas and have a place to stay. Like everyone else, transgender people often do these kinds of things with family, friends and co-workers.
The third issue is that this bill is not now nor will it ever be about one person. Yes, I know how badly Chrissy was beaten. And I understand the impacts of that video, including the people standing by, the people taunting her, and the fact that Rosedale McDonald's workers and management did not lock the attackers out when they had the chance.
All horrible indeed. In fact, my organization helped honor the lady who helped stop the attack and who was then attacked herself. But, sadly, that attack wasn't an isolated incident.
Transgender people are attacked and killed every year. You may not know the names of Kelly Young, Tracy Johnson, Tyra Trent or JaParker Jones. But they were all transgender Marylanders who were slain. Even sadder is that people of color are often the victims and those most affected by discrimination. Perhaps the killers think that society is OK with their actions?
In terms of employment, people are fired simply for being transgender. Ask any transgender person if their situation is a choice and they'll laugh. They know it is not. Society has long said it is not OK to fire someone for something that is not a choice (age, race, disability, etc.) We provide the very same protections in "The Fairness to All Marylanders Act of 2014" for some things that are choices: their religion or marital status.
Since I mentioned McDonald's in a bad light, let me share some good news — transgender people are employees of McDonald's. In fact, virtually all of Maryland's top employers prohibit discrimination against transgender people. I know because I checked with them. And when I found a company or organization that didn't include language in their policies, I encouraged them to change.
My employer allowed me to transition on the job, and I have a very public position. If you asked my co-workers, they'd tell you things went well. My organization kept an employee with 11 years experience for another four years and perhaps longer since I am still there.
The fifth issue is that you mentioned Baltimore County passing its law but neglected some important facts about the laws in Maryland. One of the most important is that these communities have community pride about their inclusiveness and that draws in businesses and top talent.
That is one of the reasons why the top universities in the nation have trans-inclusive policies. They have also not had any adverse impacts from passing their laws. Hyattsville recently joined Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Howard County and Baltimore County in passing fairness laws. How is a Marylander or any business supposed to keep track of all of the jurisdictions that have these laws? Uniformity makes it easier for everyone to understand what is expected of them.
As I mentioned before transgender people have families: we have children who need school supplies, clothing and food. We have elderly parents who need medicines; sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles or friends who need rides to the doctor's office.
Other than being transgender, we are just like any other group in society. This proposed law says that people should treat us that way — equally and fairly.
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