Massachusetts Governor Signs Executive Order Prohibiting Discrimination Against Transgender State Workers

Governor Patrick signs two executive orders while Coalition and community members look on.

Boston, Feb. 17, 2011– The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) applauds Gov. Patrick for signing this Executive Order and reaffirming the Commonwealth’s longstanding commitment to civil rights and equality for all Massachusetts residents. By prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression in state employment, the governor is simply providing equal opportunity for all hardworking state employees, including transgender people, to make a living and provide for themselves and their families. We are grateful to the Governor for his leadership on this important issue and for using the power of his office to advance non-discrimination protections for state employees, including transgender people. Our Commonwealth benefits when skilled, competent employees are hired and can do their jobs without fear of being fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.

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Transgender people often face the difficult task of having to “come out” at work, or disclose to their employer and coworkers that they are transgender. This takes an immense amount of strength and courage. Transgender individuals must consider the very real possibility that they will be discriminated against or possibly even fired from their job—not because of their work performance but because of their gender identity. Diego Sanchez, Legislative Assistant to Representative Barney Frank and a participant of MTPC’s I AM: Trans People Speak said, “Being open at work is a gift. It allows me to be the most productive because I don’t use my energy or time trying to seal away a part of myself.” Gov. Patrick has just made this hurdle a little easier for State employees by issuing this Executive Order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or expression.

While this Executive Order will make a tangible difference in the lives of many people in Massachusetts, there are still many more who need the protection offered by this executive order but who will not get it because they are not state employees. Additionally, the Executive Order does not and cannot address the widespread problem of violence and hate crimes against transgender people or the discrimination and harassment they too often face when trying to complete the most mundane activities of daily life that most of us take for granted – running errands, going to work, shopping or dining out at restaurants. Only our legislature can remedy these unfortunate circumstances by passing the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which would add the phrase “gender identity and expression” to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws.

Gunner Scott, Executive Director of MTPC, said, “Governor Patrick’s Executive Order is a great step towards equality for transgender individuals and we still need to extend these protections to all transgender members of Massachusetts. Our hope is that the legislature will pass the Transgender Equal Rights Bill quickly this session.”

Recent findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have found that transgender individuals suffer rampant discrimination in employment and housing. In fact, 76 percent of survey respondents reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job, 39 percent of qualified applicants were not hired, 17 percent were denied promotions, and 20 percent lost their job.

Ty, another participant in the I AM: Trans People Speak project, talks about being discriminated against at a temp agency after they found out he was transgender, which led to him not being hired. Ty said, “Transgender rights, like any kind of civil rights, are also about our families. Transgender people are family members, community members.”

In housing, 10 percent of survey applicants had become homeless because of their gender identity and/or expression, 17 percent were denied a home or apartment, and only 25 percent reported owning their own home compared to 67 percent of the general population. Discrimination in housing and employment often leads to economic insecurity for transgender individuals and their families. The Transgender Equal Rights Bill would make it illegal for transgender individuals to be discriminated against by employers or in housing.

The Transgender Equal Rights bill is a commonsense piece of legislation that will ensure that transgender people have the same ability to earn a living, support themselves and their families and live more safely as other residents in the Commonwealth. MTPC looks forward to working with the legislature and Gov. Patrick on the swift passage of this bill.

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