Sunday, August 24, 2008

Woman Fired For Wearing Pants

No, it didn't happen, but it could have. As it is, an employer in Montgomery County can fire somebody because they don't meet expectations for their gender. A man with a high-pitched voice: fire him. A woman with short hair: fire her. There is no legal protection for people who deviate from gender norms in our county, until Bill 23-07 goes into law.

We treat 23-07 as if it was about transgender people, but the word "transgender" doesn't appear anywhere in it. The bill puts the term "gender identity" into the existing nondiscrimination wording, adding it to race, color, religious creed, ancestry, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, presence of children, family responsibilities, source of income, sexual orientation, and age. You can read the final version of the bill HERE (there is a later version, signed by the County Executive, but this one is the same in content, the copy is cleaner, and the file is about one-tenth the size) (See the other one HERE if you like).

So what is gender identity, exactly? It is a much broader concept than transgender. Here's how the bill defines it:
Gender identity means an individual's actual or perceived gender, including a person's gender-related appearance, expression, image, identity, or behavior, whether or not those gender-related characteristics differ from the characteristics customarily associated with the person's assigned sex at birth.

A lady wears pants to work, that's "a person's gender-related appearance." Currently she can be fired. Restaurants can refuse to serve her. Taxis can pass her by. The cable company can refuse to hook her up, because she's wearing pants. This law, Bill 23-07, would prohibit that.

I just came from a meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville where some leaders of Basic Rights Montgomery presented their strategy for supporting the nondiscrimination law if it makes it to a referendum vote in November.

I'm worried.

The shower-nuts started back in November, maybe earlier, screaming and yelling -- literally -- that predators and pedophiles were going to go into ladies locker-rooms and molest our wives and daughters if the bill became law. They got more than 25,000 people to sign petitions by telling them that. It's a lie, but it's a vivid lie and it hits people personally -- nobody wants their daughter to be molested, so they sign a petition opposing that, even though the law doesn't say anything at all about bathrooms or locker-rooms or change anything about who can go into them.

Basic Rights Montgomery was formed specifically to support the nondiscrimination bill in the referendum election. They have campaign managers, field organizers, volunteers to work the telephones, an office in Silver Spring.

Here's what I learned at today's meeting, which by the way was open to the public:
  • Their web site doesn't work because the person who developed it left and nobody has the "access codes" to log on and fix it.

  • Basic Rights Montgomery plans to sponsor a poll to get demographic information and find out how different kinds of voters will respond to different kinds of information, for instance how they'd feel if they were told that the law would let men use the ladies room. But they haven't picked a company to conduct the poll yet. They won't be able to decide on a "message" until after the poll is done.

  • The organization has the plan of "making information available."

  • As of now, their slogan is "Prohibit Discrimination, Yes on C."

  • They have no response to the bathroom issue except to change the subject.

  • If I understand what was said, there is apparently no way to contact them to volunteer to help, they have to contact you.

Look, this isn't croquet we're playing here, this is a fistfight. The other side has been throwing punches for months, and our side is waiting for funding so we can have a poll so we can decide what we want to tell people. "Making information available" is important and so obvious it shouldn't need to be said. It is also not a persuasion strategy. People who want information need to be able to find it, I agree. But your average ignorant voter doesn't care that much and isn't going to look for it. If you want to give them information you've got to give it to them. In their face.

"Prohibit discrimination" is the wimpiest campaign slogan I can imagine. It's got more syllables than impact. The people of our Blue county oppose discrimination, and would support this bill if they knew what it said. That's why we elected the Council who passed it unanimously and the County Executive who was happy to sign it. But the anti-gay, anti-transgender bigots are making sure people don't know what the law is about. They're not conducting polls and adjusting their message for the "median voter," they're waving their arms and getting red in the face, telling lies and misrepresenting the law in any way that will get people's attention. When one side is saying your daughter will be raped and dead girls will be turning up all over the county, "prohibit discrimination" is not an effective response.

Basic Rights Montgomery is just getting started. They said today there are seventy-two days till the election, that's seventy-two days to educate the public and undo the damage the shower-nuts have done with their bathroom story. If people understand the issue, the nondiscrimination bill will win the majority of votes in November and go into law, it's as simple as that. If they think it's about bathrooms then discrimination will remain legal, women can be fired for wearing pants to work.

This referendum is an embarrassment to our county, it's incredible to think that we are actually going to vote on whether to re-legalize discrimination against a group that needs protection more than just about anybody. The other side is fighting dirty, and that doesn't mean we should fight dirty, but we need to fight -- we need to take the initiative, frame the topic, throw the big punches. Basic Rights Montgomery is our guy in the ring, we've got to cheer for them and support them. I'm sure they don't like for me to criticize them, but those of us who care about this issue need to see some action.

A lot of people at today's meeting were concerned. A kind of alternative meeting started in the next room, six or eight people who got up and left the BRM talk to meet in the next room, and a good proportion of the audience walked out during the presentation. The organization needs contributions, they need volunteers, and they need to know that the community is paying attention. They're getting a late start and the other side is well funded, well organized, experienced; their campaign has been going strong for nine months, since November, and our side is just considering who to hire to conduct a poll so we can decide on a "message." The community needs to support Basic Rights Montgomery, that means we get behind them and help when we can. Get in touch with them however you can and volunteer, let's help them get into the game.


Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

I just wanted to say that it was nice to meet some of the bloggers here in person at the church. I was dissappointed that our Anonymous friends weren't there to protest. It seems I brought my camera for naught.



August 24, 2008 10:45 PM  
Blogger Mercedes said...

How about losing a job for shaving her head to raise money for breast cancer research? In case anyone thinks it's far-fetched:

August 24, 2008 11:10 PM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

I missed this bit of news back in June... apparently Kentucky is now a safer place for GLBT folks to live and work than Maryland:



August 24, 2008 11:38 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

"Woman Fired For Wearing Pants"

Clearly (if this woman was real) she'd rightfully burn in hell for all eternity:

Deuteronomy 22:5

"A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this."

Fortunately this never happens, and thus, no need for fear of a God who punishes us (eternally) for wearing pants...

August 25, 2008 12:36 AM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

You know my opinion on this.

This Flyer

The concept, even if the photos will be different.

And quoting the legislation, showing the extent of the human rights they want to remove.

Keep it simple. Keep it focussed. And unlike the opposition, a Big Truth not a Big Lie.

We already have a public admission from one of the "notinmyshower" group that their real objection is on moral, not safety, grounds, and that they aim to repeal all such legislation in the whole country.

August 25, 2008 5:25 AM  
Blogger Battybattybats said...

As the pro discrimination folk seem to be deliberatly lying would it be effective to call them out on that?

Literally say 'these people are lying to you to manipulate you into discriminating against the vulnerable and these are the lies...' with a list of their lies and sound-bite sized refutations.

Would that work?

August 25, 2008 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I say label the hate for what it is.


August 25, 2008 7:27 PM  
Anonymous super-fly said...

"We already have a public admission from one of the "notinmyshower" group that their real objection is on moral, not safety, grounds, and that they aim to repeal all such legislation in the whole country."

If this is the lie you lunatics are referring to, you won't get much mileage out of your hyperbole. There is rarely only one reason for any position and few people don't realize.

But, please, by all means, go ahead and make yourself look stupid.

August 25, 2008 9:14 PM  

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