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IEEE adds LGBT support to ethics code

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE, gay news, Washington Blade

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers logo.

NEW YORK—The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Board of Directors on Jan. 8 announced it had approved the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in its ethics code.

Lynn Conway, professor emerita of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Leandra Vicci of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill spearheaded the effort to spur the IEEE Board of Directors to include trans-specific protections in its Code of Ethics. The proposal was subsequently approved by more than two-thirds of the board members.

“It means that hundreds of thousands of engineers worldwide — including in Russia, Uganda and over 60 other nations where being gay or trans is considered a crime — are now honor bound to treat their colleagues with respect,” wrote Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer in the Huffington Post.

The IEEE is the world’s largest professional body of engineers. It has more than 425,000 members from 160 countries.

15
Jan
2014

Mississippi city approves LGBT resolution

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade, Mississippi city

Hattiesburg, Miss. (Photo by Dudemanfellabra; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

HATTIESBURG, Miss.—The Hattiesburg City Council on Feb. 18 unanimously approved a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

“The Hattiesburg City Council took a brave and important step that is aligned with the direction our country is headed in – the recognition that LGBT people are and should be treated equally under the law,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “Equality cannot come fast enough for LGBT people in Mississippi.”

Hattiesburg is the second Mississippi city to add LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman last month approved the Magnolia State’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.

19
Feb
2014

Mississippi city passes LGBT ordinance

Oxford, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade

Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Kathy Jean; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

OXFORD, Miss.–A third Mississippi city has passed a resolution in support of adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen on March 4 unanimously approved the resolution.

“Tolerance and acceptance creates the strongest bonds between neighbors,” said Alderman Jay Hughes in a Human Rights Campaign press release. “I am proud to be on the right side of history in reaffirming Oxford’s long-standing commitment to that most fundamental principle.”

Hattiesburg last month added LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman in January approved the state’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.

05
Mar
2014

Waco adds protections for LGBT city employees

Waco, gay news, Washington Blade

Waco, Texas (Photo by Billy Hathorn; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

WACO, Texas — Without fanfare or controversy, the city of Waco has quietly agreed to bar discrimination against LGBT city employees, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.

City Manager Dale Fisseler said Monday he has made an administrative decision to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s internal personnel policy on nondiscrimination, the paper said.

The policy already bars discrimination based on the federally recognized categories of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, marital status and disability.

“All I’m doing is updating our internal policy . . . just to clarify that we don’t discriminate based on sexual preference and identity,” Fisseler was quoted as having said.

A handful of local pro-LGBT activists, led by Paul Derrick and Carmen Saenz, had been seeking the change since 2013.

The city’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee last summer recommended the policy revision. Then-City Manager Larry Groth turned it down, saying in a February letter that the city has never had a grievance or complaint about LGBT discrimination.

“I believe the policies clearly convey the message to our employees that discrimination and/or harassment is not allowed to any class even without a list,” he wrote to the advisory committee.

Fisseler was city manager in Fort Worth in 2009 when the city council there passed a much more sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance that gave LGBT residents protections not only in municipal employment but private-sector employment, housing and public accommodations, the paper said.

Saenz, who worked with Derrick on the Waco policy, said she ultimately would like to see a broad nondiscrimination ordinance in Waco, but she thought it necessary to take smaller steps.

Saenz, a psychology professional who identifies as lesbian, said she hasn’t experienced discrimination in Waco, but in the last year she has heard from city employees who feel pressure at work to keep their same-sex relationships a secret, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.

04
Jun
2014

Ark. city approves LGBT ordinance

Michelle Duggar, Fayetteville, gay news, Washington Blade

Michelle Duggar of “19 Kids and Counting,” a TLC series that profiles her family who lives in nearby Tontitown, Ark., recorded a robo call that urged Fayetteville residents to publicly oppose the proposed LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance. (Photo by Jim Bob Duggar; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Fayetteville City Council on August 20 approved an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported the 6-2 vote took place after a meeting that lasted nearly 10 hours.

The newspaper said more than 120 people testified during the hearing.

“The idea that I could lose my home because someone finds out that I’m gay is why … we need to push this through as quickly as possible,” said Nathan Southerland-Kordsmeier as the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported. “People like me don’t feel safe here. I’m living with a shadow over my head.”

Michelle Duggar of “19 Kids and Counting,” a TLC series that profiles her family who lives in nearby Tontitown, Ark., recorded a robo call that urged Fayetteville residents to publicly oppose the proposed ordinance.

Fayetteville is the first Arkansas city to explicitly ban anti-LGBT discrimination.

The ordinance is slated to take effect on September 20.

27
Aug
2014

San Antonio passes LGBT rights ordinance

The San Antonio City Council voted 8-3 on Thursday to add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing city ordinance that bans discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and city contracting.

The vote came after more than 700 people testified for and against the proposed expansion of the ordinance in a marathon hearing that lasted past midnight on Wednesday and continued Thursday morning before the vote.

Approval of the ordinance in the nation’s seventh largest city also followed a heated campaign by the state’s conservative Republican leaders and religious-right activists to oppose the bill. Much of the opposition targeted the bill’s provision to protect transgender people from discrimination.

Among the bill’s strongest supporters was San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a Democrat, who told the City Council minutes before the vote, “This is a city that belongs to everyone.”

Among the most vocal opponents of the bill was Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is a Republican candidate for governor. Abbott argued that the expanded ordinance would trigger a flurry of lawsuits by people of faith and others who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. He predicted opponents would challenge in the courts the bill’s provision preventing them from refusing to hire or refusing to sell goods such as wedding cakes to LGBT people.

Supporters of the measure noted that the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and El Paso passed similar legislation years earlier banning discrimination against gays and transgender people and predictions of problems such as multiple lawsuits never materialized.

“The right wing extremists really threw everything at this and really put on a major offensive and they lost,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington.

“And that is a big deal,” Keisling said. “Our side stood up. Our allies were just rock solid and we won.”

Chad Griffin, president of the D.C. based Human Rights Campaign, which was part of a coalition of LGBT and mainline civil rights groups pushing for the ordinance, said the City Council’s action reflects what he believes is the support by a majority of San Antonio residents for equality under the law.

“Today’s vote is a victory, but the attacks we saw from our opposition in the run-up to this – particularly the trans phobic messaging – remind us of the ruthless tactics they use to promote discrimination against LGBT people,” Griffin said.

06
Sep
2013

Colo. panel rules for trans student

Denver, Colo., Colorado, Gay News, Transgender, Washington Blade

The Denver City and County Building. (Photo by Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons)

DENVER—The Colorado Civil Rights Division on June 17 announced a local school district had discriminated against a transgender student when it refused to allow her to use the girls’ bathroom.

The Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 last December told Coy Mathis’ parents that she would have to use the boys’ restroom or a staff or nurse’s bathroom after winter break. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund urged the district to reconsider its decision, but it filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division in February on behalf of Coy Mathis and her parents.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division described the school district’s request as “hostile, intimidating” and “offensive.”

TLDEF said the ruling is the first-of-its-kind in the country that states trans students must be allowed to use the bathroom that is consistent with their gender identity and expression.

26
Jun
2013

AFL-CIO bans anti-trans discrimination

AFL-CIO, American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations, gay news, Washington Blade

The AFL-CIO added gender identity and expression to the group’s constitutionally protected classes. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz via Wikimedia Commons)

LOS ANGELES — At its national convention in California this week, the nation’s largest federation of labor organizations added gender identity and expression to the group’s constitutionally protected classes.

The AFL-CIO — which represents 57 national and international unions — also considered a resolution to eliminate barriers to adequate healthcare for the group’s trans employees, and advocate for trans-inclusive healthcare for its members and members’ dependents during bargaining negotiations with employers. However, according to BuzzFeed, the resolution was scrapped temporarily due to technicalities, though the DC-Baltimore chapter of the AFL CIO’s LGBT organization, Pride at Work, pledges the language is slated to be introduced at a future gathering.

Currently 17 states and the District of Columbia bar discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity in the law.

11
Sep
2013

‘We’ve got Ph.D.s working as file clerks’

Bob Witeck, Allyson Robinson, Ruby Corado, Gay News, Washington Blade

Allyson Robinson (left) was forced out of her role as head of OutServe-SLDN this week, offering a reminder of the need for more trans visibility in the LGBT movement. Ruby Corado (middle) is a local trans rights advocate who welcomes the new Association of Transgender Professionals; and Bob Witeck (right) is a local adviser to ATP, which is headquartered in New York.

Employment discrimination against transgender people is a staggering problem for LGBT rights advocates in the United States with unemployment rates twice the national average, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

But the newly formed Association of Transgender Professionals is taking on an even broader mission — fighting for inclusion on a global scale.

“We’re already getting requests to help other countries, like the U.K.,” says ATP’s executive director Denise Norris. “There are folks in a lot of places who are excited that we are available to the public.”

The very term “transgender,” she notes, is an imperfect one.

“‘Transgender’ is a very U.S. concept,” says Norris. “It’s very Western in its model; it’s based upon the gender binary, so the challenge is how do we look at workplace inclusion on an international scale.”

ATP, co-founded by Norris and Joe McCormack, is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving employment rates for transgender people by building acceptance in the workplace, helping trans people learn how to find jobs and by providing businesses a channel to reach out to transgender talent. The organization is headquartered in New York, but has advisers in most major urban areas of the country. In D.C., longtime advocate Bob Witeck of Witeck Communications is an ATP adviser.

“The rate of unemployment is about 200 percent of the national average for the trans community in general, and 400 percent for trans people of color,” Norris says. “ATP is about building acceptance inside the workplace and in employers, and about helping our community learn how to get jobs. Many of us thought we wouldn’t have real jobs and don’t know how to interview, or don’t know how to dress for success.”

Just this week came a reminder about the need for more trans visibility in the broader LGBT movement, as Allyson Robinson, a trans woman, was forced to resign as executive director of OutServe-SLDN.

Norris noted that many ATP members are military veterans.

“One cannot serve with Pride if one is commanded to do so in the closet,” she said. “Allyson’s role at OutServe-SLDN was a beacon to all by demonstrating that transgender was finally an equal partner in the struggle for LGBT equality.”

ATP helps trans people find jobs in all sectors of the economy, and is not limited to helping those who have MBAs or other degrees. Unemployment at the entry level is considered just as important to combat.

In addition to directly helping transgender people seek employment, ATP also helps companies and organizations seek transgender employees. As Norris explains, it is difficult for many accepting companies to advertise that they are transgender friendly.

“There are no avenues for the companies that are transgender friendly,” she says, “they don’t know how to recruit to us. There are no recruiting channels. … In many cases of employment, we don’t even know who wants to hire us — who doesn’t care about gender expression.”

Both Norris and McCormack have corporate backgrounds. In 1993, McCormack founded McCormack and Associates (now McCormack and Warren), which he says was the first gay-identified executive search firm in the U.S.

“My observation as a recruiter is that the transgender population, of which many people are talented and accomplished, is the most unemployed and underemployed sector of our community because of this discrimination,” McCormack says. “Recruiters who often are gatekeepers are concerned that their clients may be biased against transgender people. They don’t even give them the opportunity to consider them, so the company would be trans friendly, but there is this bias in the recruiting profession that is a real barrier for transgender people.”

Norris founded the educational and direct-action group, The Transsexual Menace, in 1993. She has worked in the corporate sector since around that same year, and currently is a consultant for the multinational management-consulting firm, Accenture. In addition to working with clients, Norris advises the firm on how to be more inclusive and accepting of diverse gender expression.

McCormack and Norris said that based on their corporate experience, they know that inclusion appeals to many large corporations.

“I can talk corporate. I know what motivates employers. A lot of advocacy groups are not talking the same language as employers,” Norris says. “There’s this concept called ‘corporate talent,’ which is why ‘LGB’ recruiting is very hot. We know diverse teams have a statistical likelihood of making better products. Trans is the last untapped pool of diversity talents. We’ve got Ph.D.s working as file clerks, and geologists working in back stores.”

As ATP undergoes the process of gaining its own non-profit status, the association is operating under the auspices of the New York LGBT Center. It is mostly funded by donations, and by grants from large foundations. ATP has received a $10,000 grant from the Pallette Foundation of New York, and a $25,000 challenge grant from the Calamus Foundation.

ATP is inclusive of those in the transgender community who do not identify within the binary of male or female. The association’s goal is to make the workplace accepting of all forms of gender expression, not just gender expression that complements traditional views of masculinity and femininity.

“Every 25 years, there’s this convulsion. Stonewall was the first convulsion, 25 years later, our community convulsed again, and out of that convulsion came ‘LGBT.’ What we’re seeing now is that the next generation coming in on that 25 year cycle is forcing us to redefine LGBT in their terms,” Norris says. “I believe since other people allowed me to stand on their shoulders in the ‘90s, I have an obligation and stewardship that the soil we till with ATP in the workplace must accommodate genderqueer and omnisexual. It cannot be latched onto the gender binary.”

Casa Ruby (2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.) is a multicultural center and safe space for the D.C. Latino transgender community. The organization provides housing assistance, employment advocacy, HIV testing and other services. Ruby Corado, the organization’s director, is excited by the founding of the Association of Transgender Professionals and the work they are doing.

“It is such a needed area of work. It comes down to another pressing issue, which is violence. I think the fact that people are not employed puts them at risk, because they are confined to living in neighborhoods where it’s not safe,” Corado says. “I will say ‘kudos’ to the people putting this together. As a transgender organization in D.C. focusing on the local needs of trans people, we certainly welcome them and will help to work with them.”

Although the ATP specifically advocates for the transgender community, Norris describes the organization as inclusive of all individuals who are gender non-conforming, including those who are gay and lesbian.

“I see us all as one people. I’m in favor of getting rid of the acronym. I prefer the word ‘queer,’ she says.

For more information on the Association of Transgender Professionals, visit transgenderprofessionals.org.

27
Jun
2013

HRC pledges $25K match for Md. trans fight

Gay News, Washington Blade, Carrie Evans, Gay Maryland, gender identity

‘Without HRC, we would not have won,’ said Equality Maryland’s Carrie Evans of the state’s marriage fight. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

At the conclusion of Equality Maryland’s 25th Anniversary Brunch on Oct. 27, there was a challenge from Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign that his organization will match up to $25,000 in donations to Equality Maryland to help pass a statewide gender identity non-discrimination law. Following that announcement, thousands of dollars were pledged by supporters in attendance. The last total available indicated Equality Maryland still lacked $8,000 toward the goal.

Earlier in the proceedings Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, praised HRC for its efforts and contributions toward winning the ballot referendum on same-sex marriage.  “Without HRC, we would not have won,” she said.

06
Nov
2013