This is from an assignment from my Communication and Gender class. We were asked to summarize an illegal gender-issue workplace problem and a legal gender-issue workplace problem. We were then asked to discuss why the problem exists, what is keeping it from being resolved, what is being done (if anything), and some of the communication challenges involved. I have put the problems in bold. (Citations were required, so I included them here as well)

Employment discrimination for non-public employees in regards to gender or sexuality is illegal in 20 states.

While most people are aware that one cannot discriminate against someone in the workplace for their sex, marital status, age, or disability, most people assume this also includes sexuality and gender, which for 30 states in the US it does not. While there are still many examples of discrimination occurring in the workplace for the classes protected in all 50 states, gender and sexuality are only protected in 20 states. This means that a transgender person can be legally fired from their job for being transgender in 30 states, and they have little to no way of getting justice since gender is not covered on a federal level. By leaving it up to the states to decide to protect gender or sexuality, it creates an environment where LGBT+ people often times are forced to remain in the closet about who they are, or in the case of gender, are forced to either take a job after transitioning, or spend their entire time working at the job pretending to be someone they are not.

Even in states where LGBT+ people are protected by a non-discrimination act, harassment and discrimination can still occur, which then requires the person affected to either out themselves to everyone, or to stay silent about their gender or sexuality. Another issue is that while it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT+ people on the basis of gender or sexuality in 20 states in the US, people can still discriminate but then give some other “reason” behind their actions, such as refusing to hire a transgender person who is open or unable to pass as their gender, or firing someone for being open about being homosexual (such as a man talking about his marriage and mentioning they have a husband and not a wife). Due to many states being either at will or a right to work state, some employers don’t even need to give a reason for firing a person, which then makes it much more difficult to fight against and prove the reason behind the firing or discrimination.

Currently there is work being done by groups like the Human Rights Campaign to have the federal government pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HRC, 2013), but without the removal of at will and right to work laws, the discrimination will still continue to occur as employers don’t have to disclose reasons behind their actions. Also, as can be seen with discrimination of cis women within the workplace, without proper enforcement of the laws and acts, the discrimination will continue and in many cases be swept under the proverbial rug until there are so many cases that people can no longer ignore the problem.

“As Senate Hearing Nears, Nations Leading Businesses Support Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Human Rights Campaign, 9 July 2013, www.hrc.org/press/nations-leading-businesses-support-employment-non-discrimination-act-as-sen.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 lists transgender people in the same group as pedophiles and people with sexual disorders.

While most people agree that those who are transgender do not fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act just for being transgender, the issue is in how the ADA words their exclusion. While the ADA was updated in 2008, the terminology of Section 12211 continues to list “gender identity disorders” and “transsexualism” as sexual behavior disorders (Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended). The problem with this is not just that the term “gender identity disorder” is now viewed within the medical community as inaccurate and outdated, being replaced with gender dysphoria in the DSM-V and other medical literature, but that it lumps transgender people in with those who have sexual disorders.

While most people won’t take the time to read through the text of the ADA to reach Section 12211, by keeping the connection within the text it provides ammunition for anti-trans groups and organizations to compare transgender people with pedophiles, voyeurs, and sexual paraphiliacs. Groups such as Gender Identity Watch, which is run by an anti-trans woman known as Cathy Brennan, use text such as Section 12211 to justify their actions which include posting information about trans people (especially transgender women) on their website, doxing (exposing private information) of transgender people, and even stalking and harassing transgender people online. Their claim is that being transgender is a mental disorder that should be called autogynephilia (which itself is a mental illness created by Ray Blanchard that essentially states that certain men gain sexual arousal by thinking of themselves as a woman.), and it is just as dangerous and harmful to society as pedophilia, and as such trans people should be tracked, exposed, and “cured” of their mental disorder.

One of the major factors preventing this from being resolved is the lack of knowledge of what is within the act. Very few people have taken the time to read the entire act, and even though medical knowledge and literature has been updated regarding gender dysphoria and transgender people, legal documents and government acts require the government to justify amending or changing a piece of literature and this usually requires the legislative branch of the government to vote on the changes. As can be currently seen when it comes to transgender rights such as the ability to use the bathroom without being harassed or forced to use the wrong bathroom, it is an uphill struggle. To my knowledge nothing is currently being done to fix the wording within the ADA, and due to the constant pushback regarding matters of gender by not just the government but the public at large, it will take people actively working on adjusting their language and mental presuppositions about gender to create enough of a drive to fix the text within the ADA.

“Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended.” 2008, https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm

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