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Advocating for GENDA in New York

October 24, 2012

Task Force Field Organizer Causten Wollerman testified at today’s forum on the need for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in the state of New York.

The forum brought together a diverse array of New Yorkers and experts to testify on the obstacles faced by many transgender individuals, and the potential impact of GENDA.

It is currently legal in New York for a person to be fired or evicted from their home because of their gender identity (except where local anti-discrimination laws have been enacted). GENDA would prohibit discrimination against transgender New Yorkers in housing, employment, credit and public accommodations, while expanding New York’s hate crime laws to include crimes against transgender individuals.

According to the New York data from our report, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers were being fired, harassed, passed over for promotion, and not hired simply for being who they were. Rates of workplace discrimination were alarming in New York, indicating widespread discrimination based on gender identity/expression:

  • 74% reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job
  • 20%  lost  a  job
  • 20%  were  denied  a  promotion
  • 37%  were  not  hired

Likely due to this discrimination, transgender New Yorkers experienced poverty (making under $10,000 per year) at a rate nearly 5 times the national average.

Survey respondents experienced blatant housing discrimination, as well as housing instability, much of which appears to stem from the challenges they face in employment:

  • 18% experienced homelessness
  • 19% were denied a home/apartment due to being transgender
  • 24% had to find temporary spaces to stay in an attempt to avoid homelessness
  • 53% experienced harassment and mistreatment in public accommodations

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says:

These figures show how devastating bias and discrimination are to the transgender community. Employment protections are key to providing stability and a fair playing field for transgender people. Our data show that many of the severe problems transgender people face, including housing insecurity and lack of health insurance, are rooted in job loss or in workplace harassment. GENDA is much needed because it is not only responsible public policy, it also shows the nation that New York is ready to join the ranks of states that value all of their residents, including those who are transgender.

The Task Force believes that all New Yorkers should have the right to seek and keep employment and seek housing without being turned away due to bias. The laws of New York should provide these basic tenets of equal opportunity to transgender New Yorkers, as it already does based on gender, race, disability, religion and other characteristics.

GENDA has passed the Assembly five times, but has remained stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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