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Why ENDA Deserves to Become Law

Attending the ceremony for the induction of Debra Forte (among others) into Boston's Garden of Peace yesterday evening, I had a disturbing conversation with Ethan St. Pierre.

Ethan is the nephew of Debra Forte, a transsexual woman who was brutally murdered in 1995 – ironically, while transgender activists, myself included, gathered in protest at the trial for the murder of transsexual Brandon Teena (the murder depicted in the movie Boys Don't Cry). The Garden of Peace is Boston's memorial to the victims of murder. Debra Forte is the first known transgender person included in the memorial.

Ethan St. Pierre is also a transsexual man who is working for the passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination against persons based on gender identity or expression. In other words, it would protect transgender persons against being fired simply for being who they are.

Ethan told me that he is being asked by a member of congress for stories of transgender persons who work successfully with children, in order to counter accusations from the opposition – mostly Republicans, I expect – that transgenders are pedophiles.

Last night I lay awake while this infuriating accusation rolled around my brain. I have never heard of a case of a transgender person being convicted of child molestation. I HAVE heard of Catholic priests and heterosexual men and – oh yes – Republican Congressmen being convicted as such. But never a transgender person. So why are we being asked to mount a defense against such accusation? Why are we presumed to be dangerous to children in the face of absolutely no evidence that we present any danger whatsoever to young persons?

I'll tell you why. It's called prejudice. It is the UNFOUNDED belief that we are somehow unsavory, untrustworthy, or morally suspect. It is the baseless belief that we should continue to be regarded as unworthy of equal respect.

The fact that people are arguing against our protection from unfair presumption with those very presumptions is the height of irony.

I can't adequately express my outrage that such scurrilous arguments are being used to oppose the recognition of one of the most basic rights of transgender persons like myself, the right to work. If members of congress are using such arguments, then you can bet that employees and employers across this country are using them, too.

The fact that we are being confronted with unfair presumption in opposition to the very legislation which would defend us against such presumption is proof of the need for such a law.

And that is why ENDA is needed, and why it deserves to become law.

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