I often see online posts stating that in so many states no protection against LGBT employment discrimination exists. You can be fired because you are gay, the argument insists. While this latter statement is true, in a rare circumstance amidst the LGBT struggle for equality, the "T" part of the equation has gained some measure of protection ahead of the others.
In an excellent article published last spring in Metro Weekly, an online magazine, author Chris Geidner explains that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal administrative law body designed to hear employment discrimination complaints, has determined that an employer who discriminates on the basis of gender identity is violating the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. "The EEOC decision (Macy v. ATF), issued without objection by the five-member, bipartisan commission, will apply to all EEOC enforcement and litigation activities at the commission and in its 53 field offices throughout the country. It also will be binding on all federal agencies and departments." (Chris Geidner, Published on April 23, 2012 http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=7288).
Geidner goes on to quote lawyers at the Transgender Law Center who filed the case "that after today's ruling transgender people who feel they have faced employment discrimination can go into any of those 53 offices and the EEOC will consider their claims." According to Geidner, the director of the Transgender Law Center, Masen Davis, said: ''Given that transgender people do not have employment protections in the vast majority of states, this creates a whole new fabric of legal support for our community.''
Geidner also quotes National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter. ''To have just a clear, definitive EEOC ruling that Title VII protects transgender people gives us so much more certainty and security and solid, reliable legal protection. For decades now, advocates and scholars both have been saying Title VII should be applied to protect transgender people. . . .
''And now, to have the EEOC confirm that, 'Yes ... Title VII should and does protect transgender people when they're discriminated against because they've changed their sex or intend to change their sex or because they're gender nonconforming. That is sex discrimination.' That is really an important capstone.''
So, for now the "T" people do have some measure of protection from employment discrimination. While everyone agrees that it is still important to obtain broad federal protection for the entire LGBT community through legislation such as the Employment Non-discrimination Act presently stalled in the Republican led congress, it is critical that we make accurate statements in the political and public opinion arenas so as not to obscure the path to getting there.