By Kyla Bender-Baird
WeNews guest author
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The history of extending workplace protections to transgender people has more losses than victories, says Kyla Bender-Baird in her book "Transgender Employment Experiences." In this excerpt, she calls for nuanced policies backed by cultural change.
(WOMENSENEWS)--In the fall of 2004, retired U.S. Army Colonel Diane Schroer applied for a specialist in terrorism and international crime position with the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. Schroer served in the U.S.
Armed Forces for 25 years, holds master's degrees in history and international relations and was considered the top candidate for the position. She was even offered the position; which she accepted.
At the time of application, Schroer was in the process of her gender transition and had applied using her male name. However, to lessen confusion, Schroer intended to start her new position as a woman and invited her future supervisor out to lunch to explain her plan. During this lunch, Schroer explained that she was transgender and would be coming to work as a woman. The representative of the Library of Congress told Schroer at the end of the lunch that she had a lot to think about.
Schroer received a phone call the next day in which the Library of Congress rescinded its offer, stating that it did not believe she was a good fit. Schroer filed a Title VII sex discrimination lawsuit and in 2008, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia handed down a landmark decision in her favor.
The Schroer decision is a sign of progress in the legal landscape of employment protections for transgender people. Unfortunately, Schroer's experience of blatant discrimination is all too common for transgender people. In revealing her transgender identity, Schroer went from " hero to zero in 24 hours." All around the country, trans people report similar experiences.
And the history of advocating to extend employment discrimination to this population contains more losses than victories. In February 2007, the city manager of Largo, Fla., was fired after announcing her plan to transition from Steven to Susan. Despite the publicity this incident received, eight months later members of Congress decided to drop protections for gender identity from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act before putting the bill up for a House vote.
This move effectively sent the signal that employment discrimination based on gender identity would remain legal for the foreseeable future, leaving people around the nation vulnerable and without recourse.
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