A trans rights advocate has, for the first time, been given the opportunity to speak at a Senate hearing into the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).
The hearing, which occurred Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, saw Kylar Broadus, founder of Trans People of Color Coalition, speak out about the discrimination he faced upon announcing his transition, this despite a long history of hard work and dedication to his job. This, he said, is a reality for trans, lesbian, bisexual and gay people throughout America who are still not protected under federal law.
“At work, when I decided to actually transition, I had been there for a number of years, and I’m a workaholic, and it was disheartening to me that all this could be pulled out from under me because people weren’t comfortable with the person that I am,” Broadus said.
His written testimony details receiving harassing phone calls, receiving assignments after hours that were due early next morning and being forbidden from talking to certain people.
“I still sit here today with almost tears in my eyes,” Broadus said. “It’s devastating, it’s demoralizing and dehumanizing to be put in that position.”
Broadus said his treatment at the job and being forced out impacted him emotionally, causing him post-traumatic stress disorder, and led to period of unemployment for about a year from which he still hasn’t financially recovered.
You can watch Mr Broadus’ full testimony below:
The Senate hearing also saw testimony from a representative from the Williams Institute, a think tank that wishes to advance critical thinking on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. The testimony refuted claims that there was no need for these protections, saying in part:
Findings from recent surveys of transgender employees confirm similar and even more common experiences of discrimination. For example, in the largest survey of transgender people to date, 78% of respondents reported experiencing at least one form of harassment or mistreatment at work because of their gender identity. More specifically, 47% had been discriminated against in hiring, promotion, or job retention.
A different source of data supports the finding that discrimination based on sexual orientation is common, and perhaps as common as other kinds of discrimination, relative to population size. My colleagues and I collected the numbers of sexual orientation discrimination complaints in states that outlawed such treatment from 1999-2007. The number of complaints in each state is relatively small compared with the overall level of complaints filed at state agencies. But once we adjust for the population size of the different protected groups, we see that LGB people are as likely to file complaints as women and people of color. The annual rate of complaints was 4.7 per 10,000 LGB people on average in these states (assuming that LGB people are 4.1% of the U.S. population). That figure is quite similar to the number of sex discrimination complaints per woman (5.4 per 10,000 women) and race-related complaints per person of color (6.5 per 10,000). In other words, LGB people are about as likely to file discrimination complaints as are people in groups that are currently protected against discrimination under federal law.
To sum up, several decades of research demonstrate that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity exists in our nation’s workplaces. This discrimination hurts LGBT people financially and in other harmful ways. Our nation’s employers and employees would be better off with an LGBT workforce that no longer fears discrimination. The research overwhelmingly demonstrates that passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would benefit both employees and employers.
There were however some dissenting voices, but not as many as you might expect. Not a single Republican committee member turned up for the hearing, despite the fact that the legislation has bipartisan support and that they had over a month’s notice. The reason for this is as yet unknown.
There was one Republican witness who spoke out against ENDA however. Craig Parshal of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, argued that religious institutions should be able to discriminate freely against LGBT people per their faith, implying that ENDA would be chilling to freedom of conscience. His claims were refuted however because ENDA has built in to it broad exemptions for religious institutions and some associated businesses.
ENDA has stalled in Congress for over a decade now despite widespread bipartisan support. It is hoped that with a renewed push by the Senate the bill might finally gain traction, however Republican House Speaker John Boehner has previously said he is “unaware” of the legislation – strange given that his focus has been on jobs – but that he imagines the necessary safeguards are already in place.
This suggests that, like all other LGBT rights issues, ENDA would receive a hostile reception in the lower chamber while it remains under Republican control.