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Young kids who don't fit the usual expectations for males or females are thrown out in the street by their own parents.

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Transgender Rights Bill
Hits New York City

by Kelly Cogswell

MAY 8, 2001. The New York City Council's Committee on General Welfare held a hearing Friday to discuss a bill that would amend the city's anti-discrimination law to include transsexual, transgendered, and gender-variant New Yorkers.

About a hundred transgendered people testified briefly about gender discrimination. They told how young kids who don't fit the usual expectations for males or females are thrown out in the street by their own parents, and how people with jobs lose them when they begin the process of gender reassignment. They described the scorn they'd been subjected to at city clinics and hospitals.

Some were afraid that they would lose their already tenuous jobs or apartments for even speaking out. The committee promised to help anyone who suffered retribution as a result of their testimonies.

The verbal accounts were accompanied by hundreds of written statements.

Later in the day, the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries held a rally at City Hall park. While a few politicians took to the stage, most speakers were transgendered people retelling the stories of their experience for those who weren't inside at the earlier hearing.

Sylvia Rivera, Stonewall veteran and long-time activist told The Gully, "It's been a long road for the trans community. It's taken time for our own community, the more mainstream gay community, to understand that clauses protecting sexual orientation do not cover our unique needs."

She said 'transvestites' were initially included in the gay civil rights bill introduced in 1974, six years after the Stonewall riots, but were excluded in "a back room deal between politicians and gay rights activists. They told them the bill would pass if 'transvestites' were dropped. So they dumped us, but the bill still didn't pass for another fifteen years," she added.

The mainstream gay community was notably absent from both the hearing and the rally. Rivera asked, "If not for the street queens, where would they be? At Stonewall, we were there in the front lines. It was us doing battle with the cops, proving to them that we were human beings. It's a shame that the community keeps pushing us to the back of the bus."

The anti-discrimination bill will be brought for a vote before the full council in the next few months. Rivera believes the bill has a good chance of passing, though City Council Speaker Peter Vallone does not support it.

Anti-bias laws including transgender people have been enacted in over two dozen cities, including Atlanta, San Francisco and Minneapolis.

Related links:

For the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA). They spear-headed efforts to pass the bill.

For the Transgender Law and Policy Site's List of places with transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws in place.

For Sylvia Rivera, Peter Oiler Pack House at NTAC Reception.

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