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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 05, 2019 1:00 am

Time for nation's laws to ban transgender discrimination

Melissa Damerell

It's time for Americans to finally decide if it's proper to allow discrimination in this country, whether it's based on religious bias or ignorance. It's said that a society can be judged by how it treats its minorities. It's time as a society to say we will not tolerate discrimination.

One of these minorities under federal attack is the transgender community. It's time that Congress pass anti-discrimination legislation that includes gender. Executive orders and court rulings have left the transgender community vulnerable. With executive orders, what one administration granted another can take away, as we now find ourselves; the Trump Administration has overturned many Obama Administration actions.

An example is the interpretation of the Civil Rights Act. On Oct. 25, the Justice Department filed a brief before the Supreme Court basically saying Title VII only applies to biological sex and thus does not apply to transgender people, making it legal to discriminate based on gender.

Another issue is transgender troops. At present, 14 countries allow transgender troops to serve. If transgender service members were an issue, it would have shown up by now. I myself served over six years on ballistic missile submarines after graduating from Northrop High School.

Around the country and in our own home state, legislators, sensing the change in Washington, are crafting laws under the guise of religious freedom to discriminate against transgender people.

• Indiana House Bill 1525, written by Rep. Bruce Borders, addresses “biological sexual identity.” The bill “provides that student facilities in public school buildings must be designated for use by female students or male students and may be used only by the students of the biological sex for which the facility is designated. Provides that if a school ... designates athletic programs as either athletic programs for males or athletic programs for females, a student may participate only in the athletic programs corresponding to the student's biological sex.”

• North Carolina was granted a religious exemption to ban LBGT parents from adopting.

• Texas House Bill 1035 would make it illegal for any number of “government entities” to take any “discriminatory action” against a religious organization or private citizens whose “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” cause them to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

On the other side, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed bills into law that ban anti-transgender discrimination and the use of conversion therapy on minors.

It's said that only 16 percent of the population reports that they actually know a transgender person. The key word here is “reports.” In actuality, you probably meet transgender people often and never realize it.

Thirty years ago when I transitioned, we were simply called transsexuals, and often we were considered illegal by the police under old crossdressing laws and other “blue laws.” Many officers would just pick us up if they spotted us. Because of this, we went “stealth” or blended into society. In the days before computers with updated paperwork, we were able to slip into society and disappear. Now that computers track our lives, this is near impossible.

In the 1980s, the gay community realized that if you knew a gay person, it was harder to hate a gay person. The trans community says we should try the same strategy, but our numbers are a minority of a minority, not to mention the risk to our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

You may not see us, but we are here. We are your neighbors, your co-workers, people you meet and work with and see on the street. Since I walk with a cane these days, you might have even held the door for me. At Thanksgiving, you might have even been that generous person who picked up our check at Liberty Diner. Thank you.

I've been a member of the Fort Wayne community for 25 years now, moving back home after transition. I've traveled all 48 contiguous states in my work. I've met thousands of people in my life. I am just a woman trying to support my family and enjoy life in the town I call home. Why would you discriminate against that?

Melissa Damerell is a Fort Wayne resident.