Archive for Saturday, September 24, 2011

Q and A: City’s proposed gender identity ordinance

September 24, 2011


There are bound to be some questions at Lawrence City Hall next week.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider an ordinance that will make it illegal for employers, landlords, merchants and other business owners to discriminate against people who are transgendered.

Let’s face it: Some people — as a former City Commission candidate once did during a forum — will have to ask what transgender means, and others are bound to have many questions about how government will regulate the subject.

The Journal-World this week compiled a list of questions concerning the issue of gender identity, and asked lawyers, regulators, members of the transgender community and opponents of the law to respond.

If what happened in Manhattan is any indication, opposition is likely. City leaders there passed a law — the first in the state — that would make it illegal for employers and landlords to discriminate against a person for reasons of gender identity. But that law was repealed after a new slate of city commissioners took office this year.

In Lawrence, a forum took place in April where several members of the community expressed religious, moral and practical concerns with the idea. An organizer of the local forum did not return phone calls seeking comment this week. Representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, which led the conversation at the April forum, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Here are questions surrounding the gender identity issue:

What issues are city commissioners trying to address?

The city code does nothing to prohibit an employer from firing or refusing to hire individuals who present themselves as a gender that is different than their birth — an employee who was born as a man but now lives as a woman, for example. The code also does nothing to stop a landlord from refusing to rent to individuals who are transgender, and it does not prohibit a merchant or health care provider from refusing service to transgender individuals. The proposed code — it is a draft and commissioners can change it — would make such discrimination illegal in the city, said Toni Wheeler, city director of legal services.

Is such discrimination happening in Lawrence?

Specific statistics for Lawrence aren’t kept, but Stephanie Mott, executive director of the Kansas State Transgender Education Project, said national statistics suggest that such discrimination likely is occurring in Lawrence. A survey of nearly 6,500 transgender individuals across the country found 19 percent have been denied basic medical care. Scott Criqui, chairman of the city’s Human Relations Commission, said he has anecdotal evidence that such discrimination has taken place in Lawrence. He said a transgender friend was denied medical care in Lawrence three times before leaving the community for another doctor.

What does this proposed ordinance say?

The city has an existing ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate against people by reason of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, ancestry, familial status and sexual orientation. The proposed ordinance adds the term “gender identity” to that list. It also provides a definition of gender identity. It is: “the gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, and other characteristics of an individual, as perceived by the individual or another, and without regard to the individual’s actual or assigned sex at birth.”

Using that definition, what criteria must be met before someone is considered transgender under this law?

Wheeler said a key determination is how people identify themselves. If an individual who was biologically born a man, for example, “identifies as female by identity, appearance, behavior and other characteristics,” the person would receive the protections under this law, Wheeler said. The individual is not required to have undergone medical treatments, such as hormone therapy or other procedures, in order to be protected under the law, although Mott said many transgender people do undergo some sort of medical treatment as part of their transition.

What about someone who occasionally presents as the opposite sex, such as a “cross-dresser?”

Wheeler notes that some cross-dressers do not consider themselves transgender. Under the proposal, the key criteria would be how the person identifies himself or herself.

What about public restrooms? Would this law allow someone who was born a man and continues to possess the biological features of a man to enter a female restroom if they identify themselves as female?

Wheeler said the law would allow for that. Individuals who identify themselves as the opposite sex by “identity, appearance, behavior and other characteristics” would be afforded the ability to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify. Wheeler said an employer may be able to limit which bathroom an employee uses, but the employer would have to do so for a “valid business purpose.”

What about locker rooms, such as those found at health clubs or recreation centers? Would they be covered under the law?

Yes. They fall under the category of a public accommodation. Criqui, the chairman of the Human Relations Commission, said the locker room issue likely will require public education. Mott, though, said the issue is workable. Mott, who was born a biological male, said she would never undress in front of other females in a locker room. Instead, she would expect the owner of the locker room to provide accommodations that would allow her to change and shower in privacy.

What other businesses would be covered by this law?

The law defines public accommodation as a business that “caters or offers goods, services, facilities and accommodations to the public.” Examples include lodging establishments, restaurants, bars, barber shops, theaters, swimming pools, public transportation vehicles and government offices.

Have any business groups expressed opposition to the law based on concerns about liabilities it may create for businesses?

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce has asked for a copy of the proposed ordinance to review, but the organization has not yet made any public statements about the proposed ordinance. City commissioners, though, have received correspondence from individuals who have expressed concern that the law will create a “quagmire of liabilities” and will be detrimental to keeping and attracting businesses in the community.

Do other cities or states have such laws?

Yes. Kansas City, Mo., is the closest city to Lawrence that has such a law. Mott said about 100 cities and counties across the country have such laws. In addition, 15 states have statewide laws declaring gender identity as a protected class in discrimination matters.

What have some of those jurisdictions reported?

The Journal-World obviously did not talk to all the jurisdictions with such laws, but information was sought from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which oversees the statewide law that applies to all cities and counties in Iowa. Beth Townsend, executive director for the commission, said her office has had 25 complaints filed under the law in the last three years. “When the law was being debated, people thought we were going to be inundated with complaints, but it hasn’t been that way at all,” Townsend said.

How many complaints does the city’s Human Relations Division receive regarding discrimination of any type, such as race, age, religion, etc.?

Wheeler said that since 2009, the city has averaged eight cases per year. She said many cases are resolved by the parties before any formal finding is made by the city’s Human Relations Commission. She characterized a formal finding by the commission that an individual had been the victim of discrimination as “rare.”

Did the city previously come to some sort of decision about this gender identity issue?

The city’s Human Relations Commission voted 6-3 in November 2009 to recommend that the city not adopt a new ordinance that includes gender identity as a protected class. City commissioners, however, have the final say in the matter, and commissioners are just now taking up the issue. A majority of human relations commissioners, at the time, expressed concerns related to the expense of enforcing the changes to the ordinance, the ambiguity in the language of the term gender identity, and concerns about how the policy would affect public facilities such as public restrooms and shower facilities.

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.


jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

In general, I'm against discrimination.

But, in this case, I have some concerns about the public restroom and locker room aspects.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 7 months ago

Concerns about restrooms and locker rooms, huh. Are you also concerned about ineligible people voting? Discrimination is discrimination. If it's against transgendered people, then it's wrong and we as a society need to condemn it.

Blknblue 6 years, 7 months ago

How is not allowing ineligible people to vote discrimination? By definition they should not be voting.

Liberty275 6 years, 7 months ago

In the world removed from this cornfield, their are unisex restrooms in bars and malls. It was always a blast walking past a long line of women waiting at a bar's bathroom door because I could use the urinal and they couldn't.

Hazumu 6 years, 7 months ago

So, what is your concern?

One in 5,000 people is a female-to-male transgender. Like Thomas Beatty (the Pregnant Man,) like Chaz Bono (Dancing With the Stars.) They're going to use the male restrooms and locker rooms. And you're afraid of - what? - happening? Most guys casually drape a towel over their front if the locker room is not all-adult. Some still do even if it is all-adult.

If you think it's easy to 'wake up one morning, decide that today you're a girl, and then use the ladies' room all day - try it! I double-dog-dare you! See how 'easy' it is. You'll chicken - I'll bet money on it! And so will 99.5% of guys. The other half percent - laws against lewd behaviour ALREADY take care of that nicely, thank you. More than 109 cities and counties already have transgender non-discrimination laws on the books - almost all with 'bathroom laws'. And there are now 14 states (the chart's a little old - Connecticut's not on the list,) that have statewide bans on transgender discrimination.

How many ADDITIONAL cases of lewd behaviour in a ladies' room were seen since the laws were introduced - cases that were tied to guys taking advantage of that mythological pervert-as'transgender' loophole y'all keep yammerin' about?

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. A Hundred and Ten Million U.S. citizens subject to transmen and transwomen in 'the wrong' bathroom and locker room - and you're worried about lil' ole' Lawrence Kansas suffering an Attack of the Trans-Enabled Pree-vurts.


jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

My concern is that the folks in the bathrooms and locker rooms who are not transgender have a legitimate reason to feel uncomfortable when those folks are also using those facilities.

I don't mind a women using the men's room, even if they are biologically still female.

But, I expect that many women may not feel as sanguine about biological men who happen to self-identify as female using their facilities - my wife didn't like the idea much.

And, as I said, I'm generally anti-discrimination, pro gay marriage, etc. so please don't attack me for somebody else's beliefs, unless you want to alienate me because I only agree with you 99% of the time.

I also never said life was "easy" for transgender folks.

jilldavidson 6 years, 7 months ago

Tell us specifically they will feel uncomfortable - if they even will know? At the moment, trans women use the rest room alongside them, and they wouldn't know.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Well, since the term transgender is being used to describe people who self-identify as the opposite gender, regardless of whether they have had any hormone treatments or surgeries, it seems to me they'd look a bit odd, don't you think?

The reasons why women feel uncomfortable with men using their rest rooms are probably best described by women, but I'd imagine it has to do with the horrendous statistics on rape and man/woman violence in our society.

allamerican4ever 6 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Richard Payton 6 years, 7 months ago

Denied medical care three times for what? Maybe, a drug addict wanting drugs from the doctor. I'm not certain if that was the case or not but no one knows the condition of this person from this article. Not a good idea to allow the "member" in public restrooms around underage girls. I agree with the City's Human Relations Commission on this.

Joseph Jarvis 6 years, 7 months ago


"Denied medical care three times for what? Maybe, a drug addict wanting drugs from the doctor. I'm not certain if that was the case or not but no one knows the condition of this person from this article."

The anecdote was provided by the chair of Lawrence's Human Relations Commission. First, why would he misrepresent the story? Second, you just made up that this transgender person was a drug addict--smear much?

"Not a good idea to allow the "member" in public restrooms around underage girls."

This is a tired scare tactic: the image of an old man in a dress waiting in a restroom to sexually assault an innocent young girl.

Transgender people don't seek access to opposite-sex restrooms and showers for sexual gratification. They're just trying to use facilities like anyone else.

Even if a transgender person were attracted to that sex, as a society we have settled this issue: gay and lesbian people use public showers and bathrooms every day. They aren't overcome by sexual desire--they just go about their business.

If someone pretends to be transgender to spy on members of the opposite sex, Kansas's "peeping Tom" law would apply, regardless of the person's gender identity. See K.S.A. 21-4001. If an assault takes place, we obviously have laws on that too. The gender identity nondiscrimination ordinance doesn't trump criminal laws.

Richard Payton 6 years, 7 months ago

I get the feeling you and I agree discrimination is wrong. Only a few fools would state otherwise. I don't know the facts about the medical conditions from reading this story. The person could have been wanting treatment for pimples?? I'm positive the person told the chair of Human Relations that they were denied treatment three times. What I'm not positive about is if the person was telling the chair the truth. Mr. Jarvis it could have been that the doctor wasn't qualified to treat the issue. Remove the word behavior from the ordinance. Suggestion of private showers to be installed at owners expense seems heavy handed.

jilldavidson 6 years, 7 months ago

We don't know the details in this specific case. Please don't assume that trans people want health care for criminal reasons. They want health care for the same reasons anyone does. But trans people are often denied routine and emergency care. In my case, I had a single incident of my physician being turned down for a liver panel checking my cholesterol because we might be using it for monitoring my gender transition. Tyra Hunter was a passenger in a car involved in a collision in DC. The responding EMTs refused to treat her, because "It had a cock and balls". When witnesses brought her to the emergency room, the attending physician refused to treat her, and she died.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Those are horrible stories, and that shouldn't happen.

I hope somebody sued the doctors, etc. who refused to treat those people - I'm sure that's against the law somehow, even if there aren't specific statutes about transgender people.

If you don't mind a personal question, why did you decide it was your body that was wrong rather than your mind/self perception?

Liberty275 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm getting me a job dancing at the dirty bird! Woohoo!!

Terry Sexton 6 years, 7 months ago

you on a roll today, lib. am enjoying your posts.

Blknblue 6 years, 7 months ago

Another frivolous agenda. Might be discrimination. No real evidence. No detail on the medical because more than likely was refusal to perform the operations etc to make the transformation. Otherwise Doctors take an oath to help those who are sick and in need. And such a procedure does not fall under this oath. The fact is these people feel something deep inside that makes this all wrong and they think society is to blame. And any law that mainstreams this will some how quiet the voice.

Hazumu 6 years, 7 months ago

"No detail on the medical because more than likely was refusal to perform the operations etc to make the transformation."

No -- more mundane: "Unfortunately, the inappropriate remarks were not Vaught’s only complaint. After a two-hour wait, a doctor told Vaught that she couldn’t treat her due to her condition. When Vaught replied that she was at the hospital because she didn’t know the condition causing her to cough up blood, the doctor replied that she meant that she couldn’t treat her because of her transgender condition."

So, now that you mentioned in your post that some people get their 'manhood' 'cut off' (to set the record straight, it's actually turned outside in, preserving nearly all of the sensitive nerve-bearing tissues. But you wanted to say 'cut off, didn't you?), THAT surgery is performed in a very few locations - San Francisco, Phoenix, Pennsylvania, Montreal, and about four locations in Thailand.

The (very few) surgeons who have the skill sets to perform this surgery and who practice it will NOT perform it until the patient has obtained TWO letters of recommendation from qualified medical/psychological professionals who also have experience dealing with patients with gender issues - and one of the letter writers MUST be a Ph.D. Also, the patient must see her primary-care gender counselor for a bare minimum of ONE YEAR before the letters can be written and the surgery authorized.

Usually it takes at least two years of living as the opposite gender (complete with 'original factory equipment') before the candidate can have surgery - more if the candidate has trouble coming up with the $20~$30K. That's at least a year, more likely two or more of the Real Life Test - a male-bodied person living as a female 24/7/365 and enduring the kind of discrimination this article is about.

The surgery is not about sex, it's abouut gender congruity. And often it's about safety and about life and death. Transgenders have died at the scene of accidents when EMTs, cutting off the clothing of an accident victim, discovered a 'surprise' and stopped delivering time-critical lifesaving care.

The hippocratic oath is worth less - sometimes much less - when you're transgender.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 7 months ago

"...she would expect the owner of the locker room to provide accommodations that would allow her to change and shower in privacy..." How much will it cost to add "Undecided" locker rooms to every athletic club and school?

jilldavidson 6 years, 7 months ago

Many women's locker rooms have single stall bathrooms. Trans women are not the only women who do not like being seen naked in locker rooms

ivalueamerica 6 years, 7 months ago

There are no legitimate excuses to allow bigots special rights to force other citizens to be less than equal.

AOD506 6 years, 7 months ago

Let's just go ahead and get the ball rolling to vote these commisioners out now, instead of waiting for this to go further. That's what happened in Manhattan. Big brother is too big already. Pack your bags fellas. adiaos.

Hazumu 6 years, 7 months ago

"So, at a local bbq restaurant downtown, "will that be beef or pulled pork sir" as the new transgender cross dresser waiter/waitress awaits the answer."

You've already been in proximity of one or more transgenders. You just didn't know it.

I'm going with the Olyslager/Conway numbers (Lower bound - 1:4,500 | Upper bound - 1:500), as the output of the top three U. S. Gender Reassignment surgeons ALONE exceeds the American Psychological Association estimate of 1:10,000

You've been around transgenders - you just didn't know.

jilldavidson 6 years, 7 months ago

My guess is you've been waited on by trans gender staff and didn't know it, many times in your life.

ZoeB 6 years, 7 months ago

Here's the statistics, from the report "Injustice at every turn", a survey of over 6000 Transpeople nationwide. It mirrors numerous smaller surveys in specific areas, by the Williams Institute and others.

Respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with household income of less than $10,000.

Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace, and one in four were fired because of their gender identity or expression.

While discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, it was particularly pronounced for people of color. African-American transgender respondents fared far worse than all others in many areas studied.

Housing discrimination was also common. 19% reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. One in five respondents experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression.

An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population.

Discrimination in health care and poor health outcomes were frequently experienced by respondents. 19% reported being refused care due to bias against transgender or gender-nonconforming people, with this figure even higher for respondents of color.

Harassment by law enforcement was reported by 22% of respondents and nearly half were uncomfortable seeking police assistance.

Despite the hardships they often face, transgender and gender non-conforming persons persevere. Over 78% reported feeling more comfortable at work and their performance improving after transitioning, despite the same levels of harassment in the workplace.

That survey was conducted over two years ago, before the economic crisis that increased unemployment across the board. The situation has gotten considerably worse since then.

To say that "there's no real statistics" is factually inaccurate.

staciasmom08 6 years, 7 months ago

Wow, serious? Are there really so many uneducated people in this world? Where do you all live, caves?? A person diagnosed with a Gender Identity Order can no more help to change that they feel the opposite of what they were born than a dog can not bark or me convincing anyone that the sky is actually red and not blue. A trans male born female looks in the mirror and only sees a male, trying to live as a female is as backwards as it gets. This is usually felt in early child hood and causes severe emotional issues in most because they are fought tooth and nail. I'll put it to you this way, we all hear of the bulimia and anorexia right? girls look in a mirror and see an awful, fat blob of a mess, but as you stand next to them you see a frail 85lbs that is ready to die from starvation. This is real and this is out there. Fact is most of you probably know and deal with transgender people daily. you may never know. They suffer inside alone and afraid because people like you that don't care to educate yourselves are too busy trying to sound tough and hard on a website post. Grow up and quit being afraid of what you don't know. google the topic what you may learn just might change how you feel. Also, how many cases do you hear about on the news or anywhere else about a transgender pervert in the woman's bathroom? If its not there now, passing this ordinance is not going to change that. They just want to be who they are and live in peace without discrimination or hate. NO ONE chooses to live that kind of life in this kind of world. trust that! Oh and please do NOT confuse those that play dress up on occasion with a Trans gender, please there are huge differences and a cross dresser will not claim to be trans gender. This is a sad thing we even have to vote on human basic rights, very sad indeed. Please research this if you are really a good human being, you would want whats right to prevail and not whats wrong just because you dont know about it. Here is a good example from 20/20 aired in 2007 on Gender Identity and Children- where it starts. Please check it out!

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Your example is interesting - bulimia and anorexia are similar, in that somebody's perception of their body doesn't match their actual body. But the approach with those is to help people change their perceptions to match the reality, not the other way around.

Why wouldn't that be a reasonably good approach for transgender issues as well?

The rest of your post is good, of course - everybody deserves basic human rights, and I'm sure that tg folks suffer quite a bit, both before and after their surgeries.

tiffany_marie 6 years, 7 months ago

In a perfect world that would be a great approach jafs, in reality it doesn't work in the overwhelming majority of trans men and women. Believe me we tend to explore every possible avenue before resorting to transition.

I have had these issues for most of my life, not sure if I related as young as some people do (as young as two or three) because quite honestly my memory isn't so good and I don't remember a whole lot earlier than age 9 or 10.

I do know that I started cross dressing at around the age of 9 or so and a few years later when puberty hit, I was in a nightmare of sorts. I knew things weren't the way they were supposed to be and my teenage years consisted primarily of lying in bed at night and crying myself to sleep and even though I've never really been one to believe in God, pray in case I was wrong would beg and plead to either wake up a girl, or at least learn to be content with my male body and outward appearance.

From the age of around 13 or so, all the way up to earlier this year at 31 I battled severe almost crippling depression, I never smiled.. I rarely hung out with friends, to the point that they mostly stopped even asking me to do anything, as they knew I would say no anyway. I was a shell of a person and barely even alive.

It got to the point where my family and friends worried about my well being and were afraid they would walk in on me dead at some point. It was only earlier this year at the age of 31, that I finally found happiness. Came out to my family and friends as a trans woman and started taking steps toward a transition. I am still pre most everything, though I have had four laser hair removal sessions which have made a significant difference on my facial hair and also started low does hormones in July.

I'm a little concerned about my future, as this is a very difficult life in a lot of ways... but that is balanced out and then some by the fact that I'm a whole new person (in more ways than one) and my mood and outlook on life are leaps and bounds better than what they have ever been.

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