Thursday, 13 October 2011

How new Californian transgender discrimination bills will help asylum seekers

California Governor Jerry Brown picture by Steve Rhodes
By Paul Canning

On Monday, two landmark new anti-discrimination bills became law in California.

The Gender Nondiscrimination Act (AB 887) carves out a specific category for “gender identity and expression” in the existing law against discrimination at work, school, the doctor’s office, housing, and public spaces. Transgender people were already protected from, say, being fired or evicted for coming out, but according to the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, many didn’t know their rights.

The Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433) will alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when they have identity documents that do not reflect who they are.
Transgender Law Center Program manager Maceo Persson explained to Akiba Solomon for Colorlines.
"Many transgender people immigrate to California so they can be their true self. When people come here and apply for asylum, they [usually] have a one-year [review] period. This law allows them to apply for a legal gender change simultaneously."

"It also streamlines the process overall because it conforms to the same standards that apply to changing your gender on your passport. You’re less likely to end up having a bunch of different standards for establishing your gender, and you’re less likely to deal with the discrimination and harassment you get when you don’t have consistent ID."
Solomon writes that in California, one in four transgender people earn wages below the poverty level and trans folk of color are up to a third poorer than their white counterparts.

Says Persson:
"In our research we’ve found that a lot of trans people face some kind of discrimination in their everyday lives. The rates of discrimination almost correlate directly to income level and education attainment."
"Because of systemic racial oppression, trans folks of color are likely to have fewer employment opportunities, lower education levels and have less income. It’s almost like they’re caught in a cycle of discrimination. This law will [interrupt] that cycle."
The Transgender Law Center said:
"Our victory is a testament that California is at its best when we work together to realize the ideal that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. The barriers that transgender people face are life threatening and we applaud Governor Brown, Assembly member Atkins and Assembly member Lowenthal for their tremendous leadership to remove some of the obstacles that prevent transgender Californians from living as our authentic selves."
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