Below is the e-mail we sent out on October 11, 2011, in honor of LGBT History Month to the entire law school community. Happy National Coming Out Day!
In honor of National Coming Out Day (today) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) History Month (October), Lambda will be sending out informative e-mails to the entire student body each week of this month, highlighting some areas where our community has come legally/politically & culturally, and how far we still have to go. Each e-mail will have a theme. Today’s theme is: “coming out“ and the unfortunate consequences that exist in many settings (such as the workplace) for doing so.
Feel free to put these e-mails in your spam box if they don’t interest you, but I have provided links that expand on each issue – in case you’d like to learn more. I hope you do!
The Bad News
- In 29 states it is still legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. A recent study done at Harvard found that men who “appeared to be gay” or listed “gay affiliations” on their resumes were 40% less likely to get a call back at job interviews in the Midwest and South than peers who had comparable experience. This number is likely much higher for gender non-conforming and transgender people.
- In 35 states it is still legal to fire someone because of their gender identity or expression. This year a transgender woman was fired from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals because of her gender identity. To learn more about what gender identity and expression mean; and particularly what being transgender means, click here for a quick and informative overview.
- The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people at the federal level from being discriminated against in employment has been brought to the floor by every Congress (with the exception of one – and not always including gender identity) for nearly 20 years, and has still failed to become law.
- Despite the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year, which was a major step forward for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, transgender and gender non-conforming soldiers (check the link in bullet point #2 for more info on what being transgender means) are still not able to serve openly in the military, may be stripped of their veteran benefits if they transition after their service, and may be denied partnership benefits, despite being legally married.
The Good News
- According to a recent poll, 73% of Americans support fair employment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This support cuts across partisan and age-based lines and although polls have suggested support for this measure since the ’80s when asked about lesbian, gay and bisexual people, respondents now support transgender equality in the workplace as well.
- Last week Wal-mart, the nation’s largest private employer, changed their policies to protect those who may be fired based on their gender identity or expressions.
- Also last week, the New York Fire Department openly hired its first transgender firefighter.
- In 2010, the Obama administration started to list gender identity among the classes protected by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The Pop News
- Ellen DeGeneres, once widely criticized (check out all three parts of this Oprah episode from 1997 if you have time) and fired after coming out, on TV and in real life, from her ABC series “Ellen,” is now one of the most popular daytime talk hosts on TV and a celebrated figure in American pop culture.
- Rachel Maddow, a very open lesbian newscaster, is host of the number one program on MSNBC, and a strong advocate for other public figures coming out. Here’s a clip of Rachel talking about her coming out process.
- Anderson Cooper, who is widely believed to be gay, may be coming out soon on his show, despite not being open about his sexuality for many years.
- Despite major controversy, including calls by conservative christian organizations for families to boycott the show, Chaz Bono, an openly transgender man (and son of Sonny and Cher), was selected for this years cast of Dancing with the Stars, and continues to survive elimination rounds each week
These are only a few stories and excerpts. In order to support comprehensive federal employment protection for LGBT people, you can sign a petition here or learn more about how to get involved in advocacy efforts here.
To support inclusion of transgender and gender non-conforming service members in the military, please click here.
To Support Lambda (because you should!) check out our facebook page here.
Hope you’re all having a wonderful break and that you’ve learned some things you did not know about already! Please look out for our e-mail next week, which will highlight issues involving both the criminalization of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people by governments across the world and the mistreatment of LGBTQ people in the United States criminal legal system.
Ashley E. McGovern