Sorry Equality Maryland: HB-235 Does Not Protect the Homeless

March 20, 2011

[Note from Kat: In 2001, Maryland gays and lesbians blatantly and openly lied to the Legislature and to the public, claiming that trans people were already protected under Maryland law and, as such, inclusion in the gay rights bill was unnecessary.  Now, it appears as though their claims that the anti-trans HB 235 will be of benefit to homeless trans people is even more of a lie.  At least some who pushed the 2001 lie might actually have just been guilty of grossly wishful thinking, hoping for Maryland law to apply Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins in a way that would actually help trans people obtain and keep employment. 

Michiko Ota, however, has discovered that the 2011 claim of Maryland’s gays is as empty as the cooling pool at the Fukujima nuclear reactor – and as potentially politically deadly for trans people as the radiation now drifting out of the pile of spent fuel rods.  This was first posted at Pam’s House Blend.  Its is re-posted here by permission.]

Equality Maryland has been misinforming the public that the current language of HB-235 would provide protection for transgender men and women who are homeless under the “housing discrimination” language. As much as I have been hard on Equality Maryland on this, I am thinking that this has been a misunderstanding on their part.

Maryland law is very clear about what constitutes “housing” which is covered under the housing discrimination laws and what is considered “transient lodging” which is covered under the existing public accommodation law.

The first reading of HB-235 covers amending housing discrimination laws to include gender identity but does not amend the laws relating to public accommodation.

According to a post that was made on Equality Maryland’s Facebook page in a note titled “FAQ – Censorship, HB 235 and the EQMD Facebook page“, the official Equality Maryland made in a comment expressing concerns about homeless shelters:

..the bill that we are working on actually provides protections for shelters, since they are included under housing.

I have seen Equality Maryland make this comment several times during the debate to assure supporters that homeless shelters are supported.

Let’s look at the “definitions” within the current housing discrimination law (Title 20, subtitle 7):

§ 20-701:
(d) Dwelling.- “Dwelling” means:
(1) any building, structure, or portion of a building or structure that is occupied, or designed or intended for occupancy, as a residence by one or more families; and
(2) any vacant land that is offered for sale or lease for the construction or location on the land of any building, structure, or portion of a building or structure described in item (1) of this subsection. 

Key phrase here is “as a residence”.

Homeless shelters are emergency temporary housing intended for transient occupation not intended for short term or long term “residence”.

Let’s now look at what the existing housing law does not apply to:

§ 20-704. Scope of subtitle.

(a) In general.- This subtitle does not apply to:
(1) the sale or rental of a single-family dwelling, if the dwelling is sold or rented without:
(i) the use of the sales or rental facilities or services of any:
1. real estate broker, agent, or salesperson;
2. agent of any real estate broker, agent, or salesperson;
3. person in the business of selling or renting dwellings; or
4. agent of a person in the business of selling or renting dwellings; or
(ii) the publication, posting, or mailing, after notice, of any advertisement or written notice in violation of this subtitle; and
(2) with respect to discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or marital status:
(i) the rental of rooms in any dwelling, if the owner maintains the dwelling as the owner’s principal residence; or
(ii) the rental of any apartment in a dwelling that contains not more than five rental units, if the owner maintains the dwelling as the owner’s principal residence.

Pay attention to section (a). What that says that in order for the housing rules to be enforced, there must be a SALE or RENTAL which is arranged through a real estate agent, broker, salesperson in the business of selling or renting dwellings or the agent of such a person.

Someone requesting and receiving emergency shelter is not purchasing entering into a sales contract, lease or rental agreement in exchange for a “dwelling” as we have already read the definition of.

Now.. let’s look at the current Maryland public accommodation law.

First of all, as a matter of full disclosure and for those who just think “public accommodation” is only about restroom access. Here’s what’s covered in Maryland law:

§ 20-301. “Place of public accommodation” defined.
In this subtitle, “place of public accommodation” means:
(1) an inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment that provides lodging to transient guests;
(2) a restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food or alcoholic beverages for consumption on or off the premises, including a facility located on the premises of a retail establishment or gasoline station;
(3) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;
(4) a retail establishment that:
(i) is operated by a public or private entity; and
(ii) offers goods, services, entertainment, recreation, or transportation; and
(5) an establishment:
(i) 1. that is physically located within the premises of any other establishment covered by this subtitle; or
2. within the premises of which any other establishment covered by this subtitle is physically located; and
(ii) that holds itself out as serving patrons of the covered establishment.

As you can see, public restrooms are not even mentioned in here. It just happens to be that public restrooms are in these places. I want to focus on what is in bold.

Users of a homeless shelter may stay for one night, they may stay for several nights and then they move on. They have no intention of long term residence. Therefore, it can be argued that a homeless shelter can be defined as an “other establishment” that provides “lodging to transient guests”. If you check into a shelter, you are not signing a 30-day month to month rental agreement or a 1 year lease. You are allowed to come in for the night and in some cases, expected to leave the next morning. Sounds like transient housing to me. No different than when I travel and I check into a hotel for 3 days and then I leave.

What this comes down to is that Equality Maryland is misunderstood by the definition of the existing law. If you read the first reading of HB-235 introduced into committee, you will notice there’s nothing in the that places transient housing under the umbrella of “housing discrimination”.

In order for it to be considered “housing discrimination”, the exchange of money or other consideration must take place through a rental or mortgage contract. This does not happen when someone checks into a shelter.

Also remember, the housing discrimination law does not apply to rented rooms if the owner lives in the same establishment or apartment buildings with 5 or fewer units if it also the owner’s primary place of residence. This provision also applies to sex or sexual orientation in the existing law.

Unfortunately, Equality Maryland has missed the mark on this one. I think this is just a substantial oversight on their part. I really think they feel that HB-235 would cover emergency transient homeless shelters.

Based on this, leaving public accommodations out of HB-235 is now more than ever, a fatal flaw as it will defeat one of the primary intentions of the legislation which is to address the large percentage of transgender women and men who are currently living in the streets.

Those inside and outside Maryland must continue to put the pressure on Equality Maryland, the NCTE, HRC and the Maryland House of Delegates and State Senate to insist that public accommodations are placed back into this legislation.

Without protection for the transgender homeless, the exclusion of public accommodations from HB-235 is now a much more serious issue well beyond the bathroom.

Edited by Michi [after original publication at PHB] to add:

Just to clear something on this in case you read it.. I am referring to shelters (homeless, domestic violence, etc.) which are for temporary and transitory lodging to stay warm for a night or get away from a violent partner while determinin…g where to go next. My interpretation of the regulations would protect gender identity where it comes to public housing (e.g. housing projects, remaining in a location for a longer period). Establishment of residence is the key to the differences between what is considered “lodging” for public accommodation (you check in at the Hampton Inn on a trip to Omaha for a week, that does not establish your residency there and you don’t change your address on your drivers license, etc.) but public housing is where you would establish your residence (e.g. change your address) and should be protected under the currently written 235.

Everything That’s Moldy is Pee-Yew Again

November 5, 2010

[Posted at the request of Ashley Love; Transphobia is always stale and it always reeks]

I’m outisde the British Consulate New York last night protesting child bullying

We protested last night in front of the British Consulate, New York, because a very alarming situation is happening in the UK. A transphobic DVD named “FIT” has been approved to show children and youth in public schools. The anti-transsexual slur “tra**y” is being used, which is used as a taunt and insult when bullies and bigots harass people perceived to be transsexual, intersex or gender non-conforming. The protest was presented by Media Advocates Givivng National Equality to Transsexual & Transgender People (MAGNET) and International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE). MAGNET’s press release:
Outside the British Consulate New York “Dept 4 Education OR Dept. 4 Transphobia? Edit Out The T-Word!”

Stonewall UK is behind the messaging in the PSA. We chose last night to protest to coincide with the Stonewall Awards in London, whic took place last night as well. Originally, the London LGBT community was going to protest outside the awards, but Stonewall UK gave into the gay and lesbian community’s demands to advocate for marriage, so it was cancelled. However, Stonewall UK did not even address the transphobic DVD, therefore devaluing the needs of trans people. Many UK transsexual and transgender people are outraged that the demonstration was cancelled even though the (mis)educational video has not been edited. Since we wanted to show solidarity with the UK trans community, and because transphobia in any classroom affects us all, we decided to have our own protest in New York. Too many times trans people get thrown under the bus when gay and lesbian people have their needs met, and we are sick of having our human rights tampered with.

The FIT DVD is supposed to be an “anti-bullying” video- however, the use of the taunt and slur “tra**y” is used- which is a verbal form of bullying which leads to dehumanization and violence. How did an anti-bullying DVD become a DVD that bullies trans people?? This outrage is being ignored by Stonewall UK, who not only advised on the DVD, but has an unhealthy past with the UK trans community: Stonewall UK excludes them from their mission statement, yet has the audacity to (mis)represent them, and has even been caught back lobbying against their interests. There should be “no taxation without representation”. This colonial practice is abusive, and goes against the human rights of trans people living in the UK. From MAGNET’s press release “The United Kingdom is very pioneering by having the Gender Recognition Act. The Department of Education is obligated to uphold this Act (verbal abuse is still abuse and sometimes hurts more than stones). The anti-trans slur must be edited out”.

Trans people initiated the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which catapulted the modern LGBT movement, yet Stonewall UK hijacked the word and oppress the same people who started Stonewall! This is appalling, and we must respect our history

If this video is shown in schools it will affect the US trans community as well because the promoting of a stigmatizing anti-trans slur in an “education” video will give every transphobe and bigot the “right” to get away with using that word, and will refer to the FIT DVD as an excuse. Much like the “N” word affects the Black community, we need to take a stand against the T Word

Many UK trans advocates and leaders asked us to continue with our protest. Some of them feel inclined to not speak out publicly against Stonewall UK because of political reasons, access, etc. We feel this video is NOT a time to compromise. Many people are disappointed that many times “token trans leaders” get either seduced by the bureaucracy, compromise for career advancement, ignore the complaints of their own trans people, are “out of touch” with today’s youth or submit to the same establishment that oppresses the people they are supposed to represent. We must not give in until the transphobia is edited out. Our children need us to be adults who protect them.

The T-word is very controversial. For example, it’s used as a way to dismiss a woman’s (who was born with birth challenges and a medical condition) womanhood. A woman born with a medical condition is still a woman, not an “it, sub-woman or “tra**y””. This is not a Halloween costume, it’s her life. Many drag performing MALES appropriate transsexual issues or words. It may be all fun and games to a drag performer to use words to be “hip, shocking, offensive or sensational”, but not to a trans woman who’s hate crime assailant is calling her the T-word as he murders her, or to a trans person who gets called that on the bus by a trans-phobe or bigot. Stigmatizing pejoratives are not “cool”, they hurt really badly, and the trans youth will be ridiculed in their own classroom unless the transphobia is edited out from the DVD. Name calling and taunts are a form of verbal bullying, and many times lead to physical violence .I don’t hear Asian people just dying to use the N-word just because it’s “cool” in hip hop music videos and then telling Black people to “lighten up”. Likewise, I get annoyed when gay men and drag queens fight to be able to reclaim a word that is not theirs to reclaim. Some of their entitlement issues and insensitivity is astounding, and oppressive. The director of FIT, Rikki Beadle-Blair, is a gay man (not trans), and does not have the right to tell women (usually the slur is directed at MTF women) what to be offended by. This is sexist, arrogant and clueless in regards to the mental violence and dehumanization that the word inspires. He claims “I hear kids use the word sometimes”. I hear Black kids use the word “ni**er” and girls use the word “b*tch”, but it doesn’t mean I should put the slur in an “educational” video(especially for children’s schools where bullying is a crisis and LGBT youth are committing suicide),for crying out loud!

We ask the British Department of Education, The Teachers Union, Equality and Human Rights Commission and Stonewall UK to protect the well being of all the children who attend school, and make the responsible and socially conscious decision to edit out the dehumanizing pejorative from the DVD. Normalizing the T-word, much like how the N-word was normalized decades ago to degrade Black people, will have severe consequences for the acceptance of trans people in mainstream society. It’s unbelievable that an oppressed minority group, especially children, could have their human rights be disrespected like this by authority figures. As adults, we must protect trans children. Teachers being forced to show DVDs with anti-trans slurs will do no such thing. The good news is that the decision makers involved still have a chance to do what’s right and fix this horrid mistake.
After the protest outside the British Consulate we went to the Stonewall Inn (unlike Stonewall UK, Stonewall Inn does not oppress trans people, and in fact, it was trans people who initated the Stonewall Riots of 1969, so how bizarre and shady is it that Stonewall UK excludes trans people, and advocates for anti-trans slurs to be in “educational” videos to be shown to children which is a form of verbal bullying.

Get over your fear of people born with disabilties, birth challeneges, medical conditions or who do not conform to gender. (There are even people in our own LGBT community who are transphobic)

An Inclusive ENDA Or…

August 19, 2009

Lily - 20090817


 My pug Lily will continue to pout…

And we don’t want that, do we?

The Gay Patriarchy and Trans-exclusion in ENDA

October 12, 2007

Guest post by Christine Simone; read more by her at Trans Feminist.

There has been quite a bit written about ENDA in the last few weeks. But probably the most troubling articles have been written against trans-inclusion.

There is an underlying misogynistic and transphobic subtext to nearly every article justifying the exclusion of gender identity from ENDA, that either suggests that we do not deserve rights because we have not earned societal acceptance or that suggests trans people role in the queer community is limited because most trans people identify as straight (despite the fact that statistics regarding transwomen suggest that over 50% identify as lesbian or bisexual).

This attitude is not only incorrect, but reflects an underlying misogyny that has existed in parts of the queer community, especially amoung older white gay men who part of the power elite, that trans people are not even part of the “community” and are closer to cousins at best, when the reality speaks otherwise. This has been highlighted by the commentary of blogger John Aravosis, former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain, and the justification of stripping the trans provisions by Rep. Barney Frank. The truth is they justify with one hand and insult and reveal their own bigotry and misogyny with the other.

Just because we do not represent as substantial a population as gays and lesbians, or the fact that we are significantly misunderstood does not mean that transgender people are any less deserving of rights under the law. In fact that is what they are arguing for, is the continued discrimination of transgender people, and reveal their own discriminatory attitudes, in the fact that they want to push us out of the way based on their own biases, be it we are not members of the community anyway and mostly straight (Aravosis) or worse yet, trans-jacking the movement (Crain).

This attitude that trans people are not part of the queer community despite an extensive history of trans activism that dates back directly to Stonewall and even beforehand. Of course these power elites who claim ownership of the community and call us the fringe often have a selective memory of who had a major role in starting Stonewall: an immigrant transsexual woman named Sylvia Rivera.

So to say that we are not part of the community or the LGBT civil rights movement is off base, we (being trans people) STARTED the movement and were pushed aside by the transphobic and transmisogynistic, gender conforming members of the community who were in positions of power. They pushed us out and we had to FIGHT our way back into the civil rights movement we started, and the outrage of more than 300 LGBT organizations reflects this history and reaffirms our place in the community.

This has been an ongoing situation in the community, and it does not strictly apply to just trans issues, it reflects of the ongoing devaluation of those who act straight of femininity, or of women. Basically remnants of the patriarchy that exist amongst a certain power elite of gender conforming gay males who are steeped in anti-trans perspectives from the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Their primary fear about pushing forward a trans-inclusive ENDA is a house floor debate where stereotypes of transwomen a placed out on the debate floor. It underlines their own trans-misogyny, and honestly a not so subtle swipe at femininity in general, including within the queer community. It is not the trans-male stereotypes that is being implied when one talks about the justifications for excluding gender identity, its the stereotypes of transwomen, who are often the ones most likely to face explicit and ongoing discrimination.

Chris Crain, Aravosis, and Rep. Barney Frank are all arguing against ENDA inclusion because of their fear of feminine stereotypes thrust onto transwomen. Sometimes this is said explicitly, but more often than not their is that ongoing subtext.

Probably the best example of this was found in the Aravosis Salon article:

“It is simply not p.c. in the gay community to question how and why the T got added on to the LGB, let alone ask what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis, surgically construct a vagina, and become a woman.”

Basically it is the “all hail the mighty penis” attitude that is often at the heart of all misogynistic attitudes. He reveals that the real attitudes on this issue is really about transwomen and how some of us do NOT identify with our genitals that he focuses on, and not the common story of job discrimination that happens throughout the queer community, but happens most frequently to trans people. Or the fact that both gays and trans people are frequently targets of harassment and abuse for who they are.

However, he seems completely out of touch with the shared experiences that link ENDA and the Hate Crimes laws necessity for both trans people and gays and lesbians together. Instead he focuses on his own perceptions of separation within the community, which are in fact as misogynistic as those who discriminate against both trans people and homosexual individuals.

I could go on about how the issues of a transman might face might be very similar to that of a gay male in terms of discrimination, since that may be closer in reality. But it seems like he has done the typical misogynistic and transphobic thing and has completely ignored them altogether. Instead he is transfixed on the process of MtF transition, and largely the physical transition.

Also it may be hard for him to see the connection or relate to transwomen is because fundamentally we are not MALE, we are women, and when it gets down to it our issues are rooted in peoples assumptions regarding femininity. It is the typical privileged white gay male centric viewpoint that is causing him to have a hard time contemplating the relation to the queer community with gender identity and expression. Basically while Aravosis (as well as Frank and Crain) are gay, they are the queer equivalent of the patriarchy, and have all the anti-feminine attitudes of it, including devaluing a female experience in a not so subtle swipe at transwomen.

Notice how I have been stressing OLDER gay WHITE MEN. Which may not be alone in throwing trans-people out of the queer movement in the 70’s and 80’s, but they had their part. I will not go into the history of this, but lets put it this way we have heard this all before, Monica Roberts covers it all pretty well in the division of trans people, the HRC, and well…lets call them the older white gay male elite.

Julia Serano has been writing about the lesbian communities problems with transwomen for several years, however, this has largely been an issue with white gay men this time around.

There have been shifts in recent years regarding that part of the queer community because of issues regarding gender expression have been coming up frequently and as well as the frequency of transmen transitioning out of the lesbian community has resulted in a greater understanding of transgender issues within the lesbian community itself. Or maybe it is butch women getting harassed for going into womens rest rooms which makes them understand why gender identity and expression provisions are so important.

I am lucky enough to work in DC which has an entire Human Rights act that protects trans people in not just employment but also services and housing.

The truth is an ENDA without gender identity and expression is an ENDA that does not achieve the goal of equal rights. Those advocating for stripping the bill of gender identity and expression provisions do so at the cost of not only trans people, but butch lesbians, femme gay males, and everything in between. They are expressing in their attitudes their own underlying misogyny and bigotry while advocating for the equal rights of some, at the expense of the ones who are in need of protections the most.

EDIT: I would like to mention I am a little shocked how Rep. Barney Frank is considered such a great voice for the queer community when he is the individual behind the concept of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. As far as the queer voice in congress…I have too state outright it is Rep. Tammy Baldwin, not Rep. Barney Frank. Rep. Baldwin takes principled stands that reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, instead of throwing part of it under the bus for the sake of political expediency.

Christine Simone

Christine is a Washington, DC based activist, researcher, and musician. Christine is an intersex transwoman.

First they came…

October 10, 2007

A meditation on GENDA, the Jena Six, and other family business

by just Kelly

Acknowledgments to Pr. Martin Niemoller

First they came for the transfolk:
She-males and butches, sad gender freaks, dragging the movement down.
And I said nothing, because they were never really our people.

They came for the rest of ’em,
The swaggering bull dykes, the mincing fairies, affronts to normalcy and traitors to their sex.
And I laughed along with the others, and said nothing.

Then they came for the street people:
The hookers and hustlers, junkies and runaways. Irresponsible types.
And I said nothing, because I was Respectable. What was *their* problem?

Then they came for the other races:
The black, the brown, blind rage and easy targets.
But I was white, and it wasn’t my battle, so I said nothing.

And then, one day, they came for me.
I who did nothing, said nothing. Compromised and bent.
And there was nothing left for them to take.

(October 2007)