Fighting for Transgender People

December 9, 2016, 3:59 PM UTC

A long-awaited survey from National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) was published on Thursday. Much of the news was grim.

It is the most comprehensive survey of transgender people in the U.S. ever conducted. Nearly 28,000 people — from all 50 states, territories, and military bases– shared detailed about their lives across a wide array of categories: education, employment, family life, health, housing, and interactions with the criminal justice system. They spoke of losing jobs and harassment, and an alarming number live in poverty.

Four data points jumped out immediately:

“In the year prior to completing the survey, 30% of respondents who had a job reported being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing some other form of mistreatment in the workplace due to their gender identity or expression, such as being verbally harassed or physically or sexually assaulted at work.”

“In the year prior to completing the survey, 46% of respondents were verbally harassed and 9% were physically attacked because of being transgender. During that same time period, 10% of respondents were sexually assaulted, and nearly half (47%) were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.

“Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents were living in poverty, compared to 14% in the U.S. population. A major contributor to the high rate of poverty is likely respondents’ 15% unemployment rate — three times higher than the unemployment rate in the U.S. population at the time of the survey (5%).”

“While respondents in the USTS sample overall were more than twice as likely as the U.S. population to be living in poverty, people of color, including Latino/a (43%), American Indian (41%), multiracial (40%), and Black (38%) respondents, were up to three times as likely as the U.S. population (14%) to be living in poverty.”

What’s clear: Transgender people need allies, badly. And that’s where the business community can make a real difference.

Consider the most recent example of the passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which eliminated protections for people who are gay or transgender that allowed them to use public restrooms based on their gender identity. It was the business community working separately and together that elevated that local legislation into a national conversation. And, it cost North Carolina some real revenue.

More than 200 companies and organizations denounced the legislation, and in some cases, changed their plans to do business in the state. Deutsche Bank canceled plans to expand their operations in the state, PayPal canceled plans to open a new global payment center in Charlotte, the NBA moved it’s 2017 All-Star festivities, and entertainers like Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and the producers of the Broadway show Wicked all canceled performances in North Carolina.

It also cost may have cost North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who championed the legislation, his job. The new governor, Roy Cooper, plans on repealing the law.

But there is so much more work to do, as the level of violence, poverty, and unemployment experienced by transgender people continues to outpace other populations. It may not always be possible or practical to wage a public fight over legislation, but you can start with your own workplaces.

Do any of the 30% of respondents who were fired or denied advancement work for you? Do your transgender employees feel safe and valued? Are you sure?

On Point

Understanding intersectionality at workIt’s a tough concept to grasp, and one that has real workplace and legal implications.  But heightened awareness of race, gender, ethnic identity, religion and social class means managers need to better understand how intersecting identities play out for people in their lives. The Financial Times’s Isabel Berwick has written an essential primer. Consider a black Muslim woman who wears hijab, for example, and the ways her identities overlap and are connected. “The discriminations that can stem from those identities — such as sexism and racism — can combine to create multiple, self-reinforcing layers of disadvantage for those affected.”Financial Times

Discussing the model minority myth at Wharton
A group of Wharton MBA students convened to talk about the Asian American experience in America, the history of the model minority myth and why it’s so damaging to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). The attractive attributes ascribed to AAPIs – hardworking, tech-savvy, obedient – masks the very real discrimination they often experience. And it separates them unfairly from others. “We need to understand that our ‘model minority’ status — our honorary whiteness — is conditional, as the recent hate crimes against AAPIs has shown us,” said one of the organizers, calling for solidarity with other people of color.

Florida’s biased sentencing system
The Herald Tribune published an exhaustive analysis of the court system and individual judges in Florida, combing through tens of millions of documents contained in two public databases. Their findings: Black defendants are more likely to be found guilty than white ones; more likely to spend time behind bars; their sentences are usually longer; and they are not given as many opportunities to avoid incarceration. Republican judges are harsher on black defendants than Democratic ones, white judges deal more harshly with black defendants than black ones, and male judges deliver more skewed verdicts than female judges.
Herald Tribune

When a man mentors a woman
Villanova University psych professor Katina Sawyer and executive coach Anna Marie Valerio have identified the  shared qualities of "male champions"—men who support and mentor women at work. Turns out, they’re true believers: They think that “gender inclusiveness” is part of effective talent management, they use their authority to push their cultures toward equality, and they believe that gender inclusiveness is good business, whether or not they’ve read the research on the subject.

Time Warner is facing a class-action racial discrimination suit
It’s more than a glass ceiling. The suit describes “glass walls” which segregate the company into divisions in which black leadership is simply not allowed. The suit, which was filed in federal court in Georgia this week, claims that black employees aren’t promoted as often as white ones and are largely left out of the executive ranks. CNN, Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner are all named in the suit. “African-American employees have had to endure racial slurs and prejudicial biases from their superiors such as, 'it's hard to manage black people' and 'who would be worth more: black slaves from times past, or new slaves.”

The Native women who built the Standing Rock movement
Women comprise a significant majority of the current “water protectors” as they are known, but have long made physical activism and civil disobedience a way  of life. Jezebel has published an inspiring profile of many of the long-time environmental activists who have been standing up to police, facing threats, water cannons, rubber bullets, invasive strip searches while surviving difficult weather conditions.

The Woke Leader

A comic about civilization
Artist Liana Finck cleverly overlays comic book-style elements over photos of sculptures, paintings, and objects to ask poignant questions about history, conquest and power. It’s a terrific reminder that there are so many simple ways to be creative in the modern world, even as her punch line packs a real emotional wallop.

When presidents write, speak, call, telegraph and tweet
The Smithsonian digs into the history of presidential communications, from the hand-written correspondence that arrived too late to stop the First Barbary War, to the lightning-fast tweets that have riled a nation. There are some fascinating nuggets to drop at holiday gatherings, as well as cautionary communication tales for all leaders. Bottom line, think before you speak and choose your medium carefully. “Social media is more of an entertainment realm, and it turns foreign policy into entertainment,” says one professor. That sounds like it could be a problem.
Smithsonian Magazine

Looking for love from a wheelchair
Dating is a tough business for anyone, but for people with disabilities, particularly women, it can be an unusually harrowing experience. Women with physical disabilities begin dating later, are often unable to find partners or get married, and are more likely to experience intimate partner violence or emotional abuse.
New York Times


[A]n issue that affects black people and an issue that affects women, wouldn't that necessarily include black people who are women and women who are black people? Well, the simple answer is that this is a trickle-down approach to social justice, and many times it just doesn't work. Without frames that allow us to see how social problems impact all the members of a targeted group, many will fall through the cracks of our movements, left to suffer in virtual isolation. But it doesn't have to be this way.
—Kimberlé Crenshaw

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