Friday, February 13, 2009

ENDA is Needed... Yesterday

Those who live in the Charlotte area have probably seen the story of Anne Marie Clukey, a transgender women fired from her job as a maintenance worker with the City of Charlotte. Here are some of the links to the local media:

Charlotte Observer

WCNC News 36


Several things disturb me about this story, but the saddest part is that this is not news for many in the TG community. Everyday, even closeted crossdressers face the fear of being outed for something they may only do once a month. In this case, a transsexual woman living in stealth simply living her life had her past come back to haunt her. She was a valued employee until her manager found out she had once been a man. In the manager's eyes, that made Ms. Clukey no longer worthy of basic respect. She was passed over for promotions and eventually fired.

Reading between the lines, it seems that her co-workers had accepted her long ago, and her being TS wasn't really a issue. It was only the manager who didn't know who had the problem. Anyone who has worked for someone for any length of time knows that a boss can make or break a job. In short, a good manager communicates well the needs of the company or group and treats the workers with respect and integrity even in less than pleasant situations. A poor manager can make everyday at the workplace a living hell. The one constant I've seen is that if a well respected manager backs a person, then everyone usually falls in line. If a manager shows doubt about an employee, that attitude will also resonate through the workforce. It seems that Ms. Clukey's manager (a woman by the way) arbitrarily decided to no longer support her despite a strong work record.

Another troubling aspect is the comments made by the city attorney, Mac McCarley. Again reading between the lines some, he seems to be rubbing it in the face of every TG person by saying, "Transgender individuals are not protected under the federal employment discrimination laws." While understandably trying to set the tone for the case, there was still no cause for this statement to be made. Unfortunately, thanks to the lack of ENDA at the federal level, Mr. McCarley's statement is correct.

I wrote some of the following thought's to Donna Rose, and she kindly posted them in her blog. She has had much to say on HRC and their recent Workplace Report. It is rather ironic timing with the HRC Carolina's Gala in Charlotte on Feb. 21. Earlier in the day, some of our local HRC friends (and I do mean that seriously as they are supportive of the local TG community) touted the HRC Workplace Report as evidence of HRC's lobbying efforts. As Donna stated so very well, many here also feel that HRC has no place to take credit for these advances.

It is this disconnect that I feel with HRC as the people at the local level are tireless grassroot workers who truly do support all letters in the LGBT community. However we know all money raised goes to the national organization. I would even argue that HRC did not read its membership very well when supporting a non-trans ENDA. Almost every conversation I have with my friends in the gay community says they are supportive of our rights. I suppose it is consistent with issues of all kind when discussing politics with the inside the beltway crowd versus the realities in the rest of the nation.

I am not a lawyer, but there still may be some grounds for Ms. Clukey's lawsuit to be successful. Certainly the recent victory of Diane Schroer versus the Library of Congress gives us all hope. There may also be grounds to argue the manager created a hostile workplace. I hope the ACLU and HRC can lend their support here. It would make a world of difference.