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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 19, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 08
Our Transgender community deserves better
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Our Transgender community deserves better

by M. Lorena González
Seattle City Councilmember
Special to the SGN

Three weeks ago, the Seattle City Council was presented with an opportunity to speak up against an overt attempt by our Washington State Senate to legislate transphobia. As a civil rights attorney who built a 10-year legal career upholding anti-discrimination laws, I proudly signed a letter urging our Seattle senators and representatives to oppose Senate Bill 6443.

Through that bill Republican Senators purported to force all Washingtonians to use the bathroom that 'matches' their birth genitalia to be enforced through the unbelievably egregious step of requiring a DNA test prior to bathroom entry. Not only was this bill (and five others like it) absurd it was hateful. It was also a reminder that the struggle for equity - to be distinguished from equality - is not over. And thanks to leaders within the LGBTQ community we saw a groundswell of action to organize and oppose these insidious pieces of anti-trans* legislation. I was proud to stand in solidarity with those activists and play a small roll in echoing their call for justice rather than hate.

Simply put, I signed on to this letter because sometimes we legislate to protect and empower all of our residents and sometimes we use the power that is imbued upon us by our title to advocate. Let's be clear: Seattle will not tolerate hate, oppression or the attempt to devalue or ostracize any member of our community for any reason.

As the chair of the Seattle City Council's Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans committee, it is my priority to make every Seattle resident feel safe and respected in their city and the proposed discriminatory bathroom bill flew in the face of that basic principle.

While there is a great deal of work to be done in our city on many issues, we must remain vigilant of attempts to legislate transgender discrimination laws while also proactively legislating against the same. The public testimony opposing SB 6443 put a finer point on why we must remain vigilant. We heard arguments that transgender people by their mere existence are a threat to the safety of 'normal' men, women and children. The irony is that this way of thinking, which characterizes transgender people as 'dangerous,' is the reason why we see a disproportionately high rate of violence and assaults against transgender people, especially among transgender people of color. Transgender people are not the safety risk, they are more often victims and it is our duty as elected officials to protect this underrepresented community with the same vigor that we protect any other protected class.

The good news is that SB 6443 was defeated but, let's not be fooled, this work to achieve equity for our transgender friends, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands continues. In 28 states, a person can be fired for being gay. In 31 states, a person can be fired for being transgender. Layer on top of gender identity the intersectionality of race and every quality of life and access to justice issue worsens.

As a former civil rights attorney, I can tell you for certain that the forces of oppression never rest. This is why I call on every member of our community to join me in standing with Seattle's transgender community. Let Seattle's unity for action be a model to the state, nation and world.

M. Lorena González is one of two citywide-elected Seattle City Councilmembers. She chairs the Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans Committee. Councilmember González can be reached at lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov or 206-684-8802.

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