Comptroller Thompson on transgender discrimination (GCN letter to the editor, 1.18.05)

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NYAGRA letter to the editor
Gay City News

January 18, 2005

To the Editor:

You report that New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson has launched shareholder initiatives to urge three companies to add gender identity and expression to their corporate non-discrimination policies while at the same time commencing shareholder initiatives urging 15 other Fortune 500 companies to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation (“City’s Big Bucks for Justice,” by Paul Schindler, Jan 13 – 19, 2005).

We commend the comptroller for these shareholder initiatives, but given his stated commitment to full LGBT inclusion in the work of his office, we would expect him to include gender identity and expression in every shareholder resolution that urges addition of sexual orientation to a company’s non-discrimination policy. After all, transgendered people are as vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace as non-transgendered lesbian or gay people, if not more so.

The discrepancy between Bill Thompson’s aggressive pursuit of corporate sexual orientation non-discrimination policy and his rather timid and tentative first steps in transgender advocacy requires explanation, but the comptroller’s only response, when asked whether he was ready to press for transgender protections in corporate America, was “Right now, no.” If not now, when?

The New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) led the successful campaign for enactment of the New York City transgender rights law in 2002—a bill that Mr. Thompson endorsed when running for comptroller in 2001—and 73 other jurisdictions (including five states) now prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression. In addition to the 48 Fortune 500 companies that you mention, there are nearly 100 smaller companies that that prohibit such discrimination. So asking both large corporations and smaller companies to institute policies that protect their transgendered and gender-variant employees from discrimination is hardly a radical step.

It seems to us that the question is not whether corporate America is ready to hear about transgender discrimination; the question is whether Bill Thompson is ready to use his full authority as comptroller to compel corporations to address such issues.

Pauline Park
Co-Chair NYAGRA Manhattan

This letter originally appeared in the 20 January 2005 issue of Gay City News.

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