Good queer news out of Kansas! The city commission of Manhattan, KS (aka The Little Apple) voted in favor of extending its anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation AND gender identity. In other words they have moved to protect people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual . My friend Jonathan Mertz wrote to tell me the good news,
Last night the Manhattan city commission voted 3-2 to add sexual orientation AND gender identity to the city’s human rights ordinance! Yes, a 5-0 vote would have been better, but we’ll take it.
We are particularly proud because Manhattan is the first city in Kansas to include gender identity as a protected class. I should say proud to be the first, embarrassed that we are the first. The good news we may not be the last.
Earlier today on the Queer and Queerer podcast, Zack Ford and I shared how trangender people have often been excluded in the “gay rights” struggle. In 2007 the gay backers of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, stripped gender identity and expression from the bill even after promises to keep it in.
In our program we reference blogger, LGBT activist, Navy veteran, and transgender woman, Autumn Sandeen, and her work towards the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She points out that the way has been opened for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to serve openly in the military, but not yet transgender people. Autumn advocates non-violent action to shame LGB(t) organizations into putting money and action behind the lip service they play to the transgender community.
What is heartening about this LGBT rights victory in Manhattan, KS is that the backers of the ordinance remained committed to the inclusion of transgender people even though that meant they had to work harder to get it passed. Jonathan goes on to explain,
I’m chair of the board of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project, the group that lead the charge to get the ordinance passed. One of our first questions we considered was “Would we support an ordinance that just included sexual orientation?” The board was unanimous that we would only support an ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity. It did make it more of a challenge, but it passed!
The Topeka Capitol-Journey has a short piece about the ordinance. Warning: Some of the comments are cruel and stupid. If you are up for it, add some light and insight. Better yet, share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog. It’s good news.