Adapted from a speech given by Sara Wilkinson, President of the Maryland Chapter of the National Organization for Women, on February 16, 2014 in Annapolis
Maryland NOW is a statewide feminist organization working to improve the lives of women and families across the state. One of our goals is to end discrimination against all people. We believe that today’s feminist movement can and should encompass transgender people.
Maryland NOW is proud to join with other organizations and individuals in supporting Senate Bill 212/ HB 1265, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014. We believe this bill is important because it is about securing basic civil rights: the right to a job, a place to live, and fair treatment in public spaces. In Maryland, transgender people are not yet included in state laws that prohibit discrimination. With this bill, we can change that.
The first trans person I met was 10-12 years ago at Smith College, a liberal arts, feminist, women’s college in Massachusetts. My classmate, Aaron, taught me a lot about his life at Smith. He let me ask him questions about his identity and personal life. And I treated him with respect and was grateful for his lessons. This first experience opened my eyes to non-gender conforming people. I believe it takes getting to know people different from oneself to become more open-minded and accepting of others. At Smith, I saw how transgender people may in some ways be different from cis-gender people, but since we are all human, I knew that Aaron deserved to be at my women’s college as much as anyone else who identified as a woman or female. And Aaron and all transgender people deserve protection from discrimination based on their gender identity.
Maryland NOW stands for the same principle: Our purpose is to take action to bring women into full participation in society — sharing equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities with men, while living free from discrimination. For us this means all women, whether they are transgender women or cis-gender women. Indeed, we believe that in the “Free State” every Marylander should be able to live free from discrimination.
In Maryland, we prohibit discrimination based on many statuses. Unfortunately, gender identity is not yet on that long list. This means that transgender Marylanders are legally discriminated against in hospitals, shelters, rape crisis centers, the workplace, stores and hotels. Such practices must end.
NOW is one of the few multi-issue progressive organizations in the United States. NOW stands against all oppression, recognizing that racism, sexism and homophobia are interrelated, and that other forms of oppression, including transphobia, work together to keep power and privilege concentrated in the hands of a few. The time has come for us to protect transgender Marylanders, and grant them the same civil rights as every other Maryland resident. Let’s pass the Fairness for All Marylanders Act this year!