N.C. laws must update to reflect the needs of all

Caitlin Donovan – Staff writer – cadonova@unca.edu

Laws discriminating against the transgender community need to be changed so transgender people can get the support they need.

A transgender woman from New York was arrested in Savannah, Ga., last week for allegedly exposing her breasts. Despite the fact her alleged crime, exposing her nipples in public, is something only illegal for women, Ashley Del Valle was jailed as a man.

Del Salle said the deputies also made her feel unsafe, calling her “thing” and “brotha.” This is just one incident among many where the law actively discriminates against transgender people. By North Carolina state law, discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation is still legal.

The statute against hate crimes covers race, religion and nationality, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey taken in 2011 found transgender people suffer double the rate of unemployment compared to the general population.
People of color who happen to be transgender have it even worse, suffering four times the rate of unemployment.

Ninety percent of transgender individuals reported harassment in the workplace and more than one-quarter reported losing a job because of their gender identity. One-fifth of the transgender population experienced homelessness and found they were far more vulnerable to police abuse and experienced 85 percent more incarceration.

One-fifth of the respondents reported police harassment, 15 percent were sexually assaulted in prison and 53 percent reported harassment in a public place.There are ways to change the laws that promote the rampant discrimination transgender individuals face, and the first step is to improve the media coverage of the issue.

The media coverage of the incident with Del Valle was incredibly lacking and used problematic language.
The news segment covering the incident was titled, “Incarcerating the Transgendered,” and the reporter referred to Del Valle as “a transgender.”

Calling a person “a transgender” is similar to calling someone “a gay.” As the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation explains, transgender is an identity, not a noun.

It is one facet of a human being. Calling someone “transgendered” is also incorrect because it implies the identity is a past event, not a current state of being.

The naming issue is a small one compared to the greater ones Del Valle faces, but it is symptomatic of a larger problem.
The media is not intimately familiar with transgender issues, so these issues are rarely reported and discussed in the way they should be.

The population needs to campaign for media to be more educated and aware.

Moreover, we need to continue to question the way gender is perceived by the law.
The case with Del Valle exposes how ridiculous and arbitrary the social rules attached to gender are. Del Valle is held to contradictory standards.

The fact a woman can be jailed as a man for a crime can only be committed by a woman calls into question why it is considered “indecent” for one gender to go topless and another not to.

This incident exposes the confusion society suffers when the strict gender divide becomes blurred.
The existence of transgender individuals like Del Valle proves that gender is socially constructed.
It is time to advocate for change in the laws that still allow discrimination against transgender individuals and still restrict people on the basis of gender, policing both their bodies and their identity expression.

Groups like Equality North Carolina lobby the North Carolina General Assembly in support of bills that seek to eliminate transgender discrimination.

One such bill is the recently proposed House Bill 647, which aims to amend the State Personnel Act to cover gender identity and sexual orientation under the equal employment opportunity law. It would also require local boards of educations to adopt policies of nondiscrimination. In effect, both the state employees and teachers would no longer be denied jobs on the basis of gender expression, identity and sexual orientation.

Lobbying for and supporting bills like these will help transgender individuals.
It is time for all citizens to join a group like Equality North Carolina and support all kinds of gender equality.

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