Transgender Issues

My name is Breanna Nechols, I made this statement at the 8/4 commission meeting and a copy was requested by commissioner Morse.  Thanks again for your audience.  

I’d like to start with a hello and a thank you to the commission and those here in attendance for your attention.   My name is Breanna Nechols.  I and my family are longtime residents of Manhattan.   I’m speaking today as a representative of the growing transgender community in the area and as a board member of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project.  My goal is to bring awareness of the benefits to the community of legal protections for transgender residents and why they are necessary.  I hope to help those currently living here, but especially those to come in the future.

Recently the city commission re-instated protections for lesbian and gay residents in city employment.  While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t protect private employment and has no provisions for transgender residents at all!  While it is unfortunately still necessary to protect lesbian and gay people, trans-people are in greater need of protections for several reasons, all of which I have experienced myself.  Several of the biggest problems facing the trans community are un/under employment, homelessness and housing discrimination, decreased access to certain social services and social stigmatization and discrimination.  

As a transgender person, it is very difficult to perform the job application and interview process, without one of several steps revealing my transgender status.  The following steps rarely affect gays and lesbians in the way they affect trans-people.  Firstly, many employers perform a reference check, for many, some/all references may be from before the transition process began, or from jobs held before the individual was “out”.  Name discrepancies will need explaining.  Secondly, simply meeting face to face with an interviewer has several possibilities for “outing” the applicant.  Appearance and voice can both be enough for some to be inadvertently outed.  Lastly, with many employers requiring a background check, the applicant would need to list previous legal names and alternative names used which, if typically of a different gender, often outs that person.  These steps are similar to those involved in acquiring housing, often with similar discrimination resulting.  Other concerns can also cause declined employment or housing for a trans-person.  A common example is an employer’s or landlord’s discomfort over the use of restrooms, presenting a transgender employee to customers, clients, and/or business partners.  All of these issues have negatively affected me in recent employment searching and past housing searches.  

An objection which has been voiced by several commission members has been potential conflicts between local and state protection laws which could be base for a lawsuit from the state level.  This state does not have a statute which prohibits municipalities from passing expanded protections based upon local needs.  The recent passing of protections for lesbian and gay public employment contradicts the precedent set at the state level a few months ago.  Another, and longer running example, is the local inclusion of ‘military’ as a protected class, which is not included at the state level.  Two cities in the state include gender identity in non-discrimination ordinances: Lawrence and Roeland Park!  There are several other cities in other states, which are gender identity inclusive, while their state is not, such as Bloomington, IN.

There are many benefits to expanded LGBT protections in general.  KSU is the most LGBT friendly university in the state and a huge source of local income in many ways.  The university age group is sensitive to LGBT issues and largely very accepting of LGBT people and protections for them.  Even with the national mandate for marriage equality, trans-people continue to be targeted by severe discrimination.  Protection in private employment, housing and social services availability are very reasonable, necessary and beneficial expansions.  Trans-people face a terrifying rate of suicide, (41% have attempted), largely due to the discrimination they face in many forms.  About 20% of trans-people have been homeless at some point.  A similar percentage has been refused health care services at some point, due to their trans status.  Many have experienced discrimination in housing, about 14% reporting eviction based upon their gender status.  About a quarter have lost jobs due to being transgender and 90% report some form of discrimination on the job!  An increased employment rate/higher paying positions, better housing availability and increased access to health care would all result in a decreased dependence upon social services and increased ability as a consumer and citizen.  The benefits of these for the city and region go without saying besides feeling good about the increased quality of life and standard of living for all residents.  Equalization of rights for LGBT people doesn’t detract from the rights of anyone else and is the right thing for Manhattan to do!

Thank you for your time and attention and I sincerely hope my words are taken to heart and into consideration! 



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