Gender identity and expression refer to the way people self-identify and present their masculinity and/or femininity. Transgender is an umbrella term used to designate a community of people who live a significant part of their lives outwardly expressing their gender in a way that differs from the sex assigned to them on their birth certificate. This includes people who have undergone medical procedures to change their sex and those who have not.
Even if it was not always recognized as such by some in the lesbian and gay community, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people have always been connected in our fight for equality and justice. For some years now, there has been growing awareness across America and New York of transgender people and the discrimination they face in almost every aspect of their lives. Lesbian and gay people themselves have also increasingly recognized that the same gender stereotyping and boundary-breaking that gives rise to sexual orientation discrimination also causes transgender discrimination. From the viewpoint of the discriminator, there is often no difference between LGB and T. All people who “break the rules” in terms of how a man or woman is supposed to act, whether it be in matters of hair or dress or in expressing affection for someone of the same gender, are typically viewed as one and the same and subject to discrimination or harassment.
In recent years, there have been significant advances in combating transgender discrimination across America and New York. Today, 100 cities and counties, and 13 states and the District of Columbia provide non-discrimination protections for transgender people. About three-quarters of these jurisdictions have enacted their laws since the beginning of 2000. Before 2000, less than 5% of the nation's population was covered by transgender non-discrimination laws. Today 38%, or 105.8 million Americans, are covered by these laws.
On Long Island, Suffolk County currently includes in it’s non-discrimination laws protection on the basis of gender identity or expression in areas of everyday life that include employment, housing and public accommodation. However, there is no statewide law protecting transgender New Yorkers.
Another priority is the passage of safe schools legislation that will require New York's public schools to address all types of bias-based violence, including bullying and harassment due to gender identity and expression.