Dear Senator Kennedy:
I understand you are going to support a non-gender identity inclusive ENDA. As a constituent, as a lesbian but mostly, as a mother, I am asking you to reconsider.
It's a bad choice, Senator Kennedy. And one that sends the wrong message.
Remember the shooting that took place a while ago in California that the mainstream media ignored? Lawrence King was shot in the back of the head during first period English class. He was 15 years old. He identified as gay.
And he did not conform to gender roles. He wore makeup and high heels to school. That made him a target. The other boys were quoted as saying it "freaked them out."
It is an unwritten rule. One that can have devastating ramifications. Cameron McWilliams hung himself after telling his mother he wanted to be a girl. He had been teased for wearing his sister's underwear and had asked to wear makeup. He was 10 years old.
When you leave out the gender identity piece of ENDA, you don't just leave out the 40 year old man transitioning to become a woman, you leave out Lawrence King. You leave out Cameron McWilliams.
What will you say to kids like them? When you grow up, we'll protect the part of you that's gay, but the gender stuff... whoa. Forget about that. Too risky. We don't want to offend anyone.
I know Senator, that you have been a long time supporter of LGBT rights. I know you are one of only five Senators who have publicly stated support of same sex marriage. It is a huge stance to take. You have always stood by my community.
You are the second longest serving member of the Senate. Your support is essential for progressive legislation. Without you, a gender identity inclusive ENDA will fail.
With your leadership, though, people will not, as Barney Frank suggests, "picture men and woman in showers together and ... vote it down." With your leadership we will instead have the opportunity to create dialog and understanding. We will be able to stand up for those who are so quickly dismissed and give voice to very real pain and struggle. We will be able to set a standard of behavior that intolerance will never justify discrimination.
Ironically, it's a standard most companies are already willing to embrace. "More than 300 U.S. companies have nondiscrimination policies that include provisions for gender identity, in addition to the more common policy for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees." Businesses make these kinds of changes long before the government does.
With your leadership, Senator Kennedy, we can show it has nothing to do with showers and everything to do with dignity.
If you won't stand up for a kids like Lawrence King and Cameron McWilliams... then who will?