A majority of respondents flunked a four-question test on U.S. laws regarding LGBT issues. The Hunter College survey also showed the respondents’ priorities for gay civil rights issues.
Activists fear authorities caved to pressure from families to silence the gay angle.
Friday, July 18, 2003
New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy was co-founded by Pauline Park
on June 28, 1998, as a vehicle to further the cause of gender identity and expression. “The
idea was that there was no, at the time, statewide transgender advocacy organization
legislative arena,” said Park.
From goth boys who wear black nail polish to post-operative transsexuals,
everyone is included. “It’s called transgender advocacy for short,” said
Park. But NYAGRA’s larger scope encompasses “freeing everyone from
NYAGRA’s initial crusade was statewide inclusion in the larger gay community. “At
that point, ESPA was not about inclusion,” Park said about the Empire
State Pride Agenda, the state’s principal gay-rights lobbying group. “We
could not persuade them to support full transgender inclusion.” Instead,
she said, they made a counterproposal to work together on a local bill. ESPA
helped ease passage of the city’s transgender-rights bill.
“That was our greatest legislative victory,” she said. It became
the largest explicit protection for gender-variant individuals in the country — in
its largest city.
The next struggle is over a statewide bill to include transgender rights,
not included in the recently passed gay non-discrimination bill, SONDA. “We
never agreed not to pursue transgender inclusion in SONDA,” Park said. “NYAGRA
simply agreed we would revisit the issue at a later date.”
In addition to working on legislation, NYAGRA also holds transgender-sensitivity-training
sessions for both public and private organizations. “Legislation cannot
succeed without education,” said Park.
This past spring, the state assembly passed Dignity for All Students Act,
prohibiting discrimination and harassment in public schools statewide. NYAGRA
was able to negotiate transgender inclusion. Even though it did not make it
through the Senate, it represented more visibility. “It’s very
important to recognize that DASA was the first piece of legislation in New
York state legislature to include transgender persons,” said Park.
Today, NYAGRA has 30 paid members and a mailing list over 200 supporters.
Its five board members include Park; Moonhawk River Stone, first co-chair and
secretary, who lives in Albany; Winston Lin; Stuart Chen-Hayes; and Sophia
Stone has been working for a half a year on an amendment to Albany’s
human rights law. “We’re expecting it to pass sometime this year
in the fall,” Stone said. “It is currently in the Human Resources
NYAGRA meets every other month (every third Saturday) at the Center. In November
2001, NYAGRA held its first fund-raiser at the Parkside Lounge in the East
Some of the challenges the trans-community faces today, Park said, are lack
of access to healthcare. Some doctors refuse treatment to those who have undergone
sex-reassignment surgery. Still others are not aware of health concerns specific
to gender variant people. “It’s difficult to get funding for trans-related
research,” Park added.
Park is also working on a state bill that would allow the right to sue for
attorney’s fees and punitive damages. Unless you can sue for attorney’s
fees, said Park, the state’s human rights law are largely ineffective. “Most
of the trans community are economically marginalized,” she added, which
makes it almost impossible to retain attorneys in discrimination cases.
“When SONDA passed, it added ‘sexual orientation’ to the
law,” she said. But, she added ruefully, “There’s still no
full legal redress.”
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