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Civil Rights or “Cis”vil Rights?

By Anya Harter, VI Form

Civil Rights or “Cis”vil Rights?

Wars have been fought over as much. The right of every person to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is the cornerstone of America’s foundation. The American Dream, in which so many so ardently believe, promises a job and an education for those who work hard and deserve it.

From this same belief originated federal laws regarding discrimination in the workforce. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states: “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” While, there is the workforce is not rid of discrimination, victims of this discrimination are protected under law. The reference to sex is even defined as including but not limited to “pregnancy, childbirth, or related
medical conditions” (Title). However, there exists a glaring hole. There is no mention of sexual orientation or gender in the anti-discrimination law. The term “sex” and “gender” are not equivalent. Sex = male and female ( biological differences: chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs); Gender = masculine and feminine (sociological differences: characteristics that a society or culture deem as masculine or feminine) 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal district court found that “discrimination against a transgender individual because of her gender-nonconformity is sex discrimination, whether it’s described as being on the basis of sex or gender.” However, there is no law that specifically mentions gender or gender expression. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 26% of transgender people “lost a job due to bias” and 50% were “harassed on the job” (Non-Discrimination). This discriminatory atmosphere cannot be allowed to continue. That there has not been an addition to the above clause to include sexual orientation, gender, and gender expression is an egregious wrong to all of the values for which America stands.

In Massachusetts, the legislature specifically mentions “race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, which shall not include persons whose sexual orientation involves minor children as the sex object, genetic information, or ancestry of any individual” (PART I:TITLE XXI:CHAPTER 151B:Section 4 Massachusetts Legislature). While this law holds in Massachusetts, its national equivalent is bare-boned and vague. Until the time at which the federal law is amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the treasured belief that America is the land of opportunity will continue to fall far short of reality.

A demand to push the passage of GENDA (The Gender Non-Discrimination Act) is building in New York, as people call for civil rights for all people. Contact your local representatives, express to them why this movement is important, and request that they bring this issue in your own state. A representative’s job is to represent the people. If the representative has been contacted by enough people about a change to a law, they are obligated to represent that position in the stead of the people. You can start a petition and bring it to the federal court as well. The hashtag #translivesmatter is circulating in support of the trans antidiscriminatory movement. You can use social media to spread awareness of this injustice. You need to utilize your civil rights that allow you to act.

Anya Harter is a VI Form day student from Groton, MA.  She is a Burnett House prefect, a singer with the Royal Blues, and the Ultimate Rebel in Rebels with a Cause class, for which this piece was written.

“General Laws: CHAPTER 151B, Section 4.” The 189th General Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXXI/Chapter151B/Section4>.

“Non-Discrimination Laws.” National Center for Transgender Equality. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <http://transequality.org/issues/non-discrimination-laws>.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm>.



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