Hearing and reading about the debate over the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate the past couple of days has been a surreal experience.
We’ve come a long way. It was not even ten years ago that I had a job offer rescinded – a job I was eminently qualified for, I might add – by my prospective employer (the Library of Congress) once they found out that I was in the process of a gender transition. The ACLU represented me in a suit against the Library of Congress for the unfair way in which they treated me.
Several years later in 2008, I testified before Congress in the first-ever congressional hearing on gender identity discrimination in the workplace. It was a unique opportunity for me to tell my personal story of taking steps to transition from male to female shortly after retiring as a colonel after 25 years of distinguished service in the Army, and of being discriminated against by the Library of Congress.
Now, in 2013, here we are: ENDA, a bill that would prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity (like the discrimination I experienced), has passed the Senate with a huge bipartisan margin of 64 to 32. Liberals like Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) joined conservatives like Sen. Toomey (R-Pa.) to pass ENDA. It’s truly an astounding achievement.
And for me, (like too many other LGBT people) it’s personal. Sometimes, in the midst of policy debates, we forget that workplace discrimination actually happens to real people. But it’s not some mythical thing. I was profoundly affected by the discrimination I experienced. And even though I won my case (thanks, ACLU!) and now have a job that I love, nobody should have to go through what I did simply because of who they are.
So I look forward to seeing ENDA eventually reaching the President’s desk, even if it’s not this time around (the prospects for passage in the House of Representatives are uncertain).
It will truly be a great day when all Americans have a fair shot at job opportunities and advancement in the workplace regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.