OutCaster Alex and guest Juli Grey-Owens
(September 1, 2019) This past January, New York State enacted GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. Though the bill had passed the Democratically-controlled New York State Assembly a number of times, there weren't enough votes to pass it in the State Senate, and the bill stalled for years. Then came the "blue wave" election of 2018, when Democrats won a majority in the State Senate; within days of the beginning of the new session, GENDA was passed by both houses and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Before GENDA was enacted, a number of municipalities within the state had enacted transgender protections. But without a statewide law, those protections ended as soon as you stepped outside the city border.
Anti-discrimination laws generally identify "protected classes" of people who have been subject to discrimination because of a shared characteristic — for example, race, religion, sex, and national origin. These laws bar discrimination in areas such as housing, employment, credit, and access to businesses open to the public.
In 2002, the state enacted SONDA, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, which added sexual orientation as a protected class, thus barring discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. But some proponents of SONDA believed that protecting transgender people would prevent the bill from passing, so trans protections were excluded. Even in relatively liberal New York State, enacting protections for LGBTQ people is not easy, and it took another 17 years — until January of 2019 — before GENDA finally became law in New York State, adding gender identity and gender expression as a protected class.
It's important to note that these laws do not create any "special rights" for the protected classes. They protect classes of people who have historically been discriminated against in an effort to reduce the discrimination; they do not elevate the protected class above other people.
On this edition, OutCaster Alex talks with Juli Grey-Owens, a longtime transgender activist. Juli was on the board of directors of the Empire State Pride Agenda for six years before it closed and is now the Executive Director of Gender Equality New York. She is also a member of OutCasting's Advisory Council.
Juli joined us for an interview in 2013 and provided a wide-ranging overview of trans identity. You can listen to that interview here. Also in 2013, we spoke with Richard Gottfried, a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly, who sponsored GENDA. You can listen to that interview here.