The making of a NY State strategy for antidiscrimination legislation

For the past six years the strategy was based on demonstrations, collecting little square cards to encourage particular senators to vote for GENDA, limited radio advertising.

What has been missing is frequent personal contacts with key legislative assistants, informal get-togethers with all levels of the senate, and showing that transgender people are just part of humanity.

Also missing are any strong advocate voices within or without that might affect antidiscrimination legislation.  These missing factors are what made success for same sex marriage in NY.

So what are key elements of a likely successful strategy?

Change the Message.

First change the legislative message from a focus on gender expression to supporting an end to discrimination. We have found that “discrimination” resonates across the political spectrum.  Gender expression conjures up bathroom invasions, men in jockstraps, heels, and lipstick wanting into restaurants, and more along these lines. True? No. But legislative myth? Yes.

We can avoid it with talking about discrimination being just plain wrong.

Get advocates in the Assembly and Senate and work with them

Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell gave a barnburner speech at the last session of the legislature. Why was he not used more? True, Assemblyman Gottfried proposes a GENDA bill every year, but he is nowhere to be seen at rallies, in the paper or on TV promoting transgender anti discrimination. He certainly is not a spokesman for transgender rights.

It is even worse in the Senate.  True, Senator Squadron proposes a bill every year, but I have searched for him making public statements in support of his bill. The result? Pictures of him advocating for, say, rent control in NYC with a side bar caption that he has proposed transgender anti discrimination legislation.  Senator Hoylman in public statements in support of GENDA legislation shows he thinks the LGB and T issues are exactly the same. Not too helpful.

What to do

Expose a wider group of NY State legislators to transgender people and their troubles with discrimination.

Develop advocates at the staff levels of leaders of both houses.

Gain wider public understanding of what transgender is and how discrimination has a negative effect on human lives.

While there is a high support of transgender anti discrimination legislation, there is still a sizable minority that does not and controls the GOP in their dealing with the issue. They need additional education and exposure to transgender people and their humanity.

A multi-pronged campaign by numerous organizations

In the past, Pride Agenda has controlled the message and access to various legislators. This is bad: they have a LGBT message in which the T is lost. Also, they work outside public view in many cases. Gottfried and Squadron are happy dealing only with one organization rather than having to respond to many. Ultimately unhealthy and unsuccessful.

So all the Transgender focused groups, either formal or informal, need to identify the skill set each have and select issues that play to these strengths. So what if there is some overlap. Showing the legislature that there is more than one voice in the transgender community will be powerful and have more influence.

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