Guest opinion: Nondiscrimination ordinance should be fully inclusive

2014-08-04T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Nondiscrimination ordinance should be fully inclusiveBy MARTY ELIZABETH ORTIZ The Billings Gazette
August 04, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The Billings City Council is contemplating a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. But many do not understand the full impact of what “fully inclusive” means and what it means to the transgender community if it does not fully address the concerns of safety, security and dignity for all of us.

Part of the reason for that is while the majority of people live happily under the gender that was assigned to them at birth, they do not realize that some do not. It may be difficult for someone who is not transgender to fully understand a trans person’s experience.

Consider if at some point in your life, you realized there was something incongruent within you. Although, you had been assigned male at birth, you truly identify as a woman. When you were born, a physician took a cursory glance at you and declared you were male. And from that point on, everyone you know and everyone you come in contact with also expects you to conform to that label. But, in your heart, you do not feel that you are male.

You realize that even your own body has betrayed you. That a poison, namely testosterone, has invaded your body and masculinized it in irreversible ways. Your shoulders are broad, voice deep, your face has a rectangular shape and there is a shadow covering your skin that you cannot escape no matter how close you shave.

Then you realize that you will never be happy living as a man. Your life as a man has simply become a daily torture and must end one way or another.

You consider transitioning to living as the woman that you are. Your first fear is that you may very likely lose your job. Your boss can chose not to keep you because you transitioned. You sit in hurt. Not only do you enjoy your job and are successful at it, you need it to live, and to afford the changes that you will be enacting in your life in order to finally be happy. You fear that if you lose your job you may also lose your home.

Even if you are able to pay your rent, you worry that your landlord may disapprove because of his personal beliefs and ask you

to leave.

Consider if two years has passed. You have been living full time as a woman. You have undergone hormone replacement therapy. Your body has been feminized. Your facial features are softer. You have naturally developed breast like any other woman. You have endured hours of painful laser hair removal. You go to work or out with friends and are recognized as the woman you know you are. Yet, as you walk in to obtain your gym membership, your greatest fear is that they will listen to your voice or notice some other trace of your pre-transition life. Despite the feminine gender marker on your identification, you may be humiliated, mistreated and sent to the men’s locker room.

This is the daily reality many transgender individuals face. If the nondiscrimination ordinance does not recognize the experience and wisdom of people to accurately identify themselves and allow them to use the locker room which reflects how they live every day, it puts them in danger. It devalues them. It marginalizes them.

A nondiscrimination ordinance needs to be fully inclusive. Transgender people should be given the same protections as everyone else and afforded security and dignity equal to all others in our community.

Marty Elizabeth Ortiz, of Billings, is a member of the Montana Gender Alliance and serves on the board of Not In Our Town.

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