Monday, November 2, 2015

NY Human Rights Law and Troubling NY Transgender Policy

Last week Jeremiah Ho updated us on the status of anti-discrimination laws in the fifty states where discrimination is based on sexual identity.  New York was cited as one state that is close to enacting such protections.

In 1945, New York passed its first Human Rights law which bans discrimination on several grounds.  One section of the act  reads, for example: 

"It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer or licensing agency, because of an individual's age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, or domestic violence victim status, to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual or to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment."

New York's Human Rights Commission, under Governor Cuomo's direction, proposes a way to extend protections explicitly to transgender individuals.  While well intended, the method of ensuring protections to transgender individuals is controversial.  The proposal "clarifies" that the gender discrimination definition include gender identity and the status of being transgender.  The method by which gender dysphoria is included in the classifications against whom discrimination is prohibited, is by categorizing gender dysphoria as a disability.  The characterization resurrects an argument that was raised during drafting and lobbying for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Categorizing gender dysphoria as a disability has its critics and promoters.  On one hand, many transgender individuals may need assistance during periods of corrective surgery and other health care, resulting in what typically is a period of temporary disability.  Yet to categorize gender dysphoria as a disability absent significant physical or mental impairment is to undo progress that has been made in creating social acceptance for transgender and other gender non-conforming individuals. 

While gender dysphoria may lead to mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, those conditions result from a variety of responses an individual has based either on the dysphoria or others' reactions to the dysphoria.  The dysphoria itself should not be classified as a disability.  This attempt to classify as a disability a birth characteristic brings back memories of homosexuality being classified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Arguments prevail from differing view points.  For one perspective on this topic, see Kevin Barry's article Disability Queer.



November 2, 2015 in Disabilities, Equality, Margaret Drew, Transgender | Permalink | Comments (0)