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Miami-Dade LGBT activists to pursue passage of gender identity non-discrimination law

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

In 2003, Monroe County and the city of Key West passed laws banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. Within five years, similar measures passed in Miami Beach, Broward and Palm Beach counties. On Tuesday, Alachua County commissioners in North Florida voted 4-0 to protect transgender people.

And the same day, a similar proposal died in Miami-Dade County, causing gay activists to point fingers and figure out what to do next.

“We’re going to meet with commissioners again to make sure the support is there, and the education is there, as well,” said Maria Barth, deputy director of SAVE Dade, the county’s leading LGBT rights group. “Then we’re going to continue with our ground game, our advocacy work within the county. Our staff is completely committed to passing this ordinance.”

Miami-Dade, where singer and Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant led a 1977 repeal of the county’s original gay-rights ordinance, again banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1998. Voters upheld the law in 2002. This year, SAVE Dade asked commissioners to protect gender expression and identity.

“Gender expression has to do with a person’s behavior or outward appearance as masculine or feminine. It can and commonly does differ from the stereotypes and gender roles associated with the biological sex a person is assigned by doctors at birth,” Barth said. “Gender identity is a psychological trait has to do with how a person ‘feels’ — whether a person feels like a man or a woman, despite the biological sex he or she was assigned at birth.”

Gay activists nationally are seeking to protect transgender people from workplace, housing and other discrimination, and to provide physical and mental healthcare benefits for people in gender transition.

“Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This may or may not include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures,” according to Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the United States’ largest LGBT rights organization.

In May, Miami-Dade Commissioners Bruno Barreiro and Audrey Edmonson filed a trans-inclusive amendment to the county’s existing gay-rights law, co-sponsored by Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Sally Heyman, which would have banned discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on gender identity or expression.

The amendment passed 11-1 on first reading, with Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell voting no. The proposal then went to the commission’s Health and Social Services Committee, comprised of chairwoman Edmonson, Bell, Commissioners Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Jean Monestime and Javier D. Souto.

Anthony Verdugo, executive director of the statewide Christian Family Coalition, called the gender proposal “harmful and unnecessary.”

Verdugo said the law “would create a hostile working environment for many individuals who simply don't agree with these policies."

“What about the other people and their feelings?” Verdugo said “You’ve got to remember the golden rule.”

The Christian Family Coalition spent weeks lobbying health committee members, especially Diaz and Monestime, in person, by phone and email.

Realizing last week that they didn’t have the votes, SAVE Dade members asked commission co-sponsors to pull the proposal. The group immediately blamed Bell for the defeat, and the next day thanked Edmonson, Barreiro, Heyman and Jordan.

State and national LGBT activists believe eventually the law will pass.

“Miami-Dade will pass these protections. It is too diverse a community and there is too broad a coalition that supports this to not succeed,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state’s largest gay-rights lobbying group.

Smith said her group has successfully fought similar campaigns in places like Gainesville, which passed a trans-inclusive law in 2008.

“The education process that came from challenging the lies and tactics to dehumanize transgender people paved the way to victory,” Smith said. “In the end, I think that will be true in Miami.”

Ultimately, Smith said, these heated discussions “make the case for why these laws are necessary.”

The most crucial first step in passing a gender identity law is finding a person to be the face of the campaign, said LGBT activist Babs Siperstein of New Jersey, one of two transgender members of the Democratic National Committee.

“You need a face. Someone with a family who is willing to come out,” said Siperstein, 70, who publicly identified as transgender in the late 1980s. “I lived a dual life for 34 years,” she said. “Then my wife died suddenly.”

Acknowledging that many people have little understanding about gender issues, Siperstein encourages other transgender people to come out, too.

“Be part of the solution,” she said. “The general public doesn’t know. Frankly, the general media has given us terrible press. You’ve got the ‘tranny prostitutes,’ the drug people. You’ve had people get sick pumping the silicone.”

Siperstein, whose son and grandchildren live in Lake Worth, said it’s essential to relate to transgender people as neighbors and family members.

“Like in business, you have to play on what people have in common,” she said. “You’ve got to humanize.”

Last year, Siperstein attended her grandson’s bar mitzvah in Palm Beach County.

The rabbi referred to Siperstein as the boy’s “grandmother.”

“My son just kind of whispered to him, ‘No, she’s the grandfather,’ Siperstein said. “It’s all part of being positive.”


These Florida cities and counties include gender identity and expression in their non-discrimination laws:

Alachua County, Broward County, Dunedin, Gainesville, Gulfport, Key West, Lake Worth, Largo, Leon County, Miami, Miami Beach, Monroe County, North Miami, Oakland Park, Orange County, Palm Beach County, St. Augustine, Tallahassee, Tampa, Tequesta, Venice, Volusia County, West Palm Beach and Wilton Manors.

Source: Equality Florida


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Why should I be made to accept their lifestyle? What is the problem with the transexuals accepting my lifestyle of being straight and left alone? I don't want to be in the rest rooms with a person who is a man today and will change his or her gender based on their feelings (at-will). I am Black and can't change my color based on how I feel today or tomorrow. I had to grow up and face the challenges of being BLACK without crying about everything and trying to get my skin changed to a white person. Those who claim to be trans-gendered are not trans-gendered, you are what you were when you were born, your DNA will substantiate that. Grow up and face life, be who God has made you.

Nathaniel, like you cannot change the color of your skin, transgendered people cannot change their identity. "God" has made them that way.

Many of them suffered, especially before information got out about trans identity. They have parts of one sex, yet they know they are of another. This disparity, has lead to destructive behaviours, and some have even been singled out for violence. That is what this bill is trying to help prevent. Someone of color should appreciate a bill to maintain civil rights for everyone, and not just based on the color of one's skin.


Objectively speaking, a human being’s sex, age, color, race, and ethnicity, or biological ancestry, among many other personal traits, are not up to them to arbitrarily decide; they are not based on a personal opinion, private belief or subjective perception.

Sex is a precisely determinable genetic fact; it is a scientifically demonstrable biological reality. As such, like it or not, sex can never be altered or changed. While an individual's physical appearance can be cosmetically changed or modified, or they can change their personal opinion as to their sex, their DNA, or chromosomes, can never be altered.

Gender Identity” and “Gender Expression” are non-scientific, ideological terms, i.e., terms specifically created to advance an ideology, and neither term is scientifically demonstrable, genetically verifiable, nor an objectively definable biological reality, both terms being difficult when not impossible to precisely interpret and define.

It is contrary to sound public policy to recognize or grant an individual the false “right” to freely disregard and openly misrepresent their biological sex because this will thereafter recognize and grant the false “right” of individuals to disregard and misrepresent their race, ethnicity, or any other biological realities.

SAVE Dade’s Maria Barth: You need to understand that there is no constitutional or rational right to demand that society accept my sexual fantasies, my personal opinion or my subjective ‘feelings’ about whether I’m a man or a woman! This ordinance has absolutely nothing to do with civil rights. It is an excuse to unjustly discriminate. You’re not advocating equality, your pushing insanity! Deal with it, sister.

Homophobic elected officials are endangered, rightfully so. Rev. Wilcox's comments above are indicative of why he is unlikely to win any election and is becoming an increasingly minority view.

Hey Rev, if I didn't want to go to a bathroom and find myself peeing next to a homophobic, religious Black man, do I have any recourse?

Transgender is a loosey goosey pseudo-scientific term, and is often confused with intersex which has an actual biological basis. The vast majority of self-identified transgender people will present themselves for most of their adult lives as the sex they were born, and on only select occasions/periods present as the gender they think they are. Even among the most "committed" transgender people, those who have undergone pre-op psychological counseling and taken the final drastic step of surgically altering their bodies, a suprising % (around 5% by some estimates) of these post-op transsexuals will eventually cease the hormones and revert to their birth sex. So why exactly are we forcing massive new guv'mint regulations on employers, hotels, apartment owners, cafes, and every other type of business to accommodate folks who haven't proven a history of discrimination in the first place.

I'm struggling to figure out why it's acceptable to change your gender, but not your sexual orientation.

I agree, Dr. Meissner, sooner or later, someone will be assaulted or murdered by an aberrosexualist extremist.

When that happens, when a person that disagrees with this warped ideology, is assaulted or murdered, that blood trail will invariably lead directly to those who ignorantly use the slurs “homophobe," "homophobic" or "homophobia" to hurt everyone who disagrees with the totalitarian aberrosexualist ideology.

As a Jewish woman, I know how it feels to be called a slur. Let's stop the hate and discrimination that the slurs “homophobe," "homophobic" or "homophobia" so horribly incite!!!

It is interesting to note that I posted a very detailed and sincere comment on this thread but it was removed. In it I detailed the reality of what it means to be transgendered from the point of view of a transgendered woman who lives a pretty normal life as a software professional, working in an office.

It makes me seriously question the editorial purity of the Miami Herald.

Jamie, I find no record of an earlier post from you. Feel free to repost your original comments.


Thanks for the reply, Steve.

I am not sure I can restate things as eloquently as I did previously but I'll try.

I'll start by stating that I am a 48 year old non-operative transsexual female. I'm a database professional and a parent of three grown children who I raised with my first wife. I transitioned to female in 2000 while working in IT management for a fortune 500 company and have an MBA from Rollins College.

Many people who oppose transgender rights wish to dismiss the entire issue as psychobabble or make believe. I would suspect they have never personally known a transgendered person. Such a point of view is rude, demeaning, and trivializes my personal existence into some game. I have known since I was 4 that I was a girl/woman. This is hardly a game.

That being said, the simplest way to sum up the entire issue is to approach it as a patriotic American. It is a basic and cherished principle here that everyone is entitled to choose who and what they want to be.

If a person chooses to be gay, Baptist, conservative, vegan, or whatever they wish it would be downright un-American of someone to deny them that right.

Personally I believe a person can in fact choose to become attracted to a different (or in my case, additional) gender. The GLBT movement hurts its position with the "born that way" argument the same way the NRA weakens its position with the "preventing governmental tyranny" argument -- it is non-sequitor because as taxpaying, free Americans we are guaranteed the right to pursue happiness. I will say though that just because I believe it is possible for a person to change or expand their orientation does not mean it is right to make a person feel obligated to do so. A vegetarian can choose to eat meat but that doesn't give society the right to condemn them and make them feel they should change.

Sex and gender are actually different things. Being male does not make one a "man". One is a medical term, the other is a social construct. Think about all the things that we as a culture have wrapped up in what it means to be "a man" or "a woman" and about zero percent of it includes what you have between your legs. I am a male who happens to be a woman. That means I think, feel, act, walk, and speak like a woman but I have a penis. I always have and always will. I do take hormones and have a very female body, though I don't feel it is necessary to have surgery to be a "complete" woman. That seems a bit medieval or draconian to me. I didn't transition to female to get men either, I had no attraction to men until I chose to give them a try about 11 years after my transition to female.

It does seem that the primary issue most people get hung up on is transfolk in public restrooms. That is a pretty ridiculous issue. If women are worried about having a transsexual woman in the women's room it is entirely based on their concern that they may be sexually molested or oggled. The same women probably give no thought to the fact that there are lesbians in the ladies' room all the time. The fact is that most transgendered women are not attracted to women, they are attracted to men.

I have not used a men's room in South Florida since my transition in 2000. If I were to do so I am sure it would create an issue and likely put me at personal risk. If a transman (Female to Male) were to use the women's room I am sure he would have lots of trouble as well. Basically a person should stick to the restroom that matches the gender that others would perceive them to have. In the case of a crossdresser who is clearly a man crossdressed that means the men's room is probably appropriate.

Now in regards to those who talk about accepting my "lifestyle" I am really curious what is means to have a "transsexual lifestyle" That sounds exotic and cool. Not at all like my life. I just work a day job like everyone else. Actually one of my dear friends is a conservative Christian woman I work with. We compared notes and she and I live pretty much the same "lifestyle" other than that I don't go to church every Sunday like she does. In the past I did teach Sunday School for over 10 years though.

In short, the haters position is "because you might make me feel awkward for a few seconds you are not allowed to be who you wish to be"

Sounds pretty inconsiderate if not un-American indeed.

p.s. For the record, the ad that the Christian Coalition emailed out on this topic recently was highly offensive. In it, the graphic depicts that basically all transgendered women are bearded, crossdressed men and are pedophiles just waiting to rape your preteen daughter. Perhaps I should rework the ad and put a priest and a little boy in their place and send it to them so thay can appreciate how it feels to have their entire class of people condemned as pedophiles.

By the way, to Samantha, you express concern that a person may get assaulted or killed for being a homophobe. That is of course possible though it would be highly unusual.

In converse, it is more than possible for someone to be killed, beaten, harassed, denied employment or housing, and many other things for being transgendered.

It happens all the time and is precisely why there should be protection.

As a member of a minority group that has suffered and will continue to suffer oppression and unfair discrimination I find it astounding that you can be so insensitive.

Your argument is akin to saying that rape victims shouldn't be allowed to ask for protection from rapists because some militant rape victim might go kill a rapist.

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