OpEd: Give Us A Chance
By: Lori Wright
My resume discloses my thirty-years of experience in the electrical field. Prior to moving to Virginia I owned and operated an electrical contracting company for 17 years in Western Pennsylvania. In 2011, I moved to Lynchburg Virginia to care for my disabled sister and aged mother, and I felt confident that I could gain employment within the first few months. Little did I know I was entering the Twilight Zone.
Now, 2-years later, I remain unemployed. My employment is not a result of laziness, nor is it a result of a lack of opportunities because I have responded to dozens of job listing. I have interviewed for several positions and each time I interviewed with an employer, they expressed interest in me until I revealed my status, as a transgender person. Subsequently, the interviews ended, abruptly, and I was denied the position. Employers have been clever to avoid any controversy with innocuous reasons as to why they opted not to hire me, but it is obvious to me that they do not want my kind in their organization.
Every transgender person I have encountered in the Lynchburg area is afraid to come out, fearing they will suffer repercussions for doing so, and most public officials are unwilling to provide support because of opposition from conservative heavyweights. Consequently, I was compelled to start a nonprofit organization, The Free Women Society, to establish a platform to expose the discrimination against the transgender community in Central Virginia.
Just like Diamond Hill Baptist Church here in Lynchburg, who stood alone in the fight for civil rights, while other denominations chose to remain silent, the Free Women Society stands alone in our mission to bring equality to Central Virginia’s transgender residents.
The state of Virginia, for the most part, abides by federal law when it comes to employment discrimination policy. Virginia protects Race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, disability, age (40 and older), citizenship, genetic information. Where Virginia is failing is to provide protection from sexual-orientation discrimination.
The transgender community, throughout Virginia, has no protection against discrimination when applying for employment, housing and medical care. (Virginia Department of Health, 2005). Most of Virginia’s transgender residents must live in anonymity to avoid discrimination, or live in poverty because they are refused opportunity.
“Qualified, hard working Americans are denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).” According to HRC, it is still legal in 29 states to discriminate against LGBT citizens. HRC is promoting a federal employment non-discrimination act to end this national embarrassment, and I am drafting a bill to introduce to the Virginia State Assembly to end Virginia’s discriminatory policies. Will you join us in this noble fight to restore the dignity of Virginia’s transgender citizens by holding employers accountable?
While we are all different, there are parts of our identities, our shared experiences, that make us all the same.September 21, 2016
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