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13 Aug, 2010 19:53

Treatment of transgenders in US "un-American"

Despite civil rights laws written to protect discrimination based on race, religion, and sex, transgender people looking for the same rights find themselves out of luck.

It's glitz and glamour at a Washington DC "drag" brunch. You could say each performer has a job fit for a queen.

"I love them," said a restaurant patron of the drag queens. "Fun, happy, beautiful, glamourous."

"It doesn't matter gay or straight," said another patron. "Everyone's just here to have a good time."

But all that glitters isn't gold for most transgender people in the United States.

It was very artfully phrased and then he fired me," said Vandy Beth Glenn of Atlanta, Georgia, a transgender woman, recalling the day she lost her job. “I think some people just have an ick factor when it comes to this sort of thing.”

Vandy Beth is not alone. She is one of a quarter of transgenders in the US who claim they've been fired because of their gender identity. She is one of 97 percent who report they have been discriminated against at work because of it.

"Her boss just summoned her to his office and said is it true you decided that you're going to be transitioning and she said yes,” described Vandy Beth’s attorney Gregory Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney of Lambda Legal.

And when I told him yes he said well that can't happen appropriately in this workplace," alleged Vandy Beth.

And this workplace of all places was the institution that was supposed to protect freedoms and liberties.

I couldn't believe that especially a government organization would do that," said Ashlee Gardner, Vandy Beth's longtime friend.

It was Vandy Beth’s dream job to work beneath the gold dome at the Georgia State Legislature, where she helped write the bills that become laws, but none of those laws protected her from being fired. In Georgia as in 38 of 50 US states, discriminating based on gender identity is not banned.

It does shock people that this could be a category that's overlooked by the existing laws," argued Vandy Beth.

Because Vandy Beth worked in the public sector where there are more workplace protections, with the help of a civil liberties group she has been able to sue. She is asking only for her job back.

"It's un-American for people to do what was done to me," said Vandy Beth.

Through this process, she's won the admiration of friends.

She's smart she's funny, I'd even say courageous doing what she's doing fighting the state," said a friend at a game of Dungeons and Dragons with Vandy Beth. "Fight the power!

She's won the support of a queen.

"If someone changes their gender to complete who they are I think that should be accepted," said Whitney France, a drag queen.

And now she's fighting the state and not her gender any longer.

It's an inborn characteristic," explained Vandy Beth. "It's something you're born with and something you can't change.”

It doesn't change the law.

If it's explicit in the law you won't have something like this happen in the first place," said Nevins.

A judge has now ruled in Vandy Beth's case. As of Friday August 6th a judge ordered her job reinstated.

However, appearances like a flashy drag brunch aside, unemployment and discrimination are still a drag for most transgenders.

Most transgender people who get fired from their job just have to grit their teeth and endure the injustice," said Vandy Beth.