June 27, 2011
The Housing Works float rolls down Christopher Street.
The Housing Works family burst through Manhattan at the Pride Parade yesterday, clad in neon, bopping to Madonna and cheering Friday's passage of same-sex marriage.
For many, though, yesterday was also a reminder that there are still equality battles to fight -- and win -- in New York State.
Since 2003, Housing Works has pushed to pass the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA), legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression in health care, employment, housing and other areas.
"This was a great first step, but it's not the end," said Jonie Blinman, 35, of Brooklyn, standing with her partner, Kristin. "There's a lot of people that still need to recognized."
While the marriage equality bill has captured significant media attention and galvanized state LGBT activists, transgender rights advocates have long argued that GENDA is just as important.
Without legal protection from discrimination, transgender individuals face significant barriers to acquiring jobs; renting or buying homes; and receiving fair treatment in medical settings. As a result, transgender individuals are, on average, significantly poorer than the general population. They are also four times as likely to be HIV-positive.
Among the Housing Works clients, staffers and volunteers who took to the streets yesterday was Safire Bombay, 37, a transgender woman from Chelsea. (Photo at left).
Decked in white, she urged Governor Cuomo and the legislature to guarantee her the same protections extended to all other individuals. "I've been discriminated against by my own father. My own father has told me he wants nothing to do in my life," she said. "To know that my family feels that way, and that other people on the streets share their values, it hurts."
Housing Works partnered with Whole Foods for Pride Parade this year, and the Housing Works coalition marched with Whole Foods employees. Passing GENDA was their central message.
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