Speaker Paul Ryan is a bit smarter than his predecessor John Boehner. As a famous country song goes, you need to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Withholding money for Flint was a losing hand for Republicans. The amount of funding was insignificant compared to the overall budget, and the political ads that the Democrats could run against Republicans would be pure election gold. Sure, you can hold to principle and say that this is a local issue, however the argument can also be made from a conservative perspective that the water issues in Flint are on par with hurricanes, forest fires, and earthquakes in terms of effect, and emergency disaster based on an urgent health need justifies the aid. That said, actions need to be taken to make sure that states and localities start addressing their infrastructure needs at the appropriate state and local levels. Federal infrastructure spending needs to increase to address the urgent needs caused by neglect of the Federal infrastructure system, but states need to step up and address those issues under state control before they become national health crises. States and localities should not plan on allowing a public health crisis to leverage money out of the Federal Government to fix the infrastructure that is under their control. Speaker Ryan had to fold the hand on this one; now he needs to make sure that states and localities don’t continue to deal from the bottom of the deck to supplement their own infrastructure and financial responsibilities.
Jenni Contrisciani is a management/political consultant, born and raised in Flint Michigan and graduated from the local Kearsley High School.
I blogged about the possibility of HB2 becoming an important campaign issue right after the law was enacted. Sure enough, North Carolina is becoming a swing state in this Presidential election. The efforts of the Governor Pat McCrory (R) and the Republican legislature to make transgender bathroom access a campaign issue may not only backfire on themselves, it may be the straw that shifts the electoral balance in favor of Hillary Clinton. Nationally, Republicans can thank McCrory and his McCronies for that unwanted present to open on election day.
At a recent campaign stop in North Carolina, candidate Clinton stated: “The very mean-spirited, wrong-headed decision by your legislature and governor to pass and sign House Bill 2 has hurt this state. But more than that, it’s hurt people. It has sent a message to so many people that says; ‘You know, you’re not really wanted. You’re not really part of us.’ I think the American dream is big enough for everybody.”
The Republican strategy of casting off minorities instead of embracing them has led to an uphill battle in the Electoral College and the demographics are only going to get worse. Sure, transgender people are a minority, and to be sure, some such as Caitlyn Jenner will continue to support Republican causes, but if transgender people vote on the issues that most directly impact them, then the continued Republican drumbeat against transgender rights will guarantee yet another, albeit small, voting bloc will with the D instead of the R. Eventually even small losses add to big ones. It is time for Republicans to get off the anti-transgender train because human rights should be a given and there are other very important issues to address.
North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes may end up being a deciding factor in this Presidential election. For all the political bluster of blow-outs on either side, the demographics of the U.S. and the mechanics of the Electoral College point to a close race. North Carolina is in play due to the hyper-right partisanship of Governor McCrory and his cabal of McCronies. It should be a warning to all Republicans that hyping up and acting against social issues such as transgender and voting rights, and against the previous signature Republican tenet of supporting local control will cost the Republicans in the long term. North Carolina is in play because of the bungling of Pat McCrory, plain and simple. He rolled the dice on transgender as an issue, and his re-election went straight into the toilet as a result, potty pun intended. His unpopularity is hurting the Republican ticket up and down the ballot. It is unclear whether the shooting in Charlotte will save or finish his and Republican hopes in the state, but if North Carolina goes blue this year and Hillary Clinton wins by less than 15 votes, the anger and recrimination of Republicans nationally may be focused on the North Carolina Republican establishment. The greatest irony would be that the lid would be closed and hopes flushed on Republic efforts to win the White House due to North Carolina’s HB2.
We have hopefully moved beyond casting a white man in black face to play an African American or in face paint to play a Native American. The egregiousness of miscasting, as exemplified by Hollywood actually casting John Wayne cast as Genghis Khan seems silly to us today. Perhaps we will someday look upon the casting of cisgender actors in transgender roles the same way in the future. Hollywood and smaller film producers should seek to rectify this practice as soon as possible. The fact that there are few well known transgender actors speaks to the lack of roles and opportunity. Transgender actors are not even cast in minor roles, preventing them from gaining experience and exposure. Remember Audrey Hepburn started as a cigarette vendor, so even a “bit part” can lead to opportunities. The film industry can help by writing transgender characters into normal roles, such as “the girl next door, the shop owner, the assistant scientist, or the “co-worker.” Transgender roles need not be limited to stereotypes such as “prostitute #3 or drag queen performer.” By doing this, Hollywood can continue its long history of social activism and make a positive change in the lives of many transgender people. In the same way African Americans gained hope by seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, thousands of transgender people will take heart in seeing a transgender actor in a respectable role in television or the movies.
In what may be an ironic and karmic twist of fate, Hillary Clinton may just have the American Family Association and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to thank for a victory in November. In a move of massive miscalculation, McCrory decided to wage war on transgender people in the form of the HB2 “Bathroom Bill” in an effort to create a wedge issue to defeat his democratic opponent, the State’s Attorney General Roy Cooper. The calculus was that by picking on a marginal group such as transgender people and denying them the right to use a public bathroom; that he could stir up his base on a social issue, rake in campaign donations, and get supporters to the polls. He, and the American Family Association (AFA), massively misjudged the response and were bewilderedly beleaguered by an onslaught of negative press both nationally and internationally. This condemnation was most visibly demonstrated by the NBA pulling its all-star game from the state, specifically due to HB2. Economic loss to the state as a result of HB2 is currently estimated to be in the billions. McCrory, a sitting Governor, is currently behind his opponent in the polls and likely to lose his seat in the Governor’s mansion, specifically because he tried to steal toilet seats from transgender people. In a sense, he quite literally flushed his re-election down the sewer. As the Presidential race draws down to its final month, North Carolina looks to join the swing state club with Ohio and Florida, as a prime determinant of who wins the White House. If the Republicans lose North Carolina’s electoral votes to the Democrats, then the mathematics for a Trump victory in the fall look exceeding bleak. The HB2 debacle started by the AFA and Governor McCrory may ironically mean that Hillary Clinton gets to pick the next three to four judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, effectively sounding the death knell for everything the AFA and Governor McCrory profess to stand for. As they say, pick your battles wisely. Governor McCrory and the AFA chose poorly. Apparently the transgender community wasn’t as acquiescent, nor, as helpless as he and the AFA thought. Let that be a lesson.
The answer is yes. Before you call me a bleeding heart liberal, let me explain. I understand the risks of letting in people; after all ISIS could sneak someone in as a refugee. They could also sneak someone in pretty easily over the Mexican border or the Canadian border or radicalize any number of people within the United States. What percentage of refugees will commit crimes? Will it be any higher than the native population? We already have a high crime rate, how many refugees have committed crimes compared to the general population? Compared to the already existing illegal immigrant population? If we fear a refugee, perhaps we should fear our neighbor as well? Then, you have to ask yourself the question: What would it take to keep us completely safe? The answer is a Government so invasive no one on either the right or left would want to live under it; it would mean no guns, border checkpoints at every county line, registrations of everyone, neighbor spying on neighbor. In effect, it would be 1937 Germany. No one wants that…except ISIS. You see, I believe ISIS knows it can’t topple the United States by killing us; after all we do that pretty well enough already. Think of the people that die from gun violence in the United States, from knife violence, from automobile accidents, by industrial accidents. More people die in the United States as a result of slip and falls than all the terrorism we’ve ever experienced in our entire national history. So can ISIS beat us by killing us? The answer is no, they cannot. They CAN beat us by making us so afraid that we destroy ourselves, by destroying our way of life. You see, that is the real threat- at least to a nation. Oh sure, they may kill you or a loved one and that will be a tragedy, but it is a personal tragedy, not a national tragedy. Too many Americans have died to give us the freedoms we have today for us to demean them by taking that freedom away ourselves. Since 9-11 the war has been on foreign soil; we’ve felt comfortable knowing that “other people” namely our sons and daughters in the military were the only ones at risk. Well, the war has come home; why shouldn’t it? Do you think that you can wage war without being involved? We are all in this together, so prepare yourselves, be ready to confront any terrorist that appears, and be an American. The man who shields you from a terrorist bullet in a crowded movie theatre may just very well be one of those recent Syrian immigrants.
Transgender Bathroom Access and the Risk of Lawsuits
Jenni Contrisciani, MBA
According to a UCLA Law School study, there are approximately 700,000 transgender individuals in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 59% of the US population is employed. The Human Rights campaign estimates a 14% unemployment rate for transgender workers, approximately double that for the national average. Assuming an equivalent age distribution of transgender individuals and accounting for increased unemployment means there are roughly 400,000 transgender employees in the United States. Statistica.com puts the number of Americans currently employed as 122.47 million people, so approximately one out of 306 employees are transgendered. If you filled the University of Michigan football stadium with workers (115,000) 375 of them would be transgender. Given rampant underemployment in the transgender community this figure may only be two thirds of this number in professional work place settings, however this still represents 200 people in the University of Michigan stadium example, and 264,000 people nationally.
Recent EEOC and court cases have clearly stated that transgender individuals must have access to the restrooms of the gender in which they identify. The Federal Government has issued clear directives to its departments and agencies to this effect. Companies that do not have a transgender restroom policy are at risk of lawsuits by employees, with the accompanying risk of monetary damages. Companies with identified transgender employees must have clear restroom policies adopted and published. Given that many transgender individuals are closeted, but may come out at any time and publicly assert they are transgender, means that even companies that do not have identified transgender employees need restroom policies.
The transgender community is well connected through social media, and aware of recent court cases. The “coming out” of celebrities such as Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Navy SEAL Christopher/Kristin Beck have raised the likelihood of transgender individuals openly identifying as their true gender and demanding equal rights under Federal EEOC guidelines and court precedent. Therefore a prudent employer needs to establish a transgender restroom policy.
But what about my other employees, employers will ask? The women in my company won’t be happy with “men” in their restroom! If existing experience is any indication, this will be a concern that will need to be addressed in your company. You may need training to both enact a transgender restroom policy and keep your employees happy. There are several key points to emphasize. Just as there are transgender women, who were or are, genetically male, there are also transgender men who are/were genetically female. Transgender men can appear with beards and well developed musculature. A transgender man in the women’s room would probably be more disturbing to women than a transgender woman, who dresses as a woman. Without a transgender restroom policy, forcing employees to use the restroom of their genetic gender may result in masculine transgender men in the women’s room, and transgender women wearing dresses, high heels in the men’s room and applying make-up at the sink.
Second, as with any restroom situation, the company must state that it will police any inappropriate behavior. While there have been no documented cases of transwomen acting inappropriately in women’s restrooms, the red herring of sexual perversion and inappropriate behavior is often raised. In addition to reassuring employees that there have been no cases of inappropriate behavior in restrooms documented to date, company policy is still in effect if there ever was.
Third, most modern restrooms contain a sink area and individual stalls. Aside from shoe size, there really isn’t any way to discern a transgender woman versus a genetic woman in the stall next door, assuming proper sit-down behavior by the transwoman. Even so, there is privacy in bathroom stalls. If necessary, stalls can be further privatized to reassure any individual.
Fourth, it should be addressed that transgender people are desperately wanting to blend in with the gender of their choice, so the only interaction a genetic woman would likely have with a transwoman in the restroom would be if she asked her at the sink how she learned how to do her makeup so well. Again, there have been no incidences of abnormal behavior in professional settings or the multiple school settings where transgender individuals are allowed to use the restroom of their gender identity.
Of course, change is hard and employees may come with very fixed and predetermined viewpoints. This is where training can be effective in dispelling many of the myths and misperceptions of transgender individuals. Not only can you more likely retain a talented transgender employee, but a well stated and public restroom policy may attract talented transgender individuals.
If you do not have a policy in place currently, it would be wise to do so and would demonstrate foresight and fiscal responsibility to do so.
Jenni Contrisciani, MBA