Michigan’s Transgender Community Takes the Lead on ENDA
June 25, 2014 by Lynne Bowman, Regional Field Director
Over the last several months members of the transgender community in Michigan have been actively engaged in the Americans for Workplace Opportunity Campaign to help get the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed. From leading phone banks, to speaking with clergy and business owners, to organizing community meetings, to helping staff various events such as Motor City Pride, the courageous and dedicated folks of the trans* community have demonstrated an unprecedented level of commitment to ending discrimination in Michigan and throughout the United States.
For HRC super volunteer Maddie Adams, her time and commitment to this cause could not be more important. “As a transgender woman I am well aware of the many challenges my community faces in regards to discrimination in the workplace. I have had jobs where I could not be myself and it hurt, said Adams. “If helping to build support for ENDA alleviates just a fraction of the pain resulting from workplace discrimination, then it was time very well spent.”
Similar sentiments were shared by Joanna Hill, a highly skilled electrical engineer and another incredible HRC volunteer who has contributed greatly to the campaign. “I was born intersex and did not have a choice in the matter of who I am. I have faced discrimination many times over in the workplace and it has cost me jobs, promotions, and contributed much stress in my life. What I do have a choice on however, is being a part of the effort to change things,” said Hill. “If what I do now helps future generations of gay and transgender people to not have to go through what I have, then I will have done my part.”
Scores of transgender volunteers- including Adams and Hill have taken major roles in the Michigan campaign. They have helped make thousands of calls, they have spoken at Non-Discrimination Ordinance hearings, and they have shared their stories with both business owners and clergy in the hopes of securing endorsements for ENDA. Day in and day out, they have helped establish a model for leadership that continues to attract and inspire other members of the trans* community to take action.
Michigan HRC organizer, Allison VanKuiken- herself a transgender woman, could not be more proud of her community and their dedication to this cause. “To see so many of us on the front lines and doing the work is really one of the highlights of my organizing career. I am all too familiar with how difficult it can be to venture into unsafe spaces and talk with people who may not support the gay and trans* community. However these amazing folks have shown no fear and continue to become more and more engaged. It truly is amazing and I hope that more members of the trans* community around the country pay attention to what we are doing here because it is very encouraging,” said VanKuiken.
If you are in the Detroit Metro area or thumb of Michigan and would like to get involved, you can contact Allison VanKuiken at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about the latest volunteer opportunity.
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