To hear these women tell it, the workplace is often a hostile environment for many transgender New Yorkers, who sometimes face verbal and physical abuse.
“Even the companies that do hire them, they just leave them at the mercy of their co-workers, even when they complain that he touched me, he whatever, or he called me a dude or whatever,” said Brooke Cerda, a transgender activist. “So it’s really, really hard.”
New York City law prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender identity, but some say they are often told to change their appearance.
“They wanted me to cut my hair and they wanted me to take out my implants,” said “Jackie O.,” a protester. “I can’t do that.”
So they are fighting for better treatment, especially in Jackson Heights, where many say it’s a good place to live, but not to work.
Biane Garcia claimed she was told a job posting at a local retail store was filled, but later that evening, her brother was offered an interview.
“He said, ‘Yeah, if you want to apply for the job, you can come today or maybe you can come tomorrow,'” Garcia said.
After that incident last year, Garcia joined Make the Road New York. The advocacy group has been trying to shine a spotlight on the issue.
The group has taken its fight not only to the streets, but also to Albany, where it is pushing for tougher laws.
Make the Road New York and its supporters were hoping the senate would pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, but that didn’t happen. They said the legislation would better protect transgender workers from discrimination.
“For the fifth year in a row, the Assembly has passed GENDA. Once again, we see that the roadblock is the New York state Senate,” said Assemblyman Francisco Moya of Queens. “We need to ensure that this important piece of legislation gets passed.”
The women will have to wait until the next legislative session to see if that happens, but in the meantime, they said they will continue to try to draw more attention to their plight.
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