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Monday, July 28, 2008

NY Post Weighs In on Transgender Work Issues

The New York Post, a tabloid not usually known for its sympathetic portrayal of transgender people, featured an article in its business section today entitled CHANGE IN THE AIR. Samples of the paper's usual headlines regarding transgender issues are "Sex Honcho Gets Cut" and "Free to be He-She". However, the Post showed a more sympathetic side in this article.

The article starts out with a quote from Melissa Sklarz, a transgender woman well-known for her political savvy, having been the first out transgender person to hold political office in New York in her elected role as County Judicial Delegate in Manhattan in 1999. Her most recent political role is as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and member of the Democratic Convention Rules Committee, an important post. She's also on the executive board of the National Stonewall Democrats, the executive board of Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats in Manhattan, and Director of the New York Trans Rights Organization (NYTRO). (Celeb note: She appeared in a featured role in the film TRANSAMERICA with Felicity Huffman.)

The Post article, begins with Melissa's story:


For almost four years, Melissa Sklarz couldn't find a job approaching the stature of her previous position as an executive at a city export-import firm.

She landed gigs through friends, moonlighting as a waitress or doing office work off the books. But job performance issues had nothing to do with her inability to find fulfilling work.

What stood in her way were gender issues: She'd recently undergone medical procedures transforming her from male to female, changing her body to match the sense she'd long had of her innate gender.

Overcoming years of discrimination - one person at an employment agency thought a colleague had referred Sklarz "as a joke," she says - Sklarz is now happily employed as a manager at a Midtown collection agency, where she's worked for more than a decade.

Sklarz's story could be a metaphor for the progress of transgender employees, who are finding the workplace a more accepting environment, advocates say.


I well remember seeing Melissa in her role as the coat-check girl at Glorya Wholesome's "Tranny Chaser" nightclub parties down in the Village, a time when I was working as a secretary and keeping quiet about my law degree. (By the way, Melissa is holding a fundraiser on August 7 at fabulous NYC bar and nightclub, XES, to get her to the Democratic Convention, an expensive undertaking. Hosted by entertainer Bianca Leigh, it's billed as "an unforgettable evening for fun, frolic, and Rules Committee policy analysis." If you want to donate, drop me a line and I'll send you the info.)

The article also quotes other NYC transgender heavyweights, including Donna Cartwright, now of Pride at Work, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituency group at the AFL-CIO, but formerly of the New York Times, and Ray Carannante, coordinator of the Gender Identity Project at the LGBT Community Center.

The article gives short shrift to the issues, and particularly missing is any discussion of the GENDA bill recently passed by the New York State Assembly, as well as any specifics about how businesses can accommodate transgender workers. I was interviewed for the article, and the writer, Brian Moore, told me he had spoken to dozens of people. He asked me many detailed questions about how to handle the bathroom issue. Clearly, editors at the Post cut the article short.

With a circulation of about 700,000, though, and with a reputation for pitching to a less elite crowd than its hometown rivals, the New York Daily News and the New York Times, the New York Post article will help in raising consciousness among the more plebian ranks of the business community.

Click here to read the story online.

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