Statement in Support of the Hyattsville Human Rights Act

December 2, 2013

In front of the City Council Meeting; City Building, 4310 Gallatin Street

Good evening, Council Members, Mayor, and community members! My name is Shannon Wyss. I am a voter and homeowner in West Hyattsville, and i’m speaking this evening in support of the Hyattsville Human Rights Act. I am proud to call “home” this city that so clearly respects diversity in all of its forms.

I identify as genderqueer. For me, this means that i am neither a man nor a woman and neither masculine nor feminine. If this seems radical to you, consider that it seems radical to me that we expect almost 7 billion, incredibly diverse people to fit into one of just two sex and gender boxes.

In any case, as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, i am pleased to live in one of the few Maryland jurisdictions where i might be protected based upon my gender identity and expression. As the law currently stands, i can be refused service in one of our neighborhood restaurants, denied a job within the city limits, turned down for a mortgage by a Hyattsville-based lender, or have one of our Realtors refuse to work with me either because of how i identify or because of how i look.

However, this is far from just about me. According to a national study by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for TransgenderEquality*, 63% of the 7,000 trans and gender non-conforming survey respondents had experienced a serious act of discrimination. These figures include:

  • 19% who had been denied housing;
  • An unemployment rate of twice the national average;
  • 22% who had been denied equal treatment by a government agency or official; and
  • 53% who had been verbally harassed in a place of public accommodation.

So the need for trans and gender non-conforming community members to be protected from discrimination is both undeniable and at a crisis level. And tonight, you can address this deep need.

By passing this bill, the Council will also reinforce a commitment to fighting racism, ageism, xenophobia, ableism, sexism,homophobia, and prejudice on the basis of religion or marital status. These values are just a few of the many things that attracted my life partner, Katie, and me here. And as is commonly acknowledged in activist circles, we cannot end one “-ism” without ending all of them. Katie and i love being part of a diverse, progressive, and accepting community and desire to be here for many years to come.

I hope that, after tonight, the state legislature will follow our Council’s example and pass a similar law. Until that time, the Human Rights Act will further solidify our city’s reputation as a forward-thinking and accepting community. By acting now, the Council can offer those like me protections that are taken for granted by individuals who are not in the transgender and gender non-conforming community.

I thank each of you for your attention and your vote for the Hyattsville Human Rights Act.

*Source: Grant, Jaime M., Lisa A. Mottet, Justin Tanis, Jack Harrison,Jody L. Herman, and Mara Keisling. 2011. Injustice at EveryTurn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington, DC: National Center forTransgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.