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Center Workers to Launch Transgender Advocacy Group

As Transgender Awareness Month moves into full swing two Utah Pride Center workers have announced plans to create a youth-lead group to advocate for transgender awareness, visibility and rights in Utah.

Its name? TransAction.

“The idea came from Brandon [Marcus], our Youth Program Intern,” said Bonnie Owens, the Center’s Youth Program Coordinator who, like Marcus, identifies as genderqueer. “She’s wanted to do it for quite awhile.” Although the Center is home to a number of “really successful transgender groups,” Owens said it has a real need for a politically-oriented group like TransAction.

“Often times with political change and even with gay, lesbian and bisexual political change, transgender rights are often sacrificed as a greater good thing,” she said, citing, among other examples, the national Employment Non-Discrimination Act. A version of the bill that excluded transgender people from federal protection passed the House of Representatives in 2007.

Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia offer employment protections based on sexual orientation but not on gender identity. An additional seven states offer job protections based on sexual orientation alone. Utah currently has no such statewide law, although Salt Lake City does protect city employees from termination based on sexual orientation.

Owens outlined the developing group’s goals as follows: to advocate for transgender people in the workplace; to provide a list of medical resources for transgender-specific health care (such as doctors who are willing to provide hormone injections); to provide resources about transgender-friendly health insurance so employers can pick inclusive insurers; and to advocate for “legislative and political safeguards” that would let employers better support their transgender employees during transitioning from one sex to the other.

“A lot of employers don’t know what those steps would be,” explained Owens.

Although Owens described the organization as youth-lead (that is, administered by people aged 24 and under), she said older adults were encouraged to join as well.

“That doesn’t mean that [older] adults aren’t part of the process or leadership, but the group is primarily organized by youth,” she said.

As part of Transgender Awareness Month at the Center, TransAction will sponsor the GenderBender Ball on Nov. 14 at the Utah Pride Center (361 N 300 W) where attendees are invited to come as any gender they like. Admission is $5 or two canned food items.

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