Testimony to the CT Judiciary Committee

I gave the following testimony to the CT Judiciary Committee this afternoon. The words that are crossed out were in the written testimony I submitted but had to be cut out of the verbal delivery due to time constraints).

In Support of HB 5723, An Act Concerning Discrimination
Connecticut Judiciary Committee, 19 March 2008
Mr. Barb Greve, M.Div.

Thank you Chairman and members of the Committee.
My name is Barb Greve and I testify before you today as a transgender guy and person of faith, currently residing in Hamden, Connecticut. I serve as the Interim Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Society of New Haven and am a candidate for the Unitarian Universalist ministry. I am here in support of HB 5723 because I believe it is important to protect all people from discrimination. I care not only because I myself would be protected by this legislation but also because many people I know and work with—family, friends and congregants, fellow clergy and many people of faith—want and need these protections to become law.

In 1995 I came out as a transgender guy in order to live a more authentic life. As I became more public about my transgender identity I was pleasantly surprised by the acceptance I received from my colleagues and other religious leaders. In the 10 years that followed my coming out I was privileged to work with religious and secular institutions as they struggled with how to best be welcoming and supportive towards transgender people. Through both my professional work and my own lived experience I am encouraged that while many people do not understand transgender identity and expression, they are willing to learn about it in order to be supportive towards transgender people. This bill is part of the ongoing process of making it possible for all people to live their own authentic lives in safety.

During the past 5 years I attended Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California where I was fortunate to be a graduate student in an academic institution that had already done some work around understanding a multiplicity of gender identities and expressions. My arrival at the school gave me cause to interact with many aspects of the institution, from the Registrar, to my advisor, to the President of the school, to the staff – all of whom were understanding and supportive as I navigated through endless forms and protocols. I was relieved when my seminary created and posted transgender-inclusive signs on the bathroom doors, as it was one small sign of their commitment to anti-discrimination.

I was raised just north of here in Massachusetts and was delighted to be hired by the Unitarian Society of New Haven for it gave me the chance to return to New England and live closer to my family. While both my family and congregation are supportive of me, I know that they worry about the discrimination I face in my daily life and for good reason.

Shortly after I moved to Connecticut I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to transfer my driver’s license. I had in hand my valid Massachusetts driver’s license and the proper documentation for proof of identity. After a long wait I was denied a Connecticut driver’s license. When I asked for a reason the clerk told me he did not believe the documents were real or accurate. Since the documents are both real and accurate, I can only understand this as transgender discrimination. Just as the current law protects others who are in danger of discrimination, this addition to the law would have made it possible for me to simply get my driver’s license without harassment. This is a chance for the State of Connecticut to say that discrimination against anyone is wrong.

Three times in my working life I have clearly been discriminated against in regards to employment. The inability to support myself was discouraging and embarrassing. The pain and worry that these times of unemployment caused are immeasurable. In recent years I have limited myself to working in arenas where I know some transgender education has been done. In serving as an intern minister and as an interim director of religious education, my experience as a transgender guy has proved to enhance my work and deepen the relationship between my congregants and myself. But whether or not I or anyone else publicly identifies as transgender shouldn’t matter. None of us should have to fear that we may be denied equal access to work, housing, or education because who we are challenges other people’s ideas about gender identity and difference.

Even with difficulties in finding employment, I have been extremely lucking compared with many other transgender people who can’t find work or housing and are harassed and beaten for who they are. No one should have to rely on luck to find housing. No one should have to rely on luck to be hired or to keep their job. No one should have to rely on luck to obtain a driver’s license or to safely live their lives. I hope that you will make it possible for people like me to rely on the law rather than luck.

I have been blessed to work in a congregation and denomination that strives to support all people. So let there be no mistake: there are many people of various religions who are supportive of transgender people, and there are many transgender people who are people of faith. The covenant among people of my faith tradition calls for us to work for “…peace, liberty, and justice for all” and to “…promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” HB 5723 is in keeping with our covenant, and I am proud to support it. I urge you to support this legislation and ensure that the legislature has an opportunity to pass it. Thank you.

Published in: on 19 March 2008 at 19.32  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dear Barb:
    As a gay minister I applaud you for having the courage to walk the journey that you have. I encourage you to remain strong in the Lord and continue to do God’s work.
    Rev. Randy Higgins

  2. If you want to read a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this post for 4/5. Decent info, but I have to go to that damn google to find the missed parts. Thank you, anyway!

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