BUFFALO — A crowded room can be a source of frustration at many conferences, but for those organizing our union’s annual LGBTQ Caucus at this year’s Annual Delegates Meeting, it was a sign of progress.
Not only were members of the LGBTQ+ community represented, the room was also packed with allies who were there to support the CSEA members belonging to that community. The LGBTQ Caucus is an annual gathering that has grown steadily since its inception.
“Even though you may not be a member of this constituency group, it’s about the representation,” said CSEA Statewide LGBT Committee Chair Chantalise DeMarco. “Representation matters.”
The strong attendance allowed many CSEA activists to hear a timely and important update from CSEA Senior Counsel Eric Wilke, staff advisor to the statewide LGBT Committee, regarding attacks on the transgender rights being carried out via proposed legislation in a number of states. New York is one of those states where legislation has been proposed, but unlike other states, it has stalled in our state’s legislature.
In 2022, there were 174 anti-trans bills introduced in state legislatures across the United States, 26 of which were signed into law in 13 states. While calculations for 2023 are not final, Wilke noted that the number of anti-trans bills introduced in the U.S. this year has seen a tremendous increase.
The common point made by a number of committee members was that these attacks underscore the need to show compassion. DeMarco noted that there is a higher-than-average rate of suicide in the trans community.
Committee members noted that there may be ways on the job that we can show compassion and act as allies. One activist noted that they helped a colleague who ran into hurdles while trying to complete a name change with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. CSEA-represented colleagues were able to assist with the process and the situation has been used as an example of how the DMV can better assist individuals going through this process, the activist noted.
With discussion about issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community complicated by the circulation of inaccurate information, longtime committee member Bess Watts noted that it’s important that people seeking to learn more about issues lean on trusted, reliable sources. Watts recommended local Pride at Work chapters, the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign, and a book called “The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate,” by Jeannie Gainsburg.
DeMarco noted that statewide LGBT Committee members are open to feedback on how they may better assist people in our union struggling with related issues.
DeMarco added that in the Central Region, there were workshops offered to help members recognize the signs of someone dealing with suicidal thoughts. Furthering awareness is one way we can support fellow members of our union family.
“These are real-life issues,” said DeMarco.
— Jessica Ladlee