Gender Identity Defined in Spokane Ordinance

Sitting in Spokane City Hall with the anticipation of a vote that would change the way Spokane looks at gender identity within the city code made me both excited and nervous.

I found myself wondering who in the room would support or oppose the proposed amendment that would provide gender identity its own definition within the Spokane Municipal Code.

The policy change was suggested by the City of Spokane Human Rights Commission, and would include a separate and distinct definition of gender identity within the code. You can read their letter requesting the change here.

This refinement to the city’s code would make it clear in Spokane’s non-discrimination ordinance that gender identity is a protected class within the law, and would further reinforce protection for individuals based on gender identity.

It was very hurtful and difficult to listen to the offensive testimonies given by those who opposed the policy change. Many of the remarks insinuated that transgender people are predators who will commit crimes and assault others while using public accommodations. While we know this is not the case—and in fact transgender people are more in need of protections given that they are highly vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and bullying—it was hard to hear people’s prejudice on full display.

Those testifying in support spoke about how this ordinance is not actually creating new rights for transgender individuals, but is simply clarifying the rights that already are in place. Some spoke about their personal experiences of discrimination as transgender people in school, and when using public accommodations.

I was very pleased to hear testimony from Eastern Washington University and Spokane Falls Community College students, who are members of and supporters of the LGBTQ community.

It was a very emotional and stressful evening and I could see the relief in the room when there was a 5-2 vote to pass the ordinance. Click here to read Council Member Jon Snyder’s recap.

Thank you to Spokane City Council and for those who testified in support! This marks an important step forward for the LGBTQ community in Spokane.

With all the recent victories the LGBTQ community has seen in the last few years, I have come to realize that there is so much more that needs to be done in order to create full equality for everyone in our community. I also recognize the lack of education around the challenges and concerns that face the transgender community, and the need to educate those who are misinformed and make fear-based assumptions.

As a community, we need to continue to work together as one. If we do this, we are unstoppable.

Farand Gunnels is Pride Foundation’s regional development organizer in Washington. Email Farand.

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