Nicole at Sui Generis and Lindsay write about a court decision in Westchester County, New York, that says that transgendered people are protected from discrimination under the state’s human rights law. The judge says that although transgendered people don’t constitute a protected class, discrimination on the basis of sex is still prohibited, so firing a man from his job because it was discovered that he was anatomically female is illegal.
There erupted a lively debate on both linked blogs, with Lindsay supporting the decision and Nicole opposing it. Nicole argues that although trans people should be protected under the law, they’re not, so it’s legal to fire them because they’re trans.
But by the same token, the law doesn’t explicitly state that black people who pass for white are a protected class of people. Although I don’t know of any case law involving a person who got fired for passing as a different race, I’m certain that in such a case, the judge would strike it down as a blatant case of racial discrimination.
So how is gender passing any different from racial passing? While they have very different causes, legally it doesn’t matter. It’s conceivable that people are being discriminated against solely for passing, while at the same it’s considered racist to do that; hence discrimination against people who pass as another gender should be unambiguously sexist.