Newsletter - April 2008
APRIL 5, 2008 PROGRAM
Contrary to earlier announcements, we will simply have a social evening. We have not had one in a long time. I had considered showing a film, but the two I considered would have run nearly two hours, and perhaps we can better use the time to prepare for the May Buffet. Frankly we ought occasionally to have a TG film festival. When I was program chair at a chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, I organized a film festival each January. I just joined the program committee of my NOW chapter, and every March (Women’s History Month), they have a film festival-shown in members’ houses, running three weekends, to raise money. Of course, we do not get together outside of meeting much, and do not visit each others’ homes. Since we are open to all sorts of transgenders, we should be able to accept variety and not restrict films to transition shorts. Let us think about it. I have a good collection of transgender feature films. It is a shame that the only people I show them to have been some friends and Endless Mountains Girls. Up near EMG, the Athens-Sheshequin Unitarian-Universalist Church regularly shows films in members’ homes. If members fear that films will cut into the Open Forum, home showing may promote interaction, while keeping members abreast of transgender-relevant feature films. If we cannot have home film showings, we rent enough space for some to see films while others engage in other activities. Delaware Renaissance and recently Chi Delta Mu have used meeting time to show feature films.
Very recently, a biologist from a nearby university gave a program on gender and the brain at South Jersey NOW: The Alice Paul Chapter, which meets in Moorestown, NJ. In fact, I encouraged members to attend the meeting at which he spoke. I will try to identify and schedule him, if he will agree to come. Nonetheless, he is not familiar with research on transgenders, and his conclusion is rather modest, that at present it is impossible to determine the significance of numerous correlations between brain structures and natural gender.
Every year a journalism professor at Hunter College in New York City assigns students to interview members of various groups. The purpose is to train journalists not to judge by first impressions. I cannot comment on the assignment overall, but some students from this class may attend the April meeting seeking interviewees. Participation is wholly voluntary.
A NOTE ON FOOD AT MEETINGS
At this time, on behalf of the Support Group, I would like to thank those how have donated money for food, have brought food, or save me the trouble of buying food. Please note that we will be finalizing our plans for the May Buffet at the April meeting.
MARCH 2008 PROGRAM
On March 1, 2008, the New Jersey Support Group hosted a presentation by two attorneys from the Cherry Hill civil rights law firm Alan H. Schorr & Associates, P.C. on legislation regarding transgender discrimination. Attorneys Alan Schorr and Mary Ellen Burns took turns in explaining New Jersey, Federal and Pennsylvania legislation. The full scope of protection for gender identity or expression under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination (LAD) includes protection from harassment, reprisal and discrimination as well as access to public accommodations. Protection against discrimination based upon sexual identity or gender under the theory that gender dysphoria or transsexualism is a handicap and as such protected by the LAD was discussed in terms of the ruling in Enriquez v. West Jersey Health Systems. Federal District Courts’ recognizing a cause of action for discrimination based on gender stereotyping in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which has proven determinative for Pennsylvania law, which has not enacted the protections New Jersey transgenders enjoy. The handouts provided a list of authorities for New Jersey, Federal and Pennsylvania law, and information on contacting the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Individuals seeking redress against discrimination should consult an attorney first. Whether a case should be pursued through a lawsuit or through the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights in many cases depends upon the amount of damages, often too low for attorney fees in housing discrimination cases. One particular caveat, as I know from personal experience, is that an action undertaken through the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights does not toll the statute of limitations on a civil suit through an attorney, and the Division may first decide a case long after the statute of limitations has expired.
Questions seemed to revolve a great deal around party taping of phone calls. In New Jersey, party taping is permissible if only one party consents. I emphasize party because it is only lawful to tape conversations in which you participate. Third party taping, planting a bug and listening to conversations between others in which you do not participate, requires a court order. Third party taping without such a court order can entail severe civil and criminal penalties. But if you travel from Maine to Florida, you will pass through a number of states with very different attitudes toward party taping. In some states, both parties must consent, not just one, as in New Jersey. If you believe it would be beneficial to tape a call in which you participate while calling in New Jersey with someone from a state which requires both parties to consent, it would be advisable to seek attorney advice first. Party taping again is legal in New Jersey, but other states might not agree. Moreover, attorneys disagree upon what the consequences of party taping from New Jersey of a call to a state requiring the consent of both parties. Some say you may do it, others say you may not. One attorney has suggest that the reason for this is that states which require both parties to consent enforce the requirement for two party consent in a very arbitrary manner. So if you are going to employ the attorney in further action, I would either conform to his/her interpretation, or seek a lawyer who is prepared to back what you want to do. But just do not go ahead and do something deliberately or inadvertently that your lawyer believes you are not entitled to do.
I think I can say that a good time was had by all at the program on March 1. Alan Schorr was accompanied by his wife and Mary Ellen Burns was accompanied by her fiancé, and apparently both couples had an enjoyable dinner at a restaurant in Lambertville before coming to the meeting. The team performance was quite effective, and the question and answer period was quite lively.
We have reserved the facilities where we held the December 2007 Holiday Buffet for a similar event on May 3, 2008. We will discuss further preparations at the April meeting. This event will be a fund raiser. Though we will charge as we did in December, it would be helpful if members would donate food to this event.
The Rev. Charles Stephens, pastor of the church in which we meet, will speak on transgenderism and Unitarian-Universalism. Watch future announcements for further details. This program is part of a series designed to acquaint members with the views of denominations which signed petitions favoring the passage of transgender anti-discrimination legislation. The focus will be on their views of the role of transgenderism in their respective denominations, methods for promoting transgender tolerance, and on finding welcoming congregations for those who are religious.
I am working on programs for after June 2008. Actually, I have one lined up for which the exact month is to be determined. I would welcome suggestions.
Jennifer Mae Barnes, President
March 31, 2008