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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2015

Employment Law Sandra B. Reiss, Th e Reiss Law Firm LLC Caitlyn Jenner & Your Workplace – Society, and Thus The Law, Is Changing Recent headlines have focused attention on the transgender community, and even though we live and practice law in the “deep south,” this issue and the individuals who are considering transitioning or who have already done so will become more public and a part of your workplace, circle of friends, or possibly your family. A basic primer on the subject of transgender identity is helpful as this topic is new to many people and can initially be confusing or misunderstood, as are many major societal changes. I. A Brief History, Facts, & Figures Th e term “transgender” refers to people whose gender identity, not sexual attraction, diff ers from the sex they were identifi ed with at birth. A transgender person may identify as male-to-female (transitioning from male to female) or as female-to-male, and most transgender persons describe their condition as one of feeling, with unbearable intensity, that they were born in the wrong body.1 Well known fi gures such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Fox of the Netfl ix series, without his consent, he fl ed to Calcutta, and lived in a Buddhist monastery later becoming ordained as a monk in the Tibetan Order. Th e fi rst well-known transgender woman in the United States was Christine Jorgensen. She was born George William Jorgensen, Jr., in May 1926, and grew up in the Bronx. She was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945, and attended college and worked as a dental assistant. Ms. Jorgensen began taking hormones and had two major surgeries abroad in 1951 and 1952, as such medical procedures were not readily available in the United States. She later located to California and died in 1989. 5 It is estimated that 700,000 Americans identify as transgender.6 Th e average transgender American earns less than 10,000 a year and the rate of poverty among this group is four times higher than the national average; an irony given that these individuals, as a whole, have a higher education level than the general population.7 Th is author is aware of at least two attorneys who practiced in the Birmingham area who have transitioned and now practice in larger cities. “Orange Is the New Black,” are identifi ed as transgender women because they were born as biological males or identifi ed as such at birth, and have transitioned to become the female they long believed and felt they were since childhood.2 Children as young as three years of age have experienced and voiced this sense of gender dysphoria.3 Th e gender transition is a long and involved process and usually includes intensive counseling, legal changes and medical procedures in order to complete the transition and live in society as the gender one believes he or she was born to be. One of the fi rst recorded transgender men was Lawrence Michael Dillon born on May 1, 1915, as Laura Maud Dillon in London. In 1942, she began the process of taking male hormones and had necessary surgeries, and in 1944, she amended her birth certifi cate, changing “daughter” to “son” and “Laura Mead” to “Laurence Michael.” Laurence Mead later enrolled in medical school and during his holidays underwent additional surgeries to complete the transition to becoming male.4 He later served as a ship’s doctor on voyages to Asia, Australia and America; however, after his “secret” was disclosed 20 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2015
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