Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bonita Spikes Speaks Out for Her Child

Reproduced below is her amazing testimony on behalf of the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination bill at the hearing held yesterday

Chairman Hammen and Committee members, I thank you for allowing me to come here to ask for your support for House Bill 235 – Gender Identity and Gender Expression Anti-Discrimination.

My husband and I knew very early on that our youngest child was uniquely different. Michael, as he was known growing up, told my husband and me that he felt he was trapped in the wrong body ever since he could remember. We loved him and tried to be understanding. As he approached early teens he stated he wanted to dress as a female. I knew nothing about what it meant to be transgender, but I sought out information and did my best to educate myself.

My child, who now goes by Michelle, is a transgender woman. Michelle is one of the nicest, most patient, most kind people I have ever known. As a young person, she volunteered at the nursing home hospice center, where I was nursing, and at the humane society. She still volunteers for different social justice causes. Everyone who gets to know my child loves my child -- teachers, friends, family members, neighbors. But that does not make my child immune to unwarranted prejudice and discrimination from those who would judge her just because of her gender identity.

In 2000, my child was hit on the head with a metal pipe and left for dead simply for being different. There was a scary period in intensive care, a brain injury, and amnesia after the fact. Michelle still has a few neurological issues. But thank God she is alive. She can't understand why someone who doesn’t know her would wish her dead.

Frankly I don't know why in this America where we place our hands over our hearts and pledge to work for “liberty and justice for all,” we still have not created the most minimal of legal protections for citizens who are so disproportionately subject to discrimination and violence simply because of how they look!

I want you to think long and hard on the facts I have shared today. Think about how you might feel if it were your child. Wouldn't you would want to make sure your daughter could make it in the world and be able to find a job? That she could acquire meaningful and well-paying work based on her ability ? Would you want your daughter to be denied a place to live regardless of her ability to pay?

My child hasn’t had it easy in this world. I am not asking you approve of my child, understand my child, or celebrate my child. All I am asking is for you to make a public policy decision that discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of one’s gender identity is wrong and should be illegal. Please, I urge you to make Maryland a place that is safe and fair for the citizens who need these protections. These citizens are our brothers and sisters – these citizens are our children. I urge you to vote for a favorable report of House Bill 235.

Mrs. Bonnita Spikes