Nebraska blogger AKSARBENT continues to analyze this week’s decision to advance LGBT non-discrimination protections in Omaha. Councilman Franklin Thompson was one of the most vocal opponents of the measure, and during the final debate on Tuesday, he struggled quite a bit with protecting “perceived” gender identity:
THOMPSON: Perceived sexual identity is bothersome to me. It’s sort of like someone saying “You and I can perceive ourselves to be black this week, but next week we’ll be white.”[...]
What if the individual decides that one week, “I perceive myself to be male,” and then a month later, “I perceive myself to be female,” and then the smaller companies—
My point is that the perception can go both ways. Perception is so vague and ambiguous that it’s hard to quantify. You’re asking Omaha businessmen to take a shot in the dark.
Watch Thompson’s arguments:
First of all, it’s obvious that Thompson does not have the most basic understanding of gender identity. Transgender individuals do not haphazardly change their gender from month to month — gender identity is enduring and consistent, not so different from how individuals experience race. But more importantly, the entire point of including the language of “perceived” identities is to ensure people are protected from discrimination regardless of what their identities actually are. An individual might be mistreated because she is perceived to be a lesbian, even if she actually isn’t, but she deserves to be protected under this law either way. Fortunately, the provision passed despite Thompson’s opposition.
There may be one glimmer of wisdom to be derived from Thompson’s offending confusion. As our society becomes increasingly multiracial, perhaps “perceived race” should be protected too.