Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A new issue facing the service sector

Recently a new issue has come to light in the service sector. Suddenly social service organizations are faced with the task of determining policies pertaining to transgendered people. This is an often ignored issue in mainstream culture. We choose not to think about this very difficult and hard to understand issue. However, when providing social services, it cannot be ignored.
Shelters, including ours, determine services based on gender. However, for some people, gender is not a clearly defined entity. At my organization, we provide services only to women. However, if a person who appears ambiguously gendered comes to receive services, we ask them only once how they define their gender. If a person who appears rather man-like comes, but states that they live their life as a woman, we have no choice but to offer them services, for it is discrimination to deny them.
This is a hot-button issue facing us today. The social services sector is forced to adjust policies out of necessity, but I wish that the larger society could adjust attitudes, perceptions and policies to be progressive and accepting.
A huge issue facing us is the way that the other clients respond to our transgendered clients. Our women are not at all accepting, and we spend time each week addressing this issue with them. This is a unique Colorado challenge, because Trinidad, CO is the sex-change capital of the United States. I feel that this is more prevalent here than in other places.

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