Legislative Editor Fired over Sex Change, Seeks Reinstatement (UPDATE 2)
Glenn Morrison, a former naval lieutenant, was born with Gender Identification Disorder, a medical condition in which one’s physical sex does not match the perceived sex of the individual.
After struggling with this condition from early childhood, Morrison was finally able to become the woman she felt herself to be in 2007, changing her name to Vandy Beth Glenn and dressing as a female.
However, she was fired from her job on October 16, 2007. She had been working for the State of Georgia editing bills and resolutions in a windowless room at the State Capitol.
She had entered the job as a man in 2005 and then began the process of changing her sex beginning in 2006 while an employee.
“I was working at the Office of Legislative Council being an editor and had reached the time of transition. It was time to start coming to work as myself and they fired me. My direct supervisor at the General Assembly, Beth Yinger, was very supportive and understanding but the final say belonged to the Legislative Counsel, Sewell Brumby,” she explained in an interview with APN.
Glenn’s job as an editor involved fixing grammar, spelling, and formatting, but not the content of legislation.
Her name change was complete and she was ready to begin her new life. But Sewell Brumby told her that her behavior was inappropriate numerous times.
Brumby said he was uncomfortable with her use of the public restrooms and the effect of her sex change on other colleagues in the office, Glenn said.
He called a meeting of his superiors and expressed fear that Glenn’s behavior might be judged immoral by legislators and their constituents, and that it would disrupt office morale.
Brumby offered no rationale based on Glenn’s performance and no proof based on past experience with gender transition.
She was fired based on Brumby’s uneasiness stemming from her sexual identity.
Glenn was immediately escorted to clean out her desk and then to leave the premises, she says. Her work quality and quantity had not changed.
“He said my fellow co-workers would be made uncomfortable by the transition. The legislators would find it immoral. He didn’t pretend it was about anything other than the transition.”
However, several of Glenn’s colleagues had expressed support for her, in addition to her supervisor.
Ms. Glenn contacted LAMBDA Legal, an organization based on liberation and unity for homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered individuals, with a division for working through the court system. They accepted her case.
She filed a lawsuit in July 2008 in the US federal district court, claiming discrimination. The defendants in the case are Brumby; Glenn Richardson, former Speaker of the House of Representatives of Georgia; Casey Cagle, Lieutenant Governor of Georgia; Eric Johnson, President pro tempore of the Georgia Senate; and Robyn J. Underwood, legislative fiscal officer of the Georgia General Assembly.
They were sued in their official capacities working for the State of Georgia.
She charged that her 14th amendment rights to protection as a citizen including due process were disregarded.
Ms. Glenn said she is not seeking compensation, only the right to resume her work.
She also wants to protect other transgendered and transsexual individuals from suffering discrimination.
The judge ruled so far that anticipated reactions were not a valid basis for the firing and allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
“At present the suit has been accepted as valid and Motions to Dismiss have been denied. Both the defendants and plaintiffs have made Motion for Summary Judgment,” Glenn said.
Ms. Glenn also testified in front of US Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Chairman of the US House Education and Labor Subcommittee, on September 23, 2009, in favor of HR 3017, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act of 2009 (ENDA). US Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), an openly homosexual member of US Congress, introduced the bill.
This bill would end legal discrimination in all states on the basis of sexual orientation, although controversy has emerged over whether to include gender identity as another protected status in the bill.
Bush said he would veto such a measure even if it passed, but Obama said he would not. Congressman Frank says it makes economic sense to utilize citizens with needed skills for which the issue of gender is irrelevant. Most states offer some form of protection; the State of Georgia does not.
The lawsuit is also based on the fact that a person cannot be dismissed in Georgia on the basis of a medical condition if they have a contract. Ms. Glenn says she had a medical condition that was diagnosed for which her operation was the only cure.
“I am transgendered and have had a well-documented medical condition and not anything anyone should be fired over,” Glenn said.
At present Ms. Glenn says she feels much better and at home with her present sexual identity. “Its the way I was supposed to be in the first place. I have a comfort within my own skin I never had before,” Glenn said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Glenn testified before US Rep. Barney Frank in favor of ENDA; however, the testimony was before US Rep. George Miller, while US Rep. Frank was the original sponsor of the bill.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have received three emails so far from readers concerned about our use of the term “sex change” in the title. I believe the term is appropriate because court records state that Glenn did set out in a process to change her sex, from male to female. In the order denying the State’s motion to dismiss, the judge in the case referred twice to Glenn’s upcoming surgery. If Glenn had changed only her appearance and name, that would be a gender change instead of a sex change [ie, the difference between transgender and transsexual]. In either case, readers have pointed to a GLAAD style manual which states preference for the word “transition.” However, we strive to headline each story with a title that is brief as well as informative. To say that she was fired for a “transition” would not meet the criteria of being informative. We would have been happy to change the reference in the title from sex change to gender change; however, Glenn and Lambda Legal have refused to APN and other media outlets to clarify whether Glenn actually has had or is planning to have a sex change operation. Therefore, we defer to the legal documents in this case in our decision to retain the term “sex change” in the title (as opposed to “gender change.”)
“I don’t know if Vandy Beth has had surgery, but she hasn’t answered that question before in the press and it’s not that important to her story. The correct term is transition. If you replace “sex change” with transition, then you will be using the correct terminology whether or not she has had surgery,” Jonathan Adams, Public Information Officer for Lambda Legal, wrote in an email to APN.
One reader also took issue with our use of the term “sexual identity,” to refer to Glenn’s identification as one sex or another. This reader suggested the use of “gender identity” instead. However, again, there is an important difference between sex and gender, and at APN we strive to be as sensitive to those differences and as accurate as possible. Whereas, as stated above, Glenn appears to have set out to change not only her gender but also her sex, then sexual identity seems to be the most appropriate term here.
Finally, we have received a total of four emails so far from readers concerned about our use of the word homosexual instead of gay. We refer those readers back to our 2006 Editorial, “Gay is Okay, but Homosexual is More Accurate.”
EDITOR’S NOTE 2: I wanted to add another note as to why we chose to use the phrase “sex change” in the title of this story. Specifically, the legal case at hand alleges that the Georgia Legislature discriminated, under current law, on the basis of sex [not gender or perceived gender] because she changed her sex from male to female. So, it is relevant to the case, and thus the APN story, that Glenn changed her sex. Had she only changed her gender identity, she might not be afforded protections under current law; this is why people have struggled for the passage of ENDA: so that in the future, sexual orientation and perceived gender would also be protected statuses under the federal non-discrimination law.
About the author:
Alice Gordon is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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