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Transgender New Yorkers Now Protected from Discrimination

  Transgender Central New Yorkers now have the legal backing to file any complaints of discrimination or harassment.  New regulations took effect this week under the state’s human rights law.  The regulations prohibit discrimination against anyone because of their gender identification or how they present their gender.  That could now be considered discrimination on the basis of sex or disability.  Director of the Syracuse/Onondaga County Human Rights Commission Barrie Gewanter says this change is critical.

"Prior to these regulations being established, transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers could not go to the division of human rights and be assured that their cases would be considered as falling under the prohibitions against discrimination in New York State human rights law."

Governor Cuomo became the first executive in the nation to issue such regulations back in October.  They protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination by employers, housing providers, businesses, creditors, and others.  Gewanter says it’s now the job of her commission to explain the regulations and options to someone who feels they’ve been victimized.

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Barrie Gewanter, left, is congratulated by Onondaga County Legislator Linda Ervin on her new post as Executive Director of the Syracuse/Onondaga County Human Rights Commission. County Commissioner of Adult and Long Term Services Lisa Alford looks on.

"We'll be able to provide them information about an additional path of redress that they may not have had before in an effective way. So this is an additional tool, an additional piece of information that we can provide to the public."

  Gewanter says they’re also ready to assist employers and businesses who may have questions about the new regulations…and she expects they might get some inquiries.  She says the discrimination that occurs because of stereotypes and intolerance about gender can have a devastating impact. 

 "Leading to people being homeless, being unemployed, being under-employed, not receiving medical care, not receiving emergency care.  So this path of redress is very, very important."

The Syracuse/Onondaga County Human Rights Commission phone number is 435-3565.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at