Brian Krista, b
March 11, 2011
OWEN SMITH, 28
Field organizer, Equality Maryland | Charles Village
When Owen Smith talks to Maryland legislators about why they should support a transgender anti-discrimination bill, he tells them about when he worked at a Baltimore coffee shop and one of the owners wouldn't shake his hand.
He tells them about when he was physically assaulted for not being "man enough." Smith was once homeless for nine months because people refused to rent to him, just because he's a transgender man.
"Whenever you put yourself out there, something that's a painful experience for you, you don't know how people will receive it," said Smith. "But it's just been really great to see the light-bulb moment in the legislators' eyes when you talk to them."
The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act would prohibit discrimination in areas such as employment and housing. Smith, one of the founding members of trans-awareness group Team Trans, said legislators are listening. He stoically recalls a particularly impactful moment, when he talked with his own state representative, Del. Mary Washington, about gender-identity rights.
"I remember watching her face when talking to her about what was going on," he said. "There was this look of compassion. You don't expect that from politicians. It was really moving." JORDAN BARTEL, B