Janelle Wong is an Associate Professor of American Studies and the Director of Asian American Studies at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Her research focuses on race, immigration, and political mobilization. Dr. Wong is the author of Democracy’s Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions (2006, University of Michigan Press) and co-author of two books on Asian American politics. She is currently working on a book about the impact Asian American and Latino evangelical Christians will have on the traditional conservative Christian movement and immigrant political participation. Recently, PRRI had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Wong in depth about some of the 2014 American Values Survey’s findings on Asian Americans.
Last August, Mark Krolikowski was laid off after 32 years of teaching at St. Francis Preparatory School, a 150-year-old Catholic school in Queens, New York. Now, Krolikowski is suing the school, saying that the school fired him because of his transgender identity, which he revealed eight months before he was dismissed. According to the suit, after a complaint about his appearance from the parent of a freshman student, Krolikowski was told that being transgender was “worse than gay.”
Krolikowski, who routinely wore suits and neckties to work, admitted that his habit of wearing earrings and French manicures was “unconventional.” After meeting with school administrators about the complaint, he said that he promised to “tone down” his appearance, but he was dismissed at the end of the year. Since then, an online student petition, asking the school to apologize, has made headlines.
More than 8-in-10 (81%) Americans – including 84% of Catholics – agree that legal protections that apply to gay and lesbian people should also apply to transgender people. Approximately 9-in-10 Americans (89%) and Catholics (93%) also believe that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics say they know what the term “transgender” means, and 1-in-10 (10%) Catholics say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender.
The school’s lawyer denied all of the allegations, saying that Krolikowski was terminated legally. Krolikowski’s lawyers are, however, arguing that the firing violated New York State and City law. New York City specifically includes gender identity when prohibiting hiring and firing based on various characteristics like age, race, and sexual orientation.