Transgender Rights

Emma Shealy ‘22

On October 24th, the Department of Justice of the United States filed an amicus curiae brief in the case of R.G. and G. R. Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lawsuit involving a trans woman who was fired from her job after informing her boss that she was transgender. In their brief, the DOJ argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on “race, religion, sex, and national origin,” does not protect against discrimination based on gender identity.

Thankfully, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission already won their case in the 6th Circuit. However, the case is now being appealed to the Supreme Court. The DOJ’s brief follows the Trump Administration’s memo that the New York Times reported on a week or so ago that called for the term “gender identity” to be removed from Title IX, which protects against discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity in educational settings. The Health and Human Resources Department has also sought to restrict the definition of sex to be solely based on the sex that someone is assigned at birth, based strictly on genitalia.

These acts by the Trump Administration do not account for the 1.4 million trans-identifying Americans as well as the over 5.5 million people born intersex or with genitals, gonads, or chromosomes that differ from the typical “female” and “male” body types.

A lack of protections from the federal government will lead to discrimination against transgender and intersex people in all areas of life, from the housing industry to the job market. It is hard to imagine what it is like to go through life as trans or intersex for those of us who are cisgender.

We take for granted the fact that we do not have to undertake the burden of gender reassignment surgery, taking estrogen or testosterone, being misgendered, or simply stared at. But just because it is hard to understand or relate to, does not mean that the rights of trans and intersex people are any less valid or important.

Protecting our fellow trans-identifying and intersex citizens, especially those who are people of color, is particularly relevant in our current political climate.

The Trump Administration has been specifically targeting the rights of trans people for the past two years. The Administration tried to ban trans people from entering the military in 2016, and the President has successfully revoked the executive orders brought on by the Obama Administration that required schools to validate the gender identity of their trans students by allowing them to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their choice. American diplomats have also been trying to remove the word “gender” from U.N. civil rights documents and replace it with “women.”

In previous rulings regarding transgender discrimination, the courts have ruled in favor of trans people under the Civil Rights Act by arguing that being transgender falls under the word “sex” in discrimination based on “race, religion, sex, and national origin.” But with the restrictive language that the Trump administration is hoping to add to Title IX and the Civil Rights Act, legal victories for trans and intersex people would become even more rare, if not cease to exist.

The Trump Administration’s actions towards transgender and intersex people will make the process of legally changing one’s legal gender marker and name even more difficult, in addition to promoting increased discrimination.

I encourage Davidson students to read the book Tomorrow Will Be Better by Sarah McBride, a trans rights activist, and None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio to learn more about the everyday struggles of people who identify as transgender and intersex.

Please contact the Trump Administration, the Justice Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services (each has a website with information on how to contact them) to voice your concerns about the recent actions of the Administration.

Please also call your local congress members to voice your support for “gender identity” to be included in American civil rights legislation. Donating to organizations such as the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, the Astraea Foundation, or Lambda Legal can also help in the fight for trans and intersex rights.

Finally, if you know anyone who is intersex or trans-identifying, let them know that they are loved and that their identities are valid, because everyone deserves to present the way they wish without the fear of discrimination or harassment.

Emma Shealy ‘22 is an undeclared student from Columbia, South Carolina. Contact her at emshealy@davidson.edu

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