The Federal Push to Erase the Trans Community And How You Can Help

By Hayley Van Allen ’21

On Oct 24, the Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling on a case concerning Aimee Stephens, a trans woman who was fired from a Detroit funeral home after she informed her employer that she was beginning her gender transition. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender workers and that an employer’s religious beliefs cannot be used to justify discrimination. The DOJ has sided with the funeral home, stating that the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but not gender identity. “When Title VII was enacted in 1964, ‘sex’ meant biological sex; it referred to the physiological distinction between ‘male and female,’” the brief from the DOJ stated. “Title VII thus does not apply to discrimination against an individual based on his or her gender identity.” While this does not yet mean that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the funeral home, or even hear the case at all, it is seriously concerning that the DOJ is pushing such an agenda. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether or not it will take up the case in the coming months. It’s also notable that, in those months, it will also decide whether or not it will take up cases that determine if sexual orientation is protected from sex discrimination. This all comes in the midst of other anti-trans initiatives from the Trump Administration. On October 21, news broke that the Trump Administration is working on policies that would define sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” With this definition, both trans and intersex people would no longer exist under the law. A shift like this would be a huge blow to the trans and intersex justice movements. Federal level anti-discrimination laws basically define who is seen as human under the law. By excluding trans and intersex people from the protections the CRA and Title IX have created, Trump is dehumanizing these communities. An important question to consider is: how can cis individuals support the trans community at a time like this? There are many ways to support, but the most important thing for cis people to do is be a friend to and an advocate for trans people. The first and most obvious way to do this is vote in the midterms. Spend the time to know that the candidates you vote for will support the rights of trans people. Be an educated voter. Then call everyone you know. This of course includes your senator, but also talk to your family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances. Educate them on the importance of trans+ rights because this is a burden that shouldn’t fall solely on the trans community and it’s a message that is more likely to be listened to when coming from a place of cis privilege. Beyond that, you should also make an effort to support trans people in your daily life. Treat trans women as women; treat trans men as men; treat non-binary people as non-binary people. If you misgender someone, fix your mistake and don’t make a scene, just apologize quickly. The best way to respect and remember pronouns is to restart your sentence with the correct pronoun. Call out mistreatment and transphobic/cisnormative jokes when you see them. Calling out acts of transphobia can make the people around you uncomfortable, but it’s worth being the kill-joy if it makes a trans person feel safer. When it comes down to it, the safety and wellbeing of trans people is far more important than the feelings of cis people. It’s incredibly easy to show support for your trans+siblings on an individual level. You can donate to kickstarters, offer emotional support to your trans friends, call out your friends on their cisnormativity and transphobia, publicly voice your support for the trans community, etc. Use your privilege to educate others and explain how the trans community is at risk of violence, erasure, suicide. Do your part as an ally and advocate for trans justice.