Trans people deserve equal protection under law

By Ollie Gratzinger | Features Editor


US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a 1964 federal government policy that protects transgender workers from discrimination.

Every time the United States administration does something stupid, I think to myself, “Well, at least it can’t possibly get any worse than this.”

And then it does.

We’ve hit a moral rock bottom, and instead of offering a ladder, Attorney General Jeff Sessions broke out the shovel and dug himself even deeper into his amoral trench.

Earlier this week, an article in the New York Times reported that Sessions “ordered the Justice Department to take the position in court cases that transgender people are not protected by a civil rights law that bans workplace discrimination based on sex.”

This comes as no surprise, considering the fact that Sessions also voted against the Matthew Shephard Act, passed in 2009 with the intention of expanding the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include offences targeting LGBT folks. But as unsurprising as it is, it’s also infuriating, heartbreaking and maddeningly wrong.

So soon after Trump sets in motion his plan to bar transgender folks from joining the military, this move feels a lot like the reduction of such individuals to second-class citizens. Trump will cite biological evidences, and Sessions will claim a legal technicality, but that’s all just fancy jargon to dance around calling their actions what they really are: discrimination.

Sessions and all those other figureheads on the Hill are so far removed from the daily lives of minority groups – the transgender community being one of them – that I seriously doubt they have even stopped to consider the implications of rhetoric such as this. Even though the Supreme Court will likely shoot Sessions’ proposal down, that doesn’t undo what’s already been done by the ideals propagated by the Trump campaign and administration.

In 2016, the Human Rights Campaign reported that 22 transgender folks were murdered in the United States. While some of the cases are direct results of hate-crimes, others are the consequence of extenuating circumstances such as homelessness or poverty, which in some instances correlated with their gender expression.

That number is higher than ever before, and so far, in 2017, the HRC reports 21 murders. Violence against the community is at an all-time high and steadily on the rise. When privileged, cisgender men come out of Washington and say these people aren’t protected legally from violence and discrimination, what message is that supposed to send to the American people? What message is that supposed to send to transgender Americans, who are no longer allowed to serve their country and are left wondering if their country would even serve them, should the situation arise?

What we see so often now from our administration is a startling lack of lucidity and self-reflection. These big-mouths say whatever they want to say whenever they want to say it. It really seems as though they don’t ever stop to think about how it reflects the ideals of our nation, or how it paints this country in a negative light for both its citizens and those watching from abroad. It doesn’t matter if Sessions thinks there’s a loophole in civil rights law that he can worm his way around, or if his beloved religion tells him people like me and the rest of the LGBT community are going to Hell. He isn’t paid to let his personal beliefs saturate his public affairs. None of them are. The administration is paid to serve all of the people in its country. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Why is this such a hard concept for these people to grasp? My four-year-old niece understands kindness and humanity far better than the White House cronies ever will. If an employer fires someone for being transgender, that’s a clear-cut case of sexual discrimination no matter how Sessions or any other bigwig in Washington sees it, and that individual should be able to seek legal counsel. This shouldn’t, under any circumstance, be a radical idea.

We as a collective need to do better. We mustn’t accept this bigotry as the new normal, and we mustn’t allow ourselves to fall in line with the rhetoric that singles out members of our communities and vilifies our neighbors for things far beyond their control.

We need to put a firm foot down and demand the end of state-sanctioned hatred and admit that our ever-patriotic America is still sick with the same prejudiced bug that has ailed it since its birth.

Only then can we move forward.