In the above video posted on YouTube last week, Cristan Willams of the Houston-based Transgender Foundation of America explains why the Nikki Araguz case is so critical to transgender rights in Texas. Araguz is the trans widow of a Wharton, Texas firefighter who died in the line of duty in July. The family of Araguz’s late husband has sued to prevent her from receiving death benefits, arguing that their marriage is void because she was born a man. And according to Williams, the case isn’t really about death benefits — it’s about the question of whether Araguz is a man or a woman in the eyes of the law. Williams warns that because Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott recently declined to weigh in on the matter, instead deferring to the courts, the fate of the state’s entire transgender population may now rest in the hands of a small-town Republican judge in Wharton. Scary, huh?
“If Nikki loses, you lose your legal status,” Williams says. “It doesn’t matter what your doctor says. It doesn’t matter what your chromosomes say. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re intersexed. It doesn’t matter if your birth certificate says you’re female when you’re male-to-female. It doesn’t matter. What will matter is that a small town judge has said that you’re legally male if you’re male-to-female. And that if you’re female to male, well, you’re legally a woman for the rest of eternity. That’s what this case is about, and I don’t know that people really understand that. … This case is huge. It affects the lives of thousands and thousands and thousands of people.”
Williams says LGBT and trans leaders will gather in Houston sometime in October to talk about the importance of the Araguz case. In the meantime, you may want to bookmark “The Trial of Nikki Araguz,” the blog devoted to tracking the proceedings.