Maybe you saw, or heard, about the memo put out by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Oct. 4 that essentially ordered the Justice Department to do a complete 180 with regard to employment rights for transgender people. This memo effectively rescinds the policy detailed by Obama era AG Eric Holder.
It also runs counter to over two decades of court opinions including FIVE U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals (if you’re keeping score at home, those would be the 1st, 6th, 7th, 9th and 11th circuit courts) plus numerous federal district court rulings that have agreed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protections against sex discrimination do, indeed, include gender identity.
Full disclosure here: I’m a transgender woman, so you might expect me to be somewhat biased. Maybe I am. But I’ve spent a fair amount of time examining the issue, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how you would possibly be able to argue a discrimination case for or against a transgender person without addressing sex.
It can’t be done. The very nature of the issue is that I have transitioned from one sex to another.
But go ahead and ignore 20 years of court rulings and a policy that has had no adverse effects on anyone and legalize state sanctioned discrimination — because that “Makes America Great Again.”
Or does it?
At this point, I feel compelled to illustrate the time and place where this memo came out: This is the same Justice Department that investigates major crimes and oversees the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And just 3 days after the worse mass shooting in modern American history, THIS “guidance” is what they choose to focus on?
Some sick f&$k amasses a pile of semi-automatic rifles and equipment and uses all that to fire off bullets at an insane rate into the crowd at an outdoor a country music concert, and before the echoes of the gunshots fade, Jeff Sessions sees fit to write a memo to permit religious bigots to keep transgender people from writing video game code or selling furniture?
That’s your priority, Sessions? Are you insane?
God, 2018 can’t get here fast enough.
On that very same day, DOJ lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the first lawsuit against Trump’s ridiculous transgender service ban, depicting honorable, decent and dedicated transgender service members as “disordered deviants.”
This from the agency tasked with defending our civil rights.
Needless to say, it was a very disappointing week. Life as a transgender person is hard enough, believe me. I’m not asking for sympathy, but it would be cool if the federal government would just get off my back!
As often happens, a member of the electronic media reached out to me for a comment on this memo from Sessions. They were looking for someone who had lost their job or who was in fear of losing their job.
But what they don’t understand is that it isn’t about jobs. This is a systematic and terrifying erosion of basic civil rights.
But the reporter wasn’t interested in hearing about that. They wanted to talk on camera with a transgender person who was willing to go on air and essentially call their boss a bigot because they were in fear of being fired for being trans. I don’t know anyone that foolish.
Is this memo going to result in transgender people losing their jobs? Absolutely. We’ve been losing them without the memo. This just alters the narrative.
Instead of, “We are going to let you go because we’ve decided to go in a different direction,” bigoted employers can now say, “We don’t want transgender people representing our company.”
I remember applying for a job with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office as a clerk — a job I was more than qualified to do. I posted my resume on the county website, and I was called in for an interview. I was told over the phone that they had received more than 215 resumes for this position and that mine “stood head and shoulders” above the others.
The interviewer said she wanted to meet the person behind this resume. When they did, I was not offered the job.
Look, discrimination is going to happen. It’s just plain wrong, but it’s hard to prove. So we don’t need the government egging people on and opening the door for this kind of behavior.
That doesn’t “Make America Great.”
But the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach isn’t because I can be fired or not hired for being transgender. It’s because of the message that is being sent to the hundreds of thousands of transgender kids in America and their parents who already know what an uphill climb their precious kids will already have. To see two memos come down from those charged with protecting them saying not only do we not have your back, we are throwing you to the wolves is beyond heartbreaking.
That isn’t going to cost jobs, it’s going to cost lives.
But as Harvey Milk correctly said, “You gotta give ’em hope.” So, to those kids, I say:
There are some awful people who are trying to take your hope away. But there are also some very powerful and strong people who will fight to their last dying breath to keep that from happening. I’m one of them.
(Ok, I’m not powerful, but I AM stubborn!)
Who’s with me?
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 13, 2017.