Today Transgender Law Center paused to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) consolidated opinions in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. The decision denies employers the right to fire LGBTQ employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This victory comes after nationwide protests against the ongoing murders of Black people, including the murders of two Black trans women, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton last week, which led thousands to gather in front of the Brooklyn Museum yesterday declaring Black Trans Lives Matter. These powerful uprisings against police murder and brutality across the nation have spurred a necessary conversation on the priorities of the LGBTQ movement.
“This historic Supreme Court opinion comes in the middle of an unprecedented global health and economic crisis and an epidemic of police violence against Black people, a time during which our communities are holding so much grief and rage. Today’s opinion is welcome news and we pause to celebrate together, but we know that to make this victory meaningful we must ensure Black trans people’s leadership and guidance are centered,” said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Transgender people already face disproportionate discrimination in hiring and harassment at work, and now the Supreme Court has provided a measure of protection that will improve the lives of trans people. However, without a continued emphasis on the safety, well-being, and leadership of Black trans people, this victory will fall flat in perpetuating meaningful cultural change.”
Today’s ruling was a 6-3 decision with Justice Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. It was announced amid the growing global health crisis of COVID-19 that has devastated working people in the U.S. The administration’s failed COVID-19 response has caused tens of millions of people to lose their jobs. Trans Lifeline – which is tracking hotline data on what the trans community is facing during the COVID-19 pandemic through its Peer Support Hotline – saw a 323% increase in calls related to unemployment in March 2020, and an 132% increase in April 2020 in comparison to the previous year.This ruling was also released in the middle of an ongoing epidemic of violence targeting Black people in the U.S., including the police murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, Tony McDade, a Black trans man, in Tallahassee, Florida, and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Georgia, the murder of a Black Lives Matter activist, Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, in Tallahassee, Florida, and the murders of two Black trans women, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Riah Milton in Cincinnati, Ohio, that have galvanized the nation into widespread protests in all 50 states. Black communities that are already most impacted by racist policing practices have also been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s decision also follows on the heels of the Trump administration’s new rule that guts Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, and endeavors to green light discrimination by health care providers and insurers against transgender and gender nonconforming people (TGNC).
Trans people, trans people of color, and especially Black trans women and Black trans femmes are already disproportionately impacted by discrimination while working. This discrimination leads to higher rates of poverty, poorer health outcomes, and increased likelihood of experiencing violence in other areas of life. As a result, Black trans women and Black trans femmes face disproportionately higher rates of violence, including police violence, as well as harassment and discrimination by government agencies and the courts.
“We have never depended on the Supreme Court to give us what we deserve, but we celebrate today and remind the world that this opinion requires that we lift up Black trans women and Black trans femmes as the leaders that we are,” said Tiara Gendi, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) Steering Committee Member. “This decision has generational impact and our response should be as far-reaching and visionary. By investing in the brilliance, skill, education, recruitment, and retention of Black trans women and Black trans femmes, we will create the conditions necessary for us to thrive and lead solutions for social, economic, and political change.”
In March, TLC and a national coalition of trans leaders launched the Trans Agenda for Liberation to serve as a community-led guide towards the world trans and gender nonconforming people deserve. The first pillar of the Trans Agenda, Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Leading and Living Fiercely, was published first in acknowledgement of the unique and invaluable wisdom and expertise of Black trans women and Black trans femmes who, in the face of historical and ongoing discrimination and violence hold the leadership and brilliance to transform society.