Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases that will determine if people can discriminate against LGBTQ people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The future of our community’s rights is at stake here in the U.S. The three cases that are before the Supreme court are Bostock v. Clayton County, GA, Altitude Express v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home v. EEOC. The first two cases involve plaintiffs who were fired for being gay. The Harris Funeral Home case involves plaintiff Aimee Stephens, who was fired for being transgender.
While I care deeply about all three cases, as a transgender person, Aimee Stephens’ case resonates with me the most. It will have broad implications on the ability of people like me to work and provide for ourselves. We are already marginalized, and this could be a crippling blow to our community. The employer argued that redefining sex to mean gender identity creates chaos, which is unfair to women and girls and puts employers in difficult situations. However, I call bullshit.
The whole argument comes down to a few things: one is power, another is religion and the final one is money. The funeral home where Aimee was fired wants to be able to determine how a person presents themselves in their business according to management’s religious beliefs. In my opinion, this is not their choice and, frankly, none of their business. It is the individual’s choice of who they are, not the employer’s religious desires about who their employees should be.
The constitution gives us freedom of religion, which I believe means you cannot impose your religious beliefs on other people. This is what the funeral home is trying to do. The funeral home is worried about how the public will respond to an employee for being transgender and also worried that it might hurt their business. I have experienced this type of discrimination first hand. I think the public, especially those grieving the loss of someone, care less about a person’s gender identity and more about if a person is kind, compassionate and competent.
I believe the way people reacted when I started to come out as transgender in my chiropractic practice is typical of how most client/customers will respond in other businesses. For the first six months of my transition, I started dressing androgynously. I then started to slowly dress in a more feminine way. My patients never missed a beat and just accepted me. A few asked which pronouns they should use, and a couple asked if it was because of my acting. However, I didn’t lose any of my patients because I changed gender. In fact, I think I made several of my female patients more comfortable.
On the other hand, I also started a new job around the same time. When the wife of the owner found out that I was transgender, after seeing it on my Facebook page, I was fired less than a week later. Of course, they claimed it was for some other reason, rather than to admit the truth. I always love this about the religious right.
The funeral home sees Aimee as a guy in a dress. However, I am sure that’s not how she sees herself. I struggled for years with this issue and it’s never been about the dress: it is about how the world sees me, but, more importantly, how I see myself.
Stephens was a model employee until she revealed that she was transgender. Remember it’s not about a guy in a dress, or about transgender people using their preferred bathrooms. Just like it was never about water fountains in the 1960s. It’s about money, power and religion … plain and simple. As always, love, light and peace. Sophie.