Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Attorney General Loretta Lynch makes history defending transgender people

Yesterday, the Department of Justice filed its lawsuit against North Carolina’s HB2, the state’s anti-trans “bathroom bill,” after NC Governor McCrory responded to the thread of lawsuit by suing the federal government. Attorney General Loretta Lynch – the first Black woman to hold that role and a North Carolina native – made a powerful statement to the press about this suit, a statement that positions anti-trans discrimination as part of the US’s long history of bigotries, and the move to defend trans people’s rights as another step in the ongoing work of establishing civil rights for marginalized people.

AG Lynch spoke directly to transgender people in her remarks:

Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together.

Here is video of AG Lynch’s statements as well as the statement from Vanita Gupta from the Civil Rights Division – you can read a transcript here:

This is huge, and it is powerful. the DOJ’s statements are, in fact, a much stronger defense of trans people’s rights than we have heard from many so-called allies. Gay rights organizations, media, and the corporations who are using boycotts against NC as an advertising tactic, have attempted to shift the narrative around HB2, calling it “anti-gay” or “anti-LGBT.” The DOJ makes it clear this is an attack on trans people, and they are defending our rights.

The text of the lawsuit itself is, well, goddamn beautiful. A section of the suit, titled “Gender Identity and Its Relationship to Sex” is one of the most cogent explanations of the relationship between gender and biology I have ever come across. It explains that individuals are assigned a sex based on the appearance of genitalia at birth, but sex is made up of a number of factors, including hormones, chromosomes, internal reproductive organs, and gender identity, which are not measured at that time. “For individuals who have aspects of their sex that are not in alignment,” it explains, “the person’s gender identity is the primary factor in terms of establishing that person’s sex. External genitalia are, therefore, but one component of sex and not always determinative of a person’s sex.” The suit makes it clear that biological factors play a role in gender identity development, but that this is not clearly understood or limited to genitalia. The suit clearly states, “A transgender man’s sex is male and a transgender woman’s sex is female.” It makes clear that gender identity and trans status are fundamentally linked to biological sex, not in opposition to it, as HB2 claims. It is an incredible takedown of the logic behind HB2, and of an understanding of gender and biology that remains far too popular in far too many circles, despite having no real relationship to biological science.

This is particularly powerful to read at the same time that academics, gay rights advocates, and feminists continue to treat the reality and existence of trans people as a matter for debate, one where absurd pseudoscientific claims are made to undermine our genders.

There is a lot to criticize about this Department of Justice. The Attorney General states to trans people on behalf of the DOJ and the Obama administration, “we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.” While their support is clear in this instance, this is the same Justice Department that has denied Chelsea Manning medical care, and that stands on the side of a prison system and military establishment that destroy the lives of trans people. This is a government that continues to criminalize sex work and HIV status, which disproportionately impact trans women. In many ways, the Department of Justice is not on our side.

But in this instance the DOJ is clearly, unequivocally, actively in support of transgender people. This is new. And this is a big fucking deal.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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