Like many LGBTQ people, I glanced at my feed Monday morning and thought, “Finally, some good news.”
The Supreme Court ruled that Title VII protections barring sex discrimination in the workplace should be interpreted to include protections for LGBTQ people. This comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s announcement that they would reverse an Obama-era ACA guidance protecting trans people from healthcare discrimination – an announcement that caused many trans folx, myself included, to fear that we could be denied life-saving treatment for the simple act of being who we are.
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SCOTUS’ ruling reinforces what many of us already know: that it is wrong to discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It also sets a powerful precedent, marking a major step toward comprehensive federal protections for LGBTQ people in all areas of life.
Until yesterday, LGBTQ people in over half of U.S. states lived in fear that they could be fired for coming out at their jobs, lacking state nondiscrimination laws to protect them from such a fate. For the first time in history, people across the country will have legal recourse should an employer choose to fire them for being LGBTQ.
At its core, this ruling is empowering. Thousands of folks who previously were unable to come out at work will now be able to do so without the risk of losing their job. Thousands of folks who felt an urgency to erase their identities even from their personal social media will be able to share this information publicly. Thousands of LGBTQ children will enter the job market knowing that they are protected from discrimination, and will be spared the painful mental burden of worrying that they could be fired for being who they are.
Today is one to celebrate, but it’s also a day to remember the hard work and vigilance of activists and allies who have worked tirelessly to advance our rights, leading to this historic victory. It is hardly a sign that our work is done, nor does it mark an end to discrimination against our community. Rather, it is a sign that our work has the power to influence vital change, and lends hope that our continued efforts can shape hearts and minds for generations to come.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we remain vigilant and ground ourselves in what comes next. Though Title VII protections now extend to LGBTQ people, there are several areas where sex discrimination protections are lacking entirely. First and foremost, we must urge our senators to vote in favor of the Equality Act, which would expand legal protections for LGBTQ people and women to areas that were previously left out.
Furthermore, we must continue to contact our state legislators and urge them to institute a series of laws that further protect LGBTQ people from hate. As of today, 27 states have yet to pass hate crime laws that enumerate both gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes, and 40 states still regard gay and trans panic defenses permissible in court.
In 30 states, it is still legal to practice conversion therapy, by which mental health practitioners subject minors to harmful pseudo-therapeutic practices in an effort to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. In each of these states, the lack of policy causes immeasurable harm to LGBTQ people, and it is vital that governments take action to protect them.
Though it is one thing to legally bar discrimination, it is something else entirely to change the hearts and minds of the American people and eliminate bigotry once and for all. In order to achieve lasting, sustainable change, we must influence a perspective shift among the American people, beginning a dialogue from the time they are young.
In order to do this, states like Illinois and New Jersey have begun to adopt LGBTQ inclusive curriculums, which show students that it is possible for LGBTQ people to thrive. Paired with an upward trend in affirming media representation for our community, this has the power to normalize the existence of LGBTQ people for younger generations. If such resources are made available nationally, these can create a new generation of allies who will aid in the fight for our rights.
As we continue to normalize LGBTQ experiences and celebrate our victories, it is vital that we frame our struggle with the understanding that equality is an intersectional issue. We must stand with Black Lives Matter, with disability justice, with Indigenous rights, with prison reform, and with all other movements, recognizing that we are only as equal as the most marginalized members of our community.
As we celebrate this victory, it’s also a chance for us to dream – bigger than we’ve ever dreamed of before – about the world we want to create for generations of LGBTQ people to come.
Arielle Rebekah Gordon is a transgender writer, public speaker, coffee fanatic, and author of the blog Trans and Caffeinated. Her work is centered around increasing visibility and representation for the trans and gender non-conforming community, creating safe spaces for budding allies to learn and grow, and normalizing conversations about sexuality and gender.