Jeff Sessions Reverses Trans Workplace Protections, Corporate America Petitions

Under the current Trump administration, the rights and lives of transgender persons have been severely targeted. Even after challenging their ability to use restrooms that don’t identify with their birth genders and removing their “privilege” to fight for our country, it seems like the targeted attacks are only worsening.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions received major, and rightfully deserved, backlash from the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters when he released a memo stating that the Justice Department would reverse a 2014 guidance issued by the Obama administration which interpreted Title VII (which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, sex, orientation, and national origin) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as also banning discrimination of transgender employees in the workplace. In other words, the federal civil rights legislation does not protect transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace. 

“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women, but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.” - Jeff Sessions

According to USA Today, Devin O’Malley, the Justice Department’s spokesman, agreed with Sessions on his remarks that the Obama administration abandoned the fundamental principle of law and this reversal is a matter specifically of law, and not of policy. Yet, he attempted to reassure that the department is devoted to protecting individuals’ civil and constitutional rights without disregarding the various laws initiated by Congress to specifically protect those against the presence discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The attorney general joins President Trump and an administration who are stopping at nothing to strength institutional discrimination and walk back the hard-fought progress made by the LGBTQ community.”  - Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO

Shortly thereafter, 76 companies, including some of the biggest names in corporate America (Starbucks, Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Facebook, American Airlines, etc.), have teamed up with Lambda Legal - a nonprofit advocacy organization - to create a petition that urges the Supreme Court to end employment discrimination based on sexual orientation once and for all by creating a uniform set of federal protections for gay, lesbian, AND transgender employees. Even more importantly, the petition challenges the Supreme Court to settle the never-ending debate regarding the protection of LGBTQ+ workers - sooner rather than later - in the case of Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. Jameka Evans, a proud lesbian who presented herself in a masculine fashion, worked as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah for approximately a year (2012-2013). While there, Evans admits to having been harassed because of her sexuality based on not only the treatment she received but the questions she was asked about her sexuality after filing an internal complaint with human resources regarding the gruesome treatment. Ultimately, Evans decided to quit her job when the harassment persisted. In April 2015, she filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against her former employer for violating Title VII, an action that was dismissed by the court, and her day in court has yet to come as that request was later denied by the Eleventh Circuit Court in March 2017.

Ironically, the Supreme Court has yet to decide if they will hear the case.

 To learn more about the Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital case, click here.

Transgender Students Can Begin Applying to Spelman for the 2018-19 School Year

In a HUGE step towards transgender awareness, equality, and inclusiveness, Spelman College, one of the nation’s most prestigious women’s colleges, has decided to open their doors to the applications of transgender women and they are encouraged to applyfor the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year!

On September 5th, President Mary Schmidt Campbell sent out a letter to students, faculty, and staff announcing its new admissions policy. The letter expressed that the college will begin considering the applications of“women students including students who consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth” for admission into the prestigious school. She also took a moment to point out that if a woman is admitted into the college and transitions to a male throughout her matriculation, they would be allowed to continue attending and, later on, graduate from the Spelman. However, the letter made sure to clarify that they would not be accepting any male students regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth, which includes trans male students and cisgender male students. It can also be understood from the letter that housing accommodations will be considered on a case-by-case basis as they believe all students are entitled to a safe living environment, and in an effort to implement the new policy smoothly, the college plans to initiate a committee that will analyze and consider the impact of the new policy on the campus.

When the Historically Black College & University (HBCU), one of the nation’s most prominent single-gender institutions, made the decision, it sparked both speculation and debate on social media and amongst alumni. Some blasted the college for its decision while others called it a form of positive change and progress. 

“I am as proud of Spelman College as I was the first moment I set foot on campus more than 25 years ago.” - Charmagne Helton, 1994 Graduate

Spelman joins the only other all-female HBCU, Bennett College, and at least 7 predominantly white institutions (PWIs) that have already moved to allow transgender women to apply within recent years. 

If you are interested in applying to Spelman College, the application deadline is February 1, 2018, but the early decision deadline is November 1, 2017. You can access the application by clicking here.

Feel free to view the President’s letter by clicking here and the frequently asked questions regarding the implementation of the new policy by clicking here.

Youth Soccer Coach Came Out as Trans and Received an Unexpected Response

Kaig Lightner is the Founder and Director of Coaching for the Portland Community Football Club (PCFC) in Portland, Oregon, and after realizing that while the club asks its youth players to be open and be themselves, he hadn’t been completely open about who he was and the fact that he happens to be transgender.

“I started to realize that the players I see every day – whom I love like my own family – weren’t getting to really know who I am and I expected them to show up to practice and be authentic, vulnerable, real, and work hard for me and the other coaches … That felt inauthentic.”

-       Kaig Lightner to BuzzFeed News

The 36-year-old coach enjoys sharing his passion for soccer with underprivileged youth in his community who share the same type of love for the game, even so, that he started the Portland Community Football Club in 2012 which aims to provide high-quality soccer to low-income families and youth in Portland. The PCFC league is one where athletes, coaches, and families – regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, and orientation – are to feel accepted and welcomed. He and the other coaches “really expect the kids to uphold the values of love and respect for each other and to further encourage inclusion and respect for others, Lightner, who began his transition at the age of 26, huddled his players together on May 1st to share the most personal detail about himself.

                                                                    Coach Kaig (white shirt) with some of his youth team players.

                                                                    Coach Kaig (white shirt) with some of his youth team players.

Although he felt that “it would be good for them to see someone who they already respect and love to be open about being transgender,” it didn’t stop him from being nervous to do so (especially due to the rigid gender limitation and stereotypes in the sports world); however, the reaction he feared never came as half-way through his speech one of his players hugged him and directly after another player just simply asked, “How old are you?”

“The best thing has been how normal everything has been. Practice went on that day as normal. I coached as I always have and the kids played as they always have.”

-       Kaig Lightner to Huffington Post

Lighter, who isn't a newcomer to transgender advocacy (co-founded TransActive, a Portland-based organization that supports transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their families), hopes that his coming out moment will contribute to future transgender visibility in the sports world, and as for the opinions of his youth players, another coach heard them saying, “Whatever. It’s just Coach Kaig. It doesn’t matter. Let’s go play soccer.” 

Congrats, Kaig!!

The video of his speech called "Authenticity" was uploaded to YouTube on May 3 and has since received a little over 85, 000 views. Check it out here: