Trans woman wins court battle

Vandy Beth Glenn, the trans-woman who was fired from her job as an editor and proofreader of legislation from the Georgia General Assembly, has won a ruling against the legislature.

The three-judge federal appeals court in Atlanta issued a unanimous ruling upheld a previous ruling made last year and stated Glenn did experience sex discrimination.

Glenn, who was born Glenn Morrison, was fired after she informed her supervisor that she would be reporting to work as a woman. She was hired in 2005 by the assembly’s Office of Legislative Counsel and soon after was diagnosed with gender identity disorder. Doctors encouraged Glenn to undergo gender transition for better health, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article linked above.

Glenn initially began living outside work as a woman, had electrolysis, surgery to narrow her jaw line and an eyebrow lift. In 2007, she told her supervisor Sewell Brumby that she would begin coming to work as a woman. Brumby fired Glenn after he learned Glenn would transition fully into a woman. Brumby had since been replaced by Wayne Allen in August.

In Tuesday’s opinion, Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote that a government official engages in sex discrimination when firing a transgender employee because he or she fails to conform to the stereotypes associated with gender. For example, Barkett said, courts have previously ruled that a city government could not discriminate against a male employee who wore an earring that was considered too effeminate and found that a restaurant could not allow a waiter to be harassed because he carried a tray like a woman.

“An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity,” Barkett wrote. “Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. The nature of the discrimination is the same; it may differ in degree but not in kind.”

I’m more than thrilled to see the federal appeals court uphold U.S. District Judge Richard Story’s July 2010 ruling on the case. Glenn and many other women and men like her too often have to hide who they truly are for the fear they may be fired for something many cisgendered folks take for granted.

However, it’s still perfectly legal to fire someone for being transgender in 35 states and it’s also legal in 29 states to fire someone just because they are gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, continues to languish in Congress and the future of the bill’s passage is up in the air as U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the primary sponsor, will not seek re-election in 2012.

In order for allies and activists to achieve full, equal rights for our transgender brothers and sisters, we have convince our senators and representatives that these people also deserve equal protection under the law. The advancement of oppressed groups won’t be complete if we continue to disregard the subjugation and erasure of our transgender family members, lovers, husband or wives, siblings, friends and co-workers.