From protest concert op-eds to a flurry of lawsuits, this is what you missed this week in the fight for transgender rights.



This Week in America’s Tense Transgender Bathroom Battle

On February 24th, 2011, President Barack Obama used his presidential powers to hand down an order that sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ community in the United States. It called for the Department of Justice to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which was a legal prohibition on the federal recognition of same-sex marriages. As we all know, two years later, DOMA was officially repealed and led to the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on June 26, 2015, which made gay marriage legal in every state. A year later, Obama has once again spoken out about a new civil rights battle that has ripped through the LGBTQ community.

Far removed from the right to walk down the aisle and say “I do” to the person you love, the transgender community is more concerned about being able to access the public restroom of their choice without facing verbal and physical harassment. All across the United States, something that seems as simple as peeing in the bathroom that corresponds to your gender identity has become embroiled in bigotry from politicians and transphobic Americans.

Legislators in South Dakota, Alabama, Virginia, and, of course, North Carolina showcased how to be absolutely awful human beings to transgender people. As celebrities, musicians, and companies protested North Carolina’s ban on transgender people, an epic two-week lawsuit-flinging contest began between North Carolina and the Department of Justice that was at least half as politically dramatic as an episode of House of Cards (without the murder).

As lawsuits were flung around, Obama issued a directive that, once again, sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ community. On May 13th, five years after calling for an end to DOMA, he dropped the mic on bigotry and sent a letter to all public schools, telling them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity or risk losing their federal Title IX funding. As if all of this weren’t wild enough, more news this week showed that the war over transgender equality has only just begun.

Laura Jane Grace Wrote an Essay About Her North Carolina Protest Show

We already covered the literally fiery protest show that Grace’s band Against Me unleashed when they played a show in North Carolina last week. Grace, who transitioned in 2012, burned her birth certificate on stage and said goodbye to gender in a big musical middle finger to the transphobia in the state. Yesterday, May 25th, she took to Vulture in conjunction with New York Magazine’s senior editor Jesse Singal to write an op-ed about her experience and why doing this was so important to her and her fans.

“If you’re a trans person living in North Carolina, it’s not like you have the option to be like, You know what? I’m gonna boycott my state — I’m not going to work today. That’s ridiculous. I love North Carolina,” she wrote before going on to talk about her experience after the show. “I made a point of making myself available and hanging out, talking with people. When I came out, I had no community. I didn’t know any trans people. So back then, to go on tour and immediately have people who would wait around after shows to say hey, to say they were there if I needed a friend — that meant the world to me.”

Laura Jane Grace brought fire to her North Carolina protest show. Now, she's talking about the experience in an op-ed.
Laura Jane Grace brought fire to her North Carolina protest show. Now, she’s talking about the experience in an op-ed.

Oklahoma Tried (and Failed) to Pass an Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill

For the first time in weeks, we have good news about a piece of anti-transgender legislation. Somehow, it came out of Oklahoma, which has a track record of being pretty awful. Last week, some casual bigots in the Oklahoma senate committee introduced their own bathroom bill but, luckily, it failed to pass on Tuesday. Written by two Republicans, it was considered the first statewide bill to directly oppose the Obama administration’s guidelines for trans bathroom access.

Senate Bill 1619, which is dangerous close to being a sex joke, would’ve let children get a religious exemption in school, so that they didn’t have to share a bathroom, locker room or bedroom on a school trip with a transgender student. Because as they say in the Bible, love thy neighbor unless thy neighbor is transgender. Oklahoma City’s Chamber of Commerce and the Tulsa Regional Chamber found out, and issued a warning about the economic fallout based on what happened in North Carolina.

11 States Sue the Obama Administration Over His Public School Directive

In news that will almost certainly set the stage for a Supreme Court showdown on the fight for transgender equality, over a fifth of the states in America came together to sue the Obama Administration on Wednesday. Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, and West Virginia have created the Avengers of Bigotry to fight back against morality and compassion in the lawsuit. They’re asking a judge to condemn the Obama’s public school directive as unlawful so that it can be stopped.

The administration, it claims, has “conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over common-sense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.” Inspiring: a fight for hatred and bigotry, no matter what the cost is to the lives of trans people.

Imagery via Konstantin Sergeyev and Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Stay tuned to Milk for more on this developing story. 

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