Today, Aimee Stephens and a group of plaintiffs appeared before the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court in our nationa’s capital, to argue their right for protections from employment discrimination. And on this historic day, protesters from groups ranging from Housing Works and ACT UP to Voices4, National Center for Trans Equality, and the American Civil Liberties Union all showed up — signs and megaphones in hand — to let the justices in their chambers know: We’re watching.
Amid over 100 arrests just outside the Supreme Court steps, we spoke to some of the folks present both inside and outside of the courtroom to hear their thoughts on the day. Swipe on to hear what they had to say.
“I’m here because it’s extremely concerning that a colonial force is coming and trying to take rights away from people that my community has always treated as equals before colonization. Fuck colonization! LGBTQ+ people, which we know in our community as two-spirit people, are just like everyone else. We’re born this way, so treat us like any other member of the tribe or family. We don’t understand what the hell is going on with this patriarchal system of dehumanizing people in the community.”
JM: “I feel as though history is repeating itself. I’ve been traveling to DC and Albany for years advocating for our rights, and I feel like this is repetitious. We fought for marriage equality and pushed back GENDA. I feel like they’re pushing us back again and it’s disheartening — but we have to keep moving.”
MDT: “Trans people of color have been at the forefront of liberation movements throughout history, especially queer liberation, and today we finally get our day in court. I’m here to support the folks in there fighting for our rights, and all the trans people struggling to find employment and who are thriving despite it. We’re gonna win.”
“I’m here speaking with the ACLU today, and I’m speaking as a proud trans woman and immigrant, sharing my story and journey and putting a human story to the struggles of trans people of color. This is a long struggle we’ve been fighting for, and here we are in front of our loved ones and allies to make sure we’re fully and loudly heard — and we’re not going anywhere.”
“I feel optimistic in a way that I didn’t before, because I’m always in New York and organizing, so to actually be here with people from different places feels kind of good! I just want the momentum to keep going where we lay our heads at night. Let’s have this energy in our neighborhoods and our homes — just imagine the culture we can spread.”
“I’m running for Senate, and part of why I’m running is I feel people aren’t being heard. I have history as an activist, and I think it’s important to show up when your community is out and to stand in solidarity with your people. As someone who’s trying to get decision-making power, I want to show that solidarity doesn’t go away, that I care about where and how people are speaking, and add to that collective voice.”
JC: “I’m here today to support my community and tell the world and my fellow Americans that we shouldn’t be fired for being members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
BG: “We’re all part of this community, and if any one of us is discriminated against, then it hurts us as a whole. We all have to support each other in all aspects of our lives to make the world a safer and more equal place.”
“I dress like women in politics — Betsy DeVos or Kellyanne Conway — but today I thought Judy Garland was most appropriate for what we’re doing. I get to have a message about my love for Judy, but I also get to mock the president and the administration. I like to make people laugh. It’s a very tense time, so let’s allow people to laugh or smile or have a little fun, too.”
RA: “It is vitally important to make our voices heard and to stand in solidarity as a community in support of the cases that are here. Coming from Nigeria, I know how urgent it is to protect LGBTQ+ people, and so I hate that the United States — which so far has spearheaded these rights — could fall back in such a drastic manner. What kind of ripple effect will that have across the world? How many other countries will follow suit?”
“I am just so moved by how many people are here and how amazing it is to show up for an argument before the highest court and see all these trans people and Black trans women and queer people of color in the courtroom, showing up. At the end of the day, whatever happens in court is not the end because we’ve built a beautiful movement. It was a powerful testament to our work that we argued before the justices, and they knew they were looking into the eyes of trans people when they were hearing the arguments.”