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These Trans Americans Took the Fight for Equality to the Supreme Court

SCOTUS

Gavin Grimm and Chase Strangio

These Trans Americans Took Their Fight for Equality to SCOTUS

Chase Strangio and Gavin Grimm have been fighting for equality with every fiber of their beings.

Grimm, then a 15-year-old trans student, sued after his Virginia high school refused to allow him to use the bathroom that corresponds with his lived gender. After being turned away by the Supreme Court in 2017, he won his case in a lower court this past May after a nearly five-year battle. Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, was one of the lawyers in Grimm’s case. He again appeared before the Supreme Court in October to argue on behalf of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was terminated from her job for being transgender.

Although Grimm is not a plaintiff in any of the three LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination cases currently pending before the nation’s highest bench, Strangio says it was easy to see his influence in the courtroom that day.

“You can see how all of the work builds on other work,” he says. “His case was instrumental in getting us closer to where we needed to be. It’s never going to be a slam dunk or easy and straightforward, but at the end of the day, no matter what happens in court, this is about building movements.”

Grimm believes his and Stephens’ cases illustrate the power of allowing transgender people to tell their own stories — and centers those stories at the movement for trans equality and justice.

“There’s no one better to speak to our struggles and dictate our needs than us,” he says. “Anytime you allow other people to represent your voice, even if they have the best intentions, things are going to be lost in translation. We’re giving trans people agency, and empowering [people] in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to just a few years ago.”

Aimee Stephens

For Aimee Stephens, the best part of October 8 was hearing the crowd cheer her name. 

Stephens was joined by advocates and allies from across the country that day as the Supreme Court determined whether or not it was legal for her employer to fire her simply for being transgender. Shortly after she told her boss at a Michigan funeral home that she was going to begin transitioning and would be coming to work as Aimee, he told Stephens she could no longer work there.

The outcome in her case — which is being heard along with two others — will determine whether queer and trans people deserve protection in the 29 states that have yet to pass a law preventing LGBTQ+ people from being dismissed from their jobs or not hired in the first place simply because of who they are.

“There are people in this world that would like to erase us from society, to say that we do not exist,” Stephens says. “We are here and we are not going away.”

This piece was originally published in this year’s Out100 issue, out on newstands 12/10. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, or Nook beginning 11/21. 

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