Imagine living in a country where you could be fired for joining a softball league or wearing women’s clothing. That country could very well be the United States in a few months.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the Supreme Court began hearings for what could be the three most important cases for LGBTQ+ rights this session. Two of the cases concern gay rights, while the other is the first transgender rights case to ever reach the Supreme Court.
Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga. is about Gerald Bostock, a child welfare services coordinator from Georgia who said he was fired after joining a gay recreational softball league.
Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda came about after Donald Zarda was fired for trying to ease the mind of a skydiving client, who was tightly strapped to him, by telling her that he was “100 percent gay.”
The landmark transgender rights case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, involves Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired from a Michigan funeral home after she came out in 2013, saying that she would begin wearing women’s clothing.
These scenarios may sound hard to believe considering gay marriage has been legal in the U.S. for more than four years now, and most people approve of queer relationships. But what many people don’t know is that 52 percent of Americans live in states without workplace protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, and that approval of gay and lesbian relationships actually declined in the last year.
So the fact that your favorite character on Pose is trans and you’ve got a gay friend doesn’t mean that discrimination against LGBTQ+ folks has magically disappeared.
In fact, violence against trans and LGBQ+ people has recently surged outside of the workplace.
Although the U.S. hosted World Pride this summer, this pride season was one of “Pain and Pride” according to a report by the New York City Anti-Violence Project.
AVP reported the homicides of 14 LGBTQ+ people from May 15 — July 15, which was an average of almost two per week and three-times more than the months leading up to Pride.
Trans people were especially victimized this summer, and trans women of color saw the most hate violence. North Carolina was not immune from this trend. On June 5, Chanel Scurlock, a 23-year-old Black transgender woman from Lumberton, was robbed and killed by a man she met on an online dating site.
This correlation between pride and persecution sadly suggests that increased visibility may heighten the chance of assault or assassination. In the face of this violence, however, queer folks have continued to show out at Pride events across the country in record numbers.
According to the largest study to date, conducted by the Rutgers Tyler Clementi Center, LGBTQ+ college students are also confronting violence of their own.
In this report, it was revealed that queer students face worse campus climates, poorer self-rated emotional and mental health, more self-injuring behaviors, increased academic impediments (like roommate difficulties) and more sexual victimization and relationship violence.
However, these same students were shown to be more academically engaged, and trans and LGBQ+ students even had slightly higher GPAs than their straight classmates (though not statistically significant).
If there’s one good thing that has come from the violence, both physical and institutional, against queer people in this country, it’s this — LGBTQ+ people have proven that we are resilient as hell.
Advocacy groups like AVP uncover and report heartbreaking amounts of violence toward LGBTQ+ people, but continue to celebrate Pride anyway. There are queer lawyers, activists and community members who have responded to these unjust firings by taking a legal battle to the highest court in the land. And LGBTQ+ college students have fought through hostile campus environments to earn equal or better grades than their straight peers.
It is this uniquely-queer brand of resilience that makes firing someone for being LGBTQ+ not only unjust, but foolish. Any workplace would be lucky to have queer and trans staff members, and the Supreme Court should back this up by protecting our right to equal employment — regardless of who we are or who we love.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.