The pioneering trans actress and activist Laverne Cox responds to the Supreme Court’s revival of President Donald Trump’s plan to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. She spoke on Tuesday at the National Day of Racial Healing as part of a conversation moderated by Amy Goodman.
AMY GOODMAN: I just came back from Los Angeles this morning, where I took part in a discussion on racial justice and harmony, that was curated by the well-known director Ava DuVernay. And I spoke with Laverne Cox and author Jacqueline Woodson. Among the people who were there also, Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate. It was a National Day of Racial Healing. I asked Laverne Cox, well-known transgender actress and activist, to respond to the Supreme Court news.
LAVERNE COX: Well, first of all, I’m not surprised, given the nature and the makeup of who is on the Supreme Court. When I look sort of historically and try to put things in perspective, this is part of a larger pattern of the attack of transgender people that really probably maybe started four years ago or so. I think after the passage of marriage equality, some conservative folks needed another sort of group to scapegoat, in part.
And since, I would arguably say, 2014, trans people have been more visible in the media than we ever have before. Through YouTube, etc., the real, lived experiences of trans people are actually being—are actually out there for people to access. And so, there was a conversation about backlash in the earlier discussion. I think that is also going on, that there—we’ve seen unprecedented introductions of anti-trans legislation in state legislatures all over the country. There have probably been over 400 pieces of legislation introduced in state legislatures since 2014. Guidelines for how transgender children should be treated in schools were rescinded.
Of course, the current administration, they had a leaked memo last year that stated they wanted to change the definition of “sex” so that it’s basically being what is on your birth certificate; if that’s not determined, then chromosomes. I don’t know what kind of society does chromosome tests. And the idea of that is to give trans people no legal recourse under the law. They do not want what a lot of courts have determined, that trans people are covered under sex discrimination under Title VII and Title IX. I could go on. I could go on and on. So, there are so many—and trans people being murdered with impunity. It’s disgusting.
So, there’s all of these things happening in the world. And I think part of that is about backlash. I think it’s because we’re more visible, then folks are creating these arguments. I did a deep dive recently on YouTube. Somehow, some anti-trans video came up. And I was like, “Let me see what these people are saying.” And I usually don’t expose myself to that kind of thing. And it was really fascinating how coordinated the anti-trans movement, I would say—it’s very coordinated. They have very similar talking points. They’re groups that are organized just to introduce anti-trans legislation all over the country. I mean, it can’t be a coincidence that all these pieces of legislation are being introduced. So there’s a very coordinated movement to basically attempt to define gender based on what you were assigned at birth, ultimately based on genitalia, because that’s usually how we assign gender at birth. And so it’s a larger cultural issue.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the trans actress and activist Laverne Cox responding to the news yesterday of the Supreme Court upholding the ban, though not ruling legally on it, but allowing it to be in place, the trans ban on trans people in the military, until two cases make their way to the Supreme Court.
I want to talk about another case now. On Tuesday, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union sued the New York Police Department on behalf of a transgender woman named Linda Dominguez, who was arrested and charged with “false personation” after she provided police officers with both her previous and current legal names, after she was stopped for walking through a park at night. This is Linda talking about what happened at the police precinct.
LINDA DOMINGUEZ: [translated] In the precinct, I saw them mock me. The policewoman looked at me as if there was something wrong with me, because she looked at me so ugly. They mocked me. “That’s a man. That’s not a man. What’s that?” I went through so much trauma being arrested in this way. It really was a very horrible experience. I was about to take my own life. People who aren’t as strong may take their own life if they experience this, too. I decided to do this with a lawsuit so they don’t keep doing this. I am the realization of my ancestors’ dreams, and I cannot allow the police to abuse us trans girls.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Linda Dominguez. False personation, Chase?
CHASE STRANGIO: Yeah. So, this is something that, frankly, I’m shocked that the police and the prosecutors are still doing this in New York, essentially saying that we’re going to charge you with a crime of just existing, of being yourself.
And I want to note, too, that not only was she charged with false personation, which had to do with giving her name and trying to comply with the police officer’s request—by the way, in a city and a state that is supposedly supposed to be very progressive on trans issues—but she was also arrested for walking through a park at night. I can assure you that no white trans person—no white person has to worry about that. So this is an issue of racial profiling. This is an issue of the ways in which trans women of color are particularly profiled by the NYPD and across the country. And so we’re suing on Linda’s behalf and making a statement so that the NYPD and prosecutors in New York City know that this is absolutely unacceptable.
And I think, just tying this both to what Laverne was saying and to what’s going on from the federal government, is that we have to stay vigilant at every level of government. There are attacks on trans people happening, and that if we aren’t paying attention in the progressive cities, in the progressive states, then we’re going to end up with a system in which we may have formal equality in some places, but we absolutely do not have survival opportunities for trans people of color.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, Chase, New York state lawmakers approved a pair of bills aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community. One bill bans licensed mental health professionals from participating in so-called conversion therapy. Talk more about these two bills and your concerns.
CHASE STRANGIO: So, I mean, first, the bill, GENDA, is the one that has been pushing through the New York State Assembly.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s called GENDA.
CHASE STRANGIO: GENDA.
AMY GOODMAN: And we just have 20 seconds.
CHASE STRANGIO: OK, 20 seconds. So, basically, it’s a nondiscrimination law, so we’re explicitly protecting people under state law, which is a good thing. But it comes with a hate crimes component, which just, in the end, incarcerates more people, ends up allowing officers to arrest people of color for anti-white crimes, you know, trans and LGBT people for anti-straight crimes, anti-cis crimes. So we have to be very careful about how our reform efforts are actually building the prison-industrial complex and fueling mass incarceration. So, yay for formal equality, but I think we should be more critical about how many people we’re sending to prison and how we’re doing that, and in the service of what.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much. Clearly, a conversation that needs to continue. Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU, challenging the Trump administration’s ban on servicemembers who are transgender.