Today on Oct. 8, the Supreme Court of the United States has begun hearing details of three different cases detailing claims of workplace discrimination against various members of the LGBTQ+ community. As reported by Them., this could prove to be a landmark case, providing protections for transgender individuals and those with same-sex attractions by categorizing them under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It would prevent employers across the country from firing or refusing to hire people because of their identification as LGBTQ+, another milestone since the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
I am admittedly looking at this case with a healthy dose of trepidation. The court is balanced in favor of more conservative policies, and with Trump-appointed judges Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on the bench, I am not taking for granted the idea that this will turn out the way I would like.
It could go either way, and as a young gay woman on the cusp of fully joining the workforce for the first time, the implications of this case terrify me. But I also know that I live in an area of the country that is more tolerant than most, and in some cases are actively looking to welcome people like me into their ranks. I can pass easily as well; I don’t adhere to many stereotypes that can be associated with a queer person, though that could be easily dispelled just by talking to me.
This is all to say that while I worry on a personal level about what a case like this could mean for my own professional future, I worry also for those without the advantages I have. I think of the LGBTQ+ people of color, especially transgender women, 18 of whom have been killed this year alone as reported by the Human Rights Campaign. They have to worry about a constant threat to their lives, let alone the possibility of being fired from their jobs. These people that began the struggle for equality in the mid-twentieth century are why we even have the opportunity to argue this case to begin with and who have the most to lose with each day that passes without these protections. I worry for these members of my family, my chosen family, who I don’t know every member of, but who are affected in equal measure by what the Supreme Court decides. They do not deserve to be stripped of opportunities to make a living because of who they are.
It is one of the greatest joys of my life to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, to further understand what that means in this current age and what our history looks like. I don’t expect every person to understand exactly why I take such pride in this, as I don’t believe it is possible without such a personal connection. But I do wish for empathy in this case for my chosen family, for them to be seen as people worthy of dignity and to be treated with the respect given to every straight, cisgendered person in this country. After years of struggle, they are owed that at the very least.