This is the short version:
President Obama’s administration: Trans lives matter. The law protects them.
President Trump’s administration: ALL lives matter! Oh, and the law doesn’t protect trans people. We affirm their dignity, mind you. We just won’t lift a finger to help them.
Me: Context matters! By itself, “all lives matter” is a neutral statement. In reaction to “trans lives matter”, “all lives matter” is bigotry. When you have a crisis in population, to decline to protect that population is not equitable treatment. To say “all lives matter” in response to “trans lives matter” or “black lives matter” is like sending the fire department to a street where there is a house on fire and carefully directing them to hose down every house equally.
This is the longer version:
The Justice Department, under President Obama’s US Attorney General Eric Holder, in 2014:
I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status. The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.
The Justice Department, under President Obama’s US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in 2016:
There is nothing radical or even particularly unusual about the notion that the word ‘sex’ includes the concept of gender. Transgender people are discriminated against because their gender identity does not match the sex that was assigned to them at birth. HB2 denies transgender people something that all non-transgender people enjoy and take for granted: access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. That’s sex discrimination, plain and simple.
Some of you [trans people] have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.
Transgender men are men. They live, work, and study as men.
Transgender women are women. They live, work, and study as women.
The Justice Department, under President Trump’s US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, talking about the same law on October 05, 2017:
Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status. … Therefore, as of the date of this memorandum, which hereby withdraws the December 15, 2014, memorandum, the Department of Justice will take that position in all pending and future matters…
…followed by this:
The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals.
So the government of my country has spoken. It’s okay to discriminate against trans people, as long as you tell us that you respect us while you do it.
I sure feel safe, now. I feel safe like a bleeding mackerel in a shark tank.
But that’s federal law, so people in blue states should be okay, right? Well, no; I live in New Hampshire, and last year the government of my state spoke, too.
I still think Judge James Robertson said it best in Diane Schroer v. James Billington, Librarian of Congress:
Imagine that an employee is fired because she converts from Christianity to Judaism. Imagine too that her employer testifies that he harbors no bias toward either Christians or Jews but only ‘converts.’ That would be a clear case of discrimination ‘because of religion.’ No court would take seriously the notion that ‘converts’ are not covered by statute. Discrimination ‘because of religion’ easily encompasses discrimination because of a change of religion. But in cases where the plaintiff has changed her sex, and faces discrimination because of the decision to stop presenting as a man and to start appearing as a woman, courts have traditionally carved such persons out of the statute by concluding that ‘transsexuality’ is unprotected by Title VII. In other words, courts have allowed their focus on the label ‘transsexual’ to blind them to the statutory language itself.
None of this is theoretical. Civil rights decisions have an effect on how many children kill themselves.
This decision by our federal government will be a blow to vulnerable people, which surely includes our fellow citizens who are trans and gender non-conforming (GNC), and which surely includes trans and GNC kids.
If you know someone who is trans, please look out for them. If you know a child who is trans, or just GNC, if you know an apparent boy who is feminine, or an apparent girl who is masculine: please keep an eye on them. Tell them that a wise man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
Tell them that this is temporary. Tell them that in the long run, bigotry loses. Tell them that we will keep fighting for their equality under the law.
Tell them that they have inherent worth and dignity, not just in the hypocritical mouthings of Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump, and not just in a courtroom (in those places where their peril is acknowledged in law), but in their actual persons, in their actual souls. Show them that you believe in their inherent worth and dignity by your daily deeds, not just by words you speak.
When they look into your human eyes, help them to see themselves reflected.