By Comet Ziemer
As Transgender people all across the country still fight for their ability to live freely and happily in the United States without risk of violence or rights being taken away, we see flashes of light at the end of the tunnel as new laws, and rights are put in place to protect those in the Transgender community.
On Tuesday August 16, 2022, the Americans With Disabilities Act, also known as the ADA, which is an act that provides comprehensive civil rights to Americans with disabilities, a federal court ruled it now covers Transgender people that experience gender dysphoria.
Gender Dysphoria describes “A sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. This sense of unease or dissatisfaction may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and have a harmful impact on daily life.”
The ruling issued by a three judge panel stated “We see no legitimate reason why Congress would intend to exclude from the ADA’s protections transgender people who suffer from gender dysphoria.” The case was brought up from an event concerning a former inmate who faced alleged discrimination at a Virginia prison.
The case concerned Kesha Williams, a transgender woman with gender dysphoria who spent six months in a Virginia prison. Transgender inmates in prisons has been a conversation during recent years. Stories of abuse, discrimination, and assault has made calls to reform anti-transgender discrimination louder.
“Though prison deputies initially assigned her to the women’s housing, they quickly moved her to the men’s housing when they learned she was transgender.” According to the ruling, while Williams was held in the men’s housing, she allegedly “experienced delays in medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, harassment from other inmates, and persistent and intentional mis-gendering and harassment from prison deputies.”
Williams has sued several individuals that are associated with the prison, claiming that the harassment was in violation of the ADA and other protection laws.
The court dismissed the issue at first, claiming that “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments” are excluded from the ADA. Williams struck back stating that with the amount of harassment and transphobia she faced from the prison, she felt like it was up to the court to decide if gender dysphoria was covered under the ADA.
The appeals court, with the explanation of a further medical understanding, reversed the lower court’s dismissal.
Joshua Eldritch, an attorney for Williams, stated “The ruling in this case is consistent with the ruling in Bostock several years ago…that extended employment protections under Title VII to trans employees,” he said, referring to a 2020 supreme court ruling that declared that federal civil rights law protects LGBTQ+ people in the workplace.
Eldritch continued: “I think that this ruling in a lot of ways was mandated by the language of Bostock. To the extent that Bostock has created a positive trajectory for trans rights, this is a continuation of that.”
Though Transgender people will still be fighting for a long time to make it safe for them to live in the United States, there are constant changes that are being made that make that possibility more of a reality.