Not often seen, or heard, Attorney Chase Strangio has done more to advance transgender equality this year than any single individual I could name.
Yet, who knows about Chase?
His low profile the past decade has made him somewhat an enigma. But as we have learned, this was intentional. Chase unselfishly strove to build a brand for us, a public image much the same as marriage equality advocates did in their decade-long march toward equal rights.
And Chase has been incredibly successful, in half the time. As told by the New Yorker, ACLU attorney Chase Strangio knew the part he was to play and did it with passion and heart.
“In August 2013, Strangio appeared on television for the first time, on “Democracy Now!” He had been invited to talk about Chelsea Manning, who was then serving a thirty-five-year sentence in a men’s military prison for violating the Espionage Act by giving military documents to WikiLeaks. Manning had just come out as transgender, and the Army was refusing to provide her with hormone treatment for her transition, which Strangio argued was unconstitutional.”
“The show’s host, Amy Goodman, said, “Couldn’t you tell us your story? You are transitioning from woman to man.” One can see Strangio gulping air before diverting the question. “I am someone who identifies as transgender,” he replied. “And, as a transgender person, hearing from Chelsea Manning yesterday is especially, you know, empowering. I think it is so brave to come out.””
“He told the New Yorker that as he responded he thought, I am never doing this again.”
The advances Chase helped to bring about protecting transgender inmates in just the past few years is astronomical. Chelsea Manning successfully fought to have her gender marker and name changed, received SRS as an inmate in a military prison, and had her sentence commuted by President Obama.
Then came Gavin Grimm, who in 2015 as a tenth grader was inexplicitly denied the use of the boy’s Bathroom. after having done without complaint. After seven five years of legal wrangling, Gavin Grimm’s case ended up on the steps of the Supreme Court. Chase, we learn now, was disheartened fearing we weren’t ready for that level of visibility.
To that end, Chase took to social media, and with Laverne Cox narrating produced this video.
“I am so honored to have been asked by the ACLU Nationwide to narrate this awesome video about the history of the struggle for trans rights in America,” wrote Laverne Cox. “Illustration by Mollycrabapple Written by Chase Strangio and Zackary Drucker. Please watch and share and join our fight.”
The Supreme Court didn’t take Gavin’s case and it was sent back to 4th Circuit which had ruled in his favor.
The 4th Court of Appeals refused a petition by the Glouster School Board to rehear the case against former high school student Gavin Grimm. The three-member court appeals denied a request by the Virginia School Board to advance the case to the full circuit. The 4th Circuit Court had just last month ruled that making Galvin, a trans man use the women’s bathroom, was in violation of his Constitutional rights.
Right and Righteous Decision!
The AP reported:
“The court decided by a 6-3 vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 known as Title VII that bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The gift that keeps on giving. https://t.co/St9WuQwGVE
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) August 21, 2020
Chase is one of Time’s 100 most influential people of the year. Laverne Cox wrote:
“Chase’s vital legal work and his selfless activism on behalf of LGBTQ+ folks has been essential in shaping my own activism. When I haven’t had the language to explain what was at stake, the consequences and implications of discrimination, I have turned to Chase’s writings, tweets, and interviews. I have had the privilege of being able to call or email him. He picks up the phone. He writes back. Chase has the fortitude to speak with clarity on the messy contradictions and limitations of our legal system, while simultaneously wielding the powers of that system to help the most vulnerable. Now he is being heralded as the lawyer behind the biggest LGBTQ+ legal victory in history. I couldn’t be prouder to call him my friend,” wrote Laverne.
The Supreme Court decision to protect LGBT employees under the law was a defeat not just for the employers, but also the Trump administration, which argued that the law’s plain wording compelled a ruling for the employers. Gorsuch, a conservative appointee of President Donald Trump, concluded the opposite, and Trump said Monday he accepted the court’s “very powerful decision.”
The truth is Chase Strangio is more than extraordinary in every way. He has given us hope with multiple landmark legal decisions during this time of Trump.