The Department of Labor issued guidance Tuesday stating that transgender federal employees and employees of federal contractors are covered under nondiscrimination protections that apply to sex. It follows an executive order President Obama issued earlier this summer specifically extending employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The guidance comes more than two years after a case decided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Back in April of 2012, the EEOC ruled in favor of Mia Macy, a transgender woman who filed a complaint after she was denied employment with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) after the agency learned about her transition. According to that ruling, discriminating against individuals because of their gender identity involves making judgments about how they are expected to represent their sex. The same reasoning is applied in the new guidance.
Macy told ThinkProgress that she received a call today congratulating her on the guidance and telling her, “21 percent of the American workforce are now protected and it’s because of you. You did that.” “To actually hear it, to get that call,” she said, “I was just blown away.”
“Somebody’s not going to cut their wrist tonight. Someone’s going to be able to pay their rent. Someone’s got a job,” Macy explained. For trans people, having a job to support themselves “literally is life and death for us.”
Though the official guidance is new, Macy says that plenty have already benefited from the precedent her case set. “I’ve received personal messages of people who have filed complaints and they got to keep their job,” she beamed. “It’s so beautiful.” After all, anti-trans discrimination like what she experienced was “just a man defining what kind of woman he wanted to work with.” “Its not for others to define us; it’s for us to be ourselves.”
Macy told ThinkProgress how she hopes the guidance will impact others in the future: “The beauty of this is that someone’s going to be in the office kitchen eating a sandwich at 2 in the morning and see posters on the wall [with the guidance], and they can use the bathroom they use, they can get a paycheck, they can support their kids, do all kinds of crazy things because this woman decided, ‘I’m just not going to take any more shit.’” But, she implores, the victory is not hers personally; “it’s the world’s.”