Slate Online just published an important article which should be shared throughout the transgender community. It accurately clarifies how the oddest allies of the transgender community, Richard Simmons, and his loss in a California libel suit has benefitted transgender Americans.
The article requires careful reading. Here’s the background:
A tabloid called Simmons a transgender woman. Simmons sued for libel and lost. What the judge said in his ruling was the key stroke which establishes a legal landmark for trans people:
For the first time in United States history, Keosian declared that misidentifying a person as transgender is not defamatory because it does not subject that individual to “hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy.” Keosian further explained that the judicial system should not countenance anti-trans animus, notwithstanding its existence in pockets of society. “While, as a practical matter, [transgender persons can] be held in contempt by a portion of the population,” Keosian said, “the court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognizing them.”
From the actual court document, which you can download here.:
The court does not mean to imply in its holding that the difficulties and bigotry facing transgender people is minimal or nonexistent. To the contrary, the court has reviewed the evidence submitted by Simmons regarding the deplorable statistics relating to transgender people….However, this court finds that even if there is a sizeable portion of the population who would view being transgender as negative, the court should not, in the words of our cousins in Massachusetts, “directly or indirectly, give effect to these prejudices.” (Albright, supra, 321 F.Supp.2d at p. 137–138.) Similar to the that court’s reasoning regarding the prejudices facing homosexuals, “[i]f this Court were to agree that calling someone” transgender “is defamatory per se—it would, in effect, validate that sentiment and legitimize relegating [transgender people] to second-class status.” Such a finding is consistent with holdings that misidentifying one’s race, medical condition, or sexual orientation is not libelous per se simply because there exist a portion of the population that expresses prejudice towards those groups.
The entire Slate article is worth a read. What it tells me is the legal foundations of the country are increasingly coming down on the side of transgender people. Added to this is the current administration’s hardline on indicting murderers of transgender people with federal hate crimes, and you have just a boatload of positive news about how society is shifting.
Good news all around!