Big Queer Convo: ACLU’s Chase Strangio Reminds Us That Trans Community Has Always Found the Means to Survive


By Greg Hernandez

It’s been a year of unprecedented legislative attacks against transgender rights in the U.S., but you won’t find ACLU Deputy Director of the Transgender Justice Project Chase Strangio in despair.

Strangio, the first trans individual to argue—and win—a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, looks back to history as his community engages in battle against the onslaught of legislative bills in various states seeking to place legal restrictions on transgender people’s rights.

“If anyone can come up with extra legal solutions for survival, it’s us,” Strangio said during the Big Queer Convo held during the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Trans Pride LA. “We have always found the means to survive in the face of so many systems of violence and power that have sought to make it impossible. We have a long history of resilience, of mutual care, of mutual aid that we, as a community, have developed for generations. That has been as much a theme of 2021 as these attacks have.”

He was interviewed by the Center’s Director of Advocacy and Mobilization Joey Hernández who described him as a “hero among humans and incredible legal advocate for the transgender community.” Strangio previously worked on the legal team for trans teen Gavin Grimm who fought against an anti-trans bathroom ban in Virginia.

The record number of legislative attacks this year include a bill signed into law on June 1 by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis which bans transgender girls and women from women’s sports teams. Arkansas, meanwhile, has banned health care for trans kids. A dozen similar bills have passed state legislatures this year and more than a hundred others are under consideration.

“We are living in this moment where over 35 states introduced bills targeting the trans community specifically, a majority of them focusing on attacking young trans people—particularly  young trans people in sports and access to health care for trans minors,” Strangio shared. “It’s just been so damaging and violent.”

“Yes, this is a crisis, this should not be happening,” he added.  “We should not be facing this many barriers, and we know from our elders and our ancestors how to get what we need and take care of our people.”

Strangio took care of his people as part of the legal team in the workplace discrimination case Bostock v. Clayton County that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.  On June 15, 2020, the high court issued a landmark 6-3 decision affirming that the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It was an opinion that could not have been written and issued from the highest court in the U.S. without the decades of organizing, particularly by trans folks,” Strangio said. “That made it possible for the court to say, ‘You know what? It is untenable for us to rule against these three individuals and the law is clear.’”

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