Goin... Goin... Gone
For years Minnesota was the only state to have a trans-inclusive civil-rights law. Ever since it was passed in 1993, the Minnesota Human Rights Act was held up by the transgender community as the model of how to write transgender-inclusive civil-rights legislation. The Minnesota language was used in Evanston, Illinois' first city to protect transgenders. And it was used in the civil-rights bill, HB101, pending right now in the Illinois Senate. It was the best language we had.
But now the usefulness of that law is highly doubtful. Although the Minnesota law has been on the books for eight years, it wasn't until last year that a complaint of discrimination was filed based on the trans-inclusive definition in that law. For the first time, that Minnesota language was tested in a court of law ... and it lost.
Julienne Goins had filed discrimination claims against her employer, West Group, because they denied her access to the women's restroom. The case went from trial court, to appeals court, and finally to the Minnesota Supreme Court. In a decision that surely must rank up there with the most idiotic decisions of all times, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Nov. 29 that West Group did not discriminate because Goins failed to show that she was "eligible to use the restrooms designated for her biological gender."
OK ... let's take a look at the evidence, and you decide whether Julienne Goins had done enough to show that she was eligible to use the women's room.
First of all, she had been presenting herself a woman ever since she was hired at West Group in 1997. She was hired as a woman, and none of her colleagues there knew her as anything else than the woman she was.
Julienne Goins' legal name is Julienne Goins, and her legal gender is female. The documents that she brought with her from the Great State of Texas clearly attest to the fact that Julienne Goins is a woman. She has been on hormone replacement therapy for many years, just like many other women, to regulate her slight hormonal imbalance.
So what's the verdict folks? Is Julienne eligible to use the women's room?
I am of the firm belief that if it walks like a goose, and flies like a goose, and honks like a goose ... it's a goose! You don't have to pluck all its feathers and cook it for Christmas to know that it will taste just like a goose. Surely, you don't have to undress a woman and look at her genitals to know what gender she belongs to.
In a previous column, I had joked about having to set up panty checkpoints outside restrooms to determine one's eligibility to enter those hallowed spaces. Seriously, it seems that that would be the only evidence that would have satisfied the Minnesota Supreme Court in this case. They didn't believe her consistent gender presentation over at least a half a dozen years. They didn't believe her official documentation from Texas. They didn't believe anything.
Julienne's co-workers were concerned because they "believed Goins to be biologically male." Nowhere in the court record did the Supreme Court actually ask for proof of biological maleness or femaleness. Just like her ignorant coworkers, the learned judges of the Minnesota Supreme Court assumed that she was biologically male.
Nor did they ever define "biologically male." If they were referring to Julienne's hormonal status, then they would have to admit she was female. If they looked at her physiological, psychological, or emotional status ... female, female, female. They did not ask about her chromosomal status, but then again, how many of the esteemed Justices are aware of their own chromosomal gender status.
So it all gets back to the anatomical imperative. Regardless of one's gender history, a person's gender is what the doctor pronounced at the moment of birth.
The Supreme Court of Minnesota has done a great injustice to the transgender community. According to Phil Duran, of OutFront Minnesota, the decision mandates that transgender employees must "describe their genitals in order simply to go to the bathroom. This is the same sexual harassment this very Act prohibits."
I think that we need to look at the implications beyond the transgender community, to the general population as well. From butch women, to intersex people, to gender queer youth, to all those who are gender nonconforming in any way. If all it takes is the suspicion on the part of co-workers that you are not of the gender you present yourself as, then we really are in danger of becoming a nation held captive by the gender police.
Miranda Stevens-Miller can be reached at MirandaSt1@aol.com