Testimony of Carolyn Wald, Staff Attorney, LGBTQ & HIV Rights Project, ACLU of Illinois, Before the Cook County Board of Commissioners

February 19, 2019

My name is Carolyn Wald – I am a staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois’s LGBTQ and HIV Rights Project. Thank you to the Cook County Board of Commissioners for holding this forum and to Commissioner Morrison for introducing this resolution.

The ACLU of Illinois unequivocally condemns the Trump administration’s efforts to demean, dismiss, and discriminate against individuals who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. The Trump administration has attacked this community on all fronts: in our schools, workplaces, armed forces, and healthcare systems.

Last October, it was revealed that the Trump administration was considering issuing guidance that would narrow the definition of “sex” to mean either male or female, as assigned at birth. The goal was to write trans, intersex, and non-binary people out of key federal anti-discrimination protections.  

But changing the definition of “sex” would ignore our contemporary understanding of the word’s meaning, as well as decades of case law. Federal courts have increasingly ruled that laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, include people who are transgender.  

And, changing the definition of “sex” would also ignore scientific realities and the lived experiences of the approximately two million trans, intersex, and non-binary people living in the United States. Transgender, intersex, and non-binary people have always been part of our community and nothing the Trump administration does can change that. 

Unfortunately, discrimination against trans, intersex, and non-binary people is also very real.

It is shameful that the Trump administration seeks to roll-back federal anti-discrimination protections, and to institute policies that actively harm this community.  

We are fortunate to live in Illinois, where state and local laws provide robust protections against discrimination, including on the basis of gender identity. The ACLU of Illinois fought for these protections and continues to fight to strengthen state and local anti-discrimination laws and to ensure they are broadly enforced.  

Discrimination has no place in our schools, yet transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming youth often face blatant and devastating discrimination. The ACLU of Illinois has brought several lawsuits on behalf of transgender students whose schools refused to allow them to use the restrooms or locker rooms that match who they are, in violation of Illinois law. We have also challenged discriminatory policies governing youth athletics, because every kid deserves the chance to participate in sports and any other co-curricular activities, no matter their gender identity. We also continue to advocate for youth in state care, to ensure that every child gets the support they deserve.

We have also fought to ensure that no one faces discrimination when trying get the medical care they need. We pushed the City of Chicago to end their exclusionary policies on health insurance coverage for transgender people and recently were successful in challenging the Chicago Transit Authority’s discriminatory insurance policy, which prevented transgender employees from getting life-saving, medically necessary surgery. In addition, we are currently suing the Department of Corrections for providing woefully inadequate medical treatment to its transgender inmates. 

The Trump administration’s policies harm transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people across our society: from those serving our country in the military to those in federal prisons. The ACLU continues to partner with transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people, community-based organizations, and other advocates to put a stop to these brazen discriminatory attacks.  We are heartened by the many courageous people we’ve had the privilege to work with in this fight. We must stand together to reject these attacks on our community.