On March 31, 2021, President Biden issued A Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility, 2021. He is the first President of the United States to issue a proclamation recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility. March 31, 2021, was also the day when the Pentagon released new policies for Transgender troops that included a path to transitioning while serving their country.
Here is some of what the Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility 2021 says:
“Today, we honor and celebrate the achievements and resiliency of transgender individuals and communities. Transgender Day of Visibility recognizes the generations of struggle, activism, and courage that have brought our country closer to full equality for transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and around the world. Their trailblazing work has given countless transgender individuals the bravery to live openly and authentically. This hard-fought progress is also shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community.
“In spite of the progress in advancing civil rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, too many transgender people – adults and youth alike – still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality. Transgender Americans of all ages face high rates of violence, harassment, and discrimination. Nearly one in three transgender Americans have experienced homelessness at some point in life. Transgender Americans continue to face discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and public accommodations. The crisis of violence against transgender women, especially transgender women of color, is a stain on our Nation’s conscience.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to fulfilling the promise of America for all Americans by stamping out discrimination and delivering freedom and equality for all…”
Personally, as someone who is non-binary, I am thrilled that the Biden-Harris administration included non-binary people in the Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility 2021. While I don’t consider myself to be transgender, there are non-binary people who are also transgender. This recognition helps to normalize not only people who are transgender, but also people who are non-binary. It’s nice to feel seen and respected by the Biden-Harris administration!
The rest of the proclamation backs up the first three paragraphs of it with its connection to existing laws. This isn’t just talk – there is a plan to improve the lives of transgender and non-binary people. Some actions were already underway when the proclamation was delivered.
From the proclamation:
“To ensure that the Federal Government protects the civil rights of transgender Americans, I signed, on my first day in office, an Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. Today, we are proud to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility alongside barrier-breaking public servants, including the first openly transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and alongside patriotic transgender service members, who are once again able to proudly and openly serve their country. We also celebrate together with transgender Americans across the country who will benefit from our efforts to stop discrimination and advance inclusion for transgender Americans in housing, in credit and lending services, in the care we provide for our veterans, and more….”
The first transgender American to be confirmed by the Senate is Dr. Rachel Levine. The United States Senate confirmed her by a vote of 52-48. Moderate Republicans Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted with the Democrats. She now serves as the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and directly serves Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Previously, she was confirmed as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health and the state’s physician general by the Republican-controlled Senate three times, and was leading Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, and completed her training in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
More from the proclamation:
“To more fully protect the civil rights of transgender Americans, we must pass the Equality Act and provide long overdue Federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act will deliver legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems. It will serve as a lasting legacy to the bravery and fortitude of the LGBTQ+ movement…
“Vice-President Harris and I affirm that transgender Americans make our Nation more prosperous, vibrant, and strong. I urge my fellow Americans to join us in uplifting the worth and dignity of every transgender person…”
According to Ballotpedia: “Presidential proclamations are official announcements of policy from the president. Many proclamations are honorary or ceremonial, but some do carry the weight of law if they fall within the scope of presidential authority.”
Ballotpedia continues: According to the House Government Operations Committee, “Proclamations in most instances affect primarily the activities of private individuals. Since the President has no power or authority over individual citizens and their rights except where he is granted such power and authority by a provision in the Constitution or by statute, the President’s proclamations are not legally binding and re at best hortatory unless based on such grants of authority.”
President Biden’s Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility, 2021, does carry the weight of law, which means it is more than just a personal opinion about how transgender and non-binary people should be treated.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was taken up by Congress shortly after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and after new President Lyndon B. Johnson took up the cause. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and then moved to the U.S. Senate. It underwent a 75-day filibuster initiated by southern and border state Democrats. Eventually, supporters of the bill obtained the two-thirds of the votes necessary to end the filibuster debate.
The Senate voted 73-27 in favor of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1964. The law prohibited segregation on the grounds of race, religion, or national origin in all places of public accommodation, including courthouses, parks, restaurants, theaters, sports arenas and hotels. Black people and other minorities could not be denied service simply based on the color of their skin.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred race, religious, national origin and gender discrimination by employers and labor unions, and created an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with the power to file lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved workers.
Those portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are referenced in President Biden’s proclamation. In the first paragraph, he notes “that the generations of struggle, activism, and courage that have brought our country closer to full equality for transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and around the world. Their trailblazing work has given countless transgender individuals the bravery to live openly and authentically. This hard-fought progress is also shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community. “
The second paragraph of President Biden’s proclamation points out that LGBTQ+ individuals still face barriers to freedom and equality. Transgender people face violence, harassment, and discrimination in housing, health care, public accommodations and employment.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also connects to a Supreme Court decision on a case called Bostock v Clayton County, Georgia. In October of 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case by a 6-3 vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, known as Title VII bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against LGBT workers.
The case was brought by Gerald Bostock, who was fired for conduct “unbecoming” after he joined and began participating in a gay recreational softball league. Altitude Express fired Donald Zarda days after he mentioned being gay. R.G. & R.G. Harris Funeral Homes fired Aimee Stephens, who presented as male when she was hired, after she informed her employer that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman.”
Justice Neal Gorsuch wrote the opinion of the court. Part of what he wrote included the following: “…An employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires an individual employee based in part on sex. It makes no difference if other factors besides the plaintiff’s sex contributed to the decision or that the employer treated women as a group the same when compared to men as a group. A statutory violation occurs if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee.”
Justice Gorsuch also wrote “Because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII. There is no escaping the role intent plays: Just as sex is necessary a but-for cause when an employer discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decision making.”
In addition, President Biden is calling on Congress to pass the Equality Act. Doing so would afford equality to many marginalized groups – including transgender and non-binary people. The proclamation is already based on existing law. The Equality Act, if passed, would be an additional law that would provide legal authority to the proclamation.
There were people on Twitter complaining that President Biden’s “A Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility 2021, was nothing more than words. Not so! I believe I’ve made it clear that it is based on existing law. The call-out to Congress to pass The Equality Act is a specific action that would, if passed into law, help provide equality to many people.
Here are some beautiful comments from people and organizations who support “A Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility 2021”:
President Joe Biden tweeted: “Transgender rights are human rights – and I’m calling on every American to join me in uplifting the worth and dignity of transgender Americans. Together, we can stamp out discrimination and deliver on our nation’s promise of freedom and equality for all. #TransDayofVisibility
Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted: “Transgender rights are human rights. Today, in honor of transgender Americans everywhere, @POTUS signed a proclamation to recognize March 31st as #TransgenderDayofVisibility. We see you, and we will always stand up for you.”
Major League Soccer tweeted: “On #TransgenderDayofVisibility, we proudly stand with our LGBTQ+ colleagues and encourage you to join us in supporting @CloudDancersOrg and @AthleteAlly.” The tweet includes an image with a statement on it. “In collaboration with the MLS Pride Employees resource Group, MLS is proud to stand alongside our LGBTQ+ colleagues and the transgender community on this Transgender Day of Visibility. Please join us in supporting Cloud Dancers Foundation (an organization with a deep personal connection to one of our colleagues) and Athlete Ally.”
Representative Ted Lieu tweeted: “On #TransgenderDayofVisibility, we celebrate the achievements & and contributions of the transgender community. Too many #transgender people still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality. Today we acknowledge those barriers & recommit to the fight for equality for all.”
Senator Captain Mark Kelly tweeted: “Today is #TransgenderDayofVisibility, a day to celebrate the lives and contributions of transgender people around the world. It’s also an important day to educate ourselves on the rise of violence against trans women of color and what we can all do to help combat it.”
Chicago Department of Public Health tweeted: “Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day we celebrate the resilience and success of transgender and gender non-conforming people while also raising awareness of transgender rights around the world. #TransgenderDayofVisibility [rainbow emoji]”
Island Health tweeted: “Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to raise awareness of transgender rights. Every day we should take action to support, appreciate, and respect our transgender, non-binary, Two-Spirit, and other gender-diverse communities. #TransgenderDayofVisibility”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “Today is International #TransDayofVisibility. Every day trans and non-binary people inspire us all to live our lives authentically. We celebrate this resilient community, which boldly pushes for equality, inclusion, and an end to discrimination and abuse.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III tweeted: “Trans rights are human rights, and on this #TransDayofVisibility, I’m pleased to announce we’ve updated DoD policy on the open service of transgender individuals. The update reinforces our prior decision to allow recruitment, retention, and care of qualified trans individuals.” The tweet included the following statement:
Memorandum For All Department of Defense Employees
SUBJECT: International Transgender Day of Visibility
“On this International Transgender Day of Visibility, we recognize the great strides our Nation has made raising awareness of the challenges faced by the transgender community. Their shared stories of struggle and heartache reminds us that more work needs to be done to ensure that every person is treated with dignity and respect no matter how they identify.
“To that end, I am pleased to announce we have updated departmental policy governing the open service of transgender individuals in the military. This updated policy reinforces our previous decision to allow for the recruitment, retention, and care of all qualified transgender individuals. It also allows for a short implementation period for the Military Departments and Services to update their policies.
“The United States military is the greatest fighting force on the planet because we are composed of an all-volunteer team willing to step up and defend the rights an freedoms of all Americans. And we will remain the best and most capable team because we avail ourselves of the best possible talent that America has to offer – regardless of gender identity.”