My importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my importance to myself is tremendous. I am all I have to work with, to play with, to suffer and to enjoy. It is not the eyes of others that I am wary of, but of my own. I do not intend to let myself down more than I can possibly help, and I find that the fewer illusions I have about myself or the world around me, the better company I am for myself.

Noel Coward

You can read the entire text of the article below at the GLAD website. [Bold emphasis added]

Transgender Rights: How Visibility Matters

by Jennifer Levi. Transgender Rights Project Director

…The more recent case was one brought on behalf of Nicole Maines, again represented by Ben and me, who is now in high school but whose problems in school started in the fifth grade.  Nicole had always identified as a girl though she was assigned the sex of male at birth.  Initially, administrators at the local public school she attended worked with her family to ensure Nicole an equal educational opportunity and directed teachers and staff at the school to treat Nicole as they would any other girl in the school.


Nicole Maines, her father Wayne and twin brother Jonas. Copyright Associated Press

Things changed dramatically in the fifth grade when a boy at school began to bully Nicole. Egged on by his grandfather who opposed the state non-discrimination law, the boy followed Nicole into the girls’ restroom twice.  While the boy was disciplined by the school, the school also began to make Nicole use a separate, non-student restroom.  This was so stigmatizing and uncomfortable to her, she eventually left the school.

…Our argument was that Nicole was excluded from the girls’ restroom by the school because even though she was a girl, she was transgender.  And therefore, the school discriminated against her for being transgender.

We knew in order to win our case, we had to get the court to understand the full humanity of transgender people.  And, in particular, we had to get the court to understand that a transgender girl is a girl, plain and simple.  And that like any other girl, if she was singled out and excluded from any school facility, including a bathroom, that she would feel isolated, stigmatized, and demeaned.

The task of getting the court — or the school, or the public, for that matter – to understand that a transgender girl is a girl was made difficult by the lack of visibility of transgender people and transgender people’s lives.  And so we told our story of the case in the best way we knew how – with pictures.  These pictures:

[photos omitted]

We, of course, had to make our legal case, present our incisive reasoning, write and deliver a powerful argument. But in the end, Ben and I believe it was these pictures that made the difference. Who could look at these pictures and not understand that our client is a girl, a girl who has the same educational and developmental needs as every other girl in the school?

…As long as people think of transgender people as being in some liminal place — other, different, in transition or unstable, they will justify treating them differently and disclaim the animus behind the different treatment. It is only when transgender people are seen for the full human beings that we are that decision makers will see the kind of different treatment Nicole faced – exclusion from the common use restrooms – as discrimination. And sometimes the most powerful story we can tell is told by pictures, not words.

Just Gender

The third and last short video in the series about the T world.


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