By Marissa Du Bois, Intel
From an early age, I was acutely aware of my gender dysphoria but didn’t know how to talk to my parents about my gender. For my entire childhood, I was coerced into expressing my gender as masculine and forced to repress my mannerisms and preferred grooming habits. This left me despondent and withdrawn; I struggled with school and refused to participate in athletics. After years of this, I came out as trans to my parents at 16. Initially, I was rejected, which made my late teens and early adult years bleak, because I thought there would never be a place for me.
Eventually, I was able to break free from the yoke of repression I lived with as a child. I sought a redress of grievances through the courts, which was granted in the form of a name and gender change on my identity documents. At the same time, I was able to pursue medical treatment for my gender dysphoria. For the first time in my life, I truly felt hope and looking back, it saved my life. I was finally able to move forward with my career and eventually start a family with my husband. I’m proud to work at Intel and to know that my employer is committed to social equity efforts and to achieving equality in every aspect of business and our society, but I know not all trans people have that support.
Today, in 2021, equal protection under the law is scarce for many LGBT+ Americans. In 27 states, LGBT+ people can be denied basic needs, such as housing, credit, life-saving health services, public accommodations, and equal opportunity in scholastics and athletics. Prior to the landmark Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020, it was legal in many states to discriminate against LGBT+ employees in the workplace. While this ruling represents a major step forward, there is still much work to be done to ensure equality for LGBT+ individuals in the U.S. This is why I support the passage of the Equality Act and hope it will be signed into law.
The Equality Act will have a profound impact on my life as a transgender person and help the trans community navigate challenges many people don’t even realize we face. For example, securing identity documents that match our true gender, something most people take for granted, can be hard to come by as a transgender person due to the patchwork of existing state and federal laws. It may take years and considerable cost for us to obtain affirming identity documents, if at all. Mismatched identity documents — such as birth certificates, drivers’ licenses and passports — can make it harder to pass background checks, obtain credit, buy a home or even travel freely. This disparate impact is compounded on LGBT+ people living in poverty. The Equality Act won’t alleviate the time and cost burden, but it will make it harder for our lawful identities to be denied.
Throughout history, people have been denied equal protection under the law based on a variety of “justifications.” In America, these justifications were often used to perpetuate the scourge of slavery and segregation or the oppression of minorities on the basis of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation or other characteristics. For years, I suffered countless indignities and the denial of the expression of my innermost self with few legal protections. I was fortunate, however, and was able to persevere and thrive despite the struggles of my childhood. Not everyone is that lucky or has that opportunity. While the Equality Act won’t restore the lost dignity of my youth or right the injustices against the trans community, it’s a start.
Even as I write this, the Equality Act is being debated in the U.S. Senate – during the middle of Women’s History Month, a month that ends with the Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31. As a transgender woman and a member of the LGBT+ community, I yearn for the freedom and security that the Equality Act would bring. I call on our elected representatives to give everyone the dignity of equal protection under the law. Pass the Equality Act. It’s time.