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Vandy Beth Glenn: ‘The court ruled in my favor less than a week later, and ordered the state to return me to my job’

Vandy Beth Glenn: ‘The court ruled in my favor less than a week later, and ordered the state to return me to my job’

In my life, there have been two memorable days labeled Tuesday, October 16. For the first, I was a naval officer on a ship crossing the Pacific Ocean from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor. When crossing the International Date Line from west to east, a day has to be repeated. Aboard our ship, that Tuesday lasted for 48 hours.

The second such Tuesday, October 16, was in 2007. That’s the day my boss at the Georgia General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Counsel called me down to his office and asked me to confirm what he’d been told: that I was transitioning from male to female, and would soon begin coming to work presenting as a woman.

I said yes. He replied that ‘that cannot happen appropriately in this workplace,’ and fired me on the spot.

That October 16 seemed even longer than the first. I was hustled out of the office carrying the contents of my desk area, including a box of colored editing pens and a worthless Magic 8 Ball. I received a month’s severance pay.

I had anticipated this turn of events: my boss was not a wise or enlightened man. On my drive home to my three confused but supportive cats, I phone Lambda Legal and asked them to release the hounds.

This was the beginning of an odyssey, a climb, a trudge, and a schlep that took four years, one month, and 23 days to complete. Lambda Legal and I brought a lawsuit in a federal district court against my boss and his superiors at the Georgia General Assembly in July 2008.

We argued that his actions constituted sex discrimination under the Establishment Clause of the 14th Amendment. The defendants made a motion to dismiss.

A whole year later, in July 2009, the judge turned down their motion to dismiss, and our suit moved forward.

Another year after that, in July 2010, the same judge ruled in our favor. The defendants immediately appealed to the federal appeals court for the Eleventh Circuit.

Nearly a year and a half after that, in early December 2011, the circuit court heard oral arguments in my case. The panel of three judges, including one of the most conservative judges in the nation, was not impressed by the defendants’ claim that they should be allowed to fire an employee for undergoing a gender transition.

The judges literally laughed at their attorney’s argument. Usually in a memoir like this, people write ‘literally’ and they mean ‘figuratively.’ I don’t mean that. The judges were actually laughing.

They ruled in my favor less than a week later, and ordered the state to return me to my job. ‘An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity,’ the panel said in its ruling.

‘Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual.’

On December 9, 2011, I returned to my desk at the Capitol, unsealed the box with my belongings in it, and got back to work.

Our success in the landmark court case Glenn v. Brumby meant that every transgender public employee should be protected from workplace discrimination. Just a few months later, in 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission built on this with its ruling in Macy v. Holder, which established that Title VII protections apply to transgender people, so private-sector transgender employees are now also protected from discrimination.

The world has become a better place than it was in 2007. There is still much progress to be made, but better is better. I’m proud that I helped move the ball down the field.

To learn more about Vandy, visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @RedVelvetCakes