With only 33 days left until the inauguration of the new administration, Loretta Lynch sat down at the Stonewall Inn in New York with Buzzfeed reporter Dominic Holden to talk about transgender activism.
May 9 Lynch launched her lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over Hate Bill 2 with these words:
Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself.
We see you. We stand with you, and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.
With only five weeks left at the Justice Department, Lynch told BuzzFeed News in an interview she chose those words to spoil an old tactic used to marginalize minorities. “You isolate them and make them invisible,” she said. “You make them feel that, not only do they not have any recourse, but nobody even sees what’s happening to them.” And if the mass public doesn’t witness discrimination, she said, “Then it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t exist.”
Making someone invisible means that you don’t have to deal with their problems. Transgender people, particularly women of color, face extraordinary rates of homicide and violence. I think the transgender community can no longer be invisible. They need to be front and center. By marginalizing the transgender community…that is not an invisible issue to me as a prosecutor, as a law enforcement officer, as the attorney general. So to tell a group, ‘We see you,’ means you are standing here next to me.
It’s difficult to imagine Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, hanging out with queer kids, hugging them, taking pics with teens in cat-eye makeup. The Republican from Alabama voted to advance a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex couples from marrying and against a bill to protect workers against discrimination.
It’s even harder to fathom the Trump administration suing a state for its bathroom law; asked about North Carolina’s law, specifically, Trump said this year on Fox News that “states should make the decision” and the “federal government should not be involved.”
But for Lynch, cracking down against those laws and speaking up for transgender people is rooted in her own life as a black woman from North Carolina, where she was born in 1959. “I am someone who is a beneficiary of the civil-rights movement,” said Lynch. “I would not be sitting here today without the work of people who fought and bled and died so I could be here — or that I could vote, or that I could go to a great school. Some of those people are in my own family.”
The next time you see a group that is also being marginalized, oppressed, made invisible, those same principles are the ones you have to pull out — and bring them into the forefront and to protect them.
When you think of all the work that we do — we do cases — it’s the end of the fight. Before it hits the courts, before it hits Department of Justice, it’s in people’s lives. It’s the kid’s lives.
Lynch accused North Carolina when she sued of mimicking “dark days” of the South — comparing a ban on most transgender people from restrooms in government buildings that match their gender with racial segregation that was enforced with “signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out.”
It stung Gov. Pat McCrory — a white man — who fumed on cable TV that Lynch’s comparison was irresponsible.
It’s an insult, and it’s a political statement instead of a legal statement.
It was not a political issue, nor was it a political statement.
It was a description of the larger context in which this struggle was being waged. Part of that struggle was a legal one we were advancing…But it is very much part of a larger struggle.” Standing on the shoulders of civil rights advocates, responsibility means drawing the connection between oppression of the past and oppression in the current day.
About the DoE/DoJ guidance to schools on the protection of transgender students:
It wasn’t writing new law, it wasn’t creating new law. Schools had asked about how to accommodate transgender students and the agencies answered. That was actually protective of students, which I what I think schools should be about.
When you look at history, you see you can, in fact, move past that backlash. You can in fact educate people and address the fact that they are reacting out of fear and ignorance of people who are just like them in so many important and fundamental ways.
Every administration does have different priorities, and that is a fact of life, but that does not mean that issues go away.. It does not mean that they disappear from the hearts and minds of people who care about them.