January Co-Chair Letter

January Co-Chair Letter

To the NTBA Community:

Trans visibility is more meaningful than we may ever fully know.

That’s what crossed my mind as I heard my fellow NTBA Board member Kristen Browde read the names of twelve trans and non-binary attorneys getting sworn into the Supreme Court bar in the last argument of the Court’s term in December: Sam Shiloh Ames, Rafael Langer-Osuna, Milo Manopoulos Beitman, Jaime Ross, Bryanna Aeon Jenkins, K.M. Bell, Debbie Barbara Dudis, Shain Auburn Filcher, Aaron Marshall Horth, Danielle Crystal King, Beck K Kekst Zucker, and Wendy Jane Barnett. (Our apologies for previously misstating this list).

I met most of the inductees at the NTBA Fall social the night before, during which Congressman Robert Garcia spoke with us about advocating for our community at an otherwise painful hearing on Transgender Athletes in School Sports that same day. The sheer absence of any trans people amongst the speakers in that hearing stands out, even if a fair number of allies like Congressman Garcia spoke on our behalf. The transphobic remarks spoken without giving us a chance to respond only further served to denigrate our experiences.

I yearn for a day when no hearing in Congress, nor argument in the Supreme Court, is made without a trans advocate invited to speak.

And during the swearing-in ceremony, I felt myself believe that this world could be in our reach.

I was sitting in the back row of the Court, not part of the inductees’ group, but there by happenstance with my coworkers. The distance gave me a helpful vantage point to observe the scene from an onlooker’s perspective. 

This ceremony—now an NTBA tradition—is quite moving. Our group was the only large contingent getting sworn in that day; a small number of individuals were also inducted. The duration of our groups’ names being read aloud compared to the otherindividuals sworn in was itself noteworthy: you couldn’t ignore us if you tried. Each inductee stood as their name was read aloud, rising with composure. The names and movement created a rhythmic synergy across the Courtroom. 

By around the sixth or seventh name, I think I realized I was holding my breath, let out an exhale, and started to tear up. I was so proud of Kristen for seeing the importance of this event and making it happen; proud of my co-chair Rafael for all their tireless work and visibility in the private sector over the years; proud of those in the group who have contributed to the trans, repro, and LGBTQ rights movements; proud of those who have served the NTBA by volunteering their time on the Board; and proud of everyone in the delegation for being brave enough to be out trans and nonbinary attorneys in whichever part of the legal profession they have chosen. 

The ceremony is quite short, but our group’s portion left an indelible impact on me, my coworkers present, and even my classmates (who are current clerks) who later touched base with me and said how great it was to see the NTBA members get sworn in.

One aspect of our reality as trans and nonbinary lawyers standing proud in this profession is that we may never in our lifetimes fully appreciate what all this means. We are the ancestors of generations to come, and we keep fighting in hopes of a better future in this profession. We’re the ones people will be looking up to—and already are. We know that change happens slowly—that the Supreme Court will continue to be a worrisome place for trans rights for years to come. (Though, despite our reasonable fears, the Court recognized Aimee Stephens’s sex discrimination claim in Harris Funeral Homes, and the Court didn’t overturn the Fourth Circuit’s recognition of the housing and accommodation needs of Kesha Williams in Williams v. Kincaid).

As we turn to another election year, I imagine it will bring with it more painful testimony and public speech about our lives. But I also envisage a few more fleeting moments of gender euphoria and communal pride. Because no matter what is said about us, one thing is for sure: We aren’t going anywhere.

In solidarity,

D Dangaran