A transgender boy's lawsuit over a policy barring him from using the male locker room at his Maryland high school is moving forward.
History shows Kyle Duncan can't be trusted to respect or provide a fair hearing to transgender people.
Maine is my home. Maine is where I grew up. Maine is where I legally won the right to be my authentic self. For that, I am proud of our state. But now Maine’s U.S. senators have an important decision to make about a threat that could change the lives of families with transgender kids like me: judicial nominee Kyle Duncan.
I am a transgender woman, and currently a student at the University of Maine. When I was 10 years old, my school in Orono forced me to use a separate restroom from other students because of my gender identity. That isolation humiliated me on a daily basis: I was harassed and picked on in the community by both students and adults alike, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t use the same bathroom as my friends. My parents and I brought a discrimination suit against the school district in hopes that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court would hear my story, so that no one else would have to suffer as I did.
The justices who heard my case were fair and impartial. They reviewed the school’s actions and our state’s laws, and the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that my school had acted illegally by not allowing me to use the same restrooms as my peers – restrooms that matched who I am. That court decision did not just change my life and the lives of other transgender children in Maine, it also became helpful guidance for schools across the country.
There’s no way I would’ve had a fair hearing if Kyle Duncan were my judge.
Mr. Duncan, who has been nominated for a seat on a powerful federal appeals court, has never treated transgender people fairly or with respect. In fact, he has promoted cruel and demeaning statements about transgender people and repeatedly worked to undermine basic human rights for people like me. For example, Mr. Duncan has defended North Carolina’s notorious House Bill 2, which excluded transgender people from public restrooms that matched their gender identities. He is currently defending Virginia’s Gloucester County School Board and its policy that singles out students like me. In these and other cases, Mr. Duncan has sought to make it legal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all aspects of our lives.
The problem with Mr. Duncan’s nomination goes well beyond who his clients were, or even the fact that he has sought out opportunities to make these arguments again and again. Duncan didn’t just defend HB 2 – he resorted to filing misleading declarations based on junk science. He described being transgender as a “delusion,” even though this opinion has been rejected by every major medical and mental health association in the nation.
Not only are they factually incorrect, but Duncan’s claims also are demeaning and damaging to hundreds of thousands of young people like me and our families. This points to the kind of deep-seated bias we cannot allow in our judges. Even if I found myself back in court one day for a case that had nothing to do with being transgender, I could not trust Kyle Duncan to give me a fair hearing after the way he has talked about people like me.
Led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, our U.S. Department of Education has turned its back on transgender students like me – declaring last month that it won’t investigate or take action on complaints by students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity, and sending the dangerous message that discrimination against transgender students is acceptable.
Now more than ever, we need judges who are unbiased and unprejudiced and able to give everyone a fair hearing. Mr. Duncan will soon be up for a vote before the full U.S. Senate. I ask that Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King oppose his nomination for a lifetime federal judgeship. His nomination appears much like that of Jeff Mateer, which was withdrawn late last year after senators learned he had called young transgender people like me part of “Satan’s plan.” If you ask me, being called a “delusion” is no better.