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Story to Watch: Court Rules in Favor of Fired Transgender Employee

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Today, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Vandy Beth Glenn, who was fired in 2007 from her job as a legislative editor at the General Assembly in Georgia after disclosing that she is transgender and intended to come out in the workplace. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld last year’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story, who said Glenn was discriminated against and should be reinstated in her job. In that trial, Sewell Brumby, who fired Glenn, testified that he acted on the basis of Glenn’s “gender non-conformity,” a point that Judge Rosemary Barkett of the 11th Circuit asserts is evidence of discriminatory practice on Brumby’s part. Glenn’s lawyer, Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, commented on the ruling, saying, “The court could not have been more clear. It is unfair and illegal to fire transgender employees because their appearance or behavior transgress gender stereotypes. Employers should take note of this important ruling.”

While this is an important legal triumph for transgender and gender non-conforming employees, Glenn’s story has not always been covered responsibly by the mainstream media. Past coverage has exhibited a number of problems that, while often seen in stories about transgender issues, are nevertheless unacceptable. Reporters have no reason to disclose Glenn’s previous legal name or use male pronouns when speaking about her past. These practices undermine Glenn’s gender identity and the journey that many transgender people embark on to embody their true selves. Similarly, there is no need to outline the various medical procedures that Glenn has undergone as part of her transition, as they are not relevant to the story. What is important is that Glenn was unfairly removed from her job based on her gender identity and expression, and that this response from her employer was ruled unreasonable by multiple courts. GLAAD encourages our constituents to continue monitoring this story and report any problematic coverage. 

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