Transgendered Woman Wins Sex Discrimination Case

A transgendered woman, who lost a job offer because of her sexual status, has won a potentially groundbreaking federal sex discrimination lawsuit.

A federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., ruled today that the Library of Congress discriminated against Diane Schroer when it offered her a job and then rescinded it after learning she was transgendered.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Schroer, said Judge James Robertson's ruling is the first to hold that the federal sex discrimination statute, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, applies to transgendered people.

Other courts that have considered the issue have said Congress only intended for the anti-discrimination statute to protect men and women, but not people who change their sex, the ACLU said.

Robertson disagreed, saying Schroer's case "was discrimination based on sex."

"It is tremendously gratifying to have your faith in this country, and what is fundamentally right and fair, be reaffirmed," Schroer said. "I very much hope that this ruling will help to eliminate the all-too-pervasive discrimination against sexually nonconforming people in all areas."

She added, "I hope, too, that employers, family members, friends and co-workers will begin to understand variations in sexual orientation and identity from a basis of knowledge and not fear."

Schroer said she applied for, and was offered, a job at the Library of Congress as David Schroer.

When David went to his first meeting with his soon-to-be boss, Schroer told her that he would be transitioning to a female before starting the job. The next day, the job offer was rescinded, Schroer says.

For more than 25 years, David Schroer was a star in the U.S. Army, rising through the ranks to become a Special Forces commander while leading a classified anti-terrorism unit involved in covert operations.

That all changed when Schroer abruptly retired from the military and made a shocking announcement that stunned both his colleagues and family. He would no longer be Col. David Schroer, because he is now Diane Schroer, a transsexual.

In a 2005 interview with "20/20" Deborah Roberts, Schroer explained why, after decades of service in one of the most dangerous and macho lines of work, she became a woman.

"Does seem a bit of a disconnect," Schroer acknowledged. But, she says, she has struggled with her gender identity -- privately -- since childhood.

"Something was different since even before I can remember. I was always enthralled with things the girls were doing. ... Whenever my parents were gone, I would experiment with my mother's makeup. And wondered why I enjoyed doing that ... Wondered why I couldn't carry a purse," Schroer said.

Painful Internal Battle

Her lawsuit may be precedent-setting, but Dr. George Brown, a military psychiatrist, said Schroer's story is not unique. He said he's treated hundreds of soldiers who are transsexuals. Brown described transsexualism as "a sense that there's been a biological mistake -- that the body doesn't match who you are as a person inside."

Schroer says it was apparent to her from the time she was a child, growing up in Oak Lawn, Ill., just outside Chicago. Her brothers, Gary and Bill, only remember a happy childhood with their little brother, however.

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