Trump-appointed judge rules trans people do not have the right to be referred to by correct pronouns
A Trump-appointed judge has denied a trans woman the right to have her legal name and correct pronouns used in her incarceration records, and for prison guards to refer to her with she/her pronouns.
Kathrine Nicole Jett pleaded guilty to attempted receipt of child pornography in 2012 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She came out as trans in 2015.
Judge Kyle Duncan of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an 11-page ruling on Thursday, January 16, in which he repeatedly deadnamed Jett and wrote that “no authority supports the proposition that we may require litigants, judges, court personnel, or anyone else to refer to gender-dysphoric litigants with pronouns matching their subjective gender identity”.
The ruling said that the judge rejected Jett’s requests based on technicalities, but bizarrely added that using correct pronouns for a trans inmate would “raise delicate questions about judicial impartiality”.
Duncan gave the example of a trans person requesting the right to use the bathroom which corresponds with their gender. He said that if a judge used correct pronouns they would appear biased, a point which appears to have no relevance in Jett’s case.
He added: “Even this appearance of bias, whether real or not, should be avoided.”
According to the ruling, Jett said: “I am a woman… referring to me simply as a male and with male pronouns based solely on my biological body makes me feel very uneasy and disrespected.”
Trans people are at a much greater risk of mental health problems, and this is often linked to others refusing to affirm their identity.
Consistently using the correct name and pronouns for trans people can reduce their rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts to almost the same levels as their cisgender counterparts.
When he was appointed as a judge in 2018, CEO Lambda Legal Rachel Tiven, a civil rights organisation that fights on behalf of LGBT+ people, described Duncan as “one of president Trump’s worst nominees”.
Tiven said: “His clear and abundant record opposing voting rights, women’s right to access contraception, and civil rights for the LGBT+ community singled him out in a very crowded field… Kyle Duncan has made a career for himself targeting LGBT+ children and families.
“The idea that Mr Duncan will cast aside his bigoted beliefs overnight, and miraculously transform into an impartial judge, is ludicrous and reckless.
“His career has been one long grudge match against women and LGBT+ Americans – now the Trump/Pence Administration is making him a referee.”