A wolf in sheep’s clothing


Over the years, PGN has reported on many of the University of Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ initiatives. We have an arts feature this week about the Ivy League school’s annual transgender open mic, which makes the story we broke last week about Penn arguing in court documents that federal antibias laws do not apply to transgender folks under Title VII even more upsetting. 

Penn’s assertion was made in a case that involves plaintiff “Jane Doe” accusing the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania of discrimination in June 2018 due to her trans identity, which she alleges resulted in wrongful termination. 

While on Wednesday, the institution withdrew the argument after media exposure, Penn defendants previously wrote in court documents, “While the United States Supreme Court is currently considering the issue of whether Title VII protection should extend to gay and transgender employees, the Third Circuit does not currently recognize such protections.”

Penn made this argument while the Supreme Court is considering three cases involving Title VII — one of which is very similar and centers trans woman Aimee Stephens. While the ivy league university publicly champions LGBTQ equality with open mics, faculty out lists and an LGBT center that is larger than most LGBT community centers, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania argued against the protections LGBTQ folks are fighting hard for right now. 

Further, during case proceedings, PGN reported that Penn tried to make the name of the plaintiff public, claiming it was unfair for her to hide “behind the shield of a pseudonym.” Shortly after the articles were published, Penn dropped the request. It seems once the university’s discriminatory measures are brought to light, the defendants change course. 

The National Center for Transgender Equality reports that one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias and more than 75 percent have experienced workplace discrimination. A co-authored report by Movement Advancement Project, NCTE, the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign found that transgender workers report twice the rate of unemployment and are nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000 than the general population.

To say trans and queer folks in Philadelphia should be disappointed in Penn is an understatement, regardless of the institution’s change of heart or more likely, the realization that LGBTQ folks are paying attention. Our community typically can easily pinpoint those who will argue against our basic rights, but in this case, we were blindsided by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.