Atlanta, Georgia, US – The Interim Director of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was forced to resign over the organization’s transgender policy. According to Maya Dillard Smith, concern for her daughters and other women and girls led her to rethink the non-profit organization’s support of laws that protect the identity of men who declare they are women – even when such laws are in direct conflict with and override the human rights of women and girls.
Ms. Dillard Smith said she advocated for a middle ground respecting the human rights of both groups. However, ACLU colleagues made it clear to her that any discussion or dissent was impermissible.
Ms. Smith, who had been the youngest executive director, and one of only three black persons to ever hold one of the ACLU chapter’s 53 district seats, issued a statement:
I have shared my personal experience of having taken my elementary school age daughters into a women’s restroom when shortly after three transgender young adults over six feet with deep voices entered. My children were visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions. …
[Transgender rights have] intersectionality with other competing rights, particularly the implications for women’s rights. … I understood it to be the ACLU’s goal to delicately balance competing rights to ensure that any infringements are narrowly tailored, that they do not create a hierarchy of rights, and that we are mindful of unintended consequences.
[The ACLU] is a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights. In that way, it is a special interest organization not unlike the conservative right, which creates a hierarchy of rights based on who is funding the organization’s lobbying activities. Thus, I found myself principally and philosophically unaligned with the organization.
Cheryl Courtney-Evans, a male transgender individual, transgender rights activist and co-founder and executive director of Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT), took offense at Ms. Smith’s expression of concern about the impact the transgender movement might have on the human rights of women and girls, as well as Ms. Smith’s speculation that the ACLU’s activism is based on which special interest groups provides more of the organization’s funding.
Mr. Courtney-Evans insisted that Ms. Smith’s hesitation and questions indicated that she would have been less supportive of persons who identify as transgender, and therefore, should not be in a position that demands she fight for transgender rights.
Ms. Smith has gone on to launch a non-profit organization, Finding Middle Ground, which is dedicated to “civilly and respectfully” exchanging “ideas on contemporary civil and human rights issues and resulting public policy solutions.” The declared mission of Finding Middle Ground is to find balance – supporting the rights of trans-identified individuals, without sacrificing the human rights that women have fought centuries to have the government recognize and protect.
Featured Image Credit: ABC/The View