The Trump administration has made clear its stance on transgender rights: in just nine months, the Justice Department has rolled back workplace protections for transgender individuals, dropped its case against North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom bill, the Education Department has withdrawn its finding that an Ohio school district discriminated against a transgender student, and Donald Trump has initiated a ban against transgender individuals serving in the military.
Yet on Friday, the Justice Department departed from its usual stance on transgender rights to appoint a federal prosecutor in a murder case and apparent hate crime committed against a gender-fluid teen. According to the New York Times, it is rare for the DOJ to appoint a federal lawyer to a local case. It’s particularly noteworthy that the request came directly from America’s racist uncle, Jeff Sessions.
DOJ lawyer Christopher Perras will serve as prosecutor in the case of Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old who was fatally shot last March. The Des Moines Register reports:
News of Kedarie’s murder spread nationwide as he was reported to be a transgender teen killed because of his gender identity. But Johnson’s status isn’t that simple, those who knew him said. Most of the time he presented as male, but he loved to wear hair extensions, leggings and glitter, and sometimes went by the name Kandicee. He had girlfriends, friends said, but mostly liked men.
At 16, he was exploring his identity and his options for the future when “his light was snuffed out before it reached its full potential,” said Jenna Sansone, the owner of the house outside of which Kedarie’s body was found.
The move does not necessarily signal a shift in Sessions’s Justice Department. Rather, the Times describes it as “sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.” In other words, while the DOJ may acknowledge that transgender individuals are discriminated against and specifically targeted, Sessions continues to support policies that enable discrimination against them.
Vanita Gupta, former head of the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights, articulated this contradiction when the told the Times, “While it is of course good that D.O.J. is aggressively pursuing this case, it would behoove Sessions to connect the dots between his policies that promote discrimination and hate that can result in death.”