Inside One Hobby Lobby Employee's Inspiring Fight for Equality


It wasn't enough that Hobby Lobby won in a landmark Supreme Courty case for employers being able to deny women reproductive healthcare coverage. Now, the conservative-led company wants to also dictate which restrooms women can use at work. That is, if you happen to be a transgender woman.

Meggan Sommerville, a 16-year veteran of the the arts and crafts franchise, began her transition in 2009 and had her name legally changed in 2010. But she was nevertheless recently written up at her Aurora, Ill., store when she began using the women's restroom. According to Sommerville, store managment said that she'd only be allowed to use the restroom most aligned with her gender identity under one condition: Sommerville would have to prove that she'd undergone a genital reconstructive surgery.

These alleged actions by management reinforce transphobia and cissexism by confusing the difference between sex and gender identity, and the essentialist assumption that all women must have a vagina and vice-versa for men. It also undermines the self-determination and personhood of trans people, by laughing in the face of what they've affirmed to themselves and seek to signal to the world around them about their gender identity.

That's part of the outdated ideology that Sommerville has decided to contest, by filing suit against Hobby Lobby for gender discrimination.

Sommerville also filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) in April 2011, alleging discrimination in her workplace and public accommodation. Her case was originally dismissed but the decision is now pending after the IDHR overturned it.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Oddly enough, Hobby Lobby isn’t citing religious reasons to defend prohibiting her from using the women’s restroom. No, this prejudice is right out in the open.

Image Credit: Sam Killermann

This issue won’t be resolved quickly and the need for trans inclusive restrooms is a matter of safety, suppoerters say. "Refuge Restrooms is a web application that indexes and maps safe restrooms for transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals." Widmer told The Advocate. "At its core, its goal is to be a place where you can go, type in an address and find the nearest refuge when you really need a place to use the bathroom.”

As for Sommerville's case, it's yet another instance of Hobby Lobby and right-wing conservative companies attempting to take too many steps into the lives of their employees.