This op-ed originally appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on July 31, 2023. You can read the full editorial here. 

A local hair salon owner publicly announced that she would not serve transgender people. Rather, they could seek “services at a local pet groomer.”

Her comparison of transgender people to animals shocks the conscience. This business owner has de-humanized members of our community – our daughters, sons, brothers and sisters.

De-humanization is a first step to stripping another’s human rights and legitimizing violence against them. It is as wrong to refuse service to a transgender person as it is to deny them service based upon their skin color.

Thankfully, the outcry against her stance has been loud and swift, for it cannot stand.

Surveys show that upward of 33,000 Michigan residents identify as transgender.

A transgender person is someone who identifies as a gender different from the one they were thought to be at birth. Growing up in this community in the 1970s, I had no exposure to transgender folks.

Some might feel uncomfortable around the transgender issue.

I am embarrassed to admit I have, too, if only because it was something “new” to me.

Discomfort is one thing, but it is entirely another matter to strip a person of their humanity and blatantly discriminate against them. History teaches that we must stand together against such discrimination.

READ on traverse city record-eagle

Blake K. Ringsmuth is the former chair of the Traverse City Human Rights Commission, a local civil rights lawyer and a member of the Northwest Michigan Lawyers Committee of the ACLU. He grew up in Traverse City and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1990.