When Rachael Gieschen picked up the front page of her local paper last month, her first thought was for her family.
“It said something like, ‘Club Membership Canceled because of Sex Change,’ in a big bold headline,” Rachael said. “It made me sick to my stomach because I was embarrassed for my family and kids down there.”
The story began last year, after the 69-year-old received a notice that her membership to the Hanover Seaside Club in Wrightsville Beach (a club that Rachael’s grandfather helped found in the 1890s) was going to be canceled. The club said it would allow her to stay if she came dressed as a man, but she refused. After a private meeting between Rachael and the board failed to resolve the situation, the club terminated her membership and refunded her dues.
So Rachael decided to speak with Michael Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City, and they decided to try to get the club to change its decision. Their first step was to contact a reporter for The Edge,a Boston-based paper, which ran a story.
But then the Wilmington Star-News highlighted her story on its front page, and Rachael started to have second thoughts.
“It irked the hell out of me,” she said. “So I told them I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
Rachael has changed her mind since then, and is working with Michael to get her story out to more papers. She’s also contacted a lawyer in Greensboro, but the legal path forward isn't clear.
She’s not spoken about it with her five grown children since the story broke, and two of them have avoided talking to her altogether since she came out as transgender.
This is a reminder that discrimination against transgender people continues to this day in North Carolina, while victims are left without a settled legal recourse. It leaves people like Rachael fighting to gain admittance to a beach club that her own family helped to start, just because of her gender expression.
And that's not right. You cannot have equality without the 't.'
You can read the article in The Edge here