Experts discussed reproductive justice, domestic violence, and transgender activism at the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender’s annual conference Friday.
The conference, titled “Gender and the Body,” featured panels with speakers who included prominent law scholars and youth activists. The events were hosted at the Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall.
A panel Friday afternoon discussed pushing forward transgender rights through law and supporting youth activists. Harvard Law School student Luna E. Floyd, who is pursuing advocacy for LGBTQ+ children and youth, moderated the hour-long discussion.
The panelists included Georgia Youth Justice Coalition founder Alex Ames, Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth Executive Director Shaplaie Brooks, grassroots activist Él Martinez, and Center for Constitutional Rights fellow Zee Scout.
Martinez, who began lobbying after their negative experiences as a transgender student of color in Massachusetts public schools, spoke specifically to the legal and technical challenges faced by youth organizers.
“Youth entering adult spaces are left behind when it comes to actually understanding the processes that are ongoing,” they said. “I started lobbying in the legislature at 15, and that’s how I learned how our state system works. But not everyone has that experience.”
Scout, previously a legal clinic worker on expungements and voter registration issues, said she is deeply concerned about the “dark money, right-wing groups who do not like trans people and the threat that they pose to patriarchy.”
“When they are infiltrating legislatures, and they are passing laws that tell people what their sex and gender are, that’s viewpoint discrimination,” Scout said. “That takes it a little bit more out of, ‘Oh my god, here we go again,’ and more into ‘There are sinister forces here.’”
Ames has focused on activism against school board gerrymandering and Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits public school teachers from instructing on sexual orientation or gender identity. She discussed having conversations with relatives who were concerned by the participation of transgender people in sports.
“I said, ‘So, it sounds like what you’re really mad about is that people have limited access to higher education and that there already are people with advantages,’” Ames said. “The fact that this person is competing for a sport is not the problem, like the fact that they’re able to play on a soccer team is not really the problem.”
Another panel, moderated by former HLS Dean Martha L. Minow, centered around domestic violence and gun violence in the context of the upcoming Supreme Court case United States v. Rahimi. In that case, the Supreme Court will decide whether, according to the Second Amendment, the government can deny guns to those under a domestic violence restraining order.
The panel’s speakers included Diane L. Rosenfeld, the founding director of the Law School’s Gender Violence Program; Marianna J. Yang, a clinical instructor at the Family Justice Clinic of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center; and Brown University associate professor Elizabeth Tobin-Tyler.
The panelists acknowledged the complexity of the legal issues involved in Rahimi and shared a bleak outlook on gun regulation and domestic violence prevention policy going forward.
Another panel, moderated by HLS professor I. Glenn Cohen, discussed advocacy for reproductive justice after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in 2022.
The event concluded with a reception and networking event for attendees.
Wency Suo ’27, who attended the conference, described the panels as “very eye-opening.”
“It was really nice to see that there are a community of people who care about LGBTQ+ youth and the rights of young people in general and are willing to do something about that,” Suo said.