The first transgender member of a Wyoming-based sorority appeared on the national network MSNBC this week to voice relief for a victory in a major lawsuit, and to report some instances of harassment stemming from it.
Artemis Langford, originally of Lander, Wyoming, spoke with MSNBC’s Yasmin Vossoughian in the wake of a federal judge ruling against voiding Langford’s membership in the University of Wyoming-based chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and against subjecting the sorority to a civil lawsuit.
U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson said Aug. 25 that he would not invade the sorority’s right to make and interpret its own rules, including defining the word “woman.”
“Schools continue to be a frontline in these fights for LGBTQ+ rights,” said Vossoughian during the interview, which MSNBC published Sunday. “Artemis Langford, the very brave woman at the center of it all, is joining me now.”
Langford thanked Vossoughian for the opportunity to give an interview.
Dealing with the lawsuit — which seven women filed in March and six women refiled in April after one of the women dropped out — has made the year very difficult, Langford said.
“The sheer awe and surrealness of being in a media cycle again and again – even though I didn’t necessarily want to be given all this attention just because of my identity,” began Langford, and the “threats online; harassment both physically and online has been very hard on myself and those that are in my chapter. And campus in general has been very affected because of that.”
Langford said people have been confrontational on campus. These interactions range from the more pleasant interaction of a person offering to pray for Langford to the more hostile confrontations of people glaring at or bumping into the inductee on purpose.
“But I’m grateful nothing has gone beyond that, fortunately,” said Langford.
The women who launched the lawsuit also reported online threats of violence in one of their filings.
Langford said there are sorority sisters who have been very supportive, and the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority overall has been a bastion for “trailblazing.”
Langford voiced encouragement for other transgender people, saying “elements in the media” will attack trans people, “but I want people to know that it’s never OK when that kind of scrutiny (is) on a person just because of their identity, just because I’m trans.”
Likewise, “it’s never OK (for people to be attacked on their) identity, whether it’s because of their race, their gender identity, their sexual orientation, religion or creed,” Langford said. “Every day that they can be themselves is a good day for us all.”
Vossoughian concluded, saying, “It’s OK to be exactly who you are, Artemis Langford.”
How It Went
Citing safety concerns and the sensitive details of the case, the women who sued Kappa Kappa Gamma tried at first to stay anonymous and keep Langford anonymous in the action.
But Johnson ruled the case didn’t rise to the high legal bar allowing anonymity, and noted that Langford was already a public figure anyway.
The inductee went public as Kappa’s first transgender member in an Oct. 12, 2022, story in the Branding Iron, UW’s student paper.
The women’s lawsuit listed numerous misconduct allegations against Langford, including claims of sexual gawking, inappropriate questioning and threatening behavior. Langford and KKG in their own filings called these allegations harmful and unnecessary.
The women’s attorney Cassie Craven countered, telling a national media reporter that she and her co-counsel included those allegations to highlight the differences between the two sexes.
While not seeking monetary damages against Langford, the women included the inductee in the suit because they were asking Johnson to void Langford’s membership in the sorority.
Johnson’s order dismissing the lawsuit cast the misconduct allegations as superfluous to the case, since its chief claims were that KKG breached contracts by allegedly breaking its own rules and altering its voting systems to get Langford into the organization.
“The court notes the irrelevancy of Langford’s alleged behavior,” reads a footnote from Johnson’s dismissal. “If Plaintiffs wish to amend their complaint, the Court advises Plaintiffs that they devote more than 6% of their complaint to their legal claims against Defendants.”
Court filings throughout the summer indicated that Langford has received an exception to live outside the sorority house for the upcoming semester.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.