A Decade of Victories for Trans Rights

A decade ago no news about transgender issues was usually good news about transgender issues. Although the rate of murders and violence against transgender people, especially against transgender women of color, continues to be a tragedy (and one that remains largely unaddressed), historic gains have been made. And today, when you open the newspaper and read about transgender issues, you just may be reading about an extension of health-care coverage, a third-grader allowed to go to school as her authentic self, or the EEOC ruling protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination under Title VII.

Typically, the 10th anniversary of a nonprofit organization isn't especially newsworthy, but for Transgender Law Center, the past decade of legal victories has brought a sea change of justice and equality that will continue to ripple across the nation.

One of our first notable actions was helping Sylvia Guerrero obtain a posthumous name change for her daughter, Gwen Araujo. October also marks the 10th anniversary of Gwen's death; she was brutally murdered in 2002. In 2006 California Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act, the nation's first bill to outlaw the use of "trans panic" legal strategies. And while those kinds of crimes continue today, we are celebrating the progress that has been made and our hope for a better tomorrow.

We have had many other incredible victories, most of which originated from calls to our legal helpline. In 2009 we brought suit on behalf of GiGi Somers, a trans woman born in Los Angeles but living in Kansas, who was unable to change her California birth certificate. As a result, all people born in California can change the gender markers on their birth certificates, regardless of where they currently live. We've also launched statewide transgender leadership summits, health clinics, and trainings for doctors, and helped get language included in federal health-care reform.

Our most recent victory, the EEOC ruling that trans people are covered under Title VII, was historic and will inform policy discussions at the national level for many years to come. As news of the ruling spreads, transgender people are feeling empowered to fight back harder than ever before, and for the first time with federal law firmly on their side.

Another victory for the trans community is that allies like me are finding our place in a movement that has helped advance freedom for all of us. We're learning about the transgender leadership in the Compton and Stonewall riots. We're seeing transgender people in the media, from Chaz Bono to our favorite Project Runway contestants to the adorable 8-year-old transgender guest on Anderson Cooper Live. We're beginning to understand that we all need the ability to express our genders in order to be our authentic selves, and that when lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are attacked, it is often about our gender expression. We're coming out of the shadows as proud allies of our transgender friends, brothers, and sisters.

There is an incredible amount of work to come -- it's an uphill climb to ensure that transgender people are able to access employment, health care, and housing -- but together we can make the world a safer, more equitable place for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. It takes all of us.

Please join Transgender Law Center in celebrating our 10th anniversary, and help us make the next decade even better.