Hero art credit: Ashley Lukashevsky
Letter From Leadership
Though we are living through unprecedented backlash against the trans and gender nonconforming community in the United States, it is also an era of renewed resistance, collaboration, care, and joy. It is in this spirit that we are pleased to present TLC’s 2022 annual report.
As you may know, last year TLC focused much of its energy on supporting trans youth and their families in the state of Texas, where local laws and policies threatened to criminalize gender affirming care, parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers. TLC continued to fight for the rights of trans people, including migrants, people with disabilities, incarcerated people, people living with HIV, by taking new and sustained legal action at local and federal levels. Ever focused on racial justice, we remained committed to the leadership of Black and Brown trans women and femmes, who know best the ways to lead us all to liberation.
For the first time in more than a decade, TLC went through a leadership transition at the end of last year when longtime Executive Director Kris Hayashi passed the baton to Shelby Chestnut, who previously served as TLC’s Director of National Policies and Programs, and was one of the co-architects of the visionary Trans Agenda for Liberation.
Thanks to your amazing support, TLC is Building Trans Power through expansive programs, visionary strategies and impact, and deep community roots.
Transgender Law Center
TLC By The Numbers In 2022
Watch our video about how We Win Together at https://transgenderlawcenter.org/we-win-together
Building Trans Power:
A Comprehensive, Coordinated, Trans-Led Strategy Emerges
Throughout 2022, TLC convened and led a group of transgender and nonbinary leaders of national, state, and local organizations in convenings to address the marked escalation of political and legislative attacks on transgender and nonbinary people. Together, we developed a Trans National Coordinated Strategy that aims to support local transgender and nonbinary communities while simultaneously building capacity, alongside our allies, to defend ourselves from these ongoing political attacks and build long-needed trans movement infrastructure.
There is joy and power in being who we are and intentionally building a world we want. To create this world, the movement needs to:
- Resource and support the leadership of Black and non-Black indigenous and people of color, people living with disabilities, people living with HIV, youth, elders, sex workers, poor folks, migrants, and trans women and femmes.
- Concentrate on healing justice, increase support for safety and security, and ensure stable and flexible funding streams.
- Resource Midwestern and Southern regions of the United States.
- In regions less under attack and with existing protections in place, continue to push for more protections, and ensure trans people outside the region can access resources without criminalization.
- Increase the number of trans people who work as lawyers, communications strategists, organizers, advocates, and fundraisers.
- Share accurate and timely information through community mobilization.
- Build the political power of those who are criminalized and currently in jails, prisons, or immigration detention centers.
- Resource dedicated spaces to breathe and dream about the world we are trying to create.
The Trans National Coordinated Strategy also includes overarching goals, five-year outcomes, short-term objectives, and dozens of detailed strategies to achieve our vision. These strategies will serve as a road map for those working toward building trans power and a world in which our communities are valued and cared for in all the ways we deserve. Our top priority throughout is to center those most impacted by these ongoing attacks, including Black and non-Black indigenous and people of color, mid-western regions, southern regions, people living with disabilities, people living with HIV, youth, elders, sex workers, poor folks, migrants, and trans women and femmes.
TLC was proud to partner with the following organizations to develop the strategy: BlackTrans Women, inc./National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (BTWI/BTAC), Disability Project at Transgender Law Center, Equality Federation, GSA Network, Intransitive, LGBTQ Center of Durham, Ladies Intervention Project for Success (LIPS), National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), PFLAG National, Political Research Associates, TAKE Resource Center, Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF),TransInclusive Group, and The Trevor Project.
Spotlight On TLC’s New Executive Director
Working in coalition allows us to weather that loss together and figure out ways of keeping each other safe.”
TLC’s Major Gifts Manager Zinnia Bynum recently had a conversation with helby Chestnut, who served as TLC’s Director of Policy and Programs for five years, and became TLC’s Executive Director in January 2023.
Zinnia: If you were to reflect on where TLC and the trans liberation movement has been over the past 5-10 years, what have been some of the biggest movement markers?
Shelby: Despite all of the anti trans rhetoric and legislation that’s sweeping the country, and really the globe, you see TLC stepping into embodied leadership across the country, working with grassroots organizations to be in coalition and right relationship. A few years back. TLC convened national training institutes following the North Carolina bathroom bill, and that moment got folks together to think, “how do we meet this moment?” Over the years we’ve continued to meet those people and develop an amazing framework for both our movement and our organization through the Trans Agenda for Liberation. We continued to approach the work with care and grace such as during the 2020 George Floyd protests, when we did multiday teach-ins around defunding the police and abolition movements with over 250 people attending. When we convened leaders in 2022 around Texas Governor Abbott’s directive to criminalize and dehumanize parents of trans kids, we came out of that with dozens of leaders from national organizations, grassroots organizations, and trans people unilaterally saying this is our priority focus – we want a trans table of policymakers, we want narrative interventions, and we need to prioritize the safety and security and resources of our communities.
Zinnia: How did it feel to be around so many partners and activists during the 2022 rally in Texas?
Shelby: When I was at the Texas State Capitol, there were over 5,000 people showing up for trans youth and giving testimony for over 24 hours. They faced heckling and violence and intimidation from the opposition, but people stayed strong and continued to speak truth to power in a moment where I think folks are actively seeking to silence us. In these moments you see trans people working at the intersections of so much: It is about reproductive justice, it is about immigrant rights, it is about racial justice, and broadly it is about people’s care and liberation. And, you know, it’s working. I don’t want to say that we’re going to win everything because I think we’re in a moment where we’re going to have even more extreme loss. Working in coalition allows us to weather that loss together and figure out ways of keeping each other safe.
Trans Youth Lead Us All Into The Future
In 2022, TLC and the GSA Network (Genders and Sexualities Alliances Network) continued to partner to support trans youth. Our Gender Justice Leadership Program (GJLP), which encompasses the National Trans Youth Council (TRUTH), and Roses Initiative for trans girls and fems of color, focused as always on trans youth-led initiatives.
With over 300 anti-trans and anti-queer bills introduced across the country, the GSA Network launched the Devising Freedom initiative to guide our work as we support trans and queer youth leaders. During this ever growing difficult time, it has been particularly important for us to center spirit sustaining activities with youth leaders in our programs. We continued our ongoing partnership with the National Queer Trans Therapists of Color Network, which helped us implement a healing justice curriculum.
Some highlights of 2022 included: The publication of GJLP’s ‘No Pride Without Trans Youth’ zine, which captured the joy and rage of trans and queer youth over the legislative season. The members of the Roses Initiative Program released a video for Transgender Day of Remembrance, creating a virtual healing space, and reading out the names of our trans siblings we lost in the past year. To promote financial sustainability, we launched our new program Trans|Trust|Funds, a partnership with Brown Boi Project to teach trans youth leaders about financial management.
We were proud to expand our staff capacity to allow for programmatic growth, promoting longtime staff member Yozantli Lagunas Guerrero to Gender Justice Leadership Program Manager (who had also been a youth member when they were a teen!). We also hired Yasmeen Joseph as our Trans Justice Youth Organizer.
Amplifying Disability Justice
In 2022, The Disability Project developed the goundbreaking Disabled Deaf and Trans People Survey to collect our stories, reduce isolation, and advocate for our communities. Learn more at transgenderlawcenter.org/disability-project-survey
Last calendar, TLC’s Disability Project continued to guide TLC’s implementation of disability justice and anti-ableism politics and practices as a critical part of TLC’s strategic external work and internal growth. We provided input and direction on disability specific perspectives in all aspects of TLC’s work including: anti- ableism and disability justice trainings for all staff and board at the annual (virtual) staff retreat, department specific support, Pride month celebrations, and community and journalist media guide publications.
Our greatest success is that with input and support from TLC, the Disability Project’s core value of BIPOC leadership and its practice of working from a co-leadership model is now formalized, supported and resourced; with Ericka Ayodele Dixon and Sebastian Margaret now sharing the responsibilities and title of Senior National Organizer.The Disability Project facilitated a series of anti-ableism and disability justice trainings in a variety of settings specifically: Ford Foundation, Roadmap, and Funders for Justice, among others. Ericka Ayodele Dixon and Sebastian Margaret, Senior National Organizers, had the incredible privilege of being invited by Cara Page and Susan Raffo to advise and contribute disability justice and anti-ableism content and framing for the finalizing of Healing History Project timeline , a vast and needed body of work that charts the motion and locations of eugenics within and without of the medical industrial complex and its layered and devastating impact on all marginalized communities.
Ericka worked with consultant Emily Waters to gather a panel of experts (including Ericka), to discuss mandatory reporting as an connective issue for disabled youth and trans youth, and their parents. This panel illuminated the organizing that disabled and BIPOC families have done for decades against mandatory reporting, and discussed tactics that can be learned in the fight to protect trans children. Sebastian also participated in a webinar on Migration and Disability Justice that was organized by Ola Osaze, Co-Director of the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project, and was honored to be interviewed as an alum for Trans Justice Funding Project’s decade anniversary promotion and celebratory video.
Earlier in the last calendar, when it became apparent that PPE was still critical for our communities and yet difficult to access, the Disability Project partnered with community members Carrie Kaufman and Rise Osby based in Chicago, Illinois, to distribute thousands of KN95, N95, and surgical masks to BIPOC and or disabled Chicagoans with low incomes and their caregivers. They expanded the distribution to also include unhoused folks and healthcare workers. By the end of the calendar this local disability-led effort had distributed over 4,000 masks.
Throughout 2022, the Disability Project developed the Disabled Deaf Trans People Survey (DTPS) (launched in Fall 2023). This seminal needs assessment gathers the experiences and priorities of Disabled and Deaf trans people through an accessible process designed by Disabled and Deaf trans people. The design of the survey intentionally allows for flexibility, nuance, and richness to reflect the myriad of different ways that trans, nonbinary, Disabled and/or Deaf people navigate our lives with dignity and fight for self determination. One of the survey’s core goals is to collect our stories in a way to reduce isolation by being an experience where our people can feel recognized, and our lived experiences dignified. We achieved this by building in various types of access, including providing all questions in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language and in English and Spanish audio.
Legal Spotlight On Texas
Throughout TLC’s legal work with our clients, we hear how life-changing it can be to be able to access gender affirming care, and how it’s supported children being happy, healthy, and successful young people.
When serious legislative attacks on gender affirming care for trans youth emerged in Texas in 2022, TLC staff and board members showed up to rally and testify alongside our trans community allies in Texas. We were among hundreds that demonstrated at the Texas State Capital to support trans young people and now-Executive Director Shelby Chestnut and Board Chair Imara Jones addressed the rally to show that we will never back down.
Soon after, TLC’s Legal Director Lynly Eyges testified at a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services hearing to speak against the implementation of the governor’s directive to treat parents who support their transgender children accessing gender affirming care as an act of child abuse. TLC’s testimony was particularly important because we drew attention to how the harmful directive would increase the vulnerability of transgender youth to human trafficking victimization. TLC’s legal team also connected with the Dallas advocacy organization Trans Pride Initiative, sharing resources and experiences of working with incarcerated people.
The early work that we did on the ground in Texas – leveraging our legal expertise, forging partnerships with local organizations and advocates, and showing up for trans community – laid the groundwork for the lawsuit we filed against Texas in 2023.
Texas Senate Bill 14 is a law that would ban care for young trans people, and it would revoke the medical licenses of providers who are just trying to comply with the best standards of care and serve young trans people in their state. This bill is putting families in impossible positions where they have to decide if they are going to flee the state and leave behind their home, their friends, their family, to go somewhere where their child can access lifesaving healthcare. And that’s if they have the resources to flee the state.
We’ve seen a surge in anti-trans bills and anti-trans bigotry all across the country. Conservative politicians may see trans young people as easy political targets, but they don’t realize that young trans people are powerful and trans community is powerful. We’re always going to show up and we’re always going to fight these laws.
TLC won a temporary injunction against SB14 in August 2023. It was immediately appealed and unfortunately the Texas Supreme Court cruelly allowed the state’s unconstitutional medical care ban to go into effect. But let us be clear: the fight is far from over. The Supreme Court of Texas will hear our case for a temporary injunction in January 2024.
Legal Strategies And Trans Power
We started working with “Nya” in 2019, a Black trans woman who was wrongfully charged with murder solely for defending herself from a violent attack. In meeting with Nya, we discovered that her attacker had been trafficking her into sex work. Over months and years of persistence, we leveraged our expertise on trafficking, educated co-counsel, gathered testimony from trafficking experts, and had ongoing meetings with the district attorney’s office. We won Nya’s case in early 2023. Her murder charge was dismissed and her record expunged.
TLC’s legal work centers on impact litigation, ending criminalization of trans lives, transforming legal, political, and social systems, and connecting trans people with the legal resources they need in all areas of life. In 2022, TLC’s legal team, which includes TLC attorneys, Helpdesk volunteers, interns, and our network of countless allied lawyers, firms, and organizations across the U.S., dug deep to help trans people with a number of critical issues including healthcare, immigration, incarceration, education, housing, and employment.
Last year, TLC staff participated in a number of convenings with the aim of changing policies to liberate trans people. For example, staff joined a session at the U.S. Department of Justice to explore efforts for trans inclusion in disability rights law. Online, we led a “know your rights” webinar for trans young people, their educators and loved ones about students’ legal rights in light of the anti-trans bills sweeping state legislatures. We made a presentation on Title IX protections for transgender students for South Texas College. And we won a long fight for increased government transparency against the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Like TLC’s deep roots in community, our litigation strategies cover a lot of ground. We are dedicated to winning for individuals, families, and communities, so we never give up. In 2022, we continued our support of efforts to decriminalize sex work and repeal laws that unfairly penalize people living with HIV in New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. We filed an amicus brief in support of Woodhull v. United States, challenging a law that makes it harder for sex workers to share vital information online and work safely, especially for BIPOC trans women due to transphobic profiling. We worked on two suits in California and Colorado to support incarcerated trans people and ensure that they, along with all people who are incarcerated, receive the care, dignity, and respect they deserve.
Based on our work with clients, in 2022, we published a new resource for attorneys – A Guide to Screening LGBTQ Clients for Trafficking. This is the first resource of its kind on identifying survivors of trafficking. We promoted two more new guides – Transgender People and Law Enforcement Interactions and Reporting Law Enforcement Abuse: A Guide for Transgender People – both of which were informed by the number of inquiries the Legal Information Helpdesk receives related to negative interactions with law enforcement and the disproportionate number of those inquiries that come from Black people. We also expanded access to our most requested “know your rights” guides by translating resources into Spanish.
Positively Trans Leading The HIV/AIDS Movement
Throughout 2022, Positively Trans led TLC’s work to end HIV-positive inequities, stigma, and discrimination globally, nationally and in our local communities through research, leadership development, and storytelling. The 22 members of our National Steering Committee are trans women and men of color living with HIV throughout the U.S. (over 50% live in the South), and we make the case that trans voices, needs, and leadership must be centered in HIV/AIDS response, because HIV response is a core strategy for trans health and liberation.
In 2022, we held our first-person gathering since the beginning of Covid at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal. Our members shared their expertise on panels about the onslaught of anti-trans legislation that was being pushed through in several U.S. states. These conversations are so important because the denial of gender affirming and trans healthcare disproportionately affects trans people living with HIV/AIDS.
We also traveled with a Positively Trans delegation to the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the largest HIV-related gathering of its kind in the U.S., with more than 3,000 participants in attendance. Our members played a critical role in ensuring the inclusion of the experiences and leadership of trans people in the national HIV/AIDS movement.
Black Trans women and Black trans femmes living and leading fiercely is the first pillar of the Trans Agenda for Liberation. Positively Trans models this with the trusted leadership of a Black Trans woman living with HIV. Positively Trans ensures that trans people living with HIV are seated at tables that impact the services for people with HIV, tells our stories our way, and continues to spearhead data collection done by us and for us.Tiommi Luckett, Senior National Organizer, Positively Trans
Thank You Donors!
We love all TLC donors, and as such, we list all supporters by name, regardless of giving level. We strive for the most accurate listing, but if you would like changes to your listing in the future, please contact us at [email protected]. Click here to see a digital listing of all our nearly 7,000 TLC donors in 2022, or scan the QR code
Appreciating Longtime Supporters
TLC’s Senior Development Manager Jessica Glennon Zukoff recently interviewed dedicated monthly donors Tamara and Jay Austin, who are a part of our Trans Liberation Circle.
Jessica: What first inspired you to become supporters?
Tamara and Jay: We’ve been supporting many organizations in LGBTQ movements the entire time we’ve been together—22 years now! A law student we mentored was a legal intern for TLC some years ago, and especially as our own lived narrative changed following Jay’s transition, we value every opportunity to help advance legal rights for couples who share our experiences and struggles. We’ve focused on supporting organizations that are working to advance trans equality through individual and impact litigation.
Jessica: What feels important to you about giving to TLC on a monthly basis?
Tamara and Jay: We’ve both served on nonprofit boards, and we understand the impact of consistency in financial support when it comes to being able to plan effectively. For us as donors, monthly giving is built into our budget as part of recognizing that “small” monthly amounts make a difference, especially when organizations know they can count on that donation repeatedly coming in.
Jessica: What means the most to you two about TLC’s work?
Tamara and Jay: We take great pride in knowing that our monthly giving aids in TLC’s work and translates to positive impact in the lives of so many individuals. As an older couple—58 and 67—we also think a lot about senior queer community, especially trans men who are 65 or older. We’re actually working to connect with other couples like us around the country, especially Black couples, and being part of TLC’s community of donors is another avenue of connection.
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Note: 2022 and 2021 numbers include revenue and expenses for TLC’s fiscally sponsored organization Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project.