Ilona Turner, Legal Director
Transgender Law Center’s team of lawyers works every day to help shape the law to make sure that everyone can live safely and authentically, without discrimination, even if their gender identity or gender expression is different from what’s expected from someone with the sex they were assigned at birth.
While TLC is based in San Francisco, we’re also proud to be the largest transgender rights organization in the country. Our work is having an increasingly national impact — we get calls and emails through our legal helpline from more than 2,000 trans and gender nonconforming people each year from across the country. The folks who call us are experiencing discrimination in every area of life, from jobs to schools to public accommodations (businesses that serve the public) to accessing the basic identity documents that reflect who they are.
For most people who contact us, we provide individualized legal information that will help them advocate for themselves and access the rights and benefits they are entitled to. We’re empowering folks every day with the information and the support that they need to fight for their rights.
We also represent clients in a smaller number of cases each year where the facts of the case present an opportunity to change the law for the benefit of the whole community. These types of cases are sometimes called “impact litigation.” For those cases, our attorneys usually pair up with private firms or attorneys generously volunteering their time “pro bono.” Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, but they can also be a uniquely powerful tool, with the potential to change the law and to raise public awareness about what the law is and what the consequences are when transgender people’s rights are violated.
The number of cases we’re taking on across the United States has been steadily increasing, particularly in the last few months. Our current caseload includes the following clients:
• A trans woman in the Southwest who is being denied access to the women’s restroom at work, even after she underwent extensive medical treatment for gender transition and changed the gender marker on all her identity documents.
• A 10 year old trans boy in the Midwest who was suspended from school for three weeks and subsequently kept segregated from all the other students after he told his classmates that he identifies as a boy.
• A trans person in California who was turned away from a medical clinic for breast surgery because, as the clinic wrote in an email, they “do not do transgender patients.”
• A trans woman in Nevada who was harassed by security guards at a Social Security office when she went in to change her name. They insisted on calling her “sir” and “he,” and when she complained, they detained her and kept her handcuffed outside in the cold until a police officer arrived and made them release her.
It’s a real privilege to be a part of the growing movement for transgender rights, working to transform the legal landscape to make sure that transgender people and people all along the gender spectrum are able to live freely and safely as their authentic selves. We’re grateful to all of our clients, volunteers, and pro bono partners who make this kind of progress possible.