2012 was a huge year in trans rights. We won incredible new legal rights in the areas of employment discrimination, access to health care, housing discrimination, and access to accurate identity documents. Some of the most vulnerable segments of our community,including students, prisoners, and immigrants, have new legal protections. And trans people’s family relationships have more protection than ever before with the progress we’ve seen toward marriage equality across the country. Here are some of the highlights from 2012.

This post is an excerpt from our interactive, annual report! (.pdf)


Title VII.

The biggest development of the year was TLC’s victory in Macy v. Department of Justice. On April 20, 2012, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that transgender people are protected under the federal sex discrimination law, Title VII.

The EEOC issued this groundbreaking ruling in a case brought by Transgender Law Center on behalf of Mia Macy, a transgender woman who had worked for years asa detective in Phoenix, Arizona. She applied for a job with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, when she was still presenting as male. When Mia let them know that she was transitioning to female, the agency replied that funding for the position had been cut–even though Mia soon learned that someone else, with far less experience, had been hired instead. TLC helped her file a discrimination complaint that led to the EEOC’s groundbreaking ruling that transgender people have legal protection under federal law.

This decision is game-changing for trans people across the country, who now have access to legal protection when they face discrimi nation on the job. It’s especially important for trans people who live in the states that currently lack explicit laws barring discrimination based on gender identity or expression. As a result of this landmark ruling, transgender people anywhere who feel they have been discriminated against on the job can now file a gender identity discrimination complaint with their local EEOC office and have it investigated.


In June 2012 the U.S. Senate held a historic hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, the bill that would add explicit workplace protection for LGBT people into federal antidiscrimination law. That hearing, attended by TLC Legal Director Ilona Turner, was the first in Senate history to include testimony by a transgender person. Kylar Broadus, founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition, testified about the many challenges he has faced as a transgender man over the course of his career.


In 2012, we welcomed the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law that barred lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the U.S. military. The fight isn’t over, though! The repeal still left in place the discriminatory regulations that prohibit trans people from serving openly. Transgender Law Center is working with other advocates to strategize about how to finally bring an end to that official government discrimination.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which licenses pilots, used to require transgender pilots to take a battery of psychological tests, under the false and offensive assumption that being trans
made them unfit to fly. Thanks to advocacy by Transgender Law Center and our friends at the National Center for Transgender Equality, on behalf of our client Tamsyn Waterhouse, the FAA agreed in August 2012 to end its
requirement of extensive psychological testing for trans pilots.


Thanks to the tireless work of local activists around the country, states continue to enact laws that specifically prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression. In 2012, the
new Massachusetts nondiscrimination law went into effect, making that the 16th state to explicitly protect transgender employees from discrimination. In June 2013 Delaware became the 17th state to pass an inclusive nondiscrimination law.


Finding safe, affordable housing remains a significant problem for many transgender people. Transgender Law Center joined a number of other civil rights organizations in urging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take action to protect LGBT people from housing discrimination. In response, in 2012 HUD issued historic regulations that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in federally funded housing.


We all need accessto ID documents that reflect who we are. Thankfully, the increasing trend in state and federal laws is to let trans people change the gender marker on documents based on how they identify, rather than
requiring everyone to have undergone some specific medical procedure that may not be appropriate for or needed by all trans people. In 2011, California passed the Vital Statistics Modernization Act. That law, co-sponsored by Transgender Law Center, got rid of the former surgery requirement. Instead, trans people now just need to submit a doctor’s letter showing that they’ve undergone the right kind of treatment for them. That law took effect in January 2012, and already hundreds of trans people in California have been able to change their birth certificates using the new law, and we have begun providing technical assistance to leaders in other states to help update their laws and policies. In June 2013 the Social Security Administration adopted the same modern standard.


Legislatures are paying increased attention to bullying of LGBT youth in schools. As of the end of 2012, at least 12 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington—and the District of Columbia had enacted laws that explicitly protect trans and gender non-conforming students from harassment and discrimination at school. The federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, Title IX, has also been increasingly interpreted to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students from harassment and discrimination in schools. Transgender Law Center, in partnership with a broad coalition including Equality California, Gender Spectrum, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU, had a huge success in July 2013 when the California Legislature passed the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266). The bill was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown and will ensure all students can fully participate in all school activities and have access to facilities consistent with their gender identity.


In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice passed comprehensive regulations to implement the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. These historic regulations provide specific protections for transgender prisoners in prisons and jails across the country. The protections include requiring prisons to make decisions about where to house transgender people on a caseby-case basis, rather than deciding based on a person’s anatomy, and limiting the practice of keeping trans people in administrative segregation for their own “protection.” In September 2012, a federal court in Massachusetts ruled that the state prison system had violated the constitutional rights of a trans prisoner by refusing to provide her with medically necessary health care. The prison had denied her sex reassignment surgery (SRS) even after every single doctor to examine her had concluded it was essential for her health. This groundbreaking decision will have important ripple effects even for trans people who are not incarcerated, with its holding that denial of transition related care, including SRS, can constitute a human
rights violation.