Across the nation, Transgender Law Center is leading change alongside our community and clients to end employment discrimination, combat harmful laws and policies, build support for transgender equality through public education, end gender-based violence, and more.
With your donation, you can help us in leading this critical change. Our generous donors Rabbi Ruth Adar & Linda Burnett alongside Sasha Aickin & Jason Tester have joined us in this cause – challenging you and our entire community of donors to match their combined support of $40,000 by December 31. Won’t you join them with your year-end gift to ensure TLC has the resources necessary to continue our work in the year ahead?
Throughout 2015 individual donors have helped Transgender Law Center defend our community against employment discrimination. Through TLC’s impact litigation, taking on huge employers like the U.S. Army and Barnes & Noble, our clients are helping to lead change by ensuring equality in the workplace for TGNC people and protect our livelihoods in CA and beyond.
Our track of record of impact litigation has established historic protections against employment discrimination under federal law and expanded definitions of discrimination to protect transgender and gender non-conforming employees. We’re not done yet…
In May 2015, Transgender Law Center, Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP, and the Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver filed suit against Barnes & Noble, Inc. for its discriminatory treatment of a transgender employee, Victoria Ramirez. When Ms. Ramirez, who worked for six years at two Barnes & Noble stores in Orange County, California, informed management that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female, the company responded by prohibiting her from working as a woman and then firing her when she protested.
In response to our press release about the lawsuit, Transgender Law Center received a statement from Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating, which they requested we post to our website. The full statement did not address Ms. Ramirez’s complaint but focused instead on the company’s “perfect score” on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.
Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, issued the following response to the Barnes & Noble statement: “Barnes & Noble’s commitment to their public image as a supporter of LGBTQ equality makes their discriminatory treatment of Ms. Ramirez away from the spotlight all the more troubling. Ms. Ramirez was essentially barred from transitioning at work and prior to her transition was harassed for expressing femininity because, she was told, Barnes & Noble is a ‘family store’ and she should ‘think of the children.’ Ultimately, she was fired. No public statement or HRC rating can erase the humiliation and emotional and financial devastation Ms. Ramirez suffered as a result of Barnes & Noble’s actions.”
A disabled veteran, Tamara transitioned on the job at a U.S. Army facility in Alabama. With a smirk, her supervisor continued to call Tamara “sir” and “he” – intentionally and insidiously mis-gendering and calling her by her birth name. Tamara was denied access to the same restroom used by all other female employees and suffered reprimand from her supervisor for using the women’s restroom when the single-user restroom was out of order. In partnership with Transgender Law Center, Tamara fought back.
Based on a landmark TLC victory from 2012, Macy v. Holder – which held that discrimination based on gender identity was unlawful under Title VII – Transgender Law Center secured another groundbreaking ruling for Tamara and our community.
In a landmark ruling issued on April 1, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that some of the most common forms of harassment faced by transgender employees constitute unlawful discrimination under Title VII, the federal sex discrimination law. The decision found that the Department of the Army discriminated against Tamara Lusardi, a transgender employee who transitioned from male to female on the job, by barring her from using the same restroom as all other female employees, and by her supervisors’ continued intentional use of male names and pronouns in referring to Ms. Lusardi after her transition. Transgender Law Center represented Ms. Lusardi with the pro bono assistance of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein.
“I hope my case and this decision will help other transgender people feel safe enough to bring their full authentic selves to work… I am so grateful to Transgender Law Center that justice is finally being served” said Tamara.
Yesterday we celebrated an unsuccessful signature-gathering effort that attempted to qualify an anti-transgender initiative for CA’s 2016 ballot. “Privacy for All”, the group behind the failed measure, is backed by the right-wing, Pacific Justice Institute and other supporters of Proposition 8. Their proposed CA law would’ve required folks to prove their gender before using a restroom and provide cash rewards for reporting people who don’t comply with gender stereotypes.
I hope you’ll join us in celebration of our victory yesterday with a year-end donation to Transgender Law Center. In that way, you can also help provide the resources that will allow us to continue leading change in the year ahead.
Alongside coalition partners, we will move forward with a public education campaign in California to protect our legal victories, prevent bad laws, and inoculate the public against negative media portrayals of trans and gender nonconforming people.
The truth is, despite our recent victory, the opposition won’t back down. Some of the same groups behind “Privacy for All” effectively rolled back Houston’s municipal anti-discrimination ordinance earlier this year using transgender people as a wedge. HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) protected large swaths of people based on their sexual orientation, race, disability status, veteran status, and gender identity. HERO was tragically defeated.
This is the type of garbage-media the opposition peddled in Houston, TX – that we successfully avoided in CA.
We’re seeing this increasingly. Anti-trans legislation proliferated around the U.S. throughout 2015 in other states like Florida, Kentucky, and Minnesota. And Transgender Law Center has been in the fray in these states – supporting communities and advocates on the ground with the tools necessary to fight back the tide of oppression.
We’re doing everything we can to empower courageous activists who are leading change to achieve safety for our entire community from coast to coast. Transgender Law Center remains vigilant. And, I hope you’ll continue leading change alongside us in the long-haul fight for our lives and liberties with your year-end donation today.
“I worried what the larger society would do to my child.” Dr. Louis Porter, II shared about his 17 year old son, “The name change to one that is unique and non-gendered – Zeam – and getting accustomed to new pronouns were challenges, but small matters. Later, as we learned what being transgender and Black in the United States meant, we feared for our child’s welfare and very life with a parental tug so strong it hurt.”
We can’t argue with Louis’s parental instincts. A majority of the 22 transgender community members murdered this year are predominately transgender women of color. Beyond racial identities, 78% of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) youth experience harassment at school while 31% report harassment from teachers and 35% report physical assault at school. “We really worried how our beloved only child would be treated,” said Louis.
With participation from Zeam, Louis, and Ea (Zeam’s supportive mom), this year Transgender Law Center launched a storytelling campaign called TRUTH for TGNC youth, families, and allies. Our research shows that young people and supportive families, through storytelling, have the power to shift public opinion – to protect our legal victories, prevent bad laws, and inoculate the public against negative media portrayals of TGNC people. Courageous TRUTH families, in this way, are leading change and advancing equality and safety for our entire community from coast to coast.
TRUTH is crucial in a media landscape that often misrepresents trans people, demonizes our bodies, and leads to the criminalization of our access to public spaces. “One of the scariest moments for me as a father was seeing hate directed with full force at my child by adults in the community when Zeam testified on behalf of transgender athletes before our state’s High School League,” explained Louis.
Residing in the Twin Cities, MN area, Zeam’s family was impacted by the volatile response to Minnesota High School League’s policy that protects transgender student-athletes. Dangerous anti-trans attack-ads like this one filled the pages of major print publications with hefty readerships. This type of media engenders a culture of anti-trans violence and contributes to low self-esteem, hostile environments at school, and high suicide rates for TGNC youth. That’s why it is imperative to provide narratives, like those TRUTH amplifies, that are proven to move the general public to a place of support for transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Beyond MN, anti-trans legislation proliferated around the U.S. throughout 2015 in states like Kentucky and Louisiana. Even in California, an insidious ballot initiative was proposed by opponents of equality including the Pacific Justice Institute, that would require folks to prove their gender before using a restroom and provide cash rewards for reporting people who don’t comply with gender stereotypes. In each of these states TRUTH families aren’t backing down – neither is Transgender Law Center.
With support from Transgender Law Center, in CA, KY, LA, and MN, youth and parents shared their TRUTH stories to change hearts and minds. And in the first week following the launch of TRUTH this August, TRUTH videos garnered over 30,000 views.
“Fortunately, there is support at all levels, from national organizations that help transgender people and their families to the people at our church who know our family and would support us no matter what,” said Louis.
At this moment, I’m hoping you’ll consider digging deep. Without families like the Porters and supporters like you, we would not be able to win lawsuits, shift policies, and change societal attitudes to make the world a more just and safe place. As families take on visibility to advance this vision in a volatile and highly politicized environment, Louis asks “How do we face our own fear?”
The answer from Louis and Ea – “Zeam is our inspiration. Our child knows all too well the risks of living an authentic life, but would not have it any other way.” Transgender Law Center also wouldn’t have it any other way – we are here so that Zeam and our entire community can live authentically, safely, and free from discrimination.
To help us, won’t you make your year-end donation today?
As part of TRUTH, Dr. Louis Porter, II wrote an Op-Ed published in the Washington Post which reached an estimated 500,000 readers on September 2, 2015.
Individual donors have supported Transgender Law Center’s launch of Positively Trans (T+), which is developing an advocacy plan to address structural issues driving the HIV epidemic in trans communities and particularly among transgender women of color whose risk of contraction is 49 times higher than the general population. Informed and led by those most impacted, we are crafting solutions ranging from increased healthcare access to storytelling to leadership development.
Starting on World AIDS Day, TLC is proud to offer a preview of the findings from our Positively Trans needs assessment, a survey developed by and devoted to lifting up trans and gender nonconforming people living with HIV and AIDS.
The data from the needs assessment tell a story much richer than the headlines we’re so used to hearing. We know that TGNC communities experience four times the prevalence of HIV and that trans women of color are the most vulnerable group, with 1 in 2 black trans women and 1 in 5 translatinas living with HIV. We wanted to find out more: what are people’s experiences not just in health care, but in many critical areas of daily life – employment, housing, incarceration, family and relationships, law enforcement interactions, and more?
Based on conversations with our National Advisory Board in March, we developed a survey and, this summer, collected responses in English and Spanish from TGNC people living with HIV in the U.S. We’re proud and grateful that more than 400 people attempted the survey, and our final analytical sample includes data from 157 complete responses. Responses came from 35 states and Puerto Rico, with a majority of responses coming from trans people of color, and primarily trans women of color.
The results paint a complex picture of trans and gender nonconforming people living with HIV in the United States.
Among the findings included in our final analysis, 43% of our sample makes less than $12,000 each year, and an additional 22% make between $12,000 and $23,000.
Yet, most respondents described their health as “good” or better, and the vast majority of respondents reported fully suppressed viral loads. These findings demonstrate the resilience of so many in our community who face unfavorable conditions.
Fully 41% of people in our sample have been incarcerated in their lifetimes. This is a statistic we need to pay attention to, especially with the rise of HIV criminalization and stories like that of Michael Johnson. When we asked respondents to share their top legal priorities, HIV-related discrimination topped the list.
The statistics and graphs we’re releasing today only scratch the surface of our findings. Over the next year, we’ll publish more in-depth analysis on specific issues, as well as breakdowns by race and geography. In addition, we are collaborating with StoryCenter to pair the data with the stories and experiences of real people leading this work across the country.
Too often, the few resources devoted to supporting trans people living with HIV are limited to prevention and treatment programs, which, while of course important, are unable to address the root causes of high HIV prevalence and poor health outcomes in our communities. By addressing the social factors that shape trans people’s experiences, we hope our findings will reveal a more complex picture that will convince policymakers of the urgent need to address these social factors, so that the conditions shaping our communities’ livelihoods shift enough to give every TGNC person living with or at risk for HIV the opportunity to live a happy, healthy life free from violence.
Our data show that that day is still a long way off, but also point to a path forward. We would like to honor our community by supporting a policy agenda that aligns with their priorities – health and legal literacy, economic empowerment, and alternatives to incarceration. Stay tuned for the full research report, featuring recommendations and solutions, on December 10th, Human Rights Day!
Individual donors are helping to lead change with their investments in TLC@SONG – to bring urgently needed support to southern LGBT communities facing daily gender-based discrimination and violence. This year we opened an office in Atlanta, Georgia and hired our first Atlanta-based staff – Southern Regional Staff Attorney, Asa King – to support TLC@SONG. Our new partnership with Southerners on New Ground pairs TLC’s legal and policy advocacy expertise with SONG’s organizing and base-building prowess.
“I’m excited to be a part of TLC’s collaboration with SONG, a grassroots organization with a rich history of fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people in the South,” Asa says. “This collaboration will provide greater access to much needed legal advocacy and services to trans people living in the South.”
Asa is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, and joins the TLC staff after working as a criminal defense attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina for nearly 3 years. Asa began their legal career at the Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina. They also worked in state court as an Assistant Public Defender with the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent youth and adults charged with criminal offenses and served on the North Carolina Public Defender Association Committee on Racial Equity. They earned their law degree at American University Washington College of Law, where they served as Managing Editor of the American University Criminal Law Brief and worked as a Dean Fellow with the Project on Addressing Prison Rape. Prior to law school, Asa organized in the prison abolitionist and anti-police brutality movements with Critical Resistance.