Discrimination Against Transgender People

Discrimination Against Transgender People

The ACLU champions the rights of transgender people to live their lives freely and with respect. We fight for protections against discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations (including schools), and health care. We also challenge obstacles to people obtaining government identity documents respectful of their gender identity, as well as barriers to transgender parents seeking continuing relationships with their children.

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Many Americans have a profound lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender.  Consequently, transgender people commonly face a wide variety of discriminatory barriers to full equality.  Transgender people sometimes face difficulties meeting their basic needs (getting a job, housing, or health care) or in having their gender identity respected (like in the simple act of going to a public restroom).

Much of the discrimination transgender people face mirrors that experienced by lesbian, gay and bisexual people, but is often more severe.  Additionally, transgender people face a range of legal issues that LGB people rarely do:  identity documents not reflective of one’s gender, sex-segregated public restrooms and other facilities, dress codes that perpetuate traditional gender norms, and barriers to access to appropriate health care.

The ACLU fights to eradicate discrimination against transgender people because it is so pervasive and harmful.  Moreover, we believe that the struggles against anti-LGB and anti-transgender discrimination are best waged collaboratively.  Much of the discrimination faced by transgender people comes from the same place as does anti-gay discrimination:  LGBT people challenge society’s norms on how men or women “should” act (in their gender expression and in the relationships they form).  Truly eliminating LGBT discrimination depends on eradicating gender stereotypes, and fighting gender identity discrimination does that directly.

Additional Resources

Ban on Transgender Military Service: (2014 resource) Current U.S. Department of Defense regulations ban transgender people from military service. For decades, transgender men and women have been barred from openly serving in the military, despite the fact that recent studies show that about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military. Through public education, advocacy, and -- if necessary -- litigation, the ACLU is committed to eliminating this outdated, unfair and discriminatory ban.

Protecting the Rights of Transgender Parents and their Children: A Guide for Parents and Lawyers: (2013 guide) This guide, a joint publication of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Transgender Equality, provides information to transgender parents and their attorneys to help them protect parent-child relationships and assist them when faced with disputes over child custody issues.

Know Your Rights: A Guide for Trans and Gender Nonconforming Students: (2012 guide) This guide from the ACLU and our colleagues at the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network provides information for trans and gender nonconforming students about their rights at school regarding harassment, dress code, dates for prom and other formal dances, and more.

ACLU Challenges Unconstitutional Illinois Requirements For Correcting Transgender Birth Certificates (2011 press release) 

Transgender Rights: Illinois Birth Certificates (2009 video): Victoria Kirk and Karissa Rothkopf are plaintiffs in a lawsuit the ACLU filed to change a provision of Illinois law that makes it difficult for transsexual individuals to change the gender markers on that state's birth certificates. Both plaintiffs were born in Illinois but, because they chose to have their gender confirmation surgeries performed by doctors outside of the U.S., the state has refused to change the gender markers on their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity.

Grey v Arnold (2011 Video): Lauren Grey, Victor Williams, and Nicholas Guarino are plaintiffs in a lawsuit the ACLU filed to change a provision of Illinois law that makes it difficult for many transsexual individuals to change the gender markers on their birth certificates. All three plaintiffs were born in Illinois and had some form of gender confirmation surgery, but the state has refused to change the gender markers on their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity because they have not undergone the specific surgery required by the state. 

Alaska Requirements for Correcting Transgender Driver’s Licenses are Unconstitutional, Says ACLU (2011 press release) 

Handy Tips for Transgender Travelers (2010 blog post)

A Landmark Decision on Job Rights for Transgender Federal Employee

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Know Your Rights - Transgender People and the Law (2013 resource)

Schroer v. Library of Congress - Case Profile

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