Throughout this week, individuals and organizations around the country observe Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and to address the issues these communities face. As part of that effort, ACS has released a new Issue Brief, “The Transgender Tipping Point: An Overview for the Advocate,” in which Dr. Jillian T. Weiss surveys the laws affecting the transgender community and offers guidance to advocates who seek to expand the legal protections provided to transgender people.
There are approximately 700,000 transgender people in the United States, but until very recently they have been considered strangers to the law. For decades, courts consistently denied protections against discrimination for transgender people. It was not until 1989, in the case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, that the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that gender stereotyping constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. Since then, advocates have used laws prohibiting sex discrimination to protect people against discrimination based on transgender status, and courts have slowly become receptive to such cases.
More recently, cities, states and the federal government have begun to explicitly protect transgender people against discrimination in the areas of employment, education, housing, health care and marriage, among others. Laws that once prohibited discrimination based on sex, race or religion have been amended to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.