The past few legislative sessions, and the increasing interest in transgender issues in the media, have made Marisa Richmond a more familiar figure in the news cycle, and on the political scene. When a new bill targeting transgender citizens’ rights is filed, or a legislator makes a transphobic comment, or President Obama announces new guidelines, Richmond is one of the go-to spokespersons for the community.

But Marisa Richmond has been one of the leading figures in transgender rights for almost twenty-five years. Back in 1992, she returned from Washington D.C., where she had worked with the Transgender Education Association (TGEA) and was a co-founder of Crossroads, a transgender support group. Shortly after arriving back in Nashville, Richmond helped found TVals, a non-political, educational, and social support group for transgender people in Middle Tennessee.

Since then, Richmond has been tireless in working to make our region a safer space for transgender citizens, not only through support groups but through political activism. Most notably, Richmond has served as an officer of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), and is currently the organization’s lobbyist.

This year, Richmond and the TTPC had a difficult fight in the legislature. “This year may have been the toughest in the history of TTPC,” Richmond said.  “We entered the legislative session focused on stopping the Bathroom Harassment and School Voucher bills.  Both were extremely tough battles, but we were part of broad coalitions in both areas.” Overall, the outcome of those fights was favorable.

“Of course, we also found ourselves fighting back against the Counseling Discrimination bill, which, sad to say, was passed and signed into Iaw, and against the defunding of the UTK Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which was based, in part, on their recommendation to use gender neutral pronouns when asked by a student, staff member, or faculty. Unfortunately,” Richmond added, “our desire to repeal the ban on gender changes on birth certificates was forced to languish because of all those negative battles.”

In the aftermath of these battles, however, came some good news. Richmond became the first transgender person in Tennessee to be appointed to a local government board or commission, when Nashville Mayor Megan Barry tapped her to serve on the Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission.

Richmond was honored by the nomination. “This nomination by Mayor Barry comes at a special time with all of the attacks on the humanity and dignity of trans people in Tennessee and across this nation,” Richmond said.  “This shows how far we have progressed, at least in Nashville, that we can now have seats at the table where major policy decisions are made and implemented.  It is especially important for young trans people, who were the targets of the Bathroom Harassment bill, to know that they can aspire to community leadership.”

At the national level, Richmond was honored with the Julie Johnson Founders Award by the National Center for Transgender Equality’s (NCTE) 13th Annual Celebration. The award, Richmond said, “is named for a benefactor of NCTE.  Julie was a retired businesswoman from Chicago.  I had the honor of serving on the Board of the International Foundation for Gender Education over 10 years ago, so it is a special honor to be receiving this award named for her.  I also served on the Board of NCTE for 6 years, so it is a special thrill to be recognized by my former colleagues there.”

In a year of hard-fought battles, we congratulate one of our local heroes as she receives these well-deserved honors!





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