The movement for full LGBT equality has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride lately: the military's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, marriage equality in New York, and the inclusive federal hate crimes law “Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” are some of the highlights.

Some of the lowlights include: Proposition 8, the California law that overturned gay marriage in that state; DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), although it’s power has been weakened somewhat by President Obama's refusal to defend it.

Political results in Tennessee have also been a mixed bag: CANDO (Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance), an ordinance by metro Nashville to extend equality in the workplace to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; “No CANDO”, the state level response to cities and counties who dared to codify a willingness to extend equality to those who may be different; “Don’t Say Gay”, the law that got Tennessee a lot of attention on a national scale.

The struggle for equality in Tennessee has been championed by many individuals and organizations, few as dedicated as the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. The organization was formed in 2003 after many members of transgender community felt they were simply being left out of the discussion.

Marisa Richmond and several other community members developed the TTPC to help address the needs of transgendered people across the state. Their mission, then and now, remains the same: to educate, to advocate for non-discriminatory ordinances inclusive of all LGBT community members, and to fight for equal rights for the transgender community.

 “We are committed to equal rights for all, without leaving anyone behind," says Richmond.

TTPC has lobbied for and been instrumental in several high-profile moments for LGBT equality: the Federal Hate Crimes Law (October 2009) passed inclusively for LGBT individuals—four of the votes in favor of the law were from our representatives here in Tennessee; the CANDO ordinance in Nashville; and the changing of policy in places such as FedEx and Vanderbilt University to include non-discrimination of employees based on gender identity or expression.

The future for TTPC includes the fight to pass ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination) on the federal level and working to pass legislation allowing transgendered citizens born in Tennessee to change their birth certificate. The organization has also signed on as a co-plaintiff in Howe v. Haslam to defend the right of local governments to adopt non-discrimination legislation.

If it sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Volunteers are always welcome, and any students looking for an internship are encouraged to apply. Other ways to help include donations or a membership purchase ($25 for a one year membership).

TTPC will also be hosting a fundraising dinner at Holy Trinity Community Church Saturday, Oct. 22 beginning at 6 p.m. The keynote speaker this year will be Beverly Marrero, State Senator (D-Memphis).

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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