Transgender community thriving, gains political maturity

by Marisa Richmond, Ph.D.

Increased political awareness and activism by the Transgender community continues to manifest. The month of May features three major events stemming from this growing political maturity.

The first is the Trans Politics, Social Change and Justice Conference sponsored by the Center for Lesbian And Gay Studies at the City University of New York. The head of the organizing committee is Dr. Paisley Currah, a Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the Director of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute in New York . The conference features three plenary sessions and 30 workshops on various aspects of political activism. In addition, the conference emphasizes the diversity within the Transgender community. Dr. Currah feels that it is important that trans youth, as well as people of color, be represented on both the organizing committee and the program itself.

The conference will take place in Manhattan on May 6 and 7.

Shortly after that, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) will be holding its annual Congressional Lobby Days May 18 through 20.

The first national Congressional Transgender Lobby Day took place in 1995 for language inclusive of gender identity in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). It was organized by attorney Phyllis Frye of Houston , then director of the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy (ICTLEP). Subsequent Lobby Days have been organized by NTAC, which was formed in 1999 to be a political voice for the Transgender community.

In 2004, the 29 lobbyists from Massachusetts to California came together through NTAC in Washington to educate members of Congress and their staff about the Transgender community, and to win support for Transgender inclusion in both ENDA and the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA). Lobbyists visited 81 Senate offices and 236 House offices. The success of the 2004 Lobby Days has been credited by many Trans activists for the recent policy change by the Human Rights Campaign to support only legislation that covers the entire GLBT community.

The Lobby Days begins with a Plenary Training Session on Wednesday, May 18, on the campus of George Washington University . Lobbyists will be visiting Congressional offices, with prearranged meetings, on May 19 and 20.

More and more state organizations, such as the Tennessee Transgender Political Action Committee, are part of this expanded effort. Earlier this year, the Illinois Gender Advocates played an important role in ensuring that the non-discrimination law passed in Illinois was fully inclusive. In March, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) even sponsored its first Congressional Lobby Day, and according to Mara Keisling and Caeden Dempsey, both of NCTE, it was a resounding success. In late March, the state of Maine became only the sixth state to pass a fully inclusive non-discrimination law.

Many Trans activists credit this success to the increased awareness of the need for such laws around the country, even in states where there is no Trans focused political organization.

The Board of NTAC scheduled this year's Lobby Days to coincide with the Second Annual March to the Wall sponsored by the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA). Led by Monica Helms of Georgia and Angela Brightfeather of North Carolina , TAVA brings transgender veterans together to advocate fairness and equality from both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Last year's March included a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima statute and an emotional wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Second Annual March to the Wall will take place on Saturday, May 21, and will be followed by a banquet that evening. Transportation is provided for those who need assistance.

In 2004, TAVA March participants were accompanied by Sgt. Brett Parson of the

Gay & Lesbian Liasion Unit (GLLU) of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia . The GLLU was established in June 2000 and is composed of openly gay and lesbian members of the department. The mission of the GLLU is to improve relations between the D.C. Police and the GLBT community.

For more information about the Trans Politics, Social Change and Justice Conference, contact Dr. Paisley Currah at

For more information about NTAC and the Congressional Lobby Days, contact or visit

For more information about TAVA and the Second Annual March to the Wall, visit

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