Transgender people seek openness, acceptance, civil rights

The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that between one-quarter of 1 percent and 1 percent of the U.S. population is transgender – their gender identity or expression differs from the biological features they were born with. That’s 750,000 to 3 million people in the United States.

Lately, though, more of them are going public about changing gender, or their desire to do so. And at the same time, they are pushing for greater acceptance and legal rights. That’s led to controversial legislation, court cases and corporate policies, as well as parenting dilemmas, which emerge as children question or defy gender roles at earlier ages.


Transgender issues have become more prominent in many arenas:

Pop culture: Movies such as TransAmerica and the fact-based Boys Don’t Cry and the introduction of a transgender character on the soap opera All My Children in 2006 have increased awareness of transgender people.

Schools: Transgender students force schools to confront a range of issues, such as bathrooms, locker rooms and bullying. One transgender student was named prom queen in 2009 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Parenting: More parents are allowing their children to choose which gender to identify with. Doctors used to routinely advise parents to choose the gender of children whose biological features were not definitive.

Discrimination: One transgendered woman’s story of hate brought the public’s attention back to job discrimination based on gender. Mia Macy, a California transgender person, was denied a job she was qualified for due to her gender differences. On April 24, 2012 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on behalf of Mia Macy, ruled that discrimination based on gender is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Sports: More than half a dozen states across the U.S. have implemented rules that allow transgender students to compete in sports that correspond to their gender identities instead of sexes. Read one student’s story posted in the New York Times on May 6, 2013.

Why it matters

Attitudes toward gender roles and sexual orientation are often rooted in religious teachings and scripture.



Legislation and litigation

International sources

National sources

Academic centers

  • Michael D. Palm Center

    Michael D. Palm Center (formerly Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military) at University of California, Santa Barbara is a research institute that works to educate and provide resources concerning modern issues, such as gender and sexuality.

Advocacy organizations

Opponents of transgender rights

  • Mark Tooley

    Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a faith-based organization that tracks how Christian denominations respond to issues such as religious liberty, LGBT rights and immigration and often advocates for a more conservative approach.

  • Lou Sheldon

    Lou Sheldon is chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative group that wants a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, ban same-sex unions and ban gays from receiving benefits of any such unions.

    Contact: 202-547-8570.
  • Randy Thomasson

    Randy Thomasson is founder and president of, formerly titled Campaign for Children and Families. It is an extremely anti-gay group.

    Contact: 877-405-4005.
  • Christian Legal Society

    The Christian Legal Society is a nonprofit Christian organization headquartered in Virginia that consists of lawyers, judges, law professors and law students. Its members are bound to follow the “commandment of Jesus” and to “seek justice with the love of God.”

  • Rick Scarborough

    Rick Scarborough is founder and head of Vision America, based in Lufkin, Texas, which encourages pastors and congregations to promote Judeo-Christian values in local, state and national issues. He favors overturning tolerance policies in public schools that require acceptance and protection of gays and lesbians. He wrote Liberalism Kills Kids (21st Century Press, 2006).

  • Mathew D. Staver

    Mathew D. Staver is founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, a civil liberties education and legal defense organization in Orlando, Fla., that focuses on freedom of speech and religious freedom.

  • Linda Harvey

    Linda Harvey of Columbus, Ohio, is founder and president of Mission:America, which opposes homosexuality and is concerned about its promotion in public schools.

  • Regina Griggs

    Regina Griggs is executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), which has worked for public schools to include educational material about ex-gays in programs that encompass sexual orientation.

  • Alan Sears

    Alan Sears is president, CEO and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance based in Scottsdale, Ariz., whose focus is defending religious liberty. The ADF sponsors the Day of Dialogue in schools around the country to “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.” It also supported the legislation that would have allowed Arizona business owners to deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

    Contact: 480-444-0020.

Supporters of transgender rights: organizations

Supporters of transgender rights: clergy

  • Erin Swenson

    Erin Swenson, a who lives in the Atlanta area and was ordained in 1973 as Eric Karl Swenson by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in 1996 openly changed gender while working as a pastor. She is a licensed marriage therapist in Atlanta, Ga., where she works with individuals and families on gender identity issues.

  • Drew Phoenix

    The Rev. Drew Phoenix, who underwent sex-change surgery and changed his name from Anne Gordon, is executive director of Identity Inc., an LGBT advocacy group in Anchorage, Alaska.

  • Julie Nemecek

    Julie Nemecek, as the Rev. John Nemecek, was a Baptist minister and longtime professor at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Mich. The school fired her in December 2006 after she had come out as transgender. She filed a discrimination claim that was later settled, and is now founder and head of a consulting company on workplace diversity issues.

Transgender sources

  • Jennifer Finney Boylan

    Jennifer Finney Boylan, formerly James Boylan, is a fiction and nonfiction author and an English professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She wrote the best-selling memoir She’s Not There.

  • Margaret Stumpp

    Margaret Stumpp, formerly Mark Stumpp, is chief investment officer with Quantitative Management Associates, an investment subsidiary of Prudential Financial in Newark, N.J.

  • Terri O’Connell

    Terri O’Connell was a racing champion as James Terrell Hayes before having sex-change surgery in 1992.

  • Renee Richards

    Renee Richards, the physician and tennis player who was born Richard Raskind, wrote the 2007 book No Way, Renee: The Second Half of My Notorious Life. She lives in New York state. Contact through Simon & Schuster publicity.

    Contact: 212-698-7541.
  • Michelle Prevost

    Michelle Prevost, who in the late 1990s transitioned from being a man to a woman, directed the documentary Trained in the Ways of Men, about the murder of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo. See her website.

  • Lucas Silveira

    Lucas Silveira, formerly Lilia Silveira, is the lead singer of the rock band The Cliks. He underwent sex-change surgery in 2006. Contact his manager,  Joy Collingbourne.

Transgender publications and websites

  • Susan’s Place

    Susan’s Place is an website created by Susan Larson to provide resources for and about transgendered people.

  • GenderLife for Transsexual Women

    GenderLife for Transsexual Women is an organization that provides support and resources for transgendered women.

  • Tglife online magazine

    Tglife online magazine is an organization founded by Brianna Austin to provide an open forum for transgendered people online. Contact through the website.

  • Transgender Spirituality

    Transgender Spirituality is a WebRing website designed to provide a forum for transgendered or transsexual people to share their views of religion and spirituality.

Regional sources

In the Northeast

In the South

In the Midwest

In the West

  • Geoffrey Kors

    Geoffrey Kors is senior legislative and policy strategist for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and former executive director of Equality California, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Californians.

  • Pam Bennett

    Pam Bennett, who until 2002 was Bruce Dennis Bennett, is running in the 2007 City Council election in Aurora, Colo.

    Contact: 303-557-5361.
  • Wingspan

    Wingspan is a community center in Tucson that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in southern Arizona.


  • Jonathan K. Weedman

    Jonathan K. Weedman is program director at the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center in Portland, Ore. He is skilled in multiple forms of counseling strategies including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Motivational Interviewing.


  • Transgender Law Center

    The San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center works statewide on behalf of transgender civil rights. Contact Carisa Cunningham.

  • L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

    The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center in March 2007 started a transgender job placement program.

  • Karen Lebacqz

    Karen Lebacqz is professor of theological ethics at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. She co-authored the book Sex in the Parish.

Related source guides