Trystan Reese, the Academy for Leadership and Action

Transgender Issues

Transgender people and issues are core to our work at the Task Force. We are proud of our history as one of the first national LGBT organizations to include transgender people in our mission, starting in 1997.

At the Task Force, we recognize that transgender people, like all LGBT people, are diverse, coming from many different racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds and ranging in age and ability just like the rest of society.

In 2011, in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality, we released Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey . It was the first study to offer a national picture of the extensive experiences of discrimination that transgender people face.

One of the most important findings was that, due to the combined effects of racism and transphobia, transgender people of color experienced particularly high levels of discrimination and violence, which we have documented in break-out publications on Black and Latino/a respondents.

Staff from the Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality following
the press conference after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was
introduced in the U.S. House on June 24, 2009.

There are many ways discrimination manifests in the lives of transgender people; the following are some of the issues we focus on:


Discrimination takes place in the lives of transgender people in a range of contexts, including in education; employment; housing; and public accommodations, such as public transit and retail establishments. Though incidents vary, the overwhelming national picture is clear. For example, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey shows 90% of transgender people have experienced employment discrimination or have hid who they are in order to avoid it, 78% of those who were out at school reported bullying, and 53% reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation. The Task Force has worked to pass transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws and policies at the local, state, and federal level for over a decade through our work on in on-the-ground organizing by the Academy for Leadership and Action and through the Transgender Civil Rights Project, which produces the following fact sheets on non-discrimination:

Health Care

Health care is a crucial issue we work on from multiple angles. First, discrimination takes place in medical settings which leads to poor health outcomes for many people over the course of their lives. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 19% of people had been refused medical care simply because of their gender identity/expression and 28% had been harassed in a doctor’s office or hospital. This leads many to avoid seeking needed care when sick or injured. Second, transgender people too often are denied access to transition-related care by insurance companies or other health systems, whether they seek counseling, hormone therapy, surgeries, or other procedures. This limits the accessibility of often life-saving forms of care. Whether the care is related to transition or not, providers’ lack of transgender-related medical knowledge too often means that transgender people often cannot get competent care. Finally, we have advocated for the reform of gender-related diagnoses in the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, known as the DSM.

Police and Jails

Transgender people are regularly mistreated by police and profiled for unfair arrest simply because of their gender identity/expression. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 22% of transgender people who interacted with police reported harassment, 6% reported physical assault, and 2% were sexually assaulted by officers. In jails and prisons, the grave human rights abuses continue, with staff perpetrating physical and sexual abuse, failing to appropriately house transgender people according to their gender identity and safety needs, and denying needed medical care. Transgender people of color, like all people of color, experience particularly high levels of abuse from police and in jails and prison.

Identity Documents

Identity documents are essential to basic social and economic life in our country. Access to employment, housing, health care and travel can all hinge on having appropriate and consistent documents. Yet, for many transgender people, obtaining identity documents that match their name and gender is a major hurdle. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, only one-fifth (21%) of transgender respondents were able to update all of their IDs and records and one-third (33%) had updated none. Study participants also confirmed anecdotal evidence that inaccurate identification exposed people to a range of hostile outcomes, including denial of service, harassment, and even violence. The Task Force works to eliminate legal and bureaucratic barriers to amending identity documents, including policies that require proof of surgery because many people are unable to afford this particular treatment or it is not wanted.


is a serious problem, with 19% of transgender people experiencing homelessness during their life because they are transgender. Homeless shelters often discriminate by refusing access to shelter (29%). At shelters, people often experience harassment by staff and residents (55%), as well as sexual assault (22%). With the National Coalition for the Homeless, the Task Force provided a guide for homeless shelters, Transitioning Our Shelter: A Guide to Making Homeless Shelters Safe for Transgender People.

Each programmatic department of the Task Force includes transgender people and issues as a priority in our work. This includes the research conducted in the Policy Institute, political organizing work on transgender non-discrimination ballot measure campaigns conducted by the Academy for Leadership and Action, trans-specific work within federal agencies taken up by the New Beginning Initiative, and trans-inclusive faith work in the Institute for Welcoming Resources. All of these focus areas work in collaboration with the Transgender Civil Rights Project, our program specifically dedicated to advancing the civil rights of transgender people.

In addition, the Task Force has worked to make a stronger transgender rights and transgender-inclusive LGBT rights movements by conducting transgender-specific leadership training and trans ally training for local organizations. To this end, we have also published the guides Opening the Door to the Inclusion of Transgender People: The Nine Keys to Making LGBT Organizations Fully Transgender-Inclusive, and Transgender Equality: A Handbook for Activists and Policymakers to help all LGBT organizations become fully inclusive in their missions and work.