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social sciences

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Transgender Issues in the Law  
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Despite the constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment, transsexuals who are imprisoned have often been denied access to hormones, even if they are already taking them, and gender reassignment/confirmation surgery. However, in the last few years, several courts have recognized that hormone therapy can be a serious medical need for someone who is transsexual and required prison officials to allow for prescribed hormonal treatments.

Transsexual inmates also face a tremendous risk of physical and sexual violence from guards and other prisoners. In most instances, transsexuals who have not undergone genital surgery are housed with prisoners of their birth sex, which places male-to-female transsexuals, in particular, in grave danger of assault.

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Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has largely absolved prison authorities of responsibility for the protection of transsexuals who are incarcerated. In Farmer v. Brennan (1994), the justices ruled that prison officials are not liable for violence against a transsexual prisoner unless they have "actual subjective knowledge" that the transsexual inmate is at risk and deliberately fail to intervene.


Junior high and high schools rarely provide a welcoming environment for students who identify as transgender or who are perceived as gender different. Yet, principals, school boards, and state officials have largely ignored the hostile atmosphere for trans youth. As of 2006, only California, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington have laws that ban harassment against students in public schools based on their gender identity or expression.

Many colleges and universities were likewise initially slow to respond to the needs of transgender students. A rapidly growing number of schools, though, are now seeking to protect the rights of transgender students through adding "gender identity or expression" to their campus nondiscrimination policies. In the decade since the University of Iowa became the first institution to amend its policy to include gender identity in 1996, more than 70 colleges and college systems have adopted trans-inclusive nondiscrimination statements, including the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University, and all but one Ivy League school.

Hate Crimes

For more than a decade, approximately one person a month has reportedly been murdered in the United States because of their perceived gender identity or expression. Yet transgender people are rarely covered by hate crimes legislation.

While 46 states have hate crimes laws, only ten states include enhanced penalties for crimes committed because of perceived gender identity or expression: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.


There is no denying that significant progress has been made in the struggle for transgender rights, especially in the last decade. Many courts and legislatures no longer dismiss transgender people and their claims of discrimination as ludicrous. But simply being taken seriously does not mean that transpeople regularly receive just and fair treatment. Even a modicum of equality still often remains elusive.

Brett Genny Beemyn

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social sciences >> Overview:  Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes are crimes towards persons or groups motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

social sciences >> Overview:  Intersexuality

Intersexuality (formerly referred to as hermaphroditism) is a congenital anomaly in which an individual's external genitalia or internal reproductive systems fall outside the norms for either male or female bodies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender

"Transgender" has become an umbrella term representing a political alliance between all gender variant people who do not conform to social norms for typical men and women and who suffer political oppression as a result.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Activism

Since the late nineteenth century, transgendered people have advocated legal and social reforms that would ameliorate the kinds of oppression and discrimination they suffer.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Issues in Education

Transgender people are becoming increasingly visible at secondary and post-secondary schools; if institutions are to be welcoming to people of all genders, issues of discrimination and equal access to facilities and health care need to be addressed.

social sciences >> ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project

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social sciences >> Chase, Cheryl

Activist Cheryl Chase has led efforts to educate both medical professionals and parents of intersexed children so that unnecessary surgeries may be avoided and intersexed people may have happier and healthier lives.

social sciences >> Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

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The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) worked to end discrimination and violence prompted by gender identification and stereotypes.

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"Best Companies to Work For."

Currah, Paisley, and Shannon Minter. "Unprincipled Exclusions: The Struggle to Achieve Judicial and Legislative Equality for Transgender People." William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law 7 (Fall 2000): 37-66.

Minter, Shannon. "Representing Transsexual Clients: Selected Legal Issues." 2003.

Transgender Law and Policy Institute. "Litigation: Case Law."


    Citation Information
    Author: Beemyn, Brett Genny  
    Entry Title: Transgender Issues in the Law  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated May 2, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006, glbtq, inc.  


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