In This Issue
- Executive Director’s Message
- Celebrate Five Extraordinary Years Working For Equal Rights at TLDEF's 5th Anniversary Benefit!
- Noah Lewis Joins TLDEF as Staff Attorney
- Meet Our Newest Interns
- Preparing to Welcome Our 2010 Summer Legal Interns
- Pressing Forward For Equal Employment Opportunity in Florida
- Name Change Project Featured in the New York Times
Executive Director’s Message
Happy Spring! It's hard to believe, but we're fast approaching TLDEF's 5th anniversary! What a remarkable journey it's been. When we started the organization, we had nothing. I mean no office, no telephones, no computers, and no money to change any of that. As word started to spread throughout the community in New York City that we were providing high-quality legal services to people who experienced discrimination because of their gender identity or expression, clients found us. We'd meet them in borrowed conference rooms around town, and we never let our utter lack of resources stop us from pursuing our work when we knew it was the right thing to do. If we learned anything in those early days, it was how to harness nothing more than the sheer force of will to reach our goals.
The cases kept coming and the organization began to grow. We got a telephone! And our friends at the Transgender Project took us in and housed us at what became our first office. We had a big victory on restroom access, reaching the first-ever settlement under the New York City Human Rights law guaranteeing transgender New Yorkers the right to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
And we quickly learned that the prize for winning the pie-eating contest was more pie. :-) Calls began pouring in. We represented Helena Stone, a then-70-year-old transgender woman who was arrested three times by Metropolitan Transportation Authority police for using the women's restroom at Grand Central Terminal, where she worked repairing public telephones.
We took on Khadijah Farmer’s case after she was thrown out of a Manhattan restaurant because the restaurant thought she looked to masculine to be in the women’s restroom. Our community organizing project, the Transgender Health Initiative of New York, took off, coordinating enormous community health fairs designed to improve access to health care for transgender New Yorkers.
The work has been difficult. Some our proudest and darkest moments came representing Lateisha Green’s family. Lateisha was a young African-American transgender woman who was shot and killed in Syracuse, New York just because of who she was. In the end, her killer’s hate crime conviction was just the second in United States history (and the first in New York) stemming from the death of a transgender person. Her case was much talked about in connection with the passage last year of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
And somewhere in the midst of all of our case work, we launched the Name Change Project with the idea that we could bring the resources of the private bar to bear on a problem facing the transgender community. Starting with a few volunteers one night in the East Village, we threw open our doors to some 30 people who had heard about what we were doing and wanted help with the legal name change process. We had expected a trickle, but faced a flood. And then a remarkable thing happened. We told people about the unbelievable need for help in the community. And they responded. Today, some 250 lawyers at some of the world’s most prestigious law firms have helped hundreds of people make their legal identities match who they are and how they live their lives. Even the New York Times has gotten in on the act, christening New York City a capital of name changes for transgender people!
The work isn’t done. We continue to fight in Florida for Zikerria Bellamy, who at 17-years-old was told by McDonald’s that they would not hire her because she is transgender. Only they didn’t say it quite that nicely. If you haven’t already heard the voicemail message that Zikerria received, you might want to listen to it here. But caution: it’s graphic and upsetting. Zikerria’s case reminds us why the work we do is so important. If a young transgender woman can’t get her foot in the door for an entry-level job like one at McDonald’s, what does the future hold for her? What message does it send to young transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual youth if we don’t fight tooth and nail to ensure that they have all the opportunities that any young person should have? This is why we do what we do.
Enough about work. On May 25th, we’re taking a break. That evening, here in New York City, we’ll be hosting our 5th Anniversary Benefit, celebrating the remarkable work you’ve helped us accomplish. All of you, our friends and supporters, have been a part of it, and we’d like to share the celebration with you. We’ve got more information about the benefit below. I hope that we’ll see you there, and that you’ll continue to support our work even if you can’t make it that night. We can’t do this without you.
Thank you for taking this not-so-brief trip down memory lane with me. It’s been a privilege to be a part of this remarkable journey that we’ve taken together. I look forward to future successes as we continue to work for equal rights and a world where each of us is free to be who we are.
We're preparing for our 5th Anniversary Benefit on May 25th, and we're thrilled to invite you to the celebration. Please join us for cocktails and hors d'oeuvre as we toast to the continued growth of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and celebrate the contributions of everyone who has helped to make it a success.
When: Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Why: To celebrate five extraordinary years working for equal rights!
Visionary - $2,500
Visionaries receive 8 tickets to the event, and premier listing in event materials and on our web site. Click here to purchase!
Patron - $1,000
Patrons receive 5 tickets to the event, and priority listing in event materials and on our web site. Click here to purchase!
Benefactor - $500
Benefactors receive 3 tickets to the event, and are listed prominently in event materials and on our web site. Click here to purchase!
Supporter - $250
Supporters receive 2 tickets to the event, and are listed in event materials. Click here to purchase!
Contributor - $150
Contributors receive 1 ticket to the event, and are listed in event materials. Click here to purchase!
Friends - $100
Friends receive 1 ticket to event. Click here to purchase!
Limited/Fixed Income - $25
We are pleased to make available tickets for community members with limited incomes. Click here to purchase!
I Can't Attend But Would Like to Show My Support By Making a Contribution!
We're sorry you won't be there with us to celebrate. But you can still click here to make a contribution if you are unable to attend. We are grateful for your support.
John Cameron Mitchell, Honorary Chair
Stephanie Battaglino & Mari Rosenberger
Daniel de Riancho
Greg Gibson & Joshua Kaufman
Mona Rae Mason
Langhorne Perrow & Zach Packer
The Rubin Family Foundation
We're pleased to welcome TLDEF's newest addition, Noah Lewis, who joins us as a Staff Attorney.
"I am very excited to be joining TLDEF and to have the opportunity to be part of the amazing work it does," Noah said.
"Noah brings a wealth of knowledge and we are delighted to have him join us," said TLDEF’s executive director, Michael Silverman. "We look forward to his significant contributions as TLDEF continues working for transgender equal rights."
While a student at Harvard Law School, Noah received the Dean’s Award for Community Service for his work with the Harvard Transgender Task Force, Harvard Law School Lambda, and the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. At Harvard, his work included assisting with the campaign to add gender identity to Harvard’s nondiscrimination policy and achieving improvements in insurance coverage for transgender health care.
After school, while living in Pittsburgh, Noah engaged in transgender community organizing, including leading a transgender study group, speaking at educational events, and testifying in favor of a county-wide transgender anti-discrimination law.
Before attending Harvard Law School, Noah graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.S. in chemistry and a B.A. in the history and philosophy of science. At Pitt, he helped lead a successful campaign to get domestic partner health benefits at the university.
Our interns make it possible for us to expand and enrich the services we provide. We've been fortunate to have a terrific group working with us for equal rights, and we'd like to introduce them to you:
Brittany Brown enjoyed ten years in New York as an actress before deciding to explore a new career. After years of volunteering and advocating for equality, she is now preparing for law school and plans to pursue a career in public interest law. Brittany was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, and graduated from The University of Michigan’s Musical Theatre Department.
Ashanti Christian is a native of New York City. She has previously interned at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of the Harvey Milk School, which serves LGBTQ youth in New York City. Currently, Ashanti is an intern at the Henry Street Settlement’s Young Adult Internship Program, which has fortunately led her to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. Through her experience at TLDEF, Ashanti hopes to learn more about the transgender community as well as increase her advocacy skills so she can educate people in an attempt to eliminate oppression.
Adelle Fontanet is a first-year law student at Columbia Law School. Before starting law school, Adelle spent a year working at the ACLU of Florida and other advocacy groups on drug policy reform, LGBT rights and youth issues. Through the ACLU-FL, she helped run the 'No on 2' Campaign, which was organized to oppose Florida's so-called "Marriage Protection" Amendment in 2008. She received her undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and English at the University of Florida, where she spent a good deal of time advocating for LGBT equality. Her greatest achievement at the University of Florida was running a successful year-long campaign to have "gender identity and expression" added to the University's Student Government anti-discrimination policy.
Joseph Gallagher is a native of Bethel, CT and is in his final semester in the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies program where he is studying Political Journalism with an emphasis in gender and sexuality. Joseph began his undergraduate studies in Musical Theatre and went on to perform on Broadway and off. For the past year, he has been writing for the Hunts Point Express, a small, community newspaper in the South Bronx. Joseph hopes to pursue his law degree this fall and is excited to learn about the ways the transgender community can achieve justice through the law.
Patricia Harrington is a native New Yorker. After graduating from Queens College with a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics, she had a twenty year career as a programmer and medical physicist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She entered Pace Law School in 2006. During the summer of her first year she interned with the Westchester County Law Department assisting child abuse and neglect attorneys in Family Court. At Pace, she was active in the Public Interest Scholarship Organization, Lambda Law Students, and the Women’s Association of Law Students. Prior to entering law school, Patricia spent a year as a volunteer tutor at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. She is committed to eliminating the discriminatory obstacles facing transgender people in daily life.
Sara Lubetsky is a junior at New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences, where she is majoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies and minoring in South Asian Studies. Sara is interning at TLDEF through the Gender and Sexuality Studies department at NYU, and will receive credit towards her degree for her work at TLDEF. Sara looks forward to continuing her advocacy for the rights of transgender people while interning at TLDEF.
Gabriel Murchison is a lifelong Massachusetts resident and a 12th-grade student at the Commonwealth School in Boston. He joined TLDEF through a high school internship program, which he just completed. At home, he has been involved with local- and state-level transgender advocacy, and previously volunteered with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. He hopes to use his time as a TLDEF intern to learn more about the challenges that transgender people face, and especially how those challenges can be addressed through the law. After graduating from high school this spring, he will continue his education at Yale University, where he plans to stay involved in work that benefits transgender people and others dealing with discrimination.
We're preparing to welcome this year's group of highly-motivated legal interns who will be joining us this summer to work for equal rights. We thought you might like a sneak peek:
Fred Braunstein is in his first year at The University of Michigan Law School. At Michigan, he has been active with the Outlaws, helping to coordinate trainings on transgender issues; he also participated in the Latino Law Students Association’s annual Mr. Wolverine fundraiser for public interest students. Fred received his undergraduate degree in Women's Studies and Government from Skidmore College. Prior to starting law school, he taught courses in English and American Culture in China.
Lauren Jones is a first year student at New York University School of Law, where she is actively involved with OUTLaw, the HIV Law Society, and the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project. Lauren graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from NYU with a B.A. in Politics and Spanish, and a minor in Mathematics. She has previously interned at the Brennan Center for Justice, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and Live Out Loud.
Kimberly Walters is a rising second-year student at Columbia Law School. At Columbia, she has been active with the Outlaws and Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and is on the editorial board of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. She received her undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Government at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. She enjoys running and vegetarian cooking.
We're continuing to press forward with Zikerria Bellamy's case against McDonald's, which is currently pending before the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
As you may recall, on July 10, 2009, then 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy applied online for a position as a Shift Manager or Crew Leader at a McDonald’s restaurant in Orlando, Florida. On July 28, after managers at McDonald’s learned that Zikerria is transgender, she received the following voicemail message from one of the managers:
Zikerria never received the job interview she sought. McDonald's refused to hire her.
Zikerria’s story is all too common. Transgender people face tremendous discrimination in the workplace. According to a recent survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, 47% of transgender people report being fired, or denied a job or promotion, just because of who they are.
Few protections exist for transgender people who experience employment discrimination. In 38 states, there is no law protecting transgender people from being fired because of who they are.
In Florida, while no law explicitly addresses discrimination based on gender identity, administrative agencies have ruled that transgender people are protected by the Florida Human Rights Act’s prohibitions on sex and disability discrimination. The Competitive Workforce Bill, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the Florida Civil Rights Act, was introduced in the Florida legislature on November 20.
At the federal level, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (S.1584) would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an employee based on the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation at companies with fifteen or more employees. The legislation was introduced in the United States Senate on August 5, 2009. On November 5, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held the Senate’s first hearing on the latest version of ENDA. A version of ENDA was also introduced in the United States House of Representatives on June 24, 2009. The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the measure on September 23.
According to a 2007 survey, 72 percent of Americans agree that "fairness is a basic American value and employment decisions should be based solely on qualifications and job performance, including for transgender people." In a 2002 poll, 61 percent of those polled said that we need laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and has stated his belief that anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
A few weeks ago, the New York Times featured a tremendous article on TLDEF's Name Change Project. It was tremendous not just in that it featured lengthy interviews with four Name Change Project participants – Em, Katherine, Kit & Roberta. It's that the article made clear that the movement for transgender rights is experiencing tremendous growth. And that it recognized that a project like ours - providing free and low-cost legal name changes to community members in partnership with some of the world's most prestigious law firms - "sends an important message to the world" that "the relatively new field of transgender law" is making its mark and is here to stay.
Adding to its historic status as a capital of finance, fashion, and the arts, we couldn't be more pleased that with our "rare network of some 200 lawyers," we've "contributed to Manhattan's becoming a capital of" name changes for transgender people. And we couldn't be more grateful to the hundreds of community members who, over the course of the two-and-a-half years since we founded the Name Change Project, have entrusted us to provide them with the help they need to ensure their legal identities match who they are and how they live their lives.
We founded the Name Change Project with the simple idea that giving transgender people adequate legal representation when they seek name changes would help them successfully negotiate the process and move forward with their lives. As project participant Kit Yan described it in the article, the name change process can be intimidating. Indeed, Kit described how he failed twice when he tried on his own to get the law to recognize his name before turning to the Name Change Project for help. We play just a small part in the much larger journey that project participants embark upon, but we're grateful for the opportunity to do our part for each of the hundreds of people who come to us for help.
Many people have helped make the Name Change Project a success. It is no overstatement to say that this program would not exist without the extraordinary support of the hundreds of volunteer lawyers and law firms in the New York legal community who have partnered with us. They have devoted thousands of hours to transgender community members through their work with the Name Change Project. We are grateful to them for their generosity. Foundations like the Paul Rapoport Foundation and the Rubin Family Foundation placed early bets that we would succeed. Our staff makes the task of matching hundreds of clients with hundreds of lawyers and ensuring that everyone stays on track (no small feat!) seem smooth and seamless when it almost never is. Our friends at GLAAD were masterful in helping us with this article. And we could not do any of it without you, our friends and supporters, who in countless ways have helped us flourish since we were founded just a few years ago.