New Democracy Maps

Snapshot: Advancing Transgender Equality

The Bottom Line

The Advancing Transgender Equality Snapshot Report provides an overview of the movement for transgender equality, focusing on its evolution and growth over time. The report also looks at the obstacles that transgender Americans face in everyday life and the work under way to overcome those obstacles. It includes 10 key recommendations that can help make the work of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations more transgender-inclusive and relevant, and additional recommendations intended to help funders increase their support for transgender equality..

Recommended citation
Movement Advancement Project. August 2009. Snapshot: Advancing Transgender Equality. (date of access).


In recent years, the movement for transgender equality in the United States has achieved important gains. Organizations focused exclusively on transgender issues are adding full-time staff and increasing their budgets, while general LGBT groups are adding transgender-specific programs to their programmatic work. On the public policy front, increased resources combined with persistent advocacy in the last two decades have led to some significant advances, especially in providing increased protection from hate crimes and employment discrimination for transgender Americans. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of corporations have adopted transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Despite this progress, many challenges persist. In 2008, for example, opponents of LGBT rights began to introduce anti-transgender measures as part of a broader campaign against LGBT equality. The transgender movement, while growing, still needs tactical, political and financial support to capitalize on current opportunities and defend against opponents’ attacks.

The Advancing Transgender Equality Snapshot Report is divided into five sections:

  • The first provides a brief look at the evolution and growth of today's movement for transgender equality.
  • The second examines the obstacles that face transgender Americans, including issues related to physical and mental health; safety and physical security; legal documentation and relationship rights; and employment and self-sufficiency.
  • The third describes the work under way to overcome the obstacles outlined in the second section.
  • The fourth section provides 10 key recommendations that general LGBT organizations should consider to make their work more transgender-inclusive and relevant.
  • The final section provides five key recommendations to help funders increase their support for transgender equality.

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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