Issues surrounding transgender people have attracted unprecedented state and national attention. With the passage of legislation in North Carolina and other states that requires people to use restrooms corresponding with their birth-assigned sex, the rights of transgender people are at the forefront of legal discourse. From the highly publicized transitions of Caitlyn Jenner and Chelsea Manning to the inclusion of transgender people in mainstream television shows, popular culture too is awash with interesting and complex considerations of gender, sex, sexuality, and justice.
The legal treatment of transgender people and their issues is an uneven patchwork of protection on the one hand and stigma on the other. While some states include gender identity and expression in their anti-discrimination laws, others have passed religious freedom laws that explicitly countenance discrimination. In some schools, transgender and gender non-conforming youth are explicitly included in anti-bullying laws; in others, they are not. The Department of Education has interpreted Title IX to require protection for transgender students, but only one court – the Fourth Circuit – has yet deferred to this interpretation.
While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that transgender discrimination is sex discrimination, and President Obama enacted an executive order protecting transgender federal employees, Congressional efforts to pass a comprehensive non-discrimination bill that would protect trans employees have stalled. Organizations originally founded to promote rights for lesbian and gay people have incorporated transgender perspectives and a number of trans-specific legal organizations have sprung up to address transgender issues. In response, politically conservative groups have focused on the perceived threat to social norms posed by transgender people, mobilizing their constituents to push back against recognition of transgender rights.
The 21st Annual Conference on Race Class Gender and Ethnicity, Gender Identity and Justice: The Role of Law in Defining and Advancing the Rights of Transgender People, considers the role of law in transgender issues. The Conference will examine both the positive advances as well as the stalled progress in the law to recognize transgender rights. To explore these issues, the Conference invites practitioners, academics, advocates, and local community members to consider how the law has both supported and failed the transgender community, and what steps can be taken to define and advance the rights of transgender individuals. Conference topics include the legal treatment of transgender individuals in the law, the complicated relationship between medicine and law for transgender people, and legal regulations in daily life that specifically impact the transgender community. We hope to explore how best to achieve meaningful reform to better serve and support the transgender community.