National Center for Transgender Equality
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is a nonprofit social equality organization founded in 2003 by transgender activist Mara Keisling in Washington, DC. The organization works primarily in the areas of policy advocacy and media activism with the aim of advancing the equality of transgender people in the United States. Among other transgender-related issue areas, NCTE focuses on discrimination in employment, access to public accommodations, fair housing, identity documents, hate crimes and violence, criminal justice reform, federal research surveys and the Census, and health care access.
|Type||Nonprofit advocacy organization|
In 2002, then-co-chair of the Pennsylvania Gender Rights Coalition, Mara Keisling, moved to Washington, DC after recognizing the need for a professional activist presence in Washington for transgender people. With the support of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Keisling established the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2003.
In the years since, NCTE has had numerous political victories. Early on, Keisling and NCTE led "United ENDA," a coalition of over 400 LGBTQ rights organizations lobbying for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that had explicit protections for transgender individuals. Although the bill ultimately failed to pass, it was the first-ever transgender-inclusive legislation to be proposed to the U.S. Congress and yielded the first-ever Congressional hearing on transgender rights issues.
Under the Obama administration, NCTE successfully lobbied for at least 150 federal policy changes on issues including health care access and non-discrimination in health services; federal employment protections; homeless and emergency shelter access; non-discrimination in federally-subsidized housing; and open military service for transgender service members. Also among these policy victories was the modification of State Department regulations, allowing transgender citizens to change the gender marker on their passport without necessarily having undergone genital reconstruction surgery.
NCTE's mission statement reads:
The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people.
By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation's capital and around the country.
Mara Keisling is the founding executive director of NCTE. She is a trans woman and began transitioning in her early 40s. In addition to her work as executive director of NCTE, Keisling is a founding board member of the Stonewall Democracy Fund. She has also served as co-chair of the Pennsylvania Gender Rights Coalition, on the board of directors of LGBTQ youth group Common Roads, and on the steering committee of the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition. In recognition of her activism, Keisling has won awards from PFLAG; the Equality Forum; GayLaw; the Transgender Law Center; the Harvard Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance; and Out for Work, among others.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is current director of external relations and former policy advisor at NCTE. Before joining NCTE as policy advisor in 2014, she served as legislative staffer for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, LGBT liaison for the City of Somerville, and legislative director for Massachusetts State Representative Carl Sciortino, a Medford Democrat. On August 18, 2015, she was hired by President Barack Obama as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the White House Presidential Personnel Office, becoming the first openly transgender person to work as a White House staffer. He subsequently appointed her as the White House's primary LGBT liaison in 2016, making her the first openly transgender person in the role. On April 3, 2017, Freedman-Gurspan rejoined NCTE as director of external relations.
NCTE works to educate policy makers and the American public about the transgender community and the issues facing it, as well as to lobby Congress and other policy makers to adopt policies that support the rights and human dignity of transgender Americans. In service of this mission, NCTE runs several programs spanning a variety of policy issue areas.
NCTE works on a variety of policy issues of significance to the transgender community. These include: state policy agendas; hate crimes and violence; employment non-discrimination; advocating for transgender parents and families of transgender people; health care access; access to homeless and emergency shelters; immigration reform; open military service; criminal justice reform; racial and economic justice; federal research surveys and the Census; travel security procedures and bodily privacy; voting rights; and protections for transgender students from bullying, discrimination, and accommodations exclusions.
In addition to these policy programs, NCTE maintains an ID Documents Center and the Transgender Legal Services Network. The ID Documents Center offers a constantly updated database of federal, state, and territory-based policies regarding name and gender change procedures so that transgender individuals can more easily navigate these complex legal processes. The related Transgender Legal Services Network offers a consortium of over 60 organizations that offer advice, technical support, and legal resources to transgender individuals, many of which undertake pro bono projects. The Network also confers to improve one another's organizational capacities and expand their service provisions.
Transgender Lobby DayEdit
On March 15, 2004, NCTE partnered with the now-defunct National Transgender Advocacy Coalition to run the first ever Transgender Lobby Day, for which transgender citizens and allies from across the country came to Washington to speak with their Senators and Representatives. Since then, NCTE has organized lobby days every few years consisting of a conference on transgender policy issues and meetings with members of Congress in which participants share their stories and talk about transgender issues. Past lobby days have featured guests from organizations such as the White House Office of Public Engagement, as well as prominent figures such as transgender activist and lawyer Shannon Minter from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Masen Davis from the Transgender Law Center, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, and former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Transgender lobby days frequently draw over 200 participants from nearly every state.
National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2008)Edit
In 2008, NCTE partnered with the National LGBTQ Task Force and Pennsylvania State University's Center for the Study of Higher Education to launch the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). Then the largest study of transgender individuals in the United States, the NTDS surveyed 6,450 transgender residents about their experiences of discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, health care, and education, among others. The findings of the NTDS have since informed public policy in the United States, such as at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which based new housing regulations to protect LGBTQ people on the study.
U.S. Transgender Survey (2015)Edit
In 2015, NCTE followed up the NDTS by launching the U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), thus far the largest study of transgender individuals in the United States. Nearly 28,000 transgender residents participated in the survey, which covered a broad range of topics pertaining to family life, health, housing, income, employment, discrimination, harassment and violence, military service, political participation, and others. In addition to the full national report, NCTE has released various breakout reports focusing on specific states. As of July 2017, breakout reports for 14 states have been released.
NCTE is a frequent source of analysis and commentary for both American and international news media. In her capacity as executive director of NCTE, Keisling has appeared as a guest on news channels such as CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News, and MSNBC. She is frequently quoted in newspapers, news magazines, and online news sources, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Time, Buzzfeed, and The Huffington Post. Keisling has also published op-eds in numerous outlets, including The New York Times, Time, NBC, CNN, and The Huffington Post. NCTE's director of policy, Harper Jean Tobin, is similarly often quoted by news media including The New York Times, Reuters, PBS, and The Huffington Post, and has published op-eds in publications such as The Guardian. The organization also maintains its own blog on Medium.
In October 2017, NCTE launched an affiliated 501(c)(4) organization, the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund. Because of its tax status, the Action Fund can endorse and oppose political candidates, which NCTE cannot do as a 501(c)(3) organization. At launch, the Action Fund endorsed three transgender candidates for public office: Phillipe Cunningham and Andrea Jenkins, who are running for seats on the Minneapolis City Council, and Danica Roem, who is running for the 13th District seat in Virginia's House of Delegates. The organization also provides resources addressing the specific needs of transgender voters.
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