TLC leader looks toward a prideful future
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Since 2002 the Transgender Law Center has been a leader in the fight for transgender equality. It's often been an uphill battle, but TLC has prevailed more times than not. In many places, transgender people are now routinely included when equality laws are passed.
And, in the last few years, trans kids have role models to look up to with the emergence of transgender celebrities such as Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Chaz Bono.
Caitlyn Jenner's recent announcement of her new name and upcoming reality show will only increase America's exposure to trans people, albeit in Jenner's case, someone who has the financial resources many transgender people lack.
In short, transgender people are becoming mainstream. Last year, Cox graced the cover of Time magazine. The daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful features not one, but two transgender characters. Scott Turner Schofield, a transgender actor, has been cast in one of those roles, a first for daytime TV.
In many ways, particularly around legal and policy areas, TLC has been a major player in the strides that have been made.
TLC will proudly participate in this year's San Francisco Pride parade as organizational grand marshal. It's an honor the Oakland-based nonprofit won via a public vote earlier this year that was conducted by the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee.
Kris Hayashi, 40, who became executive director of TLC in January, spoke to the Bay Area Reporter about what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.
"The Transgender Law Center is humbled and excited to represent the transgender and gender non-conforming community at SF Pride this year," Hayashi said of the organizational grand marshal honor. "We have come such a long way both as an organization and as a movement since the law center was founded in 2002."
Initially, TLC was a project of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It eventually became its own nonprofit agency. Its budget is about $1.4 million.
Hayashi, a transgender man, noted that there were others from the trans community who were being included in the parade.
"We are proud to be honored alongside people like Tita Aida and Felicia Flames, who, with their decades of leadership in the trans community of the Bay Area, could not be more deserving of the recognition," Hayashi said, referring to Aida, who is the recipient of SF Pride's Teddy Witherington Award, and Flames, also known as Felicia Elizondo, who is this year's lifetime achievement grand marshal.
"From Laverne Cox and Janet Mock to the president's State of the Union address, there has been an undeniable increase in trans visibility in the last few years," Hayashi said.
President Barack Obama specifically mentioned transgender people in his State of the Union speech, which was a first. Mock and Cox, both African American trans women, have successful careers. Mock wrote the best-selling Redefining Realness; Cox stars in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black .
Hayashi said that the community could not celebrate its gains without also acknowledging and addressing the rising epidemic of violence against trans women.
"At least 10 transgender women of color have been murdered in 2015 alone," he noted. "Bills have been introduced across the country to criminalize transgender people for simply using the bathroom. Here in California an initiative has been proposed that would require people to 'prove' their gender to use the bathroom and place a bounty on any transgender person found in a bathroom."
Hayashi was referring to an initiative proposed by the right-wing Pacific Justice Institute that would require a person to use restrooms and other facilities in government buildings "in accordance with their biological sex."
As the B.A.R. noted in an earlier article, should the bathroom privacy initiative pass, it would allow individuals to file a civil claim for violation of privacy against a government entity or a person for "willful violation" of the act, with violators potentially liable for no less than $4,000 in damages and attorney's fees. A person whose privacy "was violated while using facilities," or who was unable to use facilities because of a violation under the act, would be able to seek damages through the state courts.
High rates of transgender unemployment – higher than 50 percent according to some reports – and the need for better access to health care were other issues that Hayashi said are faced by trans people.
Hayashi said that he's ready to face these and other challenges. He also said that he loved his new job.
"Things are going really well," he said. "Pride is just the start to an exciting summer for us. We plan to open our first office in the South through a partnership with Southerners on New Ground."
There are also, Hayashi said, new projects in the works to address injustices faced by trans people, in particular trans women of color, in the prison and immigration systems. Challenges regarding HIV issues are also being dealt with.
"There is still a lot of work to be done, all of it exciting and much of it groundbreaking," he said.
For more information, visit www.transgenderlawcenter.org.