North Carolina

Understanding the transgender movement in America


North Carolina’s passage of a law that establishes a statewide nondiscrimination policy that excludes gender identity and sexual orientation has sparked a national debate over legal protections for the LGBT community.

What follows is a selection of events showing the evolution of the transgender movement in the U.S.


Christine Jorgensen Becomes First American to Have a Sex Change

A former Army private from the Bronx became the first American to undergo a sex change operation after traveling to Denmark for surgery and hormone treatments. Upon her return, she publicly announced her transition, and became an advocate and a celebrity.

May 1959

Clashes at Cooper’s Donuts

Police officers tried to arrest individuals at Cooper’s Donuts in Los Angeles, a popular hangout for transgender people, drag queens and others in the L.G.B.T. community. The patrons clashed with the officers over the treatment, throwing coffee, doughnuts and utensils.

August 1966

Riots at Compton’s Cafeteria

Like Cooper’s Donuts, Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco was one of the few places in the area where transgender people, who were not welcome at gay bars, could congregate publicly. Riots broke out there after police officers tried to kick out a transgender woman. Members of the L.G.B.T. community picketed the restaurant after it prohibited transgender people from entering.


’The Transsexual Phenomenon’

The physician Harry Benjamin published “The Transsexual Phenomenon,” a groundbreaking book that outlined how transgender people could transition medically.

June 1969

The Stonewall Riots

Police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City. The crowd, weary of the raids on gay clubs, rioted. Many in the L.G.B.T. community, including transgender people, joined in several days of demonstrations. The Stonewall Riots are widely considered to have sparked the L.G.B.T. rights movement.


The Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson started Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR House, an advocacy group and shelter in New York.


Transgender Protections in Minneapolis

Minneapolis became the first city to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people.

August 1977

Renée Richards

The The New York Supreme Court ruled that Renée Richards, a transgender woman who played professional tennis, was eligible to play at the United States Open as a woman.


Gender Identity Disorder

In the 1987 revision of “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the American Psychiatric Association added “gender identity disorder” as a classification for transgender people.

August 1992

First International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy

The conference in Houston was the first of six gatherings where activists, especially lawyers, from around the country met and laid the groundwork for the transgender movement. Speakers at the conference addressed legal issues related to health care, employment and military service, among other areas.


First State Protections

Minnesota became the first state to extend protections against discrimination to transgender people.

December 1993

Brandon Teena

Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old transgender man, was beaten, raped and murdered in Nebraska. His story was later shared in the film “Boys Don’t Cry.”


The Gazebo Chat Room

The Gazebo, a dedicated chat room for transgender people, was started on AOL by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, providing a gathering place and a resource center with a bulletin board. By the mid-1990s, Ms. Smith said, The Gazebo had tens of thousands of unique visitors a month.


Transgender Lobbying

Phyllis Frye, called the grandmother of the movement, and Riki Anne Wilchins held the first transgender lobbying day in Washington. Ms. Wilchins created GenderPAC, an advocacy group based in Washington.


The Transgender Day of Remembrance

The advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance, to honor the memory of Rita Hester and other transgender people like her who were lost to bigotry and anti-transgender violence.


Rhode Island Passes Law

Rhode Island became the second state to include transgender people in a nondiscrimination law. Seventeen more states now do so.


Advocates for the Transgender Community

The Transgender Law Center, a civil rights organization that advocates for transgender communities, opened its first office in San Francisco.

May 29, 2003

First Transgender Person Officially Visits White House

George W. Bush became the first president to officially welcome an openly transgender person, Petra Leilani Akwai, into the White House as part of a Yale 1968 class reunion.

Most of the big transgender advocacy organizations started up during the Bush years – the equality center, the Transgender Law Center, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

June 2004

A March of Our Own

San Francisco’s first Trans March took place.


California Bans Insurance Discrimination Against Transgender Patients

California became the first state to mandate transgender health care coverage with the Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act.

September 2008

Diane Schroer

Diane Schroer won a discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress, after it rescinded a job offer as a terrorism analyst after learning that Ms. Schroer was transgender and intended to start the job as a woman. A District Court judge concluded that the Library of Congress was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

November 2008

A Transgender Mayor

Stu Rasmussen was elected mayor of Silverton, Ore., becoming the first openly transgender mayor in America.

April 2009

Murder of Transgender Woman Labeled a Hate Crime

A jury in Colorado found Allen Andrade guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Angie Zapata. The case was among the first in which a hate crime law was applied in a murder trial where the victim was transgender.

June 2009

Chaz Bono

Formerly known as Chastity, the child of Cher and Sonny Bono came out as a transgender man, Chaz.


Presidential Appointees

President Obama nominated the first openly transgender federal appointees. Dylan Orr began as an attorney at the Department of Labor in December, and a month later, Amanda Simpson became a senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

Oct. 17, 2010

First Openly Transgender Judge

Phyllis R. Frye, a lawyer since 1981, was sworn in as a judge in Houston, becoming the nation’s first openly transgender judge. Victoria Kolakowski was sworn in as the first transgender trial judge a few months later.

November 2010

College Sports

Kye Allums, who played basketball at George Washington University, came out as a transgender man. He is believed to be the first Division I college basketball player to compete publicly as a transgender person.

May 2011

A Memo on Transgender Employees

The Office of Personnel Management issued a memo offering guidance to federal agencies on how to support transgender employees.


The Girl Scouts of Colorado Take a Stand

The Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomed all children who identify as girls. In a statement to CNN, the group said, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”


Title VII Applies to Transgender Employees

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal to discriminate based on sex, also protected transgender employees.


A Change at the American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association updated its manual, “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” replacing the term “gender identity disorder” with one that was less stigmatizing, “gender dysphoria.”

April 2014

Transgender Studies Quarterly

Duke University Press began Transgender Studies Quarterly, the first academic publication of its kind.

May 2014

A Medicare Exclusion Reversed

The Department of Health and Human Services reversed a Medicare policy in place since 1981. Medicare must now cover sex reassignment surgery.

June and July 2014

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox, an actress in “Orange Is the New Black,” became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. In July, she became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy.

December 2014

Changes at the Department of Justice

The government agency took the position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to claims of discrimination based on gender identity.

Jan. 11, 2015


The Amazon series “Transparent” won a Golden Globe for best television comedy or musical. The show’s star, Jeffrey Tambor, took home the award for best actor in the category. The show also features Alexandra Billings, who was the first transgender actor to play a transgender character on television, when, in 2005, she was in “Romy and Michele: In the Beginning.”

Jan. 20, 2015

Obama on Transgender

President Obama mentioned transgender people in his State of the Union address, a presidential first. “That’s why we defend free speech and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” he said.

June 1, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner Introduces Herself

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce, an Olympic gold medalist, author, actor and reality television star, discussed her transition to a woman in an article in Vanity Fair. In an acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles in July, she said she planned to use the attention to push for acceptance of transgender people across the world.

July 13, 2015

A Pentagon Shift

The Pentagon announced plans to lift a ban on military service by transgender people by early next year. This was seen as a tacit recognition that thousands of transgender people are already in uniform.

Aug. 18, 2015

White House Hires an Openly Transgender Staff Member

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who was a policy adviser at the National Center for Transgender Equality, will serve as an outreach and recruitment director on President Obama’s staff.

March 23, 2016

N.C. passes law nullifying local ordinances that protect LGBT people

In a one-day specially convened session, North Carolina’s legislature passes a sweeping law that reverses a Charlotte ordinance that had extended some rights to people who are gay or transgender.

The law passed by the General Assembly and signed that same night by Gov. Pat McCrory goes further than a narrow elimination of Charlotte’s ordinance, which had generated the most controversy by a change that protected transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. The new law also nullified local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.