Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. It is an umbrella term that encompasses nonbinary and genderqueer people, or people whose gender do not fall on the male/female spectrum, as well. In the United States, it is estimated that 1.4 million adults identify as transgender.
Unsurprisingly, transgender rights in the U.S. vary from state to state. To date there has been only one Supreme Court case regarding the rights of the transgender population. The transgender community has historically been discriminated against in the realm of employment, marriage, medicine, incarceration, and the military, along with many other aspects of life considered normal for cisgender, or non-transgender, people. Transgender people are many times more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, and mental illness than their cisgender counterparts. The U.S. court system has offered sparse legal protections for transgender individuals and has in fact, invalidated the lived experiences of almost every trans person who has sought restitution for discrimination.
In 2020, the Supreme Court held that title VII’s employment protections extends to transgender individuals.
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., 590 U.S. ___, (2020) - the Supreme Court ruled that title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, color, national origin, extends employment protections for transgender people.
Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 US 644 (2015) - the Supreme Court ruled that people have a right to marry regardless of sex. While this case was understood to permanently allow same sex marriages, it means that a person’s sex, regardless of what it was assigned at birth, cannot ban one person from marrying another person. The validity of transgender marriages specifically has not been decided by the Supreme Court but on a state by state basis. New Jersey was the first state that determined that post-operative trans people may marry in their post-operative sex in 1976.
Historically, military personnel who transitioned in the military were discharged. However, in 2015, the Obama Administration removed a ban allowing transgender members of the military to serve openly. As of July 2017 the Trump Administration severely degraded the rights of transgender individuals in the military. Trump’s ban and policies make it so transgender people are not afforded equal protections in the military and are banned from military service unless they enlist under the gender they were assigned at birth.