In honor of Trans Awareness Week, Student Leadership has put together a timeline to give context to the social and legal status of trans people in the US today. Trans and gender diverse people have existed in every society in the world since the beginning of time. While this timeline is not even close to a complete history, we hope you find it helpful and meaningful as a starting point.
1919: Magnus Hirschfeld opens the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. It becomes the first clinic to serve transgender people on a regular basis.
1931: German domestic worker Dora Richter and Danish painter Lili Elbe, both patients of Magnus Hirschfeld, are among the first documented recipients of gender-affirming surgery.
1945: Black trans woman and socialite Lucy Hicks Anderson is tried for perjury in California after listing her sex as female on a marriage license. Quoted as saying, “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” she is sentenced to 10 years’ probation.
1945: British aristocrat and physician Michael Dillon becomes the first documented trans man to undergo gender-affirming medical care.
1952: US Army veteran & photographer Christine Jorgensen is outed by the press after receiving gender-affirming care in Denmark. As one of the first widely-known trans women in the country, she goes on to become a celebrity, activist, and successful nightclub owner.
August 1966: Compton’s Cafeteria Riots are sparked when a trans woman throws a cup of coffee into the face of a police officer who is unlawfully harassing her. The first recorded trans riot in U.S. history marks a turning point in the LGBTQ movement. A network of transgender social, psychological, and medical support services is established in San Francisco as a result.
1968: National Transsexual Counseling Unit is created in San Francisco, becoming the world’s first trans peer-run support and advocacy.
June 1969: Black and brown trans and gender non-conforming people lead resistance to police in the raid on the Stonewall Inn, sparking the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson emerge as heroes of the movement.
1972: Sweden becomes the first nation in the world to allow citizens to legally change their gender.
1975: Minneapolis becomes the first city to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against trans people.
1980: “Transsexualism” is officially listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
October 1980: Development of the Standards of Care which will go on to become the worldwide foundation for gender affirming medical care.
1993: Minnesota passes the first law in the US prohibiting discrimination against transgender people.
November 1999: First Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is observed.
2002: Transgender Law Center, a civil rights organization that advocates for transgender communities, opens its first office in San Francisco.
February 2004: The Gender Recognition Act becomes law, allowing people to legally change their gender markers and be recognized for the purposes of marriage and other issues.
2005: California became the first state to mandate transgender health care coverage with the Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act.
2006: Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act becomes law in the US. The bill prevents defendants from using panic strategies and potential biases against the victim to minimize their actions.
2006: Kim Coco Iwamoto is elected to Hawaii Board of Education, becoming highest-elected trans official in the U.S.
2007: Spain passes world’s first gender identity laws which allow for the change of documented identity without requiring surgery.
2008: Stu Rassmussen of Silverton, Oregon becomes the first openly trans mayor in the U.S.
June 2010: It becomes legal to change the gender marker on a US passport with a letter from a doctor.
2010: Amanda Simpson is named senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, becoming the first transgender presidential appointee.
October 2010: Phyllis R. Frye, a lawyer since 1981, is sworn in as the nation’s first openly transgender judge.
2012: Kylar Broadus, Founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition, becomes the first trans person to testify before Congress. Testifies before the US Senate in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
June 2013: Obama administration makes it possible to change gender markers on Social Security cards.
2014: Department of Health and Human Services rules that Medicare must cover gender confirmation surgery.
2014: Laverne Cox, an actress in “Orange Is the New Black,” becomes first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. In July, she becomes the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy.
December 2014: Department of Justice rules that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to discrimination based on gender identity.
August 2015: White House hires an openly transgender staff member, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, to serve as outreach and recruitment director on President Obama’s staff.
June 2016: Trans people allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military.
January 2017: Less than two hours after swearing-in, Trump administration removes all mentions of LGBTQ people and rights from the White House web page.
July 2017: Trump administration announces first attempt at banning transgender people from serving in the military.
October 2018: US representatives at the United Nations work to remove references to transgender people in UN human rights documents.
April 2019: Department of Defense puts ban on transgender service members into effect, putting service members at risk of discharge if they come out or are found out to be transgender.
May 2019: World Health Organization removes gender non-conformity from its list of mental disorders.
September 2019: Merriam-Webster dictionary adds non-binary “they” pronouns.
October 2019: Supreme Court hears arguments over whether employees can legally be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
November 2019: Department of Health and Human Services announces plans to repeal regulations prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion in all HHS grant programs. These include programs to address the HIV, opioid, and youth homelessness epidemics.
November 2019: Washington allows residents to change the gender marker on state ID to M, F, or X for free, without documentation from doctor or court.
January 2020: COVID-19 begins spreading in the US. Lost income, social isolation, medical discrimination, and postponement of “elective” gender-affirming care take tolls on people’s mental and physical health. Trans Lifeline reports 4-5x the usual volume of calls on unemployment stress and workplace discrimination, and a 300% increase in calls about domestic violence and healthcare.
June 2020: Trump administration removes healthcare protections for LGBTQ people.
June 2020: US Supreme Court extends federal job protections to LGBTQ people.
July 2020: Department of Housing and Urban Development reverses a rule which had protected trans people from discrimination at homeless shelters and federally funded housing services.
November 2020: Voters elect or reelect seven trans candidates to state office, including Mauree Turner (first nonbinary person to serve in a state legislature & first Muslim lawmaker in Oklahoma); Sarah McBride (first openly trans state senator in the US, Delaware); Stephanie Byers (first openly trans Native state lawmaker, Kansas); Jill Rose Quinn (judge, & first openly trans official in Illinois); and Taylor Small (first openly trans person in Vermont state legislature).