Shannon Minter, Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights - San Francisco, California
Transgender people confront bias on a daily basis in virtually every aspect of their lives, from employment to family relations, health care, the criminal justice system, and schools. Civil rights groups and gay and lesbian activists have only recently begun to recognize the issue of transgender people’s rights. Few states, school districts, or government groups have guidelines in place to ensure respectful and nondiscriminatory treatment of transgender people.
Seeds of commitment
Shannon Price Minter’s work is rooted in his experience. As a teenager in rural east Texas, fellow students slashed his tires because they saw him as different. Later, his family had trouble accepting him as a transgender person. “Last year,” Minter says, “I finally summoned the courage to go back home. One of the best moments of my life was being able to hug my parents and my 92-year-old grandmother again and seeing the love and acceptance in her eyes. I am motivated by knowing that love and compassion can prevail over fear and shame.”
Minter is married and has a daughter. “As a transsexual person, I cannot imagine taking these things -- being a parent, being married, having a job, being safe -- for granted.” Every day, Minter assists transgender people who have lost children in custody battles, lost their jobs, or been assaulted. “I am motivated by love for my community,” Minter says, “and by knowing that the work I do is making it possible for more transgender people to step out of self-hatred and fear and to come into their own.”
Through the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Minter works with transgender people throughout the United States on the variety of problems they face, both legal and societal. Minter has been an adviser, mentor, and lawyer to transgender people across the country, representing them in cases to gain their rights and assisting other attorneys representing transgender clients.
Minter has drafted and helped other groups draft local and federal legislation that grants transgender people civil rights. In Portland, Oregon, he helped develop non-discrimination policies against transgender prisoners, and in San Francisco, he and other community members succeeded in a campaign to secure equal health-care benefits for transgender city employees.
In 1993, Minter founded NCLR’s Youth Project, the first legal-advocacy group to address the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. He now supervises the Safe Homes Project at NCLR, which helps LGBT youth who face discrimination and problems in foster care, group homes, or the juvenile-justice system.
As one of the nation’s experts on transgender issues, Minter expands his reach by writing publications such as Transgender Equality: A Handbook for Activists and Policymakers, and by speaking in forums, hearings, and gatherings around the country.
Minter says that the wide range of legal and social issues transgender people face requires forming coalitions to make headway. For example, NCLR formed a partnership with the Gay/Straight Alliance Network, the Transgender Law Center, and the San Francisco Unified School District to draft and implement the first official school-district policy in the United States that expressly includes transgender students. The guidelines deal with issues such as locker-room privacy, dress codes, and anti-harassment procedures. Another partnership, with Legal Services for Children, involves drafting model guidelines for the treatment of LGBT youth in foster care and juvenile-justice facilities.
Minter plans to continue developing the field of transgender rights in his current position as legal director of NCLR, where he has “enormous flexibility, support, and resources to do this work.” Minter says he also will continue to teach law school so he can encourage and influence the next generation of legal advocates. Finally, Minter hopes to work with colleagues to expand the Transgender Law & Policy Institute, a group that focuses on transgender people’s legal rights, into an organization capable of litigating groundbreaking cases across the country.
More about Shannon Price Minter and the National Center for Lesbian Rights
“Frankly, it is hard to find a transgender law or policy project – large or small – anywhere in the country that he has not been involved in, advised on, or influenced through his scholarship, education, or advocacy efforts. At the same time, Shannon devotes enormous amounts of time to giving voice to, mentoring, and meeting the daily survival needs of transgender people across the country.”
- Liz Seaton, Deputy Legal Director, Human Rights Campaign, and Anthony E. Varona, Associate Professor of Law, Pace University
“Shannon reached out to us. He has no fear of reaching out to groups that aren’t naturally aligned with the transgender movement.”
- Shannan Wilber, Executive Director, Legal Services for Children, San Francisco, CA
Shannon Price Minter
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