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A new legal aid organization dedicated to serving California’s transgender communities celebrated its official launch Wednesday. The nonprofit Transgender Law Center, based in San Francisco, is the first statewide legal organization for transgender people in the country. The center has been quietly operating since September, but Wednesday marked its official unveiling. Christopher Daley, the center’s co-director, said the organization will provide a centralized and much-needed resource for transgender people throughout California. “Transgender people face so many challenges just in being who they are,” said Daley. Until now, he said, “folks didn’t really know where to turn.” The center marked its official opening with the release of a report surveying 155 transgender people in San Francisco. According to the report, titled “Trans Realities,” 50 percent of the people surveyed reported experiencing gender identity-based employment discrimination. More than 30 percent reported discrimination in health care, and nearly 1 in 3 survey respondents has been discriminated against in housing. Transgender issues intersect with various legal issues, said Daley. “It gets to the core of these other forms of discrimination.” The center provides counseling and legal representation, and is also involved in lobbying efforts. Daley said the center has already served 500 people and is litigating a number of cases. Daley, a 2001 Boalt Hall School of Law graduate, and Dylan Vade, a 2002 Stanford Law School graduate, are the new center’s only full-time staffers. The center also has about 15 part-time volunteers. The center was originally run as a project within the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. While the Transgender Law Center is now a freestanding institution, it collaborates with the NCLR on numerous cases, and operates under the NCLR’s nonprofit tax status. “There is a tremendous need for legal representation and advocacy for transgender people in this state,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “It’s already apparent — just in the short time the center has been opened, they’ve been overwhelmed.” The size of California’s transgender population — which the center defines as anyone who doesn’t conform to stereotypical gender norms — is unclear, according to Daley and Minter. The center’s long-term goal is to have a few offices throughout California, and to encourage other states to launch similar organizations, said Daley. The only other organization dedicated to Transgender legal issues is a project run out of New York’s Urban Justice Center, but that group works only in New York City.

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