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Legal issues for transgender people: a review of persistent threats

Jamison Green
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World Professional Association for Transgender Health, 2575 Northwest Parkway Elgin, IL 60124, USA. Email:

Sexual Health 14(5) 431-435
Submitted: 18 June 2017  Accepted: 20 September 2017   Published: 13 October 2017


Background: The legal status of transgender (trans) people is in constant flux. Over the past 70 years, gradually increasing transgender visibility, national and global advocacy, and, more recently, widespread Internet access, communication, and broadening support from allies, have all contributed to successful campaigns that have improved transgender lives and legitimised transgender. Still, traumatic interactions with the legal system or policing agencies remain plentiful. This is a very general overview of the most common legal issues confronting trans people. It aims to inform medical and mental health providers about the trepidation with which their patients and clients must engage legal systems, and the scope of their concerns, which ultimately affect their health. This review relies upon reports generated by advocacy organisations based on population surveys in several countries, the projects undertaken by legal and human rights advocacy groups, the topics most frequently discussed in academic texts examining transgender legal issues, and draws upon the author’s personal advocacy experience. The most complicated and persistent issues are identity recognition, family law and relationship issues, adverse discrimination and anti-transgender violence and its aftermath. Criminal law, almost universally, treats trans people according to the lowest common denominator, their genital status, which supposedly supports expediency and “safety”. Global legal and human rights efforts remain desperately needed to lift transgender people from the margins of society and provide them with equal opportunities to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Access to appropriate and meaningful health care is a crucial element necessary to affirm the humanity of any person.

Additional keywords: legal recognition; identity documents; adverse discrimination; validation.


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