Know Your Rights

Introduction and Krystal’s Story

Transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) youth face serious legal obstacles, and many endure discrimination and violence on a daily basis, whether in school, health care, families or the criminal justice system.

(To read our FAQ for TGNC youth, click here.)

The challenges of changing one’s name, finding access to hormones or enduring police brutality, for instance, demand a distinctly adult set of skills and can take their toll on a young person. If you don’t have a safe place to call home, it’s difficult to get a handle on the other struggles in your life. And TGNC youth have a high rate of homelessness because many can’t rely on parental support—whether financial or emotional or both. Not to mention that mistreatment at school is so common that many drop out.

The fact is, however, that nobody has the legal right to harass you simply because of who you are or are perceived to be. Laws and policies exist at multiple levels to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression. These are generally new or still developing in most states and cities, and they vary widely. Lambda Legal (866-542-8336 or www.lambdalegal.org/help) tracks these laws and cases and helps advocate on behalf of TGNC people of all ages. Reaching out to other young TGNC people can also be a big help.

MY STORY: YOUNG, HOMELESS AND TRANSITIONING
Krystal Neal, 24

“I left my house when I was 19 and keep trying to make it on my own. I’ve stayed in shelters where I have been harassed by both gay and straight people. And one time I was walking around the West Village with a friend and some cops asked for our ID. One cop said, ‘You have to clear up this thing, John—my birth name on my ID—in front of other people. It was really embarrassing.

“I decided to transition in November 2010. I had worked at a fast food place for a year and a half but as I transitioned, the changes were starting to show. When I came into work dressed as a woman, I got fired.

“My mother loves me, I know that, but she’s also worried about what other people think.

“I want to be a role model for the trans community and show the world we’re just people. Living my life as the true me—as Krystal—is not always easy, but I don’t think there is any other choice.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Lambda Legal at 212-809-8585, 120 Wall Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10005-3919. If you feel you have experienced discrimination, call our Legal Help Desk toll-free at 866-542-8336 or go to www.lambdalegal.org/help-form.