Sylvia Rivera Law Project Is Founded

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, named for transgender rights activist and advocate Sylvia Rivera, was formed to provide free legal services to transgender, transsexual, intersex, and other gender-nonconforming persons. The project has a special focus on persons of color and those with low incomes.

Summary of Event

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), founded by transgender lawyer and activist Dean Spade, provides free legal services to transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals, especially people of color, those with a low income, and the homeless in New York City. The nonprofit organization is named in honor of Sylvia Rivera, a transgender and civil rights advocate and activist whose political efforts date back to the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969. The SRLP has since grown and is now collectively run by a group of more than twenty people. [kw]Sylvia Rivera Law Project Is Founded (2002)
[kw]Rivera Law Project Is Founded, Sylvia (2002)
[kw]Law Project Is Founded, Sylvia Rivera (2002)
Sylvia Rivera Law Project
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In addition to providing direct services to fight discrimination on the basis of gender identity, Gender identity;discrimination and gender expression, or intersex Intersex persons, discrimination against status, the law project is engaged in efforts to change policies that create obstacles to full inclusion and equal access to all who are disempowered by discrimination and violence. It also provides training materials and services to organizations seeking information about transgender/ transsexual rights and the law. The SRLP also provides information on making work environments welcoming and accessible to transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people. Legal cases, policy formation, and training have focused on housing and homeless services, adult and juvenile justice, health care provision and insurance, police practices, employment, and education.


Several pivotal cases have been argued and won by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project on behalf of transgender clients in New York. These include the case Jean Doe v. Bell (2002), Jean Doe v. Bell (2002)[Jean Doe v Bell] in which it was determined that “youth in foster care have the right to dress in clothing appropriate to their gender identity,” and Matter of Guido (2003), Matter of Guido (2003) which established that “transgender name change applicants cannot be held to a higher evidentiary standard than non-transgender applicants.” In 2003, the SRLP also won a ruling enabling a transgender woman to visit her children when she expressed her gender as a woman.

In collaboration with transgender videographer Tara Mateik, the SRLP produced the 2003 documentary film Toilet Training, Toilet Training (2003) which explores the implications—including harassment and violence—of being gender variant and accessing not only public restrooms but also private restrooms in schools and workplaces. The production of this video was prompted by Spade’s arrest in February, 2002, for entering the men’s restroom in Grand Central Station in New York. Although he and several friends were detained by police for more than twenty-four hours, they ultimately were released from custody and charges against them were dropped. Furthermore, the SRLP’s transgender awareness and sensitivity training comes with a history of legal battles against discrimination faced by transgender and transsexual people in housing, employment, foster care, homeless shelters, and prisons. Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Rivera Law Project, Sylvia
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Further Reading

  • Crane, Kate. “Trannie Legal Aid, Part One.” New York Press, January 20, 2004.
  • _______. “Trannie Legal Aid, Part Two.” New York Press, February 3, 2004.
  • Mottet, L., and J. Ohle. Transitioning Our Shelters: A Guide to Making Homeless Shelters Safe for Transgender People. New York: National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, 2003. Homeless.pdf.
  • Osborne, Duncan. “A Collective Effort at Change.” Gay City News, May 12-18, 2005. .html.
  • Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

November 21, 1966: First Gender Identity Clinic Opens and Provides Gender Reassignment Surgery

June 27-July 2, 1969: Stonewall Rebellion Ignites Modern Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement

1978: Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Is Founded

1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest

1993: Intersex Society of North America Is Founded

June 17, 1995: International Bill of Gender Rights Is First Circulated

1998: Transgender Scholarship Proliferates

October 27, 1999: Littleton v. Prange Withholds Survivor Rights from Transsexual Spouses

April 30, 2002: Transgender Rights Added to New York City Law

March, 2003-December, 2004: Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation

November 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project

May 17, 2004: Transsexual Athletes Allowed to Compete in Olympic Games