Major trans rights groups have united to take down anti-trans movement: ‘Double the power’

Stock image of a trans flag waving in the wind

Two of the most influential trans rights groups in the United States have announced plans to team up and form a single powerful organisation to fight transphobic legislation and fearmongering.

Spokespeople for The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Legal Defense Fund (TLDEF) confirmed that they are merging together to take down the anti-trans movement once and for all.

While the NCTE has been dedicated to changing federal policies to push for trans acceptance and safety, the TLDEF focuses on promoting trans rights through education, litigation, and direct legal services.

Stock image of a person holding a trans flag
Two major trans rights groups have merged into one to fight transphobic legislation and fearmongering in the US. (Getty Images)

On Wednesday (17 January), both groups announced that they would be combining their strengths and forming one single entity called Advocates for Trans Equality (A4TE).

TLDEF’s Executive Director Andrea ‘Andy’ Hong Marra and NCTE’s Executive Director Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen will lead A4TE as CEO and Executive Director respectively.

Launching A4TE, Marra and Heng-Lehtinen shared their plans for the trans rights powerhouse to be a “highly influential and effective voice” that protects trans people and perspectives from the troubling influx in anti-trans legislation being introduced across the US.

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In 2023 alone, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recorded 508 anti-LGBTQ+ bills. While a hefty percentage of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills failed to make it onto the statute books, activists warn that passing these bills is not the primary goal of conservative legislators.

A picture of two trans flags waving in an open area.
Trans rights groups TLDEF and NCTE have announced plans to unite and form Advocates for Trans Equality. (Credit: Getty Images)

Rather, they tell PinkNews it’s a tactic to instill fear in the LGBTQ+ community and distract voters from an ever-growing list of issues facing the US.

Already in 2024, a number of worrying anti-trans bills have been introduced in states like West Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, and New Hampshire.

In order to effectively target this dangerous spike in homophobic and transphobic bills that Heng-Lehtinen and Marra refer to as a crisis for LGBTQ+ people, they have joined powers once and for all.

“We’ll be able to operate with double the influence, double the power,” Heng-Lehtinen told NBC News.

“At a time when states are considering a record number of anti-transgender bills, trans voices are needed now more than ever, and we have to be operating at a different scale.”

The A4TE co-founders told the news outlet that they got a wake-up call in 2022, when Texas’s Department of Family and Protective Services began investigating families who supported their trans children that sought gender-affirming care.

Heng-Lehtinen recalled that they had then decided: ““we need something cataclysmic, and that’s how we came up with this idea of merging.”

Announcing the merger in a joint statement, the co-founders said: “With double the resources, expertise, and fearless commitment to justice, we will be a powerful national organization to lead the next chapter of the transgender rights movement.

“Advocates for Trans Equality will show exactly what can be materially achieved when trans advocates come together and seek nothing less than equality for trans people in America.”

The merger is set to be finalised by summer 2024, by which point, Advocates for Trans Equality will operate from offices in New York City and Washington D.C., with staff working across the country to maintain, strengthen, and expand upon life-saving policy and legal programmes for the trans community.