Paving the Road: A Charles Hamilton Houston Approach to Securing Trans Rights

31 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2011 Last revised: 28 Dec 2011

See all articles by Jennifer Levi

Jennifer Levi

Western New England University School of Law

Date Written: December 15, 2000


This Article argues that securing the rights of transgender people requires a comprehensive and long-term litigation strategy and suggests Charles Hamilton Houston as the architect of the modern Civil Rights movement and the inspiration for a trans rights litigation strategy. Section II briefly details the life of Charles Hamilton Houston and focuses on the legal strategy he designed and carried out to overturn Plessy. It continues by drawing some conclusions about what Houston's plan teaches about the struggle for trans rights and a trans litigation strategy. Section III examines the reasons certain cases challenge assumptions about sex and gender, such as those brought in the employment context. The Author argues that avoiding such cases early on in the struggle for trans rights in favor of other, less emotionally charged ones, would be most effective in creating trans-positive law. This incremental approach, while far from ideal, would allow time to do the important work of educating society about the incorrect assumptions upon which sex stereotypes are based and the harm that results therefrom. Section IV details some of the construction materials already in place upon which to build a strategy based on Houston's model. Section V describes a recent case brought on behalf of a transgender person that fits into the strategy described here and explores how that case may provide the next step in this Charles Hamilton Houston model of pursuing trans rights through impact litigation.

Keywords: transgender, civil rights, Charles Hamilton Houston, civil rights and discrimination

Suggested Citation

Levi, Jennifer, Paving the Road: A Charles Hamilton Houston Approach to Securing Trans Rights (December 15, 2000). William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 7, p. 5, 2000, Available at SSRN:

Jennifer Levi (Contact Author)

Western New England University School of Law ( email )

1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA 01119
United States

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