Organizing for Transgender Rights

Collective Action, Group Development, and the Rise of a New Social Movement

By Anthony J. Nownes

Subjects: Political Science, Queer Studies, Gender Studies, Public Policy, American Politics
Series: SUNY series in Queer Politics and Cultures
Hardcover : 9781438473017, 226 pages, March 2019
Paperback : 9781438473000, 226 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures

1. Introduction: Organizing for Transgender Rights in the United States

2. A Brief History of Transgender Rights Organizing in the United States

3. The Crucial Role of Grievances and Interactions

4. Interactions, Learning, and Connections

5. Overcoming the Collective-Action Problem

6. A Return to Context: Population Ecology and Political Opportunity Structure

7. The Role of Collective Identity

8. Conclusion: The Formation of Transgender Rights Interest Groups in the United States

Appendix A The Questionnaire Protocol

Appendix B Data and Methods


Illuminates transgender activists' successful strategies to organize for social and political change in the US.


In recent years, gender-variant people—including those we now call transgender people—have won public policy victories that had previously seemed unwinnable: the American Psychiatric Association replaced the term "gender identity disorder" with "gender dysphoria" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Department of Justice announced that discrimination on the basis of gender identity constituted sex discrimination, and the Department of Health and Human Services decided that it would no longer stop Medicare from covering gender reassignment surgery. What accounts for these and other victories?

Anthony J. Nownes argues that a large part of the answer lies in the rise of transgender rights interest groups in the United States. Drawing on firsthand accounts from the founders and leaders of these groups, Organizing for Transgender Rights not only addresses how these groups mobilized and survived but also illuminates a path to further social change. Nownes shows how oppressed and marginalized people can overcome the barriers to collective action and form viable organizations to represent their interests even when their government continues to be hostile and does not.

Anthony J. Nownes is Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is the author of Interest Groups in American Politics: Pressure and Power, Second Edition and Total Lobbying: What Lobbyists Want (and How They Try to Get It).


"The book traverses several fields, but it is primarily situated in and speaks to the political science literature on interest-group formation. It makes an important contribution by revisiting and revising pluralist and relative deprivation approaches to interest-group formation that have fallen out of favor in recent years." — Stephen Valocchi, author of Social Movements and Activism in the USA