This Lawyer Fights for His Heroes — Transgender Youth

36-year-old attorney Asaf Orr from San Mateo is a Transgender Youth Project staff attorney at NCLR

Asaf Orr says transgender youth “have taught me what courage and perseverance look like.” (Photo: Trish Tunney Photography)

You describe yourself as a cisgender male — meaning that your gender identity corresponds to your birth sex — and as heterosexual in orientation. How did you come to work for a major organization that advocates and legislates on behalf of the LGBT community, with a special affinity for transgender kids?

Asaf Orr: I went to law school [at Rutgers] knowing that I wanted to focus on LGBT issues, but there were several incidents while I was a high school student in Highland Park, New Jersey, that had a significant impact. I remember when two kids came out in my fairly small high school and the rumor mill was quite vicious. I also worked in a music store owned by an openly gay man. The landlord evicted him because he was gay. He didn’t have the wherewithal to fight and the store closed.

Those experiences clearly made an impression and set you on a path. You joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 2012 and became its Transgender Youth Project staff attorney in 2015. But you having been working consistently on behalf of LGBT rights since before your law school graduation. Will you describe some of these experiences?

I interned at Lambda Legal Defense Fund after my first year of law school. Following a clerkship with Judge Virginia Long of the New Jersey Supreme Court, I received the Rainbow Rights Fellowship to the Learning Rights Law Center in Los Angeles, where I used special education laws to advocate on behalf of LGBT students, many of whom were victims of bullying and harassment and had developed phobias and depression as a result. I want to be clear that in applying the special education laws to these students, I am not suggesting that they had particular disabilities in the sense that we often think of when we use the term “special education.” Rather, if you’re going to school every day, there should be a reasonable expectation that there must be services and accommodations in place to ensure an educational environment free of bullying, harassing behaviors. Continue reading on J Weekly