New York State Prohibits Discrimination Based on Gender Identity, Transgender Status, and Gender Dysmorphia

Transgender discrimination lawsuits are growing in numbers. During the last few decades, some state and federal laws have evolved to provide a small measure of protection for transgender individuals from discrimination and sexual harassment. As Governor Cuomo stated in a speech at the Empire State Pride Agenda’s recent dinner, “the scourge of harassment and discrimination against transgender individuals is well-known – and has also gone largely unanswered for too long.”

At the same event, the Governor announced new statewide regulations designed to strengthen protections for transgender individuals in New York. The new regulations prohibit discrimination and harassment against anyone- specifically on the basis of gender identity, transgender status, and gender dysphoria. Governor Cuomo is the first state leader in the nation to issue such comprehensive protection for the transgender community.

New York Laws Prohibit Transgender Discrimination

The change is not truly a legislative one, but it has the same effect. The New York State Division of Human Rights possesses the authority to issue widespread regulations of this nature. They are permitted to create regulations that “interpret” and accompany human rights law. With the issuance of the new regulations, the law itself essentially remains the same, but it casts a protective net over a larger group of people.

The law currently states that discrimination against an individual on the basis of “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, or marital status” is prohibited in relation to private and public housing, employment, and extension of credit.

Specific Protections for Gender Identity, Transgender and Gender Dysphoria

What has changed? A new section has been added to the New York regulations that specifically addresses gender identity, transgender, and gender dysphoria. These terms are clearly defined and allow those people who fit the definitions to become protected under the language that already exists in the law. The regulations are very specific and provide little room for interpretation.

The new section of the regulations titled “Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity,” begins by defining gender identity, transgender, and gender dysphoria.

  • Gender Identity – “Gender identity means having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.”

  • Transgender Person – someone who has a gender identity different from that assigned at birth.

  • Gender Dysphoria – a recognized medical condition related to an individual having a gender identity different from the sex assigned to him or her at birth.


The regulations then specify the following:

  • Discrimination the basis of gender identity is sex discrimination.
  • That “sex”, whenever used in Human Rights Law, includes gender identity and the status of being transgender.
  • Wherever Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination based on sex, it includes gender identity and transgender status.
  • Harassment based on gender identity or transgender status is sexual harassment.
  • Discrimination and harassment based on gender dysphoria are disability discrimination and harassment.
  • The term disability in Human Rights Law includes gender dysphoria.
  • Wherever Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination based on a disability, wherever disability is a protected category, it includes gender dysphoria.
  • Failure to provide reasonable accommodation is disability discrimination.

Substantial Protection for Gender Identity, Transgender and Gender Dysphoria

As a result of these new regulations, the New York Human Rights Law now offers substantially more protection than even federal antidiscrimination laws. In New York, gender identity and transgender status are unequivocally included in provisions that prohibit sex discrimination. Perhaps even more groundbreaking is that New York recognizes gender dysphoria as a disability which means that individuals who are properly diagnosed are entitled to reasonable accommodations.

There will certainly be room for interpretation as to what constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” or discrimination when it comes to transgender and gender dysmorphic individuals. However, there is now specific language that protects them from sex and disability discrimination. With this new protection, transgender individuals in New York City and New York State also have an avenue for recourse if they are mistreated.

If you are being discriminated against, call our New York Discrimination lawyers today to discuss your rights.



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