Lately, there have been fortunate to have some wonderful members of the trans community speaking out for our rights, from Laverne Cox to Tiq Milan, Geena Rocero to Chaz Bono. Before there were such high-profile celebrities, though, members of our community have been tirelessly advocating for us. One such person is Mara Keisling, founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).
You might have seen or heard Mara Keisling speaking on behalf of NCTE in major media outlets concerning transgender issues. If there is legislation pending that affects the transgender community (as recently in South Dakota and North Carolina), chances are pretty good that you will find her there, speaking with leaders and stating our case.
NCTE was founded in 2003, and Mara (as Executive Director) has been on the frontlines of the national struggle for transgender rights ever since. Before that, she worked in social marketing and opinion research in Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg. She has mentioned that she was motivated to help found the NCTE after the rising violence against transgender people, such as the death of Rita Hester in 1998. Her death would also be the inspiration for the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Although she is the Executive Director of NCTE and works with the media quite often, she actually is one part (though a big part) of the team at NCTE. Over the years, her team at NCTE has led or worked in coalition to bring about significant advances for the transgender community (federally, and at state and local levels).
Mara is a graduate of Penn State University and did graduate work at Harvard University in American Government. She sometimes speaks at transgender-related events, such Transgender Day of Remembrance commemorations and trans conferences like First Event in Boston. When she does speak publicly, it becomes apparent that she is incredibly bright and quite witty. Altogether, she is an incredible force for positive change and an indispensable part of the transgender community.