Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen Named Next Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality | National Center for Transgender Equality

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David Farmer
March 26, 2021

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen Named Next Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality

After 18 years, NCTE Founding Executive Director Mara Keisling Will Step Down This Summer

WASHINGTON – Leading transgender rights organization, the National Center for Transgender Equality, has selected Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the organization’s deputy executive director, as the organization’s next executive director. Heng-Lehtinen will succeed NCTE founding executive director Mara Keisling when she steps down this summer.

“After nearly two decades at the helm of the National Center for Transgender Equality, I’m excited to have Rodrigo succeed me. Rodrigo is a talented leader and champion committed to the cause of equity and inclusion,” said Keisling. “Our work is now as important as ever as we look to pass the Equality Act, fight for transgender youth, and end all forms of disrespect, discrimination, and violence that hold transgender people back.”

Heng-Lehtinen is a leading transgender policy, advocacy and messaging expert and has served as NCTE’s deputy executive director for nearly two years. In this role, he has helped to oversee all policy, communications and engagement initiatives to advance transgender rights at the federal and state levels. 

NCTE’s management, staff and board have been on a transformative racial justice journey over the last year, examining every facet of the organization, updating policies and changing the internal culture to foster a more just and diverse workplace where everyone can thrive. Heng-Lehtinen has been a leader in these diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and initiatives. 

“Rodrigo is a thoughtful and collaborative leader committed to the cause of equality and justice for transgender people. His commitment to ensuring that the National Center for Transgender Equality speaks with a clear voice about its mission and work has elevated the organization at a pivotal time for our community. His leadership will be vital as we work in support of the passage of the Equality Act, as we work to ensure the transgender community has quality access to care amid the coronavirus pandemic, and as we work to ensure economic and political gains for our community,” said Alex Garnick, NCTE Action Fund Board Chair.

As founding executive director since 2003, Keisling has led organizational and coalition efforts that have won significant advances in transgender equality, including passing the first federal legislation that ever included transgender people and co-founding the US Transgender Survey, which is the largest survey of transgender people’s experiences. She created an effective transgender voice in Washington, securing countless policy wins. 

“NCTE forged ahead with our work with purpose, passion and integrity because of Mara’s vision and foresight,” said Rachel See, NCTE Board Chair. “As NCTE’s founder, Mara blazed the trail that we now walk. Her unwavering commitment to equality and justice for transgender people has helped all of us. Her work was not easy and what was asked of her was not easy. We thank her for being an unapologetic advocate, a trusted collaborator and a leader who has lifted up other exceptional leaders like Rodrigo.”

Heng-Lehtinen, himself a transgender man, has wide-ranging experience in the LGBTQ movement, including field organizing, leadership development, fundraising and media advocacy. This includes work as the vice president for public education at Freedom for All Americans, the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans.

“I want to thank Mara for all she has done to found and lead NCTE. We share a love and respect for this work, and I am grateful for what Mara has contributed to the organization and for having the vision to create this entire organization from the ground up. Under her leadership, we have built a strong foundation for future growth,” said Heng-Lehtinen. “I am fully committed to working with the board, the staff and the community to accelerate NCTE’s life-saving work.”

March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility, and NCTE will host its 2021 Trans Equality Awards. The virtual event begins at 7 p.m. ET and will honor trailblazers in the movement, grassroots activists and strong allies committed to transgender equality across the nation. The event will include remarks from both Keisling and Heng-Lehtinen. For additional information, please visit https://transequality.org/awards2021

 

About The National Center for Transgender Equality:

The National Center for Transgender Equality advocates changing policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people. In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, NCTE works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice. For additional information, please visit: https://transequality.org/ 

 

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