The Transformation Project

Brendan Johnson, head of the business litigation group for Robins Kaplan and former U.S. attorney for South Dakota. (Courtesy of Robins Kaplan)

Q&A: Why Brendan Johnson chose courtrooms over politics

BY: - September 24, 2023

Sioux Falls lawyer Brendan Johnson has a last name that carries a lot of weight in South Dakota political circles. His father, Tim Johnson, was the last Democrat to serve in any statewide elected office from the now-solidly red state. The elder Johnson, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1997 […]

An opponent of the state's ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children holds a sign during an event at Van Eps Park in downtown Sioux Falls on July 28, 2023. The protesters called for state lawmakers to repeal the ban. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Why hasn’t a lawsuit challenged SD’s trans health care ban?

BY: and - August 4, 2023

Twenty-one states have implemented laws or policies banning gender-affirming care for transgender children. Nearly half of the laws have been challenged in court, but not South Dakota’s. That’s partly because a similar ban was already blocked by a federal judge in Arkansas earlier this summer. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the Arkansas law in […]

(Illustration by Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Transgender rights group’s lawsuit against state unlikely to be resolved until 2024

BY: - May 17, 2023

More than a year could pass before a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination by the state of South Dakota is resolved. The Transformation Project, a nonprofit advocacy group working on behalf of transgender South Dakotans, filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Kristi Noem and the South Dakota Department of Health late last year after the department […]

Joey is a 12-year-old transgender boy living in South Dakota. After the latest legislative session, where lawmakers passed a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors in the state, his family is planning to move. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

‘Children are political targets’: A family’s struggle with SD’s trans health care ban

BY: - April 28, 2023

Joey enjoys playing basketball and baseball. He’s a sixth grader, and he wants to be an exotic animal vet when he grows up. He likes to build with Legos and he loves science, but he’s not a fan of math. He’s teaching himself how to play the guitar, he plays trombone in the school band […]

(Illustration by Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Transgender advocacy group sues state over contract cancellation

BY: - February 9, 2023

On the same day South Dakota lawmakers sent a bill to bar certain kinds of health care for transgender youth to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk, a transgender advocacy organization filed suit against the state over her abrupt cancellation of a Department of Health contract late last year. The Transformation Project’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. […]

(Illustration by Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Gender Identity Summit closed to media, public

BY: - January 11, 2023

The third annual Gender Identity Summit in Sioux Falls will be closed to the media and the public, organizers said Wednesday. The summit is set to begin Friday morning. The agenda includes sessions on understanding gender identity, implicit bias, gender affirming care and creating a gender inclusive practice. Paul Heinert of Sanford Health said Wednesday […]

Jack Fonder is the community health worker for The Transformation Project in Sioux Falls. He was hired in September 2022. (Courtesy of Jack Fonder)

Transgender employee at center of contract controversy pledges to fight on

BY: - December 30, 2022

Jack Fonder trusted his doctor. He’d spent years under her care, and she understood his medical history. But that changed when he transitioned. “It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had,” he recalled. Fonder is a transgender man – a person whose gender identity is as a man, but was assigned female sex […]

Inside the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Noem appoints new secretary of health

BY: - December 22, 2022

Three days after the previous secretary of the state Department of Health retired, Gov. Kristi Noem has appointed Melissa Magstadt to lead the department, according to a Thursday news release from the governor’s office. Magstadt’s appointment will be effective on the next state work day, which is Tuesday. “Melissa has proven her ability to provide […]

(Illustration by Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Transgender advocacy group plans to sue state over contract cancellation

BY: - December 22, 2022

A transgender advocacy organization plans to sue the state of South Dakota for civil rights violations over Gov. Kristi Noem’s abrupt cancellation of a health care facilitation contract with the group. Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. district attorney who works for the law firm Robins Kaplan, told South Dakota Searchlight that his firm will represent […]

A protester displays a sign at the "Stop Criminalizing Trans Existence" protest in Sioux Falls on Feb. 1, 2020. The protest was in response to bills introduced during the 2020 legislative session. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Transformation Project calls termination of state contract ‘unwarranted’

BY: - December 20, 2022

A nonprofit advocacy organization for transgender South Dakotans says it has fulfilled its contractual obligations with the state and is calling the state’s termination of the contract “unwarranted.” In a letter Friday, Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration terminated its contract with The Transformation Project, alleging numerous contract violations committed by the group. Meanwhile, the governor’s spokesman […]