Donors as Allies to the Transgender Community

WDN members recently participated in a call with Scott Turner Schofield, a storyteller, consultant, and diversity speaker; Toby Hill Myer, a writer and consultant to feminist and LGBTQ organizations; and Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equity. The call, There’s No Wrong Way to Have a Body-Being a Good Ally to the Transgender Community, delved into some definitions and concepts central to the transgender community, key things to look for in assessing an organization’s trans-friendliness, and the national transgender-political landscape.

Scott began the call with an overview of the interplay between gender, sex, and sexuality and the way many of us often make assumptions based on any one of those factors.

“How this works is how many of us can go from ‘it’s a girl’ to ‘white wedding,’ all in one thought,” Scott said.

He went on to tease out the many different ways individuals experience gender, sex, and sexuality. This wide range of differences accounts for what can often be a stumbling block for those not a part of the trans community; what Scott called a “constantly changing list of terms” that individuals identify with.

“It’s about a person’s identity and privileging that identity first, not saying I know more than you do,” Scott said.

Toby continued with some fundamental questions to organizations in making sure they are inclusive. These include: How many trans people are paid employees at the organization? How many trans people are in management or board positions? How many trans people are in their membership?

Toby cited research that showed that in all of the LGBTQ nonprofits in the country, only 4-6% of the employees were transgender (and after excluding transgender organizations, only 3-4% were transgender). Of all of the 287 senior management positions in those 287 organizations, only one is held by a transgender person.

Another question to ask is, what has the organization done in the past to support the transgender community?

Toby explained that, now that many states have legalized same-sex marriage, LGBTQ organizations are shifting goals and strategies and, in order to raise funds, are now focusing more on trans issues. This brings the opportunity for many of those issues to be part of larger dialogue nationwide, but Toby explained the need for donors to be judicious and to ensure that philanthropy for the trans community actually goes towards the trans community. As a resource to help evaluate an organization’s inclusivity, Toby recommended a group called Radical Accessibility that does audits of organization’s accessibility to the widest range of people possible (the organization also provides a checklist for organizations to evaluate themselves).

Mara wrapped up the call with an overview of the national transgender landscape. As states begin to roll out different elements of the Affordable Care Act, the National Center for Transgender Equity (NCTE) is pushing the administration to implement the antidiscrimination provision. Mara explained that without rules for this section of the law, it lacks enforcement teeth for states that chose to not follow it.

Mara and the NCTE are also fighting to kill an amendment to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) that was introduced by Senator Cornyn from Texas. The amendment to PREA, which Mara says has protected women and transgender people that are incarcerated since 2003, would effectively gut the act and remove legal protections that have become essential to those populations.

The speakers wrapped up the call with resources for people looking to get more involved with transgender issues. The Trans Justice Funding Network is a relatively new group created to help trans organizations get access to vital funding. The Gender Justice League is a philosophically flat and collectively built organization of transgender activists. Finally, Casa Ruby is a resource center run by Ruby Coronado that provides a large range of services to the transgender community in Washington DC.

By Rachael Vasquez

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