Why funding for transgender rights organizations like the Transgender Law Center is so important right now

Note from the CREDO team: This June, the Transgender Law Center is among three amazing groups that will receive a share of our monthly grant. Funding from the CREDO community will will help TLC promote its visionary national Trans Agenda for Liberation; develop movement leaders and build power for change; and create and advance the legal and policy frameworks that respect and support transgender equality.

Read this important blog post from TLC’s Executive Director Kris Hayashi, then click here to visit CREDODonations.com to cast your vote to help determine how we distribute our monthly grant to this organization and our other amazing grantees this June.

Recent data shows that only four cents of every $100 dollars of foundation funding goes to trans organizations and causes. Only four cents. What does this historic disinvestment in our communities mean for how we envision our future? And what can we do about it?

During Trans Rights Week, I am reflecting on the importance of joining together to shape our future. In the face of escalating attacks against so many of our communities, this week is about all of it: it is about showing up for trans youth, defending Black lives, fighting for reproductive justice, and demanding an end to the detention of trans immigrants.

A well-worn playbook – from bathroom bills to sports bans 

At the end of February 2022, the Texas Attorney General and Governor declared that families who support their transgender children and access transition related health care are committing child abuse. Soon after investigations by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services of the families of transgender children and youth began (there is currently a statewide injunction under appeal). This situation is part of a marked escalation of anti-trans policies specifically seeking to utilize the child welfare system to target transgender youth and their families. And of course, this system has long been used to enact violence against BIPOC, disabled, trans, queer, poor, and migrant families.

Trans organizations in Texas and nationally, along with allied organizations, sprang into action and did all they could to support terrified trans children and their families and fight back against this attack. Transgender Law Center organizers and our Board Chair Imara Jones went down to support our partners on the ground, Transgender Education Network of Texas, rallying, speaking out, and just spending time with trans youth, their families, and local trans leaders.

Unfortunately, what happened in Texas was not an isolated incident. While we are under a friendlier federal administration, the attacks on trans people have just moved down to the state level. In 2015 there were fifteen anti-trans bills enacted into law. This year, at last count, there were 140 anti-trans bills introduced in thirty-four states. 140. What we are seeing now in the US is an unprecedented level of attack.

These bills seek to keep transgender children and youth from living their full, authentic lives – whether it is playing sports, accessing life-saving health care, or simply naming they exist in schools. Organizations like the ACLU and others are fighting it out in courts across the country. Local organizations like The Knights and Orchid Society and TAKE Resource Center in Alabama are doing all they can to fight these bills and keep communities safe. But we know that even if these bills do not pass, they have a chilling effect on our communities. Trans communities, particularly trans youth and their families are terrified.

Why is this happening? These anti-trans laws and policies have long been a strategy of the conservative right to motivate their base constituents during election cycles, especially in states with governors and other state legislators who are aspiring candidates for national office–and they are deeply investing in this strategy. Trans organizations have been fighting these attacks for over a decade–from the “bathroom bills” of 2015 to a myriad of attacks during the four years of the Trump administration. These efforts are part of a well-worn playbook used by political conservatives that include attacks on voting rights, racial justice, and reproductive rights.

Signs are held up by the crowd at the March 31st rally led by The Transgender Education Network of Texas with support from TLC for Transgender Day of Visibility at the Texas State Capitol. Signs say, “Affirming care saves lives,” “We will not be erased,” and “Protect trans Texans,” all with Monica Helms’ transgender pride flag colors of light blue, pink, and white. Photo credit: Geoff Carlisle.

An urgent call to invest in trans futures

The long-standing lack of investment in trans leaders and organizations severely limits what we can do to defeat these attacks. Meanwhile, the eleven nonprofit organizations behind the majority of this most recent round of anti-LGBTQ bills received over $110 million from right-wing funders in 2020 alone.

So what can we do?

On the national level, I am part of The Trans Futures Funding Campaign, an urgent and immediate call for $10 million in new funding to invest boldly and deeply in local trans organizations.

This new funding will send a clear and unequivocal statement of support for trans communities at a time of escalated attacks on the rights and lives of trans people, their loved ones, and their allies. We are particularly interested in partnering with grantmakers who have never funded trans communities before.

Trans-led grantmakers have joined together to make this call for support. Experts in funding transgender communities are involved in this effort, including from the Fund for Trans Generations at Borealis Philanthropy, Grantmakers United for Trans Communities and the Out in the South Initiative at Funders for LGBT Issues, the Third Wave Fund, the Transgender Strategy Center, the Black Trans Fund, and the Trans Justice Funding Project, among others.

This funding will strengthen local, grassroots trans organizations in states facing these attacks–both to respond now, and to build for the long haul. Priority beneficiaries will include groups who do not have access to traditional funding streams, and are led by, or working with, some of the most vulnerable communities within the trans communities and their families–BIPOC communities, trans women and femmes, migrants, youth and elders, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, and poor and rural communities. We are grateful to The California Endowment and The Ford Foundation which have already made commitments.

And as individuals and allies I urge you to take the time to research and learn more about trans issues and trans-led groups in your local community and support their efforts. You can also sign on to demand that the Biden administration implement the Trans Agenda for Liberation, a community-led guide towards the world we deserve.

Why? Because our future depends on it. 

Kris Hayashi is Executive Director at the Transgender Law Center, the largest trans-led organization in the country working to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation. For more information or to join the Trans Futures Funding Campaign please contact Alexander Lee, at Funders for LGBT Issues, alex@lgbtfunders.org.