In 2023, more than five hundred bills attacking the rights of LGBTQ communities — many centered squarely on the civil rights and bodily autonomy of transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people, drag performers, families, and youth — were proposed in state legislatures nationwide. While LGBTQ movements continue to lead highly sophisticated and powerful organizing campaigns that have defeated a majority of these bills, several bills have been signed into law across the country, to devastating effect.
Confronted with the fear of incarceration, loss of livelihood, and/or their medical licenses, many hospitals and medical practices in states with these laws have been forced to cease provision of TGNC-affirming care. Families are being threatened with state-mandated separation for simply providing the best healthcare possible for their children and challenged to make impossible decisions about where they live and work. People are being assaulted — and in some cases, even killed — for being perceived as part of the TGNC community.
This is all happening during a seemingly fast-paced slide toward authoritarianism. While several TGNC people ran successful campaigns for political office in state legislatures, many were notably attacked by far-right politicians, breaking their own rules of decorum. Montana State Representative Zoey Zephyr, one of the first TGNC lawmakers in the state, was voted off the floor for telling her fellow lawmakers they would “have blood on their hands” if they supported a ban on affirming healthcare for TGNC youth. She and her constituents were effectively silenced and disenfranchised. As we move towards the 2024 presidential elections, there is a deeply rooted fear that these assaults and attacks on democracy, and on TGNC communities, will only increase in violence and frequency.
We are living in a terrifying time.
The far right’s campaign against bodily autonomy is the work of generations, if not centuries. During a recent conversation about the intersections between reproductive justice and LGBTQ movements on Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ podcast, Justice Ain’t Cheap, Imara Jones, the founder and CEO of TransLash, reflected that the far right is investing over a billion dollars annually in its domestic strategies. Our most recent tracking report found that in 2021, total funding for LGBTQ movements in the United States totaled $251 million. Of that, only $36 million dollars went to TGNC communities. That is, proportionally, less than 4 cents of every $100 philanthropic dollars.
As members of the philanthropic sector, this is a moment for us to move with precision, strategy, and rigor. It is critical that we not only hold hope but translate that hope into a disciplined practice that invests in intersectional movement building. In these times, I remind myself every day that our movements have the knowledge, strategy, and experience to win, to build a world where all of us are well, safe, and free. If your institution’s grantmaking practices are dedicated to promoting democracy, reproductive justice, racial equity, climate change, and/or health, know that the ultimate success of your work demands a trans praxis.
To that end, Funders for LGBTQ Issues and our member network offer a number of resources for foundations seeking to build a focus on TGNC communities in their grantmaking. If this is a new journey for your institution, we offer the following recommendations:
Review our resource page which offers a number of articles, intermediaries, and best practices for funders seeking information about ways to guide and shift their grantmaking. You can also review our most recent webinar recordings for context about the impact of anti-LGBTQ attacks on local and national organizing:
Increase support for TGNC-led groups doing work that aligns their existing portfolios, and do so in ways that offer flexible, low-barrier access to funding (e.g. general operating support, multi-year grants, simplified application and reporting requirements). If this isn’t possible, explore investing by supporting existing TGNC-funding intermediaries that can move money now to TGNC communities and groups including PFund, Out in the South Fund and its members, and Southern Power Fund.
Become part of the Funders for LGBTQ Issues network of more than ninety members working to increase the scale and impact of LGBTQ philanthropy.
Funders for LGBTQ Issues will be hosting a panel at the upcoming Center for Effective Philanthropy conference alongside Kate Kendell from The California Endowment and Luc Athayde-Rizzaro from the Ford Foundation to talk about how philanthropy can show up in this moment. If you are attending CEP2023, I hope you can join us for this critical conversation and help ensure our movements have the abundance that they need to hold this work.
Saida Agostini-Bostic is president of Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
Editor’s Note: CEP publishes a range of perspectives. The views expressed here are those of the authors, not necessarily those of CEP.