(Note: This letter was originally published in OUT Magazine and among its signers are New Orleans / Louisiana trans advocates)
As transgender and nonbinary leaders of prominent advocacy, grassroots, national, regional, legal, and leadership development organizations across the United States, we are troubled by Human Rights Campaign’s announcement of its new “trans-centered” framework, which we first learned about on Out.com. Trans people, and primarily Black trans leaders and trans leaders of color, have been leading the work for trans liberation since long before HRC existed. As new HRC president Alphonso David acknowledged to Out, our work in recent decades has more often been opposed and undermined by HRC rather than supported.
We believe that organizations can change and that there could be a role for HRC in the fight for trans liberation. But we were surprised to read that David believes HRC’s role is “to come up with solutions and stand on the frontline to provide meaningful solutions for the transgender community.”
Our lives are the frontlines. We have the solutions. And after many years of holding institutions like HRC accountable, we finally have won some infrastructure — with still far too limited resources — to support our movement for trans liberation in the United States.
We need more funding. We need more power. We need to be trusted to lead with our own solutions to the oppression that threatens our lives. We do not need a cisgender-led $40 million organization to copy our work and brand it as new.
The trans leaders signing this statement work day in and day out to build and strategize towards what liberation may look like for all of us — and HRC should not claim to lead this for us. Trans disability justice and HIV/AIDS leaders have said it best: Nothing about us, without us.
Many of us are Black trans leaders and trans leaders of color, and were excited by David’s appointment as the first Black president of HRC. Racism, anti-Blackness, and transphobia together work to undo our movements and threaten our lives and visions for liberation. We remain hopeful for David’s leadership and recognize that he alone cannot resolve the organization’s full legacy of transphobia, racism, and its compounding effects in two months on the job.
But if HRC is truly committed to trans liberation, the organization’s leadership must start with repairing, healing, and listening. They must start by addressing past harm, building genuine relationships, and demonstrating support for our leadership. They must bolster our work, not take credit for it.
We invite a conversation with Alphonso David and other HRC leadership. We would welcome HRC’s support — but we will not accept their cooptation of our movement.
Adrien Lawyer, Co-Director, Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, Aidan Key, Executive Director, Gender Diversity, Aldo Gallardo, Alex Patchin McNeill, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians, Alexander Lee, Board Member, Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat & Historical Center, Amita Swadhin, Founding Director, Mirror Memoirs, Ana Andrea, Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (OLTT), Ana Conner, Andy Marra, Executive Director, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Anjali Rimi, South Asian trans leader, Aryah Lester, Deputy Director, Transgender Strategy Center, Bamby Salcedo, President/CEO, The TransLatin@ Coalition, Ben Hudson, Jr. Executive Director, Gender Health Center, Beyond These Walls, BreakOUT!, C. Chela Demuir, Unique Woman’s Coalition, Cathy Kapua, Native Hawaiian trans leader, Cecilia Chung, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Evaluation, Transgender Law Center, The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at University of California, San Francisco, Chase Strangio, Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, Cristina Herrera, CEO & Founder, Translatinx Network, Dale Manning, President, Transgender Equality Network, Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, Executive Director, Trans United Fund, Diego Barrera, Founder and Director, inTRANSitive, Arkansas, Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Executive Director, Trans Women of Color Collective, Drago Renteria, Executive Director, Deaf Queer Resource Center, Dylan Waguespack, President, Board of Directors, Louisiana Trans Advocates, Ebony Ava Harper, National Alliance for Trans Liberation and Advancement, Eli Clare, writer and activist, Elle Hearns, Founder and Executive Director, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Erica Woodland, Founding Director, National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, Evonne Kaho, Love Me Unlimited 4 Life, Gabriel Arkles, Gender Justice LA, Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director, Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth (BAGLY, Inc.), Isa Noyola, El/La Para TransLatinas, Isyss Honnen, Director, TRANSform Washington at Pride Foundation, Jamison Green, Ph.D, Janetta Johnson, Executive Director, Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), Jennicet Gutiérrez, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Juniperangelica Cordova, National TRUTH (Trans Youth) Council, Karter Booher, Executive Director, Ingersoll Gender Center, Kit Malone, community organizer, Kiyomi Fujikawa, Kris Hayashi, Executive Director, Transgender Law Center, LaGender, Inc., LaLa Zannell, LaSaia Wade, Founder and Executive Director, Brave Space Alliance, Lillian Lennon, Lisa Stuart, Vice President, Transgender Equality Network, Luc Bensimón, Activist, Black Transmen Inc, Kansas chapter, Maria Roman, Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, The TransLatin@ Coalition, Marisa Richmond, Ph.D., Middle Tennessee State University, Marsha Botzer, Mattee Jim, Supervisor, HIV Prevention Programs, First Nations Community HealthSource, Native American trans advocate, Michael Soto, Executive Director, Equality Arizona, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Founder, House of GG, Monica Roberts, Founding Managing Editor, TransGriot, Montana Gender Alliance, Morey Riordan, Founding Director, Transgender Strategy Center, New York Transgender Advocacy Group, Octavia Y. Lewis, MPA, Ola Osaze, Director, Black LGBTQIA Migrant Project, Payshunz Nagashima, Texas-based activist, Quentin Bell, Executive Director, The Knights & Orchids Society, Rev. Debra J. Hopkins, Pastor, Essentials for Life Ministries, Charlotte, NC, Rev. Elena Rose Vera, Executive Director, Trans Lifeline, Rev. Louis Mitchell, Executive Director, Transfaith, Ruby Corado, Executive Director, Casa Ruby, Ryan Li Dahlstrom, Sam Ames, Interim Executive Director, Our Family Coalition, Sammie Ablaza Wills, Executive Director, APIENC, Sayer A Johnson, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Metro Trans Umbrella Group and Founder, Trans Queer Flat, Sean Coleman, Executive Director, Destination Tomorrow, Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative (SNaPCo), Racial Justice Action Center, Taffy Johnson, Executive Director, UTOPIA Seattle, Tita Aida, Toya Washington, Executive Director, TAKE Resource Center, Toni Newman, Executive Director, St. James Infirmary, Toni-Michelle Williams, Director, Solutions NOT Punishment Collaborative (SNaPCo), Trans Justice Funding Project, Trans Queer Pueblo, Trans(forming), Tre’Andre Valentine, Executive Director, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), Úmi Vera, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, Wes Ware, Z! Haukeness, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), (National) Chapter Support Co-Coordinator, Zahara Green, Executive Director, TRANScending Barriers, Zane Stephens, Co-Director, Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico