CommunityPam's House Blend

LGBT Minus Some T: Transgender Not On Board(s)

Joanne Herman, in an exclusive posted April 10, 2007, posted the article Trans not on board(s). The subtitle to the piece is Most gay and lesbian organizations have become LGBT organizations in recent years. If their missions now include transgender people, why don’t their boards?

Late last year the media were filled with reports that ABC was adding a transgender character to its long-running daytime soap All My Children. Most of the articles I read were careful to point out that the network had prudently sought the advice of LGBT media watchdog GLAAD in advance of introducing Zarf/Zoe.

(I’m a member of the board of GLAD, an LGBT legal rights organization that is not related.)

Ironically, at about the same time, I received at home a fund-raising letter from GLAAD. After initially using the term LGBT, the letter spoke only of the concerns of gay people. The problem is that some transgender people are not gay. I’m sure GLAAD’s letter would have been worded more inclusively if they had at least one transgender person on their board. So why don’t they?

To be fair, GLAAD has some fine transgender employees-I know two of them personally-and it seems from the AMC episodes to date that they have been giving excellent advice to ABC.

Plus, GLAAD is not alone in its omission. A recent survey by the Movement Advancement Project found that there are only 19 transgender people among the 541 total members of the boards of the top 26 LGBT organizations. The study concluded that, while the proportion “may be reasonable” versus the population as a whole, it “may be low considering that the organizations aspire to serve transgender people as well.” Other major organizations reporting no trans board members included GLSEN, Lambda Legal, and NCLR.

And also to be fair, NCLR initially funded and nurtured the Transgender Law Project, which has become the stand alone non-profit Transgender Law Center.

(more on “alphabet soup” non-profits after flip)Yet, Joanne Herman makes a valid point with the quoted statistics from the Movement Advancement Project — only 19 transgender people among the 541 total members of the boards of the top 26 LGBT organizations. I know I think about what kind of services are offered to transpeople when I give money to LGBT organizations, as well as how their people at the front desks and on the phone treat transgender people. Now, I’m going to think about board composition as well.

I guess my message to those “alphabet soup” non-profits would be that if *you* added a T to your LGB, please act like *you* really mean it. Don’t just add the T, but provide services to transgender people and clients with exactly the same deference that *you* provide services to LGB people and clients, and then add some transgender board members.

My transgender peers and I — as well as our significant others, friends, families, and allies — will be watching. We won’t be watching so much from a place of anger, but from the place of understanding that diversity includes equality with our LGB peers in diverse LGBT organizations.

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