Norma Timbang

Norma Timbang provides private consulting and facilitation toward transformative and transitional processes for human and health services, policy advocacy, grassroots, academic, community, and social justice organizations. Her consulting work includes and is centered on integration of values and principles of equity and social justice. She has decades of experience in organizational leadership and administrative oversight, including as one of the founding mothers and former executive director of Asian & Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center (now merged as API Chaya), former Administrator/Senior Research Coordinator for Center for Women’s Welfare, former Community Programs Manager at International Community Health Services, and former executive director of Asian Pacific AIDS Council. She has also formerly served as a member of such organizations as the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum’s (NAPAWF’s) governing board and the Washington State Task Force on Human Trafficking. Norma was an awardee of the 2011 Tony Lee Social Justice Award, a 2011 co-honoree of a City of Seattle proclamation for organizing towards social justice in response to human trafficking and intimate partner violence, was the 2015 recipient of the University of Washington, School of Social Work Martin Luther King Community Service Award, a recent nominee for the University of Washington’s Distinguished Teaching award, and was recognized as one of 50 U.S. Asian Pacific American “Sheroes” by NAPAWF.

Norma is adjunct faculty at the University of Washington School of Social Work and has taught courses on social justice and racial equity, InterGroup Dialogue, organizational development, community and coalition building, policy development and advocacy, community organizing, human development, direct social work practice, and community collaborative program evaluation and participatory action research. Additionally, Norma has been a counselor for many years and currently has a small private practice as a mental health therapist and organizational healer. Norma also provides conflict mediation from a framework of equity and social justice. She is one of the co-founders at The Well on Beacon in Seattle, a culturally diverse and responsive, multi-service, holistic wellness clinic.

Born and raised in the Seattle and surrounding area, Norma is a grandmother of 5 and mother of 2 mixed race single moms. She is a survivor of domestic violence and child sexual assault. She identifies as Filipinx, disabled, queer, pansexual, has cis-gender privilege, and goes by she or they pronouns. At age 62, Norma lives in a small studio apartment in a suburb of Seattle. She enjoys cooking and eating in her disproportionately large kitchen, playing with grandchildren, hanging out with her daughters and her partner of 17 years, Tania. She has been working on a book for many years on internalized oppression, ironically the reason the book is taking so many years to write.


Q&A with Norma Timbang

Most of your activist work has been centered in the Pacific Northwest. Why does it feel critically important to you to do social justice work in that region?

I’m connected now to a few LGBTQ policy advocacy and movement building organizations and get event and project announcements quite frequently. When I look at who is involved in some of the projects, I still see a lack of diversity. I’ve also engaged with LGBTQ organizations and am concerned by the lack of understanding of how to operationalize equity and inclusion. Unfortunately, this often leads to struggles in collectives and organizations, e.g., breakdown in relationships, trust is lost, resentment grows, several members choose to exit (sometimes all or majority the BIPOC members), etc. Sadly, this is painful and sometimes results in white LGBTQ leadership sustaining their status as leaders in our communities, while still holding limited understanding of equity and inclusion. In our region, I see the culture of – “Let’s not and say we did” (phrase coined by a black activist in our community) – contributing to the continued white dominance in our movement. Ultimately, this divides our communities and leaves BIPOC LGBTQ folx with disproportionately less resources and capacity for sustainability.

We still get left out. I’ve been connecting with LGBTQ elder projects and I still find sometimes that I am the only person of color in the room when planning events or conferences. When I try to bring in other BIPOC folx, there is resistance on their part because of past experiences of exclusion and racism in LGBTQ projects. In the PNW, elder LGBTQ housing and service development is an overwhelming concern. We don’t have enough opportunities to dig into the needs at the intersection of race and LGBTQ identities and culture. As a part-time teacher at a school that brings in students from all over the country, I hear that this area is sometimes thought of as having a culture of being “nice” but not having the capacity to be open and deeply engage in conversations about race, class, gender, queerness, immigration, etc., or to explore possibilities for alliance or accountability.

You’re known as the coordinator and “grandmother” of the first National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) conference. Why did it feel critical at that time to organize API communities, and specifically queer and trans API communities? Why does it still feel critical?

We are still invisible. As I got older I realized my work could be more about being behind the scenes, working towards practices and principles for leadership building and organizational capacity building. I saw a new generation of folx moving forward with change-making goals and generating important critical thinking regarding the diversity of cultures in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. I feel like I can be of some support in making the space for this to not just be a moment in time, but to rise up the perspectives of the API LGBTQ communities and to enhance national networking. The good connections we make, the relationships we build, acceptance and visibility of diverse cultural contexts, are essential to base building, relevant practices, and policy advocacy.

One of the most challenging API community struggles has been to increase our collective understanding of anti-blackness. I’ve witnessed API internalization of white dominant perspectives of what it means to be black or what it means to be LGBTQ. At the same time, we still need to be visibly diverse and consistently address stereotypes of us. I’ve heard staff reviewing applications for individual fellowships imply that the API applicants don’t need funding, believing the dominant and untrue stereotype that we are all financially well off. I still hear people from white dominant LGBTQ communities assume that API’s are immigrants, or the conflation of Taiwan and Hong Kong as – “aren’t they all just Chinese?”, or from our own communities – the assumption that being “gay” is a thing that white people do.

How do you feel about being considered a mother/grandmother of the movement? What advice do you have for younger generations of queer and trans movement leaders?

I feel very privileged to be considered in this way. I used to feel weird when folx referred to me as “Aunty Norma” – but now I have settled into it and am happy to receive respect wherever I can get it. I feel like my role is to support new leadership and to grow tighter intergenerational bonds. I don’t feel like I am in a place to offer advice but that we all learn together and there are definitely folx younger than myself who know so much more than me about how to move the needle towards liberation. The strength in our movement is reliant on our shared knowledge, but also on the strength of our relationships, and on our compassion for each other.

Sometimes what I see is that some folx from oppressed experiences in the movement for social justice, equity, and inclusion, hold so much anger and resentment from that place of oppression and this often ends up not serving us well. My hope is that we learn more about how to receive each other with open hearts and minds and to not cut each other off based on assumptions or judgments. In doing mediation with some of our grassroots folx in the movement, I feel such hopefulness when I get to witness that they actually can listen to each other with empathy and work to heal the wounds that are ultimately created by this oppressive system. Collective trauma and historical trauma can be unearthed and be a place of connection and enhance our common analyses of how to resist these oppressive and divisive systems. There are certainly people we should not be working with, but we also risk losing progressive and active community members if we don’t take the time to listen and have deep compassion. I hope that people can take the time to be mindful and pay attention to their wellness, and support each other in their collective wellness, to respect and hold each other when times are rough, to continue to be visible and make our most radical and rebellious work a place of integrity and fire.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Astraea Acey Social Justice Feminist Award?

I hope it’s okay, but I’m going to have to share a little bit of my feelings of struggle here. I don’t see myself as a victim – I do see my narrative, however, as representative of many BIPOC, financially struggling, LGBTQ elders. Firstly, it’s so true that some of us as we grow older are not able to reach the kind of financial profile that many white and middle class LGBTQ folx can. I also feel like the majority of BIPOC LGBTQ folx don’t have the advantage of accumulated or intergenerational financial stability. I also end up using much of my earnings to make sure my adult children can pay their rent and take care of their children. Working part-time and picking up gigs here and there for extra income, is how I make ends meet. I’m not the person who usually gets chosen for the higher paying full-time jobs, maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s about not being white smart. I still have a substantial balance on school loans that I took out to pay for child care, etc., when I was finishing my bachelors degree as a single mom in the 90’s. For now, the Acey funds will help pay some medical bills and, honestly, help fill in the income gaps I sometimes experience.

I am also so very grateful and am feeling a strong sense of honor and humility to be recognized among several amazing people who have done such outstanding work in our communities. This kind of acknowledgement helps to inspire me to keep on keeping on, to know I am not alone, and to thrive from a place of community support. It’s been a long road and so many paths to go…

Today’s landmark SCOTUS hearings on LGBT rights

Today, as many of us go about our Tuesdays, the United States Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in three LGBT cases for the first time since President Trump nominated two justices to the court, including Justice Kavanaugh.

Photo credit: Elainiel Baldwin and Southerners on New Ground (SONG)

Today, the United States Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in three LGBT cases for the first time since the President nominated two justices to the court, including Justice Kavanaugh. The specific question at stake in all three cases is whether it should be legal to fire employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, this is also symptomatic of a much larger, well-funded global attack on LGBTQI and women’s rights more widely.

These cases—Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC—all concern protection from discrimination based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the Zarda and Bostock cases, Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostock—two gay men—were fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. In Harris Funeral Homes, Aimee Stephens—a trans woman—was fired two weeks after telling her boss she is a woman. Her boss has claimed that he would be violating “God’s Commands” by allowing Stephens “to deny [her] sex while acting as a representative of [the] organization.”

The Supreme Court’s decisions on these cases will not be released until well into 2020, but they are critical regardless of their outcomes. For one, the very existence of the Harris Funeral Homes case validates right wing groups’ desire to reject and erase the existence of trans people altogether. In briefs filed ahead of oral arguments, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)—the group representing Thomas Rost of Harris Funeral Homes—did not recognize Aimee Stephens as a woman, and in fact specifically avoided using her correct pronouns. The ADF is at the forefront of the conservative legal battle to use religious exemptions to roll-back women’s and LGBTQI rights.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Harris Funeral Homes, it will also indicate that the law allows employers to fire an individual in the United States simply for being trans. As Chase Strangio—Deputy Director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU and part of the counsel in the Harris Funeral Homes case—said on Twitter, “the consequences of a ruling against the LGBTQ employees will be far reaching,” and will begin the unraveling of decades of sex discrimination advances.

Right wing groups including the ADF are also using well-honed strategies of division, and they frequently use misleading rhetoric to intentionally pitt women’s rights activists against LGBTQI activists. In this case, the ADF has argued that should Stephens prevail, “equal opportunities and bodily privacy protections for women and girls will be lost.” This attempt to set women’s rights against trans, LGBQ, and intersex rights is both dangerous and false. Advancements in sex-based discrimination protections protect all, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. A decision against Stephens would suggest that anyone who does not conform to rigid, retrograde gender norms—regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation—is putting their employment on the line.

The very fact that three cases in 2019 ask whether it is lawful to fire someone simply for being LGBTQI, suggests that many believe LGBTQI people should not be entitled to the same protections against discrimination as their cisgender and/or heterosexual counterparts. This sentiment is not new. In the U.S. and in regions across the world, growing far-right anti-gender movements, which we wrote about recently, are strategically weaponizing conservative rhetoric that would have people believe that we are the enemy.

These ‘gender ideology’ movements are part of a growing, well-coordinated, funded global movement which has been designed to control our communities by restricting the rights and bodily autonomy of LGBTQI communities, women, and people of color. Their intent is to “depict efforts to expand rights for women and LGBTQI people as radical, dangerous impositions designed to eliminate all sex differences.”

The current Administration’s own ‘gender ideology’ agenda is evidenced through its growing list of efforts to rollback rights and protections for women and LGBTQI communities by proposing a ‘legal’ definition of sex based on gender assigned at birth, thereby disregarding individuals’ gender identities and expressions; banning transgender people from serving in the military; and restricting federal funding for health clinics that provide abortion referrals, just to name a few. These relentless attacks denying protection to women and LGBTQI communities are intentional and highly strategic. They are also creating the conditions for increased violence and hate against LGBTQI, Black, Brown, and migrant communities. This year alone, 19 trans women of color have been murdered around the country as trans rights continue to be stripped away in multiple policy areas.

While these cases have only begun to attract mainstream media attention over the last couple of weeks, they are being cited as the single most important set of explicitly LGBT cases to reach the Supreme Court because they encompass both sexual orientation and gender identity, and so potentially impact the livelihoods of all LGBTQI people and women in the United States. That they have even made it to the Supreme Court is evidence of the growing tide of discrimination against women and LGBTQI people. These rulings directly address discrimination based on sex and will also have implications for sex-based discrimination protections for all women more generally, who regularly face workplace discriminations.

Over forty years ago, Astraea’s founding mothers understood that the struggle for women’s rights was and is intimately linked to the struggle for LGBTQI rights. Then and now, these struggles and the threats against them have been global in nature, and activists around the world continue to resist far-right gender ideology movements as a matter of survival. These are not just battles taking place “over there,” but here in our own backyards, in the United States legal system and in our ongoing culture wars.

What we have learned from movements in other countries is to push back against these anti-gender, right-wing forces, women’s rights and LGBTQI rights movements must come together. Our struggles are inherently connected, and connection and solidarity will fortify us to combat the attacks on all our bodies, lives, and freedoms. Astraea has always prioritized shifting power and resources to grassroots feminist, LGBTQI movements working in solidarity all over the world, understanding that it is through resourcing and working at the very junctions that abnegate power, freedom, and rights, that we can support movements to bring about the most meaningful, and lasting change. After all, there is no freedom for some at the expense of others.

In Solidarity,

Sandy Nathan
Interim Executive Director


Donate to Astraea and support the grassroots feminist and LGBTQI activists working in solidarity to fight hate and discrimination against our communities.

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Astraea Foundation: Investing, Advocating, Amplifying, and Propelling LGBTQI Voices

Astraea supporters, board members, and grantee partners share why they love Astraea with Tagg Magazine.

Originally published in Tagg Magazine.

Based in New York, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is a public foundation committed to strengthening LGBTQI communities and movements. For 40 years, the organization has been the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI human rights around the globe.

Astraea is known for investing in artists and organizations, advocating and funding for those who need it the most, amplifying voices, and propelling leadership development.

Funds are raised for programs and initiatives led by and for diverse groups with a focus on lesbians and queer women, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, intersex people, and people of color.

The heart of the organization is rooted in their mission “to fuel local and global movements that shift power to LGBTQI people and organizations pursuing social justice and human rights.”

Here are just a few individuals that believe in the organization’s mission and work.

“Giving voice to marginalized communities is difficult and necessary work. Astraea’s path to pursuing social justice and human rights is one that I must join. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with this network of change agents who will undoubtedly fight until all people belong, no matter the circumstance.” Rebecca D. Crouch-Pelham, President/CEO, Washington Tennis & Education Foundation


limay Ho (left) and Rebecca D. Crouch-Pelham (right) with Regional Development & Engagement Officer of Astraea Foundation Zakiya J. Lord (Photo by Beverlie Lord)

“I am so proud to be a board member for Astraea. Through long-term, intersectional funding, Astraea has been fueling the frontlines of LGBTQ organizing for over 40 years. I owe my ability to thrive as a queer person of color in this world to organizations like Astraea.” –limay Ho, Executive Director of Astraea Resource Generation

Read more on taggmagazine.com.

D.C. Cocktail Reception

Join us in Washington, D.C., for a cocktail birthday party to support LGBTQI movements for justice worldwide!

Join us in Washington, D.C., for a cocktail birthday party to support LGBTQI movements for justice worldwide!

The Astraea Foundation for Justice, is continuing to celebrate our 40th anniversary and this time we are gathering at the home of Karen Dixon and Nan Schaffer, on Thursday, January 25th, 2018, from 5:00-7:30 pm!

Come and share a dessert with us, and raise a glass as we celebrate 40 years; enjoy a performance from our grantee partner Be.Steadwell, and get a quick update from our new Director of Programs, Cara Page.

Light refreshments will be served. Location details will be provided upon registration. 

To attend, please RSVP here.

Host Committee

Urooj Arshad
Shauna Brown
Rebecca & Jacquelyn Crouch-Pelham
Karen Dixon & Nan Schaffer
Julie Gonen & Gaby Richeimer
Iimay Ho
Mia Jacobs
C. Nicole Mason
Samantha Master
Chase & Chris Maggiano
Tamara Wilds-Lawson

Sponsors:

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Thanks to everyone who attended the event! We were grateful to have everyone in the room.

View event photos

Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project

Launched in December of 2017, the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project formed in response to the invisibilization of Black LGBTQIA migrants’ experiences of being undocumented, queer, and Black within migrant narratives, immigration justice, and racial justice movements.

Launched in December of 2017, the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project formed in response to the invisibilization of Black LGBTQIA migrants’ experiences of being undocumented, queer, and Black within migrant narratives, immigration justice, and racial justice movements. BLMP recognizes that their community lives in a space where racism, xenophobia, misogyny, trans/homophobia, policing, detention & deportation, and criminalization uniquely targets the daily life, wellness, and safety of queer and trans Black migrants. They envision a world where all Black LGBTQIA migrants and their loved ones have housing, bodily autonomy, health and the ability to travel freely with dignity and safety. Working at the local, regional, and national level to face multifaceted & intensifying attacks on their communities, they organize community and movement building events around the country to reduce isolation, create support systems for trans and queer Black migrants, and build leadership and local power to defend Black LGBTQIA+ communities. Comprised of and led by an intergenerational yet mostly youth steering committee of  13 queer, trans, women, undocumented/under-documented, and 1st generation migrants, and with three network-leads in California, D.C., and Houston, BLMP is leading trainings and community gatherings throughout the US South, West, Midwest and Northeast; in particular, with trainings focused on transformative community organizing, healing practices to address trauma, and know your rights trainings when dealing with police and ICE. View their mini documentary: https://youtu.be/hmyvvc91BCs

Be Steadwell

Be Steadwell is a singer songwriter and filmmaker from Washington DC, whose self-produced albums and films feature her earnest lyricism, proud LGBTQI content and unapologetic silliness.

Be Steadwell is a singer songwriter and filmmaker from Washington DC. In her live performances, Be utilizes loop pedal vocal layering and beat boxing to compose her songs on stage. Be’s self-produced albums and films feature her earnest lyricism, proud LGBTQI content and unapologetic silliness. As she pursued her career in music, she began a career in film. Shooting and editing her own music videos, Be combined her love of music with narrative film. In 2014, Be completed an MFA in film from Howard University. Her most recent film, Vow of Silence (2014) received the Howard University Paul Robeson Award (2015), Best Experimental Short at The Black Star Film Festival (2015), Audience Choice Award at QWOCMAP Festival (2015), and was featured at the NYC Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 2016, Be was selected to be a Strathmore Artist in Residence and the DC Commission on the Arts awarded Be an artist fellowship. In April 2016, Be took her music to the UK in a five-show tour. She has conducted songwriting, loop pedal and film workshops for LGBTQI youth groups internationally. Be currently tours her music and film internationally.