Honoring and Uplifting the Resilience of Trans Communities this #TDOR

The best way to honor trans lives is to disrupt anti-trans violence, uplifting the resilience of trans communities, their diversity, brilliance and generativity, and supporting the work of trans activists on the frontlines. To do that, we must resource trans communities.

This Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), we honor and hold close the trans and gender nonconforming people who have been lost to senseless violence. What began as a way to memorialize the death of Rita Hester, who was murdered on November 28, 1998, has grown into a global moment to highlight the violence trans communities still face today.

Trans people have always existed. However, the contributions of Black trans and gender-nonconforming folks like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, and Zazu Nova have been largely ignored. Social justice movements have also often ignored the impacts of transphobia on trans communities, particularly Black and Indigenous trans folks, including epidemic levels of violence, heightened levels of unemployment and disproportionate levels of educational and health barriers.

The best way to honor trans lives is to disrupt anti-trans violence, uplifting the resilience of trans communities, their diversity, brilliance and generativity, and supporting the work of trans activists on the frontlines. To do that, we must resource trans communities to organize for fair healthcare, increased economic opportunities, safe housing, and gender-affirming education.

As funders, we also need to acknowledge that incremental approaches to movement building that prioritize certain identities over others are doing a disservice to trans communities, especially to Black trans women. There can be no Black Lives Matter without centering the needs of Black trans women. 

How can funders show up for trans and racial liberation? 

  • Develop political education curriculums within institutions 

Developing political education curriculums within funding institutions is critical to reducing the harm trans people of color face. Funders need to apply an intersectional and holistic social justice framework as they confront the disproportionate levels of violence that plague trans communities worldwide, acknowledge that the state and the prison industrial complex are the main perpetrators of harm, and work to address that harm.

  • Repair, heal & unlearn savior complexes

As funders, our role is to support and resource trans communities, rather than lead or define the goals of the movement. We must bolster trans people’s work, but never take credit for it. Our funding decisions ultimately have real-life consequences for trans people.

  • Trust trans leadership 

In order to shift power, it is crucial to trust and support grassroots trans leadership. Groups should have the freedom to choose how to use their funding and develop their own agendas, strategies and financial structures based on their own needs and priorities.

  • Assemble multi-racial trans panels to make funding decisions

Thoughtfully assemble a geographically diverse, intergenerational, multi-ability, multi-racial panel of trans individuals to review applications and select grantees and award amounts. Trans people are the experts of their own lives and experiences–they are the most qualified to make decisions with and for their communities.

  • Deepen multi-year, flexible commitments to support grassroots groups

Some of the most radical, transformative social justice work is being done by trans-led groups, especially those who are stifled by class and racial barriers. It is imperative to intentionally commit to multi-year funding for these groups to support them long-term.

The events of the past couple months have created new space for funders–Astraea included–to rethink our roles in the larger social justice ecosystem. As important as recent shifts and recognition of trans people, especially Black trans women, have been, we funders still have an incredibly long way to go.

Collective care is at the heart of global intersex movements built around solidarity and community

We caught up with Astraea Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF) Senior Program Officer, Ruth Baldacchino, and Program Associate, Loé Petit, to find out more about how intersex communities have been impacted by the pandemic, how they’re adapting their work to best serve their communities in this changing world, and what they need to see them through.

Astraea’s blog, Collective Care Blog: Building the Power & Resilience of LBTQI Movements Now & for the Long Haulis Astraea’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a feminist LBTQI funder, we believe it is our responsibility to shed light on the ways our communities are particularly impacted by the crisis, share insights around the criticality of healing justice and collective care, as well as the ways in which we’re digging deep to keep shifting power to the grassroots in meaningful and sustainable ways.

***

Everything people are doing to take care of the community can be seen as healing justice or collective care and this work has been part of the practices of the intersex movement since its very beginning. It is the very reason the intersex movement was born in the first place.

– Loé Petit, Intersex Human Rights Fund Program Associate

On November 8, we commemorated Intersex Day of Solidarity, an annual day of remembrance during which we reflect on the ongoing struggles of the global intersex community. This year in particular, the global intersex communitylike so many other marginalized communities around the worldhas been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing knock-on effects. From financial hardships to isolation from their chosen communities, intersex people and the growing global intersex movement are experiencing numerous challenges to their ability to survive, organize, and thrive. Yet simultaneously, intersex organizations have continued tirelessly to look out and provide for each other, from building critical online community spaces to setting up mutual aid networks.

As the pandemic continues to rage across the globe, intersex organizationswhich are already amongst the most vulnerable in terms of their access to resources and supportneed sustained, flexible funding to be able to grow and build power for their movements and themselves. We caught up with Astraea Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF) Senior Program Officer, Ruth Baldacchino, and Program Associate, Loé Petit, to find out more about how intersex communities have been impacted by the pandemic, how they’re adapting their work to best serve their communities in this changing world, and what they need to see them through.

[This interview has been edited for clarity and length.]

How have intersex organizations and movements had to adapt their strategies to meet the COVID-19 moment?

Loé Petit: All our grantee partners have had to adjust their strategies and activities. A lot of groups have shifted a lot of their work online to try and create a sense of community in the face of restrictions on movement. OII Europe for example started a series they are calling “Camp Fires” where intersex community members and activists come together to watch movies together and then discuss them. Other grantee partners who regularly provide peer support or family support have moved those activities online. Additionally, while many groups have moved online, groups like the Intersex Community of Zimbabwe have been physically going to rural areas to do trainings around making hand soap and hand sanitizer. In Asia, many of our grantee partners have been providing mutual aid support through either direct donations to those in need and/or supplying food.

Ruth Baldacchino: The main takeaway of all this is that everyone has been impacted and people are not only having to change their strategies but alsolike usshifting the way they work, where they work, how to engage with their members or with other community members. Many have also repurposed their grants, shifting that money from support to the organization to buying, as Loé said, food packages and supporting community members even with temporary accommodations, and medical and other basic supplies. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about how the pivot to primarily online work has been for intersex groups?

RB: Yeah, so even pre-COVID different groups engaged with their members differently; they had different strategies. Some were already doing a lot of online work and they were connecting with other members or other intersex organizations via social media and online, others were doing more community work, going into towns and villages to reach out and support families.

Existing infrastructure challenges play a critical role in this: those who did not have the best access to the internet are still facing those challenges, and in some cases they’ve worsened. It’s also a bit early to determine the long-term impact and shifts. In the first few months, people were really addressing the emerging and very urgent needs like access to food and other supplies, and if this goes on longer I think groups will be continuing to rethink and rework their campaigns and their strategies.

LP: Yeah, I agree. When we talk about shifting to online campaigns, it really depends on the capacity and local infrastructure that is available. In some regions, like parts of Africa and Latin America, it makes things much harder, while in other regionsespecially for those not living in big citiesshifting online has in some cases allowed people to gather more easily because more people can join from their homes.

How have intersex activists and organizers been specifically impacted by the restrictions on movement as a result of the pandemic?

LP: One of the first things that comes to mind is the postponement of the 5th International Intersex Forum which was originally scheduled to take place in March of 2020. This year would have been the first international forum since 2017and the movement has grown and changed a lot since thenand its postponement has had a real impact on intersex movements’ morale as well of course as their capacity building. The forum eventually took place as an online conference from September 30 – October 26, 2020, which was obviously very different than having it in person because while the conference part of the forum is important, it is usually in those other moments, when organizers get together socially and more informally and meet as human beings that connections are really formed. And I would say this is especially important in the intersex community because there are still such few spaces where intersex people can gather and meet.

As I’ve said previously, shifting to online meetings is sometimes more inclusive because it allows those who have less mobility to take part as well. But moving online shifts the focus of these meetings to be centered around political activism work, and doesn’t allow for as much trust building between humans. So I think that could have an impact on the capacity of the grantees to build stronger regional networks, and especially with new people. It becomes especially difficult for a newer generation of activists to get involved, because the regional in-person meetings are also a way to learn from and meet more experienced activists.

RB: I agree, and one of the things that we’ve always argued as a fund and as Astraea, is the need to support the creation of spaces, physical spaces. We’ve built a lot of our work around supporting those spaces, whether it’s the regional meetings, other capacity building work, or the forum. As someone who’s been in those spaces for many years, I could see the huge impact they have had on the movement. We’ve seen declarations, consensus statements coming out from the movement. We’ve seen organizations being formed. We’ve seen agreements and disagreements as well, but that’s how movements emerge. This restriction of movement is significant.

Additionally, these spaces have also become incredibly important for donors. Donors wait to see the outcomes and the key decisions that are made in these meetings. So this also impacts our work as a fund, as a donor. We’ve all built our work around movement, literally moving. For me as a program officer, the conferences and those spaces were always an opportunity to connect, form friendships, and get to understand the intersex activist landscape better.

What has the impact of all this meant for intersex organizations’ ability to do advocacy work?

RB: A lot of the advocacy has stopped or slowed down because people aren’t able to be at the institutions where that work is usually carried out, whether those are regional human rights institutions, or international ones, like the UN. This is of course not just an intersex movement issue. This is a big concern because advocacy strategies are important, they build on past work, they build on connections, on networks, on being in the same physical space as the policymakers and the governments. So it’s difficult to imagine what this means, for activists to not be able to be in New York or in Geneva and keep that momentum, to have human rights mechanisms and treaty bodies really listen to intersex people directly when they’re reviewing countries, when they’re making recommendations. 

Shifting gears a little bit, can you speak about the economic impacts of the pandemic for intersex people and movements?

LP: So at the moment of course we don’t have enough quantitative data, but what we do know as I’ve mentioned is that in general people in more informal sectors and non-traditional sectorswhich many intersex people are a part ofhave been badly affected. Beyond this, I think it’s important to name the ways in which some funders have shifted their priorities and the impact that is having on intersex organizations.

RB: Yeah, what we saw as well as what grantees have reported, was some donors shifting priorities and sometimes also reducing funding for LGBTQI programing and shifting it to development or humanitarian aid as the pandemic hit. That was very worrying because that happened instantly with some funders. It didn’t allow groups to plan or to find other sources of funding to mitigate the effects, and that is still a concern. As donors that’s definitely on our mind.

Following up on that, what do you believe Astraea and the IHRF’s specific role is through this pandemic, both from the perspective of supporting intersex grantees, but also in terms of advocating for more intersex funding with other donors?

RB: Primarily what we started noticing earlier this year when the pandemic began spreading throughout the world and we started learning more about its impacts, was that intersex people were not being mentioned anywhere. They were absolutely missing from all the conversations that donors were having around the impacts of COVID-19. Even within LGBTQI donor spaces, as we were shifting our work to online meetings, trying to understand how to react and support our grantees in this pandemic, intersex people were missing from the conversation. So that has definitely been a big part of our role, to create donor spaces to specifically discuss intersex issues and to share with other donors what we’re hearing and learning from our grantees. That’s always been our role as a fund, but this year it’s particularly important.

In these spaces, we share a lot of what we’ve just discussed and we highlightas we always havethe need for flexible funding. I think the pandemic really reinforces that need. Because of the flexible funding we provided, grantees were in a position to shift their programming, to shift their grants to buy food, provide shelter and accommodation. If that funding was restricted funding, they wouldn’t have been able to do that. And I think hopefully this year should have been a clear reminder to funders that flexible funding is the only way to support movements and intersex organizations. That remains our key message because of all these emerging issues and challenges, flexible funding is the only way to support a movement sustainably and on a longer term.

Finally, how do and how have intersex organizations incorporated healing justice and collective care strategies into their work and activism?

RB: In some ways, this is a question of how we frame healing justice and collective care strategies in relation to intersex movements. For intersex communities and movements, addressing trauma through different strategies and approaches has always been one of the ways that intersex organizations have practiced collective care and healing justice.

LP: I think the work of intersex organizations has really always been about centering community. So when I spoke about OII Europe organizing ‘Camp Fires’ to keep up the morale, that’s community care. And when I spoke about Intersex Community of Zimbabwe delivering trainings on how to make soap and sanitizer, that’s community care. Everything people are doing to take care of the community can be seen as healing justice or collective care and this work has been part of the practices of the intersex movement since its very beginning. It is the very reason the intersex movement was born in the first place.

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On Voting and Visioning the Future

Right now, we’re at a crucial tipping point. LBTQI, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities are fighting to survive at the hands of white supremacy. And, these are the very communities securing a liberatory vision for the future.

Photo credit: TGI Justice Project

What is it you are fighting for?

Right now, we’re at a crucial tipping point. LBTQI, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities are fighting to survive at the hands of white supremacy. And, these are the very communities securing a liberatory vision for the future.

From its very beginnings, the United States has been a country built on slavery, settler colonialism, and extraction, yet the last four years have intensified the levels of overt violence against our communities. Time and time again, the current U.S. administration has attacked women, LBTQI, Black, Brown, immigrant, and Indigenous communities, and our most basic right to live safe, dignified, whole lives. We have seen:

  • Massive rollbacks of LBTQI rights and the appointments of racist, anti-LGBTQ+ judges.
  • Erasure of healthcare and education protections for trans people.
  • A mismanaged pandemic that has killed so many and disproportionately harmed People of Color.
  • Increased police brutality and mass criminalization of communities of Color.
  • The erosion of reproductive rights.
  • Forced sterilization of women of Color and immigrant women detainees.
  • Harsh, inhumane crackdowns on immigration.
  • People in cages at the border.
  • The greenlighting of pipelines across Native lands.
  • The denial of climate change.

The list goes on and on…

While the far right works to destroy democratic institutions, engage in authoritarian behaviour, and deny our human rights, in the United States and around the world, grassroots movements continue to dream, resist, and build the future we know is possible.

If you’re overwhelmed and exhausted, we are right here with you. But as November 3 approaches, and with the stakes higher than ever in the U.S. and globally, here’s what we know to be true:

Your vote matters: VOTE, if you can.

At Astraea we are making Election Day a paid holiday. If you are an employer in the U.S., we encourage you to do the same for your staff. Voting is by no means the only way to participate in democracy, but it is one critical way to ensure that we can elect leaders who represent us, reduce harm, make strides towards more just policies, and work to dismantle white supremacy.

For so many, voting rights still aren’t a given and voter suppression under increasingly totalitarian governments is a major global threat. In the United States, the attacks on voting rights are rooted in the ongoing disenfranchisement of Black people and other communities of Color. Globally, these kinds of attacks are part of a larger far-right movement that is well-coordinated, and well-funded, designed to control and restrict the rights and bodily autonomy of women, LGBTQI communities, and other marginalized communities at all levels.

Our movements hold the transformative vision of our future: We must continue to invest in them!

The work towards collective liberation doesn’t begin or end on Election Day—far from it. Regardless of the outcome of this U.S. election, transformative change and true justice for our communities are a long way off. Yet, when we resource those at the very center of our liberation struggles, when we invest in them over the long haul, we will build power for a brighter future.

Grassroots movements have long been working towards this alternative future: one that is rooted in joy, safety, justice, and care for us all. The Movement for Black Lives (including grantee partners Law for Black Lives, BYP100, MediaJustice, Blackbird, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and SNAPCollaborative) is constructing a future rooted in abolition. The Montana Two Spirit Society is building the leadership of queer Indigenous people. TGI Justice Project is fighting for a future free of the mass incarceration of trans People of Color. Mijente and the Immigrant Youth Coalition are part of a powerful movement that centers and celebrates all immigrants. SPARK Reproductive Justice Now! are pushing for a future in which all of us have access to our reproductive rights and freedoms. Intersex Justice Project is working towards a future in which intersex People of Color are visible and protected. And this is just a tiny glimpse into what our movements are bringing to life, through their resilience, through their advocacy, through their collective care for communities.

Our responsibility and commitment—long-term and at this pivotal moment—is to stand within the struggle, to vote when we can, and to ensure our movements have the resources they need to make this future a reality, both in the United States and around the world. At Astraea, this has been our purpose from the very beginning, to fund at the grassroots, and fuel change rooted in movement visions.

So I ask you again: On November 3 and beyond, what is it you’re fighting for?

Join Us: Fight for joy, for care, for safety for us all. Fight for transformative change. Fight for the future we know is possible.

Celebrating our 2020 Intersex Grantee Partners!

This Intersex Awareness Day, it is with great pride and excitement we share Astraea’s 6th annual cycle of Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF) grantee partners!

This Intersex Awareness Day, it is with great pride and excitement we share Astraea’s 6th annual cycle of Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF) grantee partners! On this day, we recognize the work of the incredible intersex activists and organizations whose advocacy and self-determination have built a powerful global intersex movement and visibilized the lives and experiences of intersex people everywhere.

Astraea is proud to support many of these activists through our Intersex Human Rights Fund—the first of its kind—which accounts for almost three-quarters (73%) of all grants to intersex organizations in the world. This year, the IHRF granted $480,000 in grants to 53 groups in 41 countries, with 15 of these grants going to new grantee partners. This marks a 65% increase in funding from our 2019 cycle, reaffirming our commitment to supporting the growth and sustainability of intersex movements. It has been so exciting to continue to see the emergence of new intersex-led groups, some of which were formed as a direct result of the connections built through regional movement convenings in past years!

This year, as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the IHRF provided an additional $2000 to all our renewal intersex grantee partners. The pandemic and associated restrictions on movement have heightened the exclusion and discrimination many intersex people already face in communities around the world, and has left many without jobs, unable to access the medical and mental health services they need, and isolated from their loved ones.

Still, intersex movements have continued to be tireless in their efforts to build community solidarity, advocate for their rights to bodily integrity, raise awareness of and fight for their human rights, and collaborate across movements, issues, and regions to make their voices heard!

Here are just a few examples of the powerful ways our intersex grantees show up for their communities:

  • Círculo Violeta (Mayagüez, Puerto Rico) has created a safe space for intersex, trans, and non-binary artists who have been otherwise invisibilized and marginalized, to gather, connect, and share their experiences with each other. They exist to create a living catalogue and archive of each of their artistic practices, and to come together to build collective narratives of intersex, trans, and non-binary artists within Puerto Rico and its diasporas.
  • Potencia Intersex (Córdoba, Argentina) came together during the Second Intersex Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean. The organization was born out of the need to educate Argentinian society about the lived realities of intersex people. Working alongside feminist and LGBTQI movements in the country, the group raises awareness of the human rights violations committed against them and mobilizes people to support the bodily integrity, autonomy, and self-determination of intersex people.
  • Intersex-Nigeria (Lagos, Nigeria) was formed in 2019 by intersex people, many of whom have lived through their own pain, trauma, and stigmatization as a result of violence, non-consensual medical procedures and ongoing discrimination. The organization is the first intersex-led group in Nigeria and is working to advance public understanding of intersex people’s issues, visbilize intersex realities, and build community for intersex Nigerians. The group’s mission is to build a community space for intersex people, provide wellbeing support to intsersex Nigerians, and advocate for intersex rights.

While intersex activism has been growing around the world, intersex issues and communities remain immensely under-funded, receiving less than 2% of global foundation funding for LGBTQI people and/or women and girls. Despite this, intersex activists are continuing to tirelessly advocate against the pathologization of intersex bodies and to address issues of violence, social exclusion, and lack of access to quality health care and education. The global intersex movement is calling for protections from human rights violations experienced by intersex children, adolescents and adults across the world.

Join us in recognizing the brilliant and powerful activism of our Intersex Human Rights Fund grantee partners around the world!


Intersex Human Rights Fund Grantee Partners*

*Note: We do not publicize a number of our courageous grantee partners because of security threats they face in their local contexts, so organizations may be missing from this list.

Associação Brasileira de Intersexos (ABRAI)
Brazil

Bilitis Resource Center Bulgaria
Bulgaria

Brújula Intersexual
Mexico

Campaign for Change
Nepal

Círculo Violeta
Puerto Rico

Collectif Intersexes et Allié-e-s -OII France (CIA-OII France)
France

Comité Visibilité Intersexe
Canada

DeGeneration Confederation
Vietnam

Egalite Intersex Ukraine
Ukraine

iCon UK
United Kingdom

INTER2
Kazakhstan, Belarus, Russia

Interaction – Association Suisse pour les Intersexes
Switzerland

Intersex Advocate Trust Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe

Intersex Anatolia/ Intersex Turkey/ Intersex Shalala
Turkey

Intersex and Faith
United States

The Intersex and Family Support Network
Brazil

Intersex Asia Network
Regional

Intersex Chile
Chile

Intersex Community of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe

Intersex Danmark
Denmark

Intersexesiste
Italy

Intersex Greece
Greece

Intersex Human Rights Australia
Australia

Intersexioni
Italy

Intersex Ísland -félag intersex fólks á Íslandi
Iceland

Intersex Justice Project
United States

Intersex-Nigeria
Nigeria

Intersex Peer Support Australia
Australia

Intersex People’s Human Rights – ISIO Finland
Finland

Intersex Persons Society of Kenya – IPSK
Kenya

Intersex Society of Zambia (ISSZ)
Zambia

Intersex South Africa – ISSA
South Africa

Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand (ITANZ)
New Zealand

IntersexUK
United Kingdom

Ivy Foundation
Malawi

Jinsiangu
Kenya

Magda Rakita
Poland

Mulabi – Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos
Costa Rica

Organisation Intersex International Europe (OII Europe)
Regional

Organisation Intersex International Germany/IVIM (OII Deutschland)
Germany

Organization Intersex International-Chinese (Oii-Chinese)
Taiwan

OII Sverige
Sweden

Potencia Intersex
Argentina

Rainbow Identity Association
Botswana

Support Initiative for People with atypical sex Development (SIPD)
Uganda

Trans Aid
Croatia

Trans Smart Trust
Zimbabwe

Tzk’at – Red de Sanadoras Ancestrales del Feminismo Comunitario
Guatemala

Verein Intersexuelle Menschen Österreich (VIMÖ)
Austria

Vivir y Ser Intersex
Mexico

XY Spectrum
Serbia

Astraea’s next Executive Director(s) search begins!

A letter from Astraea’s board co-chairs about the launch of Astraea’s Executive Director/Co-Director search process.

 

Dear friends,

We hope this finds you and your community well.

As many of you know, Astraea has been undergoing an executive leadership transition process over the last nine months. Today, we are delighted to share that we are officially launching our search for Astraea’s next Executive Director or Co-Directors

With the confluence of global health, political, and economic disruptions unfolding amid tectonic shifts in philanthropy and LGBTQI movements, the need for bold queer feminist funding has never been greater. 

This is an exceptional opportunity for a strategic and visionary leader(s) to build on four decades of innovative grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy to fuel the organizing of powerful grassroots movements and realize a world where all people can actively and enthusiastically belong.

In January, Astraea staff and board came together for a two-day retreat in New York City with the goal of envisioning our future leadership, and laying out the values, skills, and expertise we want to see. It was also an opportunity for staff and board to build authentic relationships and alignment around our core values. We dreamed small and big, thought creatively and critically and, at the end of the two days, consolidated and shared our vision with Astraea’s newly established Search Committee. 

The staff and board search team is working with McCormack+Kristel search consultants to identify a new Executive Director or Co-Directors for Astraea. We are looking for fierce feminist leaders with an uncompromising commitment to advancing gender, racial, economic, and environmental justice, who are rooted in the politics of global solidarity, and comfortable articulating and advancing a radical vision. Our ideal candidate(s) will be innovative and adaptive and, ideally, have lived experience in the Global South and/or East. Please find the full job description and application details here.

We anticipate that our executive search process will continue for the next few months, as we work to find leadership that truly aligns with our values and principles. Throughout this time, we will endeavor to keep you all updated as regularly as possible. We look forward to sharing more and hope that we can lean into you, our community, to help us find powerful feminist leadership for Astraea’s next chapter!

As we know, Astraea’s charge to support the LBTQI frontlines around the globe is more crucial than ever. 

In ongoing solidarity,

Iimay Ho and Eboné Bishop, Board Co-chairs
on behalf of the Astraea Board of Directors

Apply

Announcing Our 2019 Acey Awardees!

Astraea owes its existence and vision to the incredible, bold legacy and work of the lesbian, queer, and trans elders who paved the way for us. Today, we are delighted to uplift that legacy by announcing the awardees of the 2nd Acey Social Justice Feminist Award. 

Astraea owes its existence and vision to the incredible, bold legacy and work of the lesbian, queer, and trans elders who paved the way for us. Today, we are delighted to uplift that legacy by announcing the awardees of the 2nd Acey Social Justice Feminist Award

The Acey Social Justice Feminist Award was launched in 2017 as a way for Astraea to honor the lesbian, queer, and trans elders over the age of 62 whose activism and contributions to their communities paved the way for way for new generations of organizers working across the U.S. and without whom we would not be here today. 

Please join us in congratulating this year’s four awardees: Julia Bennett, Brenda Joyce Crawford, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and Norma Timbang. 

Julia Bennett is a healer based in Brooklyn, New York who has provided critical healing support to marginalized People of Color communities in New York City for over 30 years. Brenda Joyce Crawford is an unapologetic butch woman who has been in the thick of social justice work for over five decades; today she lives in Vallejo, California and her activism is based around cannabis justice for seniors. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a veteran of the historic “Stonewall Rebellion” and a survivor of Attica State Prison, a former sex worker, an elder, and a community leader and human rights activist. Norma Timbang is a lifelong queer activist whose work is well-known across the Pacific Northwest, where she is from. She has been deeply involved in domestic violence and intimate partner violence work, feminist anti-violence work, and disability justice movements. 

The Acey Award recognizes lesbian and trans women of color over the age of 62 who have made under-recognized contributions to our movements, and often have unmet financial needs as they age. The Award was created in honor of Astraea’s Executive Director Emerita, Katherine Acey, who led Astraea for 23 years and is herself a fierce advocate for queer, lesbian, and trans elders, particularly those who are less visible than others.

“This award is an opportunity for us to say to these incredible activist elders: We see you. We love you. We deeply appreciate what you’ve done and what you continue to do,” Acey said.

Join us in celebrating the powerful, lifelong activism of our awardees!

In Solidarity,

Namita Chad
Associate Director of Programs

Meet the 2019 Acey Awardees

Julia Bennett

Julia Bennett is a Board certified licensed acupuncturist trained in both Chinese and Japanese acupuncture. Her long standing passion is community health and the health concerns of women, women who have tested positive for HIV and AIDS, maternity, infant, and reproductive justice for all bodies. [Read more]

Brenda Joyce Crawford

Brenda Joyce Crawford has been in the thick of social justice work for over five decades. She’s an unapologetic butch woman who comes from a blue collar working class background in the U.S. South. [Read more]

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

Miss Major is a veteran of the historic “Stonewall Rebellion” and a survivor of Attica State Prison, a former sex worker, an elder, and a community leader and human rights activist. [Read more]

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. [Read more]

A conversation with Katherine Acey and Namita Chad

A conversation on the Acey Social Justice Feminist Award with Astraea’s very own Katherine Acey, Executive Director Emeritus, and Namita Chad, Associate Director of Programs.

A conversation on the Acey Social Justice Feminist Award with Astraea’s very own Katherine Acey, Executive Director Emeritus, and Namita Chad, Associate Director of Programs

Namita Chad (NC): Katherine, to start with, can you tell us what the Acey Social Justice Feminist Award is?

Katherine Acey (KA): The Acey Social Justice Feminist Award was launched in 2017 and honors lesbian, queer and trans women of color in the United States who are at least 62 years, and who have made significant contributions to our movements, which have often gone unrecognized.

NC: And how did the award come to be?

KA: So Astraea had been looking for a way to support the LGBTQ elders in communities across the United States who face distinct financial barriers, and we decided on this award as a way to uplift the contributions of some of those individuals, and raise awareness about their struggles. 

We wanted to recognize that so many of them have been activists within and across our movements, but have not always been as visible as others. Several have worked as activists throughout their lives, often in low-paying jobs with not a lot of benefits. So the idea was to identify those people, and also to make a monetary award in recognition of their contribution that could be used in any way; they could buy a new computer with it or take a vacation, or whatever. It was really to give them an opportunity to take care of themselves for a moment.

So the award is really a way to amplify these individuals and recognize the pathways they have created for others who have come after them. Something I’ve really been struck by both times we’ve had the award, is that there are always a couple of nominees I haven’t heard of myself. It just reaffirms the fact that so many activists are out there tirelessly, but their work isn’t seen.

KA: Namita, as someone who has been at Astraea for a long time and knows the movements well, what do you think is the importance of this award?

NC: For me, the award is so important because it recognizes the work and legacy of our lesbian, queer, and trans elders, who have really paved the way for new generations of organizers and activists working across the country.

It’s also really connected to what Astraea was born to do, which is to recognize the leadership of lesbian and trans women of color, who have been leaders in all kinds of movements over generations – feminist and queer movements, responses to the AIDS crisis, fighting to end wars abroad, fighting to end intimate partner violence, domestic violence, state violence, incarceration. These are people who have been insisting on radical inclusion for a long time now, and creating radical openings for people whose voices have not been heard.

I really hope that with this award comes more visibility for the brilliant and bold leadership of these elders. And I hope that with that visibility, that younger activists will gain more access to their stories and experiences and can engage with and learn from them.

KA: And what do you feel is the political significance of the award?

NC: You know this award really highlights the political state we’re in today where LGBTQ elders but specifically lesbian, queer, and trans women of color elders are still so often disproportionately discriminated against – whether in terms of access to healthcare, housing, or support networks – and face lifelong barriers to financial security and resources. LGBTQ elders of color remain largely invisible within frameworks of most aging services, research, and public policy initiatives, and across organizations across the country, even LGBTQ and feminist organizations.

It’s a scary political moment in the US and globally, as we’re watching the right consolidate power. We’re seeing so many of the hard fought gains of the past from rights to services being dismantled and fought against. There’s so much we can learn from the contexts and struggles of the past, so the need for younger activists to be connected to elders and for there to be intergenerational strategy and dialogue, is so critical.

NC: Katherine, finally, what kind of impact do you think this award might have on the awardees?

You know, in the early days of Astraea, when our grants were very small, they didn’t necessarily sustain an organization. But the fact that a group of peers recognized that organization and its people, was affirming and helped keep them going.

So I would like to think these individuals would feel similarly. I hope it affirms and says, “We see you. We love you. We deeply appreciate what you’ve done and what you continue to do.”

Reverend Gale Jones

Intergenerational work is a natural part of me, when I think about who I am right now. From the time I was a very small girl, it was elders across gender who felt an urgent need to pour something into me. I remember sitting there with them and I was a little girl and I’m thinking, ‘Why am I here?’ But they would hold me in this rapt attention as if there was something they needed to give me.

2017 Acey Awardee, Reverend Gale Jones

At 65 years, Reverend Gale Jones has been working for decades on behalf of LGBT people of color in the New York area, particularly working to combat the AIDS crisis and to support homeless LGBTQ youth. Born in 1950, Reverend Gale attributes her social justice awakening to the teachings of Malcolm X in early adulthood. Several years later, by then a mother, she found her way into queer organizing and the Unity Fellowship faith community. As a woman, as a queer member of the clergy in West Babylon, New York and as a Yoruba Priest, Reverend Gale has always sought to draw the margins to the center of Christianity and to use faith to spark and sustain activism.

There’s a tremendous resilience and a tremendous commitment to taking care of each other in any way possible [among LGBT elders of color]. That gives me heart.

Katherine Acey, Astraea Executive Director Emerita

Watch a conversation between Reverend Gale Jones and Katherine Acey by clicking the video below.

Julia Bennett

Julia Bennett is a Board certified licensed acupuncturist trained in both Chinese and Japanese acupuncture. Her long standing passion is community health and the health concerns of women, women who have tested positive for HIV and AIDS, maternity, infant, and reproductive justice for all bodies.

Currently, Julia partners with a group of diverse revolutionary practitioners who have built an alternative community health clinic in Brooklyn, NY with the goal of making health care a safe, informed, accessible, and affordable choice.

Julia ardently believes that the health challenges of our humanity must address wellness as a birthright and continues to be in partnership with movements that are committed to bringing justice to the disparities in our health care systems. Julia stands as a committed vessel for the manifestation of this work for the greatest good and well being of all.

Q&A with Julia Bennett

You have a long history of providing critical healing support to some of the most marginalized POC in New York City. Why do you see healing work as an important part of social justice movement work? What role do healers play in movement work?

Having been and continue to be in spaces that allow me to view the sundry angles of social justice and activist movements, what I continue to witness is the high incidence of burnout. With all of the lofty visions, tremendous strides, passionate and compassionate hard work, what cannot be ignored is the impact of burnout on the physical, psycho-social and emotional body of both those on the line and the efficacy of the movements themselves. For this reason alone, healing justice is a must. Alma John reminded us of the value of “Each one teach one.” If I may add to that, that in our giving to others may we heal ourselves so that the vibrancy of our commitment to transformation and parity in the world be reflected in the presentation of our personal wellness. Strong partnerships and healthy alliances allow sustainability in any movement and healers should be arm in arm with movement work every step of the way.

How have the communities you’ve worked with and the political environment they’re working in changed over the course of your healing practice?

Many things come to mind with this question. I think about the deeper ways the politics of movements have grown but also the superficial ways in which social justice movements have appeared to have affected change. My grandmother always pops up here and I just have to tell this story, again. I grew up in Jim Crow South in the 1950’s. Long story short, I remember my grandmother’s fear every time one of her younger sons left the house, who were teenagers when I was 5 for so. I remember her admonishing them to make sure they crossed the street if they were passing a white man, make sure they did not look anyone white in the eye, and ultimately not to look or heaven forbid touch a white woman. What has changed as a result of the politics of the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement, of which I have history, is that it appears Black folks are more liberated, have more freedoms and rights, and have gained access to the American dream. What is disturbing is that I hear Black mothers in my community giving that same speech to their sons with the same terror in their voices here in 2019. I don’t question the authenticity of movements and what drives our social justice movements, but I do question how the intersection of politics, government, and privilege can challenge movements. In the early 1990’s at the height of the AIDS pandemic, I ran a support group for lesbians who were HIV+ and/or had full blown AIDS. Since that time the funding for HIV/AIDS in POC communities have not been as prominent as the virus continues to plant itself. This is political. Perhaps, things have shifted in ways I am not able to comprehend or perhaps, the more things change the more they remain the same. I trust the former will be my conclusion.

Do you see yourself as a lesbian elder, and if so, what does that mean to you? What is your vision for feminist organizing?

I am a cis woman, nearly 70 years, and identify as lesbian, a woman who loves women. As an out lesbian in the 1970’s, though the shoulders I stood on then had already dug deep roots to nurture, direct, and protect me, they were still perilous times. We had to be vigilant in our commitment to walk a dignified and just life and movement building and forming allied relationships were intensely important. What being an elder lesbian activist healer means to me is that I am charged with staying the course to eliminate as much harm, disparity, injustice, and patriarchal oppression for all people through the lens of the feminine. I believe that female energy can uplift the vibratory rate on the planet where deep healing can occur and my vision for feminist organizing is to speak to that in all I do. Educate our young, middle, and elder populations to recognize oppression, speak out and take action in their own right, agitate the systems that continue to get in the way of all human beings living powerfully in a world where we all belong, and modeling and committing to extending as much goodness as I can muster.

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

I am humbled beyond words to be nominated for the Astraea Acey Social Justice Feminist Award. Astraea has been the Goddess of female empowerment throughout my journey here in NYC as an out lesbian. I remember as a member of SalsaSoul how proud we felt when any woman of color was recognized by The Astraea Foundation. It was and is the epitome of recognition. That Astraea has chosen to hold this space for me feels surreal and I am honored. More than that, I value all the ways Astraea continues to unpack and challenge oppression and open new gateways for the varied LGBTQ movements to thrive.</ br> Thank you ALL for your tireless, devoted, and brilliant work for years, and years. You are the bar that all social justice organizations would be proud to reach. May you, Astraea and your powerful herstory continue to gain all the momentum that thrusts you and your work deeper into the wide world. Thank you.

Welcoming our new Interim Executive Director, Sandy Nathan

Astraea is delighted to welcome Sandy Nathan as our new Interim Executive Director. We asked her a few questions about her vision for Astraea during the next 9-12 months and beyond.

ABOUT

Sandra Nathan is excited to be joining Astraea as Interim Executive Director for the next 9-12 months, leading the organization through a transition period. During this period, Sandy will work with the Board and staff laying the groundwork for the next permanent Executive Director.

Sandra comes to Astraea with extensive executive leadership experience in philanthropy, government, and the nonprofit sector. She currently serves as Principal and CEO for Apodictic Consultants, providing strategic consulting and transitional leadership to philanthropic institutions, nonprofits and government with an equity and social justice lens. Most recently, she served as the Interim Executive Director for Philanthropy Southwest, providing transitional and strategic leadership, enabling the organization to successfully position itself for new leadership and growth, and deepen its commitment to equity. 

Prior to starting her consultancy, Sandra served as Senior Vice President of Philanthropic Services and Community Investment for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona (CFSA) in Tucson. There she was chief strategist for the foundation’s grantmaking, community investment opportunities and led the organization’s use of diverse capital streams. She also oversaw the work of CFSA’s affiliated partner organizations, including the African American Initiative, the Alliance (LGBTQ) Fund, the Latino Giving Circle, and the Santa Cruz Community Foundation.

Prior to that, Sandra was the Vice President of Grants and Loans at the Marin Community Foundation, where she oversaw grantmaking for the Buck Trust, an endowment of over $900 million. She oversaw grantmaking in excess of $20 million annually, all in support of MCF’s strategic initiatives, community grants, and loans. 

Sandra’s background also includes executive leadership in nonprofits at the national and local levels. She served as Executive Vice President for the National Council on Aging in Washington, DC; as Regional Director for AARP in Dallas, Texas; and Washington Director for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Sandra has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of San Diego, a Master of Arts in Public Administration from National University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Christian Education. She also holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Harvard Business School. 

With a passion for board service, Sandra serves on the Board of Directors of Northern California Grantmakers, UC Berkeley Pacific School of Religion, the Tohono Chul Park Foundation, Equality Arizona, and provides pro bono consultant support to Tucson Senior Pride.


QUESTION & ANSWER

How did you come to know about Astraea?

I’ve known about the Astraea Foundation for many years, and have always had tremendous pride in the foundation’s lesbian/feminist roots and focus. But it wasn’t until I became more active in social justice, gender and LGBTQI issues and along with that, a career shift into philanthropy, that I fully understood how Astraea has evolved into an innovative funder for LGBTQI activism around the globe. As a leader and a seasoned grantmaker, I love that Astraea has remained true to its DNA as a funder of feminist and LGBTQI issues, and goes about its work in partnership with movement leaders domestically and abroad, who are committed to shifting power.

What inspires you about leading Astraea through this transition period?

What inspires me about leading Astraea through this transition is a strong alignment between the work of the foundation and my core values. This is a role in which I can bring my full self to the table. I am also inspired in that I have absolute clarity that we are living in a time of profound social change, and that I have the lived experience, passion and heart to lead the organization into a new and desired future as it prepares itself for a new, permanent leader. Astraea has grown exponentially in the past few years, thanks to leadership, dedication and hard work. Astraea is now poised for that next level of growth.  In order to reach that level some internal transformation now needs to occur. What I am bringing to my role as an Interim is experience ensuring there is a solid foundation strategically and operationally for new leadership. At the center of my leadership style is also an understanding that organizations cannot be transformed or transformative unless heart is at the center of what they do. To me that means also ensuring there is a vibrant and healthy organizational culture, and a solid infrastructure so that the mission and goals of the organization are achievable for a new leader. Stepping into an interim leadership role really requires a certain level of selflessness, and the capacity to not look for outward recognition as a leader. I am here for the good of the organization.  So for the next nine months, I am excited to bring heart centered leadership, and a commitment to serve and support the board and staff so that collectively, we can bring our best selves to the exciting future ahead for Astraea. 

What secret feminist super-power should we know about?

If I told you, I’d be giving up one of my best trade secrets.

What do you love to do in your ‘downtime’?

During my downtime, I love doing yoga, reading, cooking and spending quality time with my family and friends.

A favorite person, quote or mantra that you’d like to share?

One of my favorite quotes is “My silence will not protect me.” ( Audre Lorde)