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.


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.


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.


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)

Fighting for Freedom in Puerto Rico

In May 2019, we co-hosted a “Freedom from Violence and Criminalization Convening” for U.S. and Puerto Rico-based grantee partners along with Borealis Philanthropy in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We interviewed some of Astraea’s grantee partners in attendance about what it meant for a convening on freedom from violence and criminalization to take place in Puerto Rico.

Photo: The Freedom from Violence and Criminalization organizers and attendees; Credit: Amarilis Torres Carrasquillo

By Brenda Salas Neves (Senior Program Officer) and Mihika Srivastava (Communications Program Associate)

Over the last few months, the strength and power of the Puerto Rican movement has gained momentum. In July, widespread protests and massive mobilizations against government corruption, disinvestment in public goods caused by the debt crisis, and the state’s inadequate response to hurricane recovery efforts, led to the resignation of Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosello. We at Astraea continue to be in awe and inspired by the resistance and resilience of the communities and organizers in Puerto Rico.  

In May 2019, we co-hosted a “Freedom from Violence and Criminalization Gathering” for U.S. and Puerto Rico-based grantee partners along with Borealis Philanthropy in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The decision to host this convening in Puerto Rico was intentional because we felt it important to recognize movement work on the islands, and to deepen our collective understanding of the work that is happening beyond the U.S. that resists and transforms state violence and hyper-criminalization of our people. Organizing and movement work in Puerto Rico today is building on a long history of resistance, and is deeply rooted in cultural and political traditions against colonization and militarism.

From transformative justice and budget advocacy sessions to breakout sessions led by organizers, the convening offered a generative space for participants to continue building connections and deepening their visions for what safety and justice looks like in communities of color in the U.S and in Puerto Rico. Through cultural programming organized by our Puerto Rican grantee partner Circuito Queer, participants learned about the political, social, and cultural situation on the archipelago, and witnessed some of the incredible cultural tools that Puerto Rican organizers are utilizing to build power. We received opening blessings from a local Taino elder, Kukuya, grounding participants in local healing traditions. Holistic wellness was woven throughout the programming, from sessions led by facilitators, Erica Woodland and Monique Meadow, to healing offerings such as massage, cuping, tarot reading, and acupuncture by local healers and practitioners. These were critical for organizers who often experience burnout and trauma as a result of ongoing state violence and oppression.

We interviewed some of Astraea’s grantee partners in attendance like MediaJustice (California), Law for Black Lives (National), Familia TQLM (California), and CIRQ (Puerto Rico) about what it meant for a convening on freedom from violence and criminalization to take place in Puerto Rico.

Astraea: Celiany, as a Puerto Rican activist who organized much of the local cultural programming for this convening, why was it important for you to connect some of the work here?

Celiany Rivera, CIRQ: A lot of what we’ve been doing at this convening is coordinating the cultural schedule as well as connecting the convening organizers with local Puerto Rican queer and trans healers. For us, it’s been an opportunity to showcase and share the queer and Black-centered art that is happening in Puerto Rico in a de-colonial context. We’ve tried to customize the experience of the participants so that they can get a sense of what some of the struggles are locally. 

One of the events we coordinated that was very special to me was a dinner for participants with 21 activists who work locally on LGBTQ, racial justice, and healing justice issues. Plena Combativa was one of the groups that joined us, and is a Puerto Rican queer women-centred protest music group who performed at the end of the evening. I think this gave folks a perspective of who the people, colors, and flavors are that compose the activism and art happening in Puerto Rico. It was also an opportunity for local organizers who don’t always get to meet outside of organizing spaces to connect without an agenda and just build relationships.

Astraea: Steven and Marbre, what did you know about the Puerto Rican organizing arena before you got here?

Steven Renderos, MediaJustice: I was familiar with the work that the diaspora had done in the U.S. around Puerto Rican independence, but not so much with the work here in Puerto Rico itself. This is actually my first time visiting the island, but I think what I was aware of is that some of the issues that we work on today around surveillance were things that activists here have been dealing with since the Puerto Rican student movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and some of the organizing around those struggles has definitely influenced how we have developed some of our own work around high tech surveillance.

Marbe Stahly-Butts, Law for Black Lives: I had only been here once before on a business trip. I think what became clear to me was that a lot of the forces that we’re fighting against whether in New York City or in the South are at the extreme here in Puerto Rico, especially fights against capitalism and extraction. So I knew the broad strokes of what was happening; for example, the incredible organizing responses to the man made climate disasters that have been happening here. I was also acutely aware of the ways that business interests in the US and abroad are using Puerto Rico as a place to profit in the wake of these disasters.

Astraea: Umi, why did it feel particularly important for you to be at this convening strategizing around freedom from violence in Puerto Rico?

Umí Vera, Familia TQLM: For us it’s really important to connect with some of our coalition partners that are here that we’ve been building with, but also to connect with local community organizers here in Puerto Rico. It’s really important for us to get to share with one another about what our lessons learned in the work we’ve been doing, at both the local and national levels. I’ve been very influenced by a lot of Puerto Rican movement building and artists collectives on the mainland and I’ve heard a lot about the context of colonization on the island from some of our community members that are Puerto Rican, so I was excited to bear witness to that a little more, and see the work that they’ve been building out here. 

Astraea: Marbe, how do you feel like we and CIRQ as the convening organizers brought Puerto Rico into the space and how did that impact your experience?

Marbre: This was one of the most intentional openings around honoring the space we’re in, the land that we stand on, and the history that brought us here, as well as the connections that we all bring from our own lands, and it really set the tone for the convening.

I have been particularly struck by two things: one is the intentionality around language here and making sure that there isn’t a language that feels like it’s dominant language. Our struggles are international, multilingual ones, but we are so often in language silos. I was also struck by the fact that it felt like half the room were folks from Puerto Rico who work here. So often there’s only one person who speaks on behalf of thousands in a community but this felt far more intentional and holistic, where organizers from the mainland and Puerto Rico were equally involved, engaged, and invested.

Astraea: Steven, how has it affected your experience to be here on this colonized land where issues of freedom from violence and criminalization are felt in such a real way?

Steven: You know within MediaJustice we often talk about this concept of targeting universalism, this idea that if we hone in on solutions for the most affected we actually yield greater outcomes for the whole. So thinking about surveillance in the context of a colonized island and solutions around budget advocacy – an area that is becoming increasingly privatized on every level – has been especially poignant here. I think even having gone out in San Juan and met with some of the community groups and seen what their responses have been to some of the challenges that they’ve encountered has been helpful to think about our own tactics. There is a creativity here that emerges from a lack of resources that those of us in the more privileged sectors and geographies need to learn from. 

Brief Context on Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has been part of the U.S.’ colonial project for over 120 years now. Puerto Ricans have no representation in the federal government and are not allowed to vote unless they move to one of the 50 U.S. states. Many Puerto Ricans have been fighting for full independence from the United States, and particularly against the austerity measures which have destroyed the local economy. 

In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a deadly category 5 hurricane, hit the archipelago. Both the U.S. federal government and the government of Puerto Rico were slow in their response to the disaster. Nearly 5,000 people died and over 80% of Puerto Rican households were without electrical power for over 100 days. 

The Freedom from Violence and Criminalization Convening

The convening brought together 52 activists and organizers who are part of 30 organizations that Astraea and Borealis either collectively or respectively fund through Borealis’ “Communities Transforming Policing Fund” and Astraea’s “Freedom from Violence and Criminalization” cohort, within our U.S. Fund. 

These organizations work across the country and in Puerto Rico, their work spanning the effects of criminalization, policing, and state violence on LGBTQI people and People of Color, working towards police reform, dismantling the criminal justice system, visibilizing healing justice strategies, and much more.

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Our 2019 Healing Justice Funder Convening

On May 16, 2019 in New York, Astraea held a Healing Justice Funder Convening. We brought together 60 funders from 30 philanthropic institutions, alongside 15 organizers and healing practitioners, to strategize how we can bolster our movements by funding healing justice work.

On May 16, 2019 in New York, Astraea held a Healing Justice Funder Convening. We brought together 60 funders from 30 philanthropic institutions, alongside 15 organizers and healing practitioners, to strategize how we can bolster our movements by funding healing justice work. At a time when our communities are facing an onslaught of violence and oppression, including targeted attacks on people of color, immigrants, women and trans people, the convening was a critical opportunity for funders to discuss how healing justice can promote collective safety and build the power and resilience of movements. The convening followed the launch of Astraea’s new report, Healing Justice: Building Power, Transforming Movements.

As a public foundation, one of Astraea’s roles is to align philanthropic resources with the visions, needs, and priorities of movements. The convening honored the legacy and roots of healing justice work in the U.S. by centering the voices of organizers and practitioners from across the country. Throughout the convening, funders listened to organizers share how they can be most supportive of their struggles.

Organizers emphasized how locally-grounded and culturally-specific healing justice work is and must be. They shared how healing justice work helps build their capacities to live and thrive, as well as the power that enables them to win. They asked funders to listen, to give them space to experiment, and to trust. The convening aimed to embody healing justice throughout the day, with facilitation by healer Adaku Utah and massage, Reiki, acupressure and herbs from an amazing team of community-based practitioners.

It was a reflective, generative, and (unusually-for-philanthropy) honest space in which funders and activists exchanged ideas and worked towards a collective vision for healing justice. We’re excited to share some of the learning from the day with you:

  • If you’d like to learn more about the day’s conversations, our summary report shares the highlights.
  • Spot yourself in photos from the day here!
  • To get a feel for the convening and hear some brilliance from the speakers, watch our video above and panel recordings!

Our deepest gratitude to all the participants. We are honored to have brought together so many funders to deepen support for healing justice. We look forward to continuing to build, strategize, and vision together.

Farewell to J. Bob Alotta!

As we bid farewell to Bob, we wanted to take this moment to reflect on her immense legacy and celebrate her profound impact.

As we bid farewell to Bob, we wanted to take this moment to reflect on her immense legacy and celebrate her profound impact. Bob’s passionate, visionary, and bold leadership grew Astraea in ways we could not have imagined. Bob steadily charted a course for gender, racial and economic justice that positions Astraea at the leading edge of intersectional LGBTQI philanthropy, while staying true to our lesbian feminist roots. Our founding mothers would be proud. 

Bob always saw Astraea’s role as shifting power and resources from where they intentionally were to where they intentionally weren’t, yet needed to begrassroots LGBTQI movements around the world. Bob accomplished this by expanding Astraea’s capacity to deliver resources to the most bold and brilliant LGBTQI groups in the U.S. and globally, as well as deepening our philanthropic presence and leadership, bringing an intersectional queer feminist lens to fields as diverse as internet freedom, communications, gender equality and racial justice. She started in 2011 as Astraea’s second Executive Director, with an organizational budget of $3 million and stewarded that to the sizable $13 million budget it is today. 

A leader in queerying philanthropy, through Astraea, Bob imagined new and transformative ways of working togetherto name just one example, she was the visionary behind CommsLabs, an innovative participatory movement-building initiative that networks LGBTQI activists and technologists. At regional and country-level convenings, grassroots activists connect with trainers, technologists, and healers who support them to effectively address threats and seize the opportunities available in the digital age. These convenings, co-designed by activists and centering wellness and holistic security while also building skills and capacity, exemplify Bob’s ability to break down silos and respond to the ways our movements are changing.  

Under Bob’s leadership Astraea also expanded global LGBTQI philanthropy through strategic decisions to partner with bilateral governments like the innovative LGBTI Global Development Partnership. Through this initiative, we expanded grantmaking in 12 countries and shifted over $15.5M to grassroots LGBTQI movement-building, laying the foundation for future bilateral relationships and partnerships which have positioned us excellently for the next phase of our work. 

With Bob, Astraea launched the first Intersex Human Rights Fund in the world in 2015, leveraging more than $2 million for the intersex movement globally, and we grew our U.S. work to combat the criminalization of communities of color, particularly Black folks and migrants. Bob oversaw the Global Arts Fund, building on our long legacy of supporting artistic and cultural change work, our Healing Justice: Building Power, Transforming Movements report, and our recent Feminist Funding Principles

We are grateful to Bob for laying the foundation for Astraea’s next phase, setting us up so well to support the next generation of our leadership and the vision and talents of our incredible staff. We are excited to announce that we have identified an Interim Executive Director who will start in the coming weeks, and who will lead Astraea through a transition period for the next nine to twelve months. During the transition period, the Interim Executive Director will work with the Board and staff on laying the groundwork for the next permanent Executive Director. We look forward to introducing her to you soon!

It’s clear that Astraea’s role is more critical than ever in this time of escalating violence and oppression against LGBTQI communities, and the Board is committed to working closely with the Interim Executive Director and staff to continue to provide critical grantmaking and capacity building for LGBTQI grassroots leaders around the world. We will share next steps as they unfold and look forward to introducing you to the new Interim soon. Please join us as we enter this next phase of Astraea, share your support, questions and dollarstogether we are building a more just and joyous world. 

In solidarity,

Iimay Ho and Eboné Bishop, Co-Chairs 
On behalf of the Board of Directors

Astraea’s newest U.S. Fund grantees!

Our U.S. Fund is Astraea’s longest-standing fund, and we’re excited to introduce you to our latest batch of grantee partners!

We’re excited to share our latest round of U.S Fund grants! These incredible organizations are working to end mass criminalization and incarceration, disrupt systems of oppression, and resist all forms of state violence and white supremacy.

In the last year, Astraea has awarded over $1.5 million in grants to 58 grantee partners in 19 states and Puerto Rico (while Puerto Rico grantee partners have been included in this statistic, we recognize the self-determination and autonomy of the Puerto Rican independence movement). Over 99% of this funding went to LGBTQI People of Color-led organizations working for racial, economic, gender, migrant and reproductive justice. We also launched our first set of Healing Justice grants awarding $60,000 to 14 organizations to support community-based resiliency and survival practices integral to our collective liberation.

Many of our U.S. grantee partners work across movements and are connected by common values and goals—a vision for intersectional, liberatory social justice. Our grantee partners are:

  • Building the local and regional power of Black, Brown, queer, trans, migrant, poor, and working class communities in the South, such as Southerners on New Ground (SONG)’s ‘Free from Fear’ campaign strategy which worked to politicize and engage LGBTQ people to lead migrant justice and anti-criminalization campaigns. Building on the success of that, SONG launched its #EndMoneyBail campaign, which ignited local organizing to focus on eliminating money bail and pretrial detention across the South. It demands that municipalities divest from cages, courts, and police, and invest in community-based solutions, such as needs assessment programs.
  • Pushing for digital rights and privacy for all, such as grantee partner MediaJustice, who joined 34 civil rights, consumer, and privacy organizations in launching public interest principles for robust and comprehensive federal legislation. These guidelines would ensure fairness, prevent discrimination, advance equal opportunity, protect free expression, and hold companies that collect personal data accountable for privacy violations.
  • Empowering, resourcing, and building the leadership of trans People of Color, like Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable and Empowering (TAKE)who work to increase access for and meet the needs of trans Women of Color (TWOC) in Alabama. TAKE advocates for trans friendly policies, organizes to end discrimination, engages in leadership development, and provide peer support groups. In 2017, they opened the TAKE Resource Center, the first space dedicated to providing a safe, nurturing space for TWOC in Birmingham. It is the only center in Birmingham that is Trans focused, Trans led, and fully staffed by TWOC.

Through grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts, our grantee partners are drawing attention to how marginalized LGBTQI people are impacted by enforcement and criminalization; increasing the visibility of healing justice strategies; working to dismantle the criminal justice system; leading campaigns to divest from prison systems; and broadening the racial justice dialogue to include reproductive justice, anti-criminalization and migrant justice strategies.

Please join us in celebrating the work of these resilient and radical grantee partners, and read more about their work in the links below.

U.S. 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.

API Equality – Northern California

Audre Lorde Project
New York

Black Alliance for Just Immigration
New York

Black and Brown Workers Cooperative

Black and Pink

Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project

Black Trans Media
New York



BreakOUT New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice

Circuito de Innovación y Resiliencia Queer
Puerto Rico

Communities United for Police Reform
New York

Community United Against Violence, Inc.

Dignity and Power Now

El/La Para Translatinas

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Freedom Inc.

Freedom to Thrive
New York

Garden of Peace Project

Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network Southeast

Girls for Gender Equity
New York

Immigrant Youth Coalition

Invisible to Invincible (“i2i”): API Pride of Chicago

Law for Black Lives

Mariposas Sin Fronteras



Montana Two Spirit Society

New Voices for Reproductive Justice

Out in the Open

Peacock Rebellion

Power Inside

Project South and members of the Southern Movement Assembly

Providence Youth Student Movement
Rhode Island

Queer & Trans People of Color Birthwerq Project

Queer the Land

Racial Justice Action Center, (SNaP Co and Women on the Rise)


SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

Somos Familia

Southern Vision Alliance
North Carolina

Southerners on New Ground & Mijente

SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW

Stonewall Youth

Survivors Organizing for Liberation

The Knights and Orchids Society

Trans Queer Pueblo


Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable and Empowering

Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project

Women With a Vision

Young Women United
New Mexico

By supporting Astraea, you are creating ecosystems of resistance that are smart, effective, and unique. Join us!


Astraea Envisions Queer Liberation: Pride Month 2019

We want a Pride Month that is truly inclusive and leans into the LGBTQI grassroots visions for where our movements are headed. We’re holding both the accomplishments we are proud of, as well as shining a spotlight on the many political, social, and cultural battles still ongoing around the world.

What we say NO to!

  • NO policing of LGBTQI bodies
  • NO rainbow capitalism
  • NO normalizing of white gay cis identity at the expense of Black and Brown LBQTI folks
  • NO depoliticization of our causes
  • NO homogenization of our identities and struggles
  • NO exclusion of bi/pan, asexual, intersex, trans, and others

From the time of Stonewall, LGBTQ patrons of the Stonewall Inn—fed up with being harassed and targeted, who were predominantly People of Color—fought back against the police. Today, we know that Pride activities and marches in many parts of the United States and around the world are still spaces of resistance. Oftentimes, these spaces and the LGBTQI people who participate in them are criminalized, discriminated against and/or face violence and backlash.

Pride marches often include a heavy police presence, which can be triggering and unsafe, particularly for QTPOC. Police and law enforcement have a history of violence against LGBTQI communities, which continues into the present in many contexts, making Pride marches violent and dangerous for some members of the LGBTQ community.

Putting Pride in the context of remembering Stonewall 50 years on, we acknowledge this is a year where in the U.S anti-LGBTQI violence is escalating, particularly the anti-trans actions introduced—from trying to ban trans people from the military, to rescinding Obama-era memos that protected trans workers and students from discrimination. Just as of June 15, 2019, four trans women have been reported murdered during this Pride Month, and at least 10 have been reported murdered overall in 2019.

What we say YES to!

  • We want a Pride that is truly inclusive and leans into the LGBTQI grassroots visions for where our movements are headed. We’re holding both the accomplishments we are proud of, as well as shining a spotlight on the many political, social, and cultural battles still ongoing around the world.
  • We commit to engaging around the problematic politics of corporate Pride rather than being complicit or silent around these issues. We say yes to queer liberation and not rainbow capitalism.
  • We take care of and are joyous in our communities, while we keep fighting for justice. LGBTQI grassroots activism has always combined struggle with celebration. Pride can and should be both celebratory and healing, and heavy and political.
  • We call for a Pride that is centered around highlighting and protecting self-determination, bodily autonomy, gender justice, diverse gender identities and sexualities, and rejecting violence, discrimination, and gender-based oppression. We see our role as uplifting the tremendous work of our grantee partners, and the work that we are proud of having done.
  • We acknowledge that as a philanthropic institution with power and resources, we have a particular responsibility to amplify those communities who are not always heard during Pride month or at all, as well as to call out efforts to corporatize and homonormalize Pride.
  • We uplift Pride actions around the world that are truly radical, political and liberatory. Some examples include: Annual NYC Dyke March // Trans Day of Action // Queer Liberation March // Soweto Pride

What we’re PROUD of:

  • Our 40+ year history of resistance through lesbian feminist philanthropy— read our Feminist Funding Principles here
  • Supporting grassroots organizations and leadership around the world that center LGBTQI people
  • Our commitment to centering the leadership of queer, trans, & GNC People of Color in the U.S.—over 99% of our grantee partner organizations in the U.S. are POC-led
  • Healing Justice practices as a response to generational trauma, policing, and surveillance—read our Healing Justice Report here
  • Uplifiting queer digital activism and holistic security for organizers and activists
  • Our overt support of intersex activism and global local organizing—read more about our Intersex Human Rights Fund here


#AstraeaPride 2019 Videos:

U.S. Fund:

The U.S. Fund is Astraea’s longest-standing fund, working for racial, gender, economic, migrant and reproductive justice and centering the leadership of queer, trans and GNC People of Color in the U.S. For #Pride2019, we’re celebrating the U.S. Fund and all we’ve accomplished through the Fund so far. Read more about it:

LGBTQI Digital Activism:

Astraea believes in the power of digital LGBTQI-led activism. For #Pride2019, we’re highlighting some of the ways we’ve recently supported digital activism in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Healing Justice:

Astraea is invested in supporting LGBTQI communities to heal, rebuild, learn, collaborate, and grow through the #HealingJustice work we support. This #Pride2019, we’re uplifting some of the ways we’ve recently worked to collectively build power, resilience, and joy through #HealingJustice. 

Intersex Human Rights Fund:

Astraea is proud to work side-by-side with intersex activists and organizations around the globe who are demanding justice for intersex human rights, contesting the pathologization of intersex bodies, and defending intersex people’s rights to self-determination, bodily autonomy, and physical integrity through our Intersex Fund. For #Pride2019, we’re celebrating the Fund and all it’s accomplished in recent years.

Farewell but not goodbye – A letter from Astraea Executive Director, J. Bob Alotta

“Today, after eight years, I am announcing I will be transitioning out of my role as the Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. While it is a move I do not make lightly, I do so with the full support of the board and the incredible staff of Astraea.” – J. Bob Alotta


Today, after eight years, I am announcing I will be transitioning out of my role as the Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. While it is a move I do not make lightly, I do so with the full support of the board and the incredible staff of Astraea.

Astraea is and will ever be an entity of enormous transformation and purpose. As only the second Executive Director in an over 40-year herstory, I have had the incredible honor of evoking the anchor of lesbian feminism bestowed on us by our founding mothers, while building a future-forward organization that has now granted over $40 million dollars to LGBTQI grassroots activists and artists in over half the world.

We have realized exponential growth in such a short period of time: nearly six-toupling our budget, doubling our staff—who now span 10 cities, 6 countries, and three continents—with an ever-evolving eye for providing radically transformative grantmaking and capacity building on the ground. We have done so while expanding our philanthropic voice. Astraea has shown up and spoken up for philanthropic action that embodies the best of what we have learned as an institution: fund the long-game, respect the steps, fund without restriction, trust the innovation in our communities, center the voices at the intersections of lived experience, know we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. In short, be bold. And we have.

I am proud to have served a vision so much larger than myself—embodied by every activist/artist/donor who bravely shows up to bring a just and joyous world to fruition. They (you) have allowed me to bring my best self to work every day I was able. Running a foundation is not easy! Working in the movements you’re from is difficult. Building partnership and ally-ship, starting and sustaining conversations, growing while doing, being a singular entity in every room—all without a roadmap because it had never been done before—because I had never done anything like this before—is profoundly challenging, but that is Astraea’s charge. The staff shows up to this calling magnificently. My gratitude to them is immeasurable. It has been my deepest honor to work alongside them and steward us during this time.

Paramount to my decision to transition was being able to leave the organization in the best possible position. Two key factors make me confident I am doing so. This past year, we have secured significant multi-year partnerships that will ground the work both programmatically and organizationally for many years to come. These partnerships mark the next wave of “new beginnings” for Astraea. And now. I will work alongside staff and board leadership during a period of transition. You will continue to hear more from us as our next steps unfold. I suspect we will lean into you, our trusted community, as we enter the next stage of Astraea’s evolution. I am writing to you with so much gratitude and so much excitement for Astraea’s future. I urge you, as I surely will, to continue to support Astraea’s growth, purpose, and vision. We need her more than ever.

In deep solidarity, 
(as ever)
– B

 J. Bob Alotta
Executive Director 
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

A letter from Astraea’s board:

As Bob announces her transition, we express our deep gratitude for her visionary leadership of the profoundly challenging and liberatory work that is Astraea’s charge. In the constantly shifting political landscape of the past 8 years, Bob has stayed steady, bold, and clear about Astraea’s role in transcending borders and building futures for LGBTQI people pursuing social justice and human rights. 
She has expanded the organization and kept us on the cutting edge, positioning Astraea to the level of global influence we have today. As an ambassador for Astraea, Bob has excelled at navigating complex cultural and political spaces, breaking down silos, and centering LGBTQI human rights wherever she goes. Through her vision and work in partnership with Astraea’s incredible staff, we have accomplished many breakthroughs in strengthening the capacity of LGBTQI grassroots leaders.

Bob has led Astraea in a powerful arc of organizational growth and sustainability, and we are well-positioned to pivot to welcome a new leader. We ask our grantee partners to act in bold and transformative ways and so we are transforming ourselves as well by celebrating Bob’s accomplishments and meeting the evolving needs of the movement. In this current political moment of escalating violence against LGBTQI communities, it is clear that there is a heightened need for Astraea’s role. We are deeply committed to working with Bob to steward Astraea through this transition so that we can continue to provide critical grantmaking and capacity building for LGBTQI grassroots leaders around the world.

The Astraea board has begun the process of identifying an interim executive director and working alongside staff to create a roadmap for the steps forward. We thank Bob for her immense dedication to Astraea’s mission and wish her the very best as her next chapter begins.


Iimay Ho and Eboné Bishop, Co-Chairs 
On behalf of the board of directors

Astraea’s Feminist Funding Principles

Astraea has developed our ten Feminist Funding Principles to share what we have learned over the last four decades about what it takes to support activists on the frontlines to make enduring social change.

As a feminist fund, Astraea believes the strongest approaches to achieving justice center the needs and visions of people who face multiple oppressions. We believe it is our responsibility to redistribute money as a mechanism toward redistributing power, so movement agendas are controlled by activists, organizations, and communities.

To that end, Astraea has developed our ten Feminist Funding Principles to share what we have learned over the last four decades about what it takes to support activists on the frontlines to make enduring social change.

Read more