LIKE TREES GROWING SURELY AND STEADILY IN A FOREST, the movements Astraea supports—grassroots, feminist, and LBTQI movements around the world—have been laying their foundations, strengthening their roots, and planting new seeds for years. With each passing generation, our movements add new rings to their trees, building more and deeper knowledge. With each new organization, the forest grows thicker, lusher, more resilient, more alive.
2020 brought with it unprecedented storms that shook us all: a raging global pandemic; increased police brutality; state violence; heightened surveillance against Black, Brown, Indigenous, migrant, and other marginalized communities; a rise in authoritarianism; the ongoing closing of civil societies; and extractive capitalist systems designed only to take and never to give. Yet, our movements—who represent communities disproportionately impacted by each of these crises—have always shown us that, when we center care, we can transform lone trees into forests. When we fight for justice, joy, rest, and healing, we create ecosystems that will sustain and nurture us forever.
What is collective care? How do we take care of our movements so they can continue to care for their communities? Scientists have found that neighboring trees help to sustain each other through their root systems, either directly, by intertwining their roots, or indirectly, by growing fungal networks around the roots that serve as a sort of extended nervous system, connecting separate trees. Community care and the creation of interdependent networks of solidarity are the basis and ongoing motivation for the work of grassroots movements—from mutual aid to advocacy. As a feminist funder and the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to fund LGBTQI movements, our role and mandate are clearer than ever:
1)Make sure we strengthen our movements’ root systems by moving more money and resources to them (not just now but over the long-haul), so that our movements can continue to transform their powerful visions into reality, and build towards our collective liberation.
2)Nourish and care for ourselves by building the infrastructure we need to support our growth and transformation, and by prioritizing our own wellness, healing, and sustainability, so that we can in turn care for our movements.
Our 2020 Annual Report is a celebration of care and its ability to transform. Our movements have shown us time and time again that when we act collectively and from a place of deep care, we not only keep the forest alive, we support it to grow and to thrive. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for standing strong beside us.
Bookda Gheisar and Eboné Bishop,
Care and solidarity have always been Astraea’s reason for existing, and this year has only proven them more necessary for the sustainability of our movements and for Astraea’s own transformation. As a global pandemic—along with heightened police violence, increased surveillance, the ongoing closing of civil societies, the rollbacks of human rights, rising authoritarianism, and of course, the climate crisis—continued to ravage our world, the criticality of grassroots movement-building has only deepened. And as our movements continue to care for their communities, we continue to resource them, and our donors and partners continue to support us and stand behind us. 2020 was our biggest grantmaking year yet: we granted $5.3 million to 203 grantee partners through 250 grants, a 26% increase from 2019.
In April 2020, we launched our COVID-19 Collective Care Response, raising and moving more flexible resources to grantee partners and their communities, and making it easier for grantee partners to access funding. We are proud to have raised and leveraged over $1 million in funding from institutional and individual donors to support grantee partners’ resilience. This year, we also launched our Collective Care Blog, published several pivotal reports on the state of LBQ, trans, and intersex funding, and wrapped up our first LGBTI Global Development Partnership, which stewarded millions in government funding to the grassroots! Meanwhile, our grantee partners around the world continue their powerful work, supporting their communities to thrive as best they can, even in this tenuous moment. Through mutual aid efforts, advocacy, and the practice of collective care, they are leading us through this period of transformation with a powerful vision of collective liberation, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to that vision.
We began our search for permanent Executive leadership in 2020 but, just as the unpredictability of the past year shifted the trajectory of so many of our lives, it similarly impacted Astraea’s own transition and this search process. The Search Committee and the Board paused at the end of 2020 to restructure and reevaluate the process, and have since relaunched the search with the goal of finding a strategic, strong, feminist leader to guide Astraea in its commitment to advancing gender, racial, disability, and economic justice around the world.
This year has served as a reminder of the necessity and purpose of Astraea’s mandate which has always been to resource the LBTQI, Black, Brown, migrant, Indigenous, and feminist movements at the grassroots—those who have so often been the most marginalized in our communities but whose transformative visions are charting the path towards our collective liberation. It has reiterated the necessity of feminist funding that is flexible, that is nimble, that is sustainable—funding that is responsive to the needs and priorities of our movements, so that they can care for their communities. This year, we have learned just how inherently and deeply interconnected all our ecosystems are, and that care is an essential element of our collective transformation.
Bookda Gheisar and Eboné Bishop
Co-Chairs, Astraea Board of Directors
Interim Executive Director
What a year it has been. By the time you read this letter, the world will have been navigating the global COVID-19 pandemic for over a year—a year in which we have each been challenged to reimagine ways of working, doing, and being. Grassroots movements—the LBTQI, feminist, Black, Brown, migrant, and Indigenous communities that Astraea has always proudly supported—have continued to show us the way forward, calling us to prioritize collective care as a tool for survival, healing, joy, and justice for us all. Concurrently, it has become undeniably clear how dysfunctional our systems and economies are, how pervasive structural racism continues to be, and just how dangerous white supremacy and right-wing authoritarianism can be when given legitimacy. That is why it has been critical for us to continue to support the folks most impacted—those who hold the radical dream of liberation—while also turning inwards, reflecting, and committing to an "internal" Astraea that mirrors the visions of our grantee partners.
Astraea has taken this call to heart, and we have shown up—for ourselves and for our movements. We have spent the last year intentionally beginning to undo our own capitalist, white supremacist instinct to constantly be working, doing, and moving at breakneck speed. We have embraced the ways in which slowing down can ultimately help us to grow and transform the organization, while holding steadfast the vision of our founding mothers. We have been taught just how necessary space for healing is. Astraea had already begun this organizational transformation work in September 2019 when I joined the organization, but every day since we have taken steps to deepen our commitment to collective care for ourselves, the organization, and our movements.
In March of 2020, as the pandemic took hold, all our staff began working remotely. We emphasized self-care, community care, and collective wellbeing was our main priority, and we leaned into our queer feminist values to guide each step we took in response to this moment. From providing unlimited sick leave to reducing our work hours, we took several necessary, tangible steps to ensure our staff were cared for. We have also spent the year redoubling our efforts to strengthen our organizational culture in order to ensure long-term stability and build towards an organization that is truly inclusive of all who are a part of it. So far this has included staff-wide anti-racism focus groups and a training on our role in the non-profit industrial complex, with more to come.
In July, we took an organization-wide pause for two weeks. The pause was an opportunity for Astraea staff to step away from our desks and reflect on how we can step more into “being” as opposed to “doing.” We examined our internal practices as we work to be an organization that is truly anti-racist, intersectional, feminist, queer, and international. We recognized the pause as not just a vacation, but as a radical, political, subversive act: one that rejects dominant capitalist and white supremacist definitions of productivity as tied to success, and instead disrupts by embracing rest, care, and joy as critical to the health of our people, and therefore the health of Astraea.
With the creation of our expanded Management Team, we are working to strengthen our leadership pipeline and are in the midst of updating our organizational structure and decision-making models in alignment with our feminist values. These efforts will take time and concerted commitment, another reason why we must create the spaciousness needed for them to be successful efforts that will prepare us well for new permanent executive leadership in 2021.
It has been an honor to lead Astraea over the last year. I am grateful to our staff, Board of Directors, and all of you for how you have unwaveringly stood with us and our movements. Astraea is financially strong thanks to the faith and support of all our donors who recognize Astraea’s intersectional support for global LBTQI movements. We were humbled to receive a $4 million gift from MacKenzie Scott last year in honor of this work. With your continued invaluable support, we are steadily bolstering our own systems, policies, and practices, all while resourcing our movements to grow and make change. Throughout the rest of my tenure, I will continue to prioritize sustainability, organizational strengthening, and collective care, while bringing in the fresh perspectives and energy that we need to guide Astraea into the future.
Thank you for continuing to believe in Astraea, in the bold vision of our founding mothers, and in the power of care and transformation.
Interim Executive Director
We are deeply inspired by the ways in which LBTQI movements keep growing and transforming to meet the moment and build towards a brighter vision for the future. In response to the deep ongoing harms of systemic racism, the rise of far-right fascism, and the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, our movements are sowing the seeds towards our collective liberation. Our work is to support movements to grow strong foundations and to thrive over the long haul. From the queer and trans elders who paved the way for today’s movements, to the intersex organizations around the world that are providing mutual aid to see their communities through the pandemic, our movements are showing us what is possible when our work is grounded in collective care.
Illustrated by Amir Khadar
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded around the world in the Spring of 2020, Astraea responded to the pandemic by raising and moving more flexible resources to our partners and their communities, and making it easier for grantees to access funding. We are proud to have raised and leveraged over $1 million USD in funding from institutional and individual donors to support grantee partners’ resilience. So far, just as part of our Collective Care response, we have granted additional funds to over 120 grantee partners in over 50 countries to support them in caring for their communities throughout the pandemic (ranging from $2–$8k USD per grantee in additional flexible funding on top of their usual annual grant, depending on context). Our priority has been to disburse grants with as little administrative burden as possible, as quickly as possible, to help them to weather the storm. We expedited our grantmaking timeline, shortened our application form, allowed applications via phone calls, and increased accompaniment support.
The communities that Astraea supports—LBTQI, Black, Brown, migrant, poor, and working class—are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, making this support even more essential. Astraea’s grantee partners and their communities are experiencing myriad harms and challenges, including loss of livelihoods; limited access to health care; struggles with mental health, isolation, and loss of safe community spaces; limited internet connectivity and access to technology; upticks in racism and xenophobia; and sharp increases in violence, including family and intimate partner violence, community violence, police violence, and criminalization. Read more about our COVID-19 Collective Care Response here and about how we met the moment for our movements here.
Participants at CommsLabs in South Africa in 2016. Credit: Lerato Maduna
Astraea closed out an unprecedented seven-year (2012–2019) $15 million USD multilateral partnership focused on advancing human rights and building capacity for LGBTI communities in the Global South and East. Through this public-private partnership, Astraea became the first United States-based, LGBTI-focused philanthropy organization to receive USAID funding. Astraea leveraged its role as a feminist, trust-based, philanthropic organization to unlock critical resources for LGBTI activists globally, by taking on the administrative work of holding the partnership, and by deepening its grantmaking, research, and accompaniment work across 12 countries. Over the years, grantees benefited from access to core funding through Astraea’s grants; access to leadership development training from RFSL and the LGBTQ Victory Institute; communications, capacity building, and networking through Astraea’s CommsLabs and strategic communications programs; and research used to inform efforts and influence key private and government stakeholders by Astraea, Franklin & Marshall College, and the Williams Institute. Building on the success of the partnership and the model, Astraea was able to secure an additional 5-year award (2019–2024) to continue supporting LGBTI activists around their own priorities. The new Multidonor LGBTI Global Human Rights Initiative (GHRI), valued at $25 million, is supported by USAID, Global Affairs Canada, and Sida, as well as private foundations and partners.
Latin American and Caribbean Intersex Convening in Buenos Aires, February 2020. Credit: Latin American intersex communities
The first of its kind, the Intersex Human Rights Fund was launched in 2015 and accounts for almost three-quarters (73%) of all grants to intersex organizations in the world. The IHRF recognizes the bold and inspiring leadership of intersex activists, communities, and organizations who fight day in and day out to protect the basic human rights, bodily autonomy, physical integrity, and self-determination of intersex people everywhere. Our 2020 grantmaking cycle was our largest yet, granting a total of $474,000 to 52 groups in 40 countries. This year, the fund also hosted its 5th International Intersex Forum online and welcomed several new advisory board members! Read our latest IHRF grant announcement here, and learn more about how intersex organizations are navigating the global COVID-19 pandemic in this blog post.
Rromnjako Ilo, Community outreach 2016. Credit: Rromnjako Ilo
In partnership with peer feminist fund Mama Cash, our new report Vibrant Yet Under-Resourced: The State of Funding for Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Movements is a celebration of the growing, vibrant LBQ movements that are pushing for transformative change—across gender, racial, environmental, and economic justice movements. With data from 378 activists in 97 countries, and 67 donors across philanthropy, the report documents LBQ activists’ priorities and the current lack of resourcing for their work, and makes a powerful case for why increased and more effective funding is crucially needed to advance a radical politics of liberation for us all. Among other critical key findings, the report finds that LBQ organizing is growing rapidly, with 89% of groups founded in the last 20 years, yet at present fewer than 40% of groups have an annual budget of over $5,000 USD. Read the full report at fundlbq.org.
Katherine Acey. Credit: Astraea archives
In November 2019, we proudly honored our 2nd round of Acey Social Justice Feminist Awardees—Julia Bennett, Brenda Joyce Crawford, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and Norma Timbang. The Award recognizes lesbian and trans elders for their inspiring activism and often under-recognized contributions to our movements, and who may have unmet financial needs as they age. Astraea owes its existence and vision to the incredible, bold legacy and work of these lesbian, queer, and trans elders who have paved the way for our movements and our futures. Read more about the 2019 honorees here, and watch an interview with the award’s founder and Astraea’s Executive Director Emeritus, Katherine Acey, to learn more.— Name Last Name
Credits: Community United Against Violence and interACT
In partnership with the Global Philanthropy Project (GPP), American Jewish World Service (AJWS), and Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE), we launched the briefs The State of Intersex Funding and The State of Trans Funding, which share new insights on the funding challenges and opportunities facing the global intersex and trans movements, through data collected in 2015–2016. Some of the most striking findings include the fact that total funding to intersex organizations accounted for only 0.29% of all global funding on LGBTI issues, and that total funding to trans organizations accounted for only 2.7% of all global funding. The briefings aim to galvanize conversation and encourage a much-needed commitment amongst donors to more and better financial resources for trans and intersex movements across the world.
Illustrated by Amir Khadar
In April 2020, we launched our Collective Care Blog, as part of our organizational COVID-19 Collective Care Response. We began with the belief that it is our responsibility as a feminist funder to shed light on the ways our grantee partner communities are being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, to share insights around the criticality of healing justice and collective care, and to keep shifting power to the grassroots. While we are experiencing this crisis together, it has become abundantly clear that certain communities—LBTQI folks, Black people, People of Color, migrants, Indigenous people, and ethnic and racial minorities—are being disproportionately impacted as a result of longstanding deep structural inequities around the world. The blog has been a space for us as Astraea to share our insights into how best we can support these communities and movements to heal and continue their critical work towards our collective liberation through resourcing, breaking isolation, and building sustainability and resilience as a praxis.
In 2020, the Astraea staff and board worked to shore up our internal systems, practices, and policies to ensure they help us send more money and resources to the grassroots. We hired more operations and administrative staff to bring fresh energy and perspectives into the organization, and to support our growing team, budget, and infrastructure needs. Through the Ford Foundation's BUILD grant, we have been able to offer our staff ongoing professional development opportunities, based on their individual needs and interests. As the pandemic hit and our offices closed, we worked to ensure we were practicing collective care intentionally within the organization. We shifted our PTO policies, offered reduced work hours, expanded sick-time benefits to account for those who might be impacted by COVID-19, and ensured our staff had the physical infrastructure to work from home comfortably.
Credit: Sappho for Equality
Our Freedom Space: Mapping Digital LGBTQI Activism in India explores the complex benefits and challenges facing communities who use digital devices and spaces to build community, organize, and advocate for LGBTQI rights in India. As activists navigate this complex and changing landscape, organizing is also adapting through innovative digital strategies. Through research with LGBTQI activists in India, the report identifies eight key findings, including the ways in which activists experience violence and harm in digital spaces, and the strategies they employ to safeguard their privacy and safety. Read the executive summary here.
Illustration by: Gloria Muthoka; Design by: Design Action Collective
Created in collaboration with a diverse group of Kenyan activists, this messaging guide is the culmination of a participatory research and skill-building project, the goal of which is to better understand and develop messaging to reach potential supporters of LGBTQI people in Kenya. The guide invites Kenyan activists and allies to build on learnings from this collective research, and provides tips and tools to reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time, to reduce stigma and create more inclusive communities. Read Opening Hearts here.
Credit: Intersex Community of Zimbabwe
To help keep their communities safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Intersex Community of Zimbabwe launched programs to empower intersex communities with skills such as soap- and hand sanitizer-making to promote sanitization, and gardening to promote healthy eating, as well as to raise funds by selling fresh vegetables.
Tzk’at is an indigenous feminist network set up by a Mayan lesbian that brings together women from different indigenous territories as a collective—they are currently building an intersex-led project entitled “Dialogues in Defense of Life, Territory Plural-Intersex Bodies—from Iximulew Guatemala.” The project will create space for dialogues on embodiment/corporalities and intersex realities with community partners.
Credit: Love and Struggle Photos
Intersex Justice Project’s direct-action strategies against Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago resulted in the hospital publicly apologizing for the harm it inflicted upon intersex people, and committing to suspend cosmetic and medically unnecessary surgeries for six months as they explore “comprehensive and informed intersex care” with intersex consultants. Since then, another hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, has followed Lurie’s move by stopping vaginoplasties and clitoridectomies on intersex patients.
Credit: National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN)
NQTTCN has been working both to increase their communities’ access to healers across the country (both prior to and specifically throughout the COVID-19 pandemic), as well as to create spaces to ensure that healers themselves have access to the support systems and tools they need to be able to sustain themselves and their work. Throughout the 2020 uprisings in support of Black lives, NQTTCN also used its own platforms to amplify the work of Black queer and trans mental health and healing justice practitioners.
Credit: Black and Pink
Black and Pink and TGIJP have been working together to support queer and trans Black people in prisons who are at extremely high risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, with TGIJP leading, the groups have been working to specifically support Black trans people coming out of prison to ensure they have community support and resources during this period of social isolation and economic upheaval, especially given that being criminalized, leaving the prison system, and reentering society already present a number of challenges.
Together with UNDP Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights, and Overseas Development Institute, GALANG launched the results of their research entitled, “Making It Work: Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Philippines”, through a national dissemination workshop held on February 14, 2020.
Mesahat launched its campaign #NotEnough to spark a conversation around the recent reforms to the Sudanese Criminal Code and its impact on the status of Sudanese women and individuals of sexual and gender diversity in Sudan. The campaign also presented recommendations and demands for improving the living situation for women and queer communities in Sudan.
Credit: Queer Sista Platform
Queer Sista Platform opened their Queer Home as part of their work to create more safe, inclusive spaces of LBQ womxn in Armenia. The Queer Home serves as a critical community organizing and community building space, and will be a central hub for the organization to hold meetings, trainings, self-care and well-being workshops, and more. The space will also serve as a temporary shelter for those facing homophobia-fueled violence, discrimination, and homelessness.
Credit: Armario Abierto
Centering the leadership and voices of trans women and sex workers, Armario Abierto have created a "street" newsletter in order to reclaim their own narratives and stories through creative and often comedic messaging! They use video interviews, photo documentation, and social media to tell their stories and share their experiences. The newsletter has gained a lot of visibility and attention amongst the Colombian public.— Name Last Name
Credit: Guyana Trans United
Originating as a group of trans organizers standing against police brutality targeting trans sex workers, Guyana Trans United now also hosts monthly support group sessions for their members, their families, and other loved ones, and conducts outreach within the ten regions of Guyana.
in 2020 to 203 grantee partners through 250 grants; up 26% from our 2019 grantmaking
to over 2,000 grantee partners via 5,250+ grants to organizations in 120 countries and 46 U.S. States.
|Without Donor Restrictions||With Donor Restrictions||All Funds|
|Support and Revenue|
|Grants and Contributions|
|Core Programs and Expenses||3,120,233||15,759,069||18,879,302|
|Net Investment Return||125,759||414,263||540,022|
|Foreign Currency Transactions (Loss) Gain||—||—||—|
|Net Assets Released From Restrictions|
|Core Programs and Expenses||9,772,737||(9,772,737)||—|
|Total Revenue after Releases||24,579,032||(7,270,614)||31,849,646|
|Total Program Services||21,384,810||—||21,384,810|
|Administrative and General||2,030,347||2,030,347|
|Total Supporting Services||2,765,655||—||2,765,655|
|Change in Net Assets||428,567||7,270,614||7,699,181|
|Beginning Net Assets as of June 30, 2019||1,156,466||11,990,844||13,147,310|
|Ending Net Assets as of June 30, 2020||1,585,033||19,261,458||20,846,491|
Based on unaudited financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2020
A note about our donor list: Long-time partners may notice that our donor list looks different this year. As a queer, feminist women's fund that endeavors to center gender, racial, and economic justice in all that we do, we recognize all of our donors who make our work possible. Every single dollar makes a difference, stretching all the way back to Astraea's cross-class founding around a kitchen table in 1977. Presenting our donor list alphabetically, rather than by size of gift, is a better reflection of our true appreciation of each and every one of you. Thank you!
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI rights around the globe. We support hundreds of brilliant and brave grantee partners in the U.S. and internationally who challenge oppression and seed social change. We work for racial, economic, social, and gender justice, because we all deserve to live our lives freely, without fear, and with profound dignity.
We envision a world where all people can actively and enthusiastically belong, regardless of their sex, sexuality, gender, bodies, dis/ability, race, class, nationality, migration status, or any other aspect of identity or circumstance.
Our mission is to fuel local and global movements that shift power to LGBTQI people and organizations pursuing social justice and human rights. We do this by providing support in the form of grantmaking, philanthropic advocacy, communications, and capacity building.
Designers: Kimberly Costa, Adam Shaw-Vardi (Lousch Creations)
Editor: Bridget de Gersigny
Writer: Mihika Srivastava
Proofreader: Beau Gambold
Contributors: Kim Kaletsky, Mikail Khan