Joy’s October 2021 Reflection: On joining Astraea, our feminist history, and our lasting LGBTQI legacy

In the next few months, I hope that I will have the opportunity to hear and learn from you about Astraea, our shared histories and our hopes for the future. My personal history is bound up with Astraea’s and I know that yours is too.

I am thrilled to join Astraea as its new Executive Director! My first few weeks have been a whirlwind, but the best part has been beginning the journey of getting to know Astraea and our community more deeply. I feel like an archaeologist—excavating our treasures, gathering stories, and learning about what makes Astraea tick and what makes us unique. I am also unearthing the complex layers of this iconic 44-year-old institution and gaining a deeper understanding of how our personal and community histories are inextricable from the ideas, struggles and politics of our times.

I first heard about Astraea in 2010 during a chance encounter with an Astraea board member. My girlfriend (now wife) and I sat down to brunch with Eleanor Palacios and learned about a scrappy and courageous foundation created by a cross-class, multi-racial group of lesbian and queer Women of Color activists to resource progressive grassroots feminist organizing around the world that centers LGBTQI people and People of Color. I felt like I could see myself in Astraea’s work, that it acknowledged the contradictions of living with multiple identities, that it saw those of us who are made to feel invisible, and that art, storytelling, and movement building were integral to feeling less alone.

More than a decade later, this work is as critical and as urgent as ever. We are grappling with multiple pandemics and crises that have underscored the vast inequalities and injustices in our world. Our movements are still at the forefront of resistance to political agendas of nationalism, populism, and religious fundamentalisms that use people’s bodies and sexualities as sites of state, religious, and economic control. We are still fighting isolation, contradiction and invisibility, but doing so with different technologies, changing conceptions of the world and evolving senses of possibilities.

As we celebrate LGBTQ History Month and Intersex Awareness Day this October, we uplift the contributions of #QueersMakingHistory. Astraea is one of the world’s first queer women’s funds, conceived and nurtured by founding mothers, all history-makers in their own right. More than four decades later, Astraea is still the scrappy and courageous foundation of which our foremothers dreamed—we are still resourcing global movements organizing for social justice and challenging the status quo; and stepping into our power to advocate for more and better resources for our communities.

Yet, with you, our community, we are constantly growing, learning, and evolving. It is important to interrogate who is missing, what harm was done and what still hurts. Yet, to quote Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “[i]f history is to enlarge our understanding of human experience, it must include stories that dismay as well as inspire.” We must grapple with the thorny issues of our pasts that affect how we are in the present. We must learn from our ancestors to understand how we got here so that we can imagine where we can go.

In the next few months, I hope that I will have the opportunity to hear and learn from you about Astraea, our shared histories and our hopes for the future. My personal history is bound up with Astraea’s and I know that yours is too. Celebrations, challenges, and chance encounters all make up the fabric of our interwoven and intersectional lives, and I can’t wait to learn about yours. I invite you to be part of Astraea’s journey together as we co-create our liberatory futures.

All my best to you and yours,
Joy

Roma Women of Vojvodina

The Association of Roma Women Vojvodina’s intersex project aims to educate Roma youth about the intersex population, reduce prejudices and stereotypes of Roma youth about intersex persons, and begin the process of stopping the isolation of intersex persons.

The Association of Roma Women Vojvodina is a non-governmental and non-profit association founded in 2007 to improve the Roma population’s social development (health, education, culture, economy, housing) and to reduce inequality in all aspects of society through providing adequate support to Roma men and women by encouraging them to be self-organized. They want to bring especially Roma women and youth to engage in social wisdom on an equal basis with all national communities and nations. Their intersex project aims to educate Roma youth about the intersex population, reduce prejudices and stereotypes of Roma youth about intersex persons, and begin the process of stopping the isolation of intersex persons. The long-term goal is to end the stigma and discrimination of intersex people by increasing the empathy and cooperation of young Roma towards and with persons belonging to the intersex population.

Bangladesh Intersex Forum

Bangladesh Intersex Forum’s goal is to create awareness of intersex issues among the masses and support intersex people’s livelihood and human rights through capacity building, grassroots organizing, advocacy, research, and strategic litigation.

Bangladesh Intersex Forum (BIF), formally formed on December 7, 2020, with the support of Intersex Asia, is the first organization in Bangladesh led by intersex people. Its goal is to create awareness of intersex issues among the masses and support intersex people’s livelihood and human rights through capacity building, grassroots organizing, advocacy, research, and strategic litigation. In Bangladesh, parents are quick to do “correctional” surgery on intersex bodies very early on in their lives. Thus, intersex people suffer from levels of extreme trauma and are stuck in a vicious dark circle. BIF wants to break that curse by genuinely empowering them with consultations and capacity building programs. It has collected intersex stories from grassroots to publish in the Daily Star, a popular national newspaper, and to empower intersex people by buying cattle or training them in garment sewing for their livelihood. BIF has a strong partnership with Oboyob–Diversity Circle (formerly known as Boys of Bangladesh),the oldest platform of self-identified LGBTI individuals in Bangladesh.

Asociación Peruana de Personas Intersexuales

Asociación Peruana de Personas Intersexuales’ goal is to create a space to support and assist intersex people and their families in Peru since intersex issues are entirely invisible in the country, and there is a great deal of misinformation around the topic.

Asociación Peruana de Personas Intersexuales was founded in 2020 by an intersex woman with CAH with the support of Brújula Intersexual (Mexico). The goal was to create a space to support and assist intersex people and their families in Peru since intersex issues are entirely invisible in the country, and there is a great deal of misinformation around the topic. Asociación Peruana de Personas Intersexuales is the only Peruvian intersex organization. It seeks to create a large community of intersex people in the entire Peruvian territory to support, inform, give value, and create societal consciousness in Peru around intersex experiences. They plan to do this by creating a welcoming, empathetic and understanding space made up by intersex people —while at the same time distancing themselves from the pathologizing rhetoric, the binary and heteronormativity.

Colectivo Intertulias

Coletivo Intertulias was born in 2014 to have a space for solidarity and peer support for people who experience the realities of being intersex.

Coletivo Intertulias was born in 2014 to have a space for solidarity and peer support for people who experience the realities of being intersex. This space serves to analyze and make policy proposals in favor of intersex populations. It also helps raise awareness of the realities of Intersex people’s lives and exercise political activism to reclaim intersex people’s rights. Its mission is to push advocacy efforts and raise awareness for the intersex population in Ecuador through content creation that contributes to the acknowledgement of Intersex people and public policy in favor of their rights.

IntersexualesChile

IntersexualesChile’s main goal is to ensure an active network that can support intersex people as well as help and support families in making decisions regarding the health of future intersex children.

IntersexualesChile (previously Brújula Intersexual Chile) was founded in 2016 with the support of Brújula Intersexual (Mexico). Their main goal is to ensure an active network that can support intersex people as well as help and support families in making decisions regarding the health of future intersex children. The organization also aims incentivize personal well-being rather than performing corrective and aesthetic surgeries, which only end up harming the person being operated in a physical, psychological and social way. In addition to directly helping families, they are interested in being part of various working groups at the Ministry of Health to ensure that Chile complies with Memo 17, which stipulates that genital surgery cannot be performed on intersex babies. They see it as essential to have their rights openly known as well as respected.

Intersex Philippines

Intersex Philippines’ goal is to advocate for the collective need to be included in society without stigma and prejudice.

Intersex Philippines started as an online group until its members decided to form the group and register as an organisation to represent the intersex community of the country. Their goal is to advocate for the collective need to be included in society without stigma and prejudice. The main idea of the group was to give support to fellow intersex individuals in the form of online counseling and sharing of experience since intersex individuals are isolated thus making it difficult for them to discuss their body, health, sexual orientation and other issues. The group organized its first-ever IntersexPhilippines Forum in December 2019, giving rise to its membership and visibility in online and other forms of broadcast media in the country. The organization aims to uplift its members’ lives by giving them the opportunity to learn skills that they can use for their income building capacity to support themselves since intersex individuals face difficulties in finding economic means of living.

Bi Visibility Day 2021: Dreaming beyond the binary

On Bi Visibility Day and everyday, we advocate for the visibility and inclusion of bi people within the LGBTQI+ community, and challenge traditional, binary conceptions of bisexuality.

Started in 1999 by Wendy Curry, Michael Page, and Gigi Raven Wilbur – three U.S. based bisexual activists – Bisexual Visibility Day is celebrated annually on September 23. Originally intended to visibilize the long neglected bisexual community, Bi Visibility Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the biphobia and erasure that bisexual folks tend to experience within both LGBTQI+ and heterosexual communities, and to celebrate the richness of bi communities.

Bisexuality has often been misunderstood! In a binary world that seeks to classify people within fixed categories, people who are attracted to more than one gender have found themselves without a community to call home. Historical definitions of bisexuality have been confined within the binaries of absolute heterosexuality and homosexuality, which has led to the false belief that bisexuality limits sexual and romantic attraction to only those who adhere to cisgender ‘male’ or ‘female’ gender identities. This perception of bisexuality is harmful because it erases so many in the bisexual community whose desire, love, and attraction falls outside rigid gender norms. 

Another misconception of bi people is that the way they express their sexuality is a ‘phase,’ rather than a recognition that their sexuality may be fluid and evolve over time, and that they may have relationships with people of several different genders over their lifetime. As a result, bisexual folks are often judged based on what their relationships outwardly appear to be, rather than who they are as a whole. Such degrading stereotypes have regularly forced bisexual folks to hide their sexuality, or to defend it to their queer counterparts in order to gain legitimacy within larger LGBTQI+ circles. Bisexual folks are often erased and/or alienated from LGBTQI+ communities, and made to feel as if they are not ‘queer enough.’ 

On Bi Visibility Day and everyday, we advocate for the visibility and inclusion of bi people within the LGBTQI+ community, and challenge traditional, binary conceptions of bisexuality. This day is also a self-reflective time for bisexual people to celebrate themselves, their communities, and their freedom to love and express their sexualities without limits. We must reach beyond the gender binary, envisioning a world in which we see desire, attraction, and gender itself as expansive and ever-fluid. Ultimately, this is what Bisexual Visibility Day is really about: ensuring bisexual communities flourish, and forever dreaming beyond the binary.

This Bi Visibility Day, we are honored to have collaborated with artist Ashley Lukashevsky to create the expansive illustration you see above titled ‘Bisexuality is Not a Binary!’ She is an illustrator and visual artist born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. They create art that utilizes illustration and visual art as tools to strengthen social movements for racial justice, immigrant justice, climate justice, mental health and LGBTQIA+ liberation. As Ashley shared on an Instagram post during last year’s Bi Visibility Week,Whether your attraction to more than one gender is sexual or romantic, you are welcome in the bi community. Bi women are valid, bi men are valid, bi non-binary folks are valid, bi GNC cuties are valid— let’s end the gatekeeping of queerness once and for all.” She believes that in order to tear down harmful systems, we need to be able to envision a world without them. At Astraea, we are committed to supporting artists and their work, recognizing that art is an essential tool for social transformation.

Welcoming Joy Chia as Astraea’s New Executive Director!

We are delighted to announce that Joy Chia will join Astraea as our new Executive Director on September 20, 2021! Joy joins Astraea at a time when we are experiencing critical growth, investing in and upgrading our infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the organization and our movements, and strengthening our organizational culture to ensure our feminist, anti-racist, international values are being put into practice across all aspects of Astraea’s work.

We are delighted to announce that Joy Chia will join Astraea as our new Executive Director on September 20, 2021! When we relaunched our search process in February 2021, we sought a fierce feminist, intersectional, and radical leader. Joy embodies all of these qualities and more. She brings to Astraea an uncompromising commitment to advancing gender, racial, economic, and environmental justice and an expansive vision rooted in the politics of global solidarity. We are so proud and excited that she will be stewarding the Astraea team and leading the organization through its next chapter!

Joy joins Astraea at a time when we are experiencing critical growth, investing in and upgrading our infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the organization and our movements, and strengthening our organizational culture to ensure our feminist, anti-racist, international values are being put into practice across all aspects of Astraea’s work. As Astraea enters our 45th year in 2022 – and continues to work towards its mission of fueling local and global movements that shift power to LGBTQI people – Joy will lead the organization through a strategic planning process alongside the entire Astraea team, as well as our brilliant grantee partners, supporters, and allies. 

Joy’s commitment to social justice is rooted in her own life experiences, radical politics, and vision for the collective liberation of our movements. Joy joins Astraea from the Open Society Foundations (OSF), where she has most recently been the Women’s Rights Program’s Team Manager. She led the program’s work on the “Power of the Collective”, which prioritizes strengthening feminist activism, community mobilization and leadership, so that all women and gender non-conforming people have voice, power, and agency in all aspects of economic, social and political life. Previously Joy led OSF’s LGBTQI work in East Asia as a Program Officer, supporting groups working to advance human rights and equality for LGBTQI people across the region.

Getting to know Astraea Executive Director, Joy Chia: A Q&A

  • What excites you about joining Astraea as the next ED, especially at this time?

This is really an opportunity of a lifetime, and I am not quite sure it has really sunk in that I will be joining Astraea as the next Executive Director! I’m so privileged and humbled to be at Astraea’s helm at this moment of the organization’s evolution, and to work together with the Astraea community to chart out the next part of our journey. 

I’m very excited to learn deeply about Astraea as an organization—and the people that make up the community that stands with us. I’m excited for the difficult but productive work of putting our values and principles into practice—in both how we as Astraea work with and fund our community partners, but also how we engage with each other as human beings and advocates. What does it really mean to work at the intersections of gender, sexuality, disability, class, race and other aspects of our complex lives? How can we channel resources in ways that are context-appropriate, efficient, and accountable? 

I look forward to exploring these questions in the fellowship of others who share my values and aspirations, both within Astraea and also with other public and private foundations. I often call myself a donor organizer — I’ll like to see us organizing other funders to increase resources to LGBTQI organizations, to align resources in collaborative ways that reflect feminist values, and to broaden support for organizations in fields that are under-resourced and less visible. 

  • If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I could have any super-power, I would want the power of teleportation. I love being with people where they are comfortable and experiencing the world from where they sit—but I wish that I didn’t have to be on planes for so long to get to places and people I love! 

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

My wife and I have a young energetic daughter who keeps us on our toes—so I rarely feel as if I get downtime! It’s been fun (re)learning how to play. We spend a lot of time reading children’s books (one of our family favorites is “It’s okay to be different” by Todd Parr) and watching kid movies which actually have a lot of lessons for grown-ups. (See, Everything’s not awesome from Lego Movie, the 2nd Part). 

  • Can you share a favorite quote with us by someone who truly inspires you? 

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Shirley Chisholm is unbossed and unbought, and a big inspiration to me in 2021. 

  • What do you believe is the role of LGBTQI feminist philanthropy?

It’s important that your question articulates our work as LGBTQI, feminist, and philanthropic, as I see all of these aspects shaping the possibilities and responsibilities of our work. To me, feminism is about power – who has it, who does not, who is making decisions and about what? As funders, we wield one of most important manifestations of power which, as Kimberle Crenshaw described, is “the power to categorize” and “the power to cause that categorization to have social and material consequences.” This comes with great responsibility – and I believe that global LGBTQI feminist philanthropy has transformative potential, and that this potential must be harnessed towards building and shifting power to advance the ability of all people to exercise their rights and freedoms.  

LGBTQI feminist philanthropy is a central pillar in the kind of infrastructure that is fundamental to support experienced, innovative, and well-resourced organizations, communities, networks, and activists to seize opportunities when they present themselves to create the worlds we want to see. We have a critical and transformational role not only in our global feminist and LGBTQI funding ecosystems, but also in cross-movement coalition-building towards the articulation of alternative feminist futures. 

Astraea is Taking a Breather!

Astraea is taking our annual mid-year organizational pause, and we’ll be recharging our batteries from July 2-9, 2021. This will also be a time for us to examine our own practices as we work to be an anti-racist organization and vision the Astraea we know is possible—one that is truly anti-racist, intersectional, feminist, queer, and international.

Astraea is taking our annual mid-year organizational pause, and we’ll be recharging our batteries from July 2-9, 2021. During this time, Astraea staff will not be working, and we will resume our regular hours on July 12, 2021.

This annual break uplifts our intention to create the spaciousness necessary for staff to meaningfully rest and prioritize our well-being. This is especially critical as we all continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic – which is particularly present for many of our team members and our grantee partners in the Global South and East – as well as the ongoing impacts of anti-Black racism, police brutality, and the delegitimization of trans people’s lives and experiences. 

Collective care, healing, mutual aid, joy, and rest are essential to the liberation of our people and our movements. The pause period is an opportunity for Astraea staff to take a true break and reflect on how we can step more into “being” as opposed to “doing.” This time allows us to step away from our desks and our screens, and prioritize and nourish ourselves and our loved ones for the long road ahead, because we are in it for the long haul, and we want rest, presence and joy to be woven into the fabric of our fight for collective liberation.

The pause is also a time for us to examine our own practices as we work to be an anti-racist organization and vision the Astraea we know is possible—one that is truly anti-racist, intersectional, feminist, queer, and international. As a queer feminist fund, we owe everything to Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, trans, non-binary, intersex, and Global South feminists who built the intersectional vision of liberation that is at the very core of our mission. Ultimately, we hope that this pause will enable us to show up at Astraea, in philanthropy, for our innovative and resilient grantee partners, and in our communities in even more powerful ways.

While we’re out, we encourage you to check out some of the content on our Collective Care Blog and Website, that you may have missed!

Wishing you all rest, rejuvenation, and resilience where possible.