We Exist in Multitudes: Uplifting Intersex Movements in 2022

Every year on Intersex Awareness Day (October 26th), Astraea Foundation takes time to celebrate our grantee partners from around the world. At Astraea, we know that intersex people have no borders and exist in multitudes, but these vast experiences often go unrecognized or underrecognized. 

Image Credit: Aude Nasr / @ahlan.my.darlings

 

Every year on Intersex Awareness Day (October 26th), Astraea Foundation takes time to celebrate our grantee partners from around the world. At Astraea, we know that intersex people have no borders and exist in multitudes, but these vast experiences often go unrecognized or underrecognized. 

2022 marks the 8th annual cycle of Astraea’s grantmaking with the Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF). This year, we are celebrating the diverse beauty within intersex movements and the progress they have made in securing justice, while also reflecting on serious challenges intersex people experienced in many regions. 

Through the IHRF, Astraea responds to significant gaps in philanthropic funding for intersex movements by resourcing activism, building the capacity, raising visibility, and driving resources to intersex groups.

The IHRF’s eighth round of grantmaking totaled $522,000 in grants in 2022. Since IHRF seeks proposals from intersex activists who have never applied for a grant or received foundation funding before, it allows us to expand our reach to more and more corners of the world where the potential for intersex activism has yet to be tapped and connected to a global movement. IHRF now supports intersex movements in a quarter of the world’s countries, as the funding went to 56 groups, including 11 new and 45 renewals in 47 countries. During this funding cycle, we expanded our reach to Tunisia, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia, for the first time.

We have seen great strides and challenges from our grantee partners, leading campaigns to challenge social norms, change policy, and actualize inclusion, for example: 

  • Intersex Persons Society of Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya) began in 2016 to provide support, create awareness and gather data to establish the identifiable presence of intersex persons in Kenya. They succeeded in having the “intersex” category included in the national census in August 2019. And this year, Kenya became the first African country to require intersex children to be treated with dignity and have equal access to essential services like medical treatment and education.
  • IntersexualesChile (Chile) was founded in 2016 with the main goal to support intersex people, as well as supporting families in making decisions regarding health, life, and well-being. IntersexualesChile believes that corrective and aesthetic surgeries only end up hurting a person physically, psychologically and socially. In addition to directly helping families, the organization works to ensure that Chile complies with legal stipulations that genital surgery cannot be performed on intersex babies. 
  • Intersex Greece (Cyclades, Greece) is an inclusive, national organization for intersex people living in Greece, no matter their nationality, economic status or any other diversity. They aim to create awareness and inclusion for intersex people and advocate for legal protections. We at IHRF are celebrating a major win in 2022 as the country banned cosmetic (non-medically necessary) genital surgeries on intersex children. 
  • Damino (Tunisia) began in September 2021 amid challenges and discrimination against intersex individuals. It is difficult to be an intersex person in Tunisia and to connect with other intersex individuals, so the group became a safe space for intersex activists. They are considered to be a pioneer in their field, as they are the first group that focuses primarily on intersex rights in Tunisia. They are working to stop the violations and crimes against intersex babies through enacting new laws. 

Please join us in celebrating all our incredible 2022 Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF) grantee partners building towards more inclusive and just futures for intersex people, and for us all!

This Intersex Awareness Day, we are excited to have collaborated with Aude Nasr, a French-Lebanese freelance illustrator and photographer currently based in Marseille, France. To learn more about Aude and her work, please visit her website and Instagram.

 

2022 Intersex Human Rights Fund Grantee Partners*

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

African Intersex Movement 

Regional 

Argentina Intersex 

Argentina

Associação Brasileira de Intersexos (ABRAI) 

Brazil 

Asociación Peruana de Personas Intersexuales 

Peru

Bilitis Resource Center Bulgaria  

Bulgaria

Brújula Intersexual  

México

Campaign for Change 

Nepal

Círculo Violeta 

Puerto Rico

Collectif Intersexe Activiste – OII France (CIA-OII France) 

France

Comunidad De Lesbianas Inclusivas Dominicanas (COLESDOM) 

Dominican Republic

Damino 

Tunisia

Differences of Sex Development Support Uganda 

Uganda

Egalite Intersex Ukraine

Ukraine                               

Fundacja Interakcja  

Poland

Groupe Intersexe Désirs / Inter-Désirs

Democratic Republic of the Congo

iCon UK

United Kingdom

InterAction – Association Suisse pour les Intersexes 

Switzerland

Intersex Advocate Trust Zimbabwe 

Zimbabwe

Intersex Asia Network 

Regional / Taiwan

Intersex Canada 

Canada

Intersex Community of Zimbabwe 

Zimbabwe

Intersex Denmark

Denmark

Intersex Greece 

Greece

Intersex Human Rights Australia 

Australia 

Intersex Ísland – félag intersex fólks á Íslandi 

Iceland

Intersex People’s Human Rights – ISIO Finland 

Finland

Intersex Persons Society of Kenya

Kenya

Intersex Philippines 

Philippines

Intersex Society of Zambia

Zambia

Intersex South Africa 

South Africa

Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand (ITANZ)  

New Zealand

Intersex Turkey

Turkey

Intersex-Nigeria 

Nigeria

Intersexesiste 

 Italy

Intersexioni  

Italy

IntersexualesChile

Chile

Intrepida Foundation

United States

IVIM OII Germany

Germany

Ivy Foundation

Malawi

Key Watch Ghana 

Ghana

kolekTIRV 

Croatia

Mulabi

Costa Rica

Organization Intersex International-Chinese (Oii-Chinese)

Taiwan

Organization Intersex International Europe (OII Europe) 

Regional / Germany

OII Sverige 

Sweden

Potencia intersex 

Argentina

Rede Jacob – Apoio a Familia e Pessoa Intersexo

Brazil

Roma Women of Vojvodina 

Serbia

Support Initiative for People with atypical sex Development (SIPD)  

Uganda

Tanzania Voice of Humanity 

Tanzania

Trans Smart Trust 

Zimbabwe

Verein Intersexuelle Menschen Österreich (VIMÖ)  

Austria

Vivir y Ser Intersex

México

XY Spectrum 

Serbia

Building Our Movements for Trans and Intersex Rights in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific

Through participatory grantmaking, capacity building, regional networking, and international advocacy, Building our Movements aims to scale up the capacity of African, Asian and Pacific human rights defenders to address the rights violations faced by intersex and trans communities in these regions.

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, intersex and trans movements are experiencing tremendous growth as they seize political and advocacy opportunities. Yet, their progress is hindered by major resource gaps which slow down capacity building, and contribute to a general lack of visibility within the broader LGBTQI movement of the regions. 

In 2019, the European Union, in line with its values of cultural diversity, tolerance, and individual freedoms, made funds available to support the creation of Building our Movements, a collective and intermediary fund made up of transnational organizations, including: 

Through participatory grantmaking, capacity building, regional networking, and international advocacy, Building our Movements aims to scale up the capacity of African, Asian and Pacific human rights defenders to address the rights violations faced by intersex and trans communities in these regions. The group also brings communities together across borders to strengthen the flourishing movements on the ground.

What has Building our Movements achieved since it began in 2019? 

Within two short years, in the midst of a global pandemic, the collective has increased organizational capacity to address trans and intersex issues in the three regions. For example, Trans Fund grantees reported: 

  • 63% had increased capacities;
  • 48% increased their capacity to budget and manage their finances; 
  • 44% increased their capacity to develop and implement program strategy; and 
  • 42% increased their capacity to keep themselves safe and secure.

Bolstered advocacy for intersex and trans rights at the local, national, regional, and global level. For example:

  • The president of Kenya appointed the first openly intersex government commissioner, which has exciting implications for intersex persons on many fronts. A grantee of SIPD has played a big role in this gain. 
  • ILGA led the way for 53 UN member states to call for concrete measures to combat harmful practices, violence, and discrimination against intersex persons.

Increased networking opportunities at the regional level, which created space for exchanging best practices on promoting and protecting trans and intersex rights. For example: 

  • APTN rolled out the first framework for collecting data and reporting frameworks on transphobic hate crimes in Asia and Pacific regions, working closely at the regional level.
  • Helped build a global norm about the promotion and protection of intersex and trans human rights and better national implementation of their provisions, through UN side events sponsored by 23+ Member States 

Despite the countless challenges posed by the pandemic these past two years, Building our Movements has made tremendous progress in affirming trans and intersex groups’ rights from the local to international stage. Building our Movements is grateful to the European Union’s support and invites all donors to join us in committing new and increased resources to these powerful, but under-resourced movements fighting for their rights.

A Critical Moment to Fund Nepal’s Flourishing LGBTQI+ Movements

A new report, commissioned by Astraea, takes a snapshot of life in 2021-2022 for LGBTQI Nepalis, our first since 2015. Among its findings, the report demonstrates that despite securing basic constitutional rights on paper, LGBTQI Nepalis have yet to attain meaningful recognition, protection, and equity in everyday life. 

Over the last decade, human rights groups and the international media have celebrated Nepal as a unicorn in South Asia for its protection of LGBTQI social and political rights. The multilingual and multiethnic country, which is landlocked between India and China, was the first in the region to end legal discrimination and recognize “third gender” rights in Pant v. Nepal in 2007. Four years later, the country of nearly 30 million people made headlines again when it became the first to include a “third gender” category in its national census. 

Movements and community-based organizations helped to drive many of Nepal’s legal changes in the early 2000s. Now, a new report, commissioned by Astraea, takes a snapshot of life in 2021-2022 for LGBTQI Nepalis, our first since 2015. Among its findings, the report demonstrates that despite securing basic constitutional rights on paper, LGBTQI Nepalis have yet to attain meaningful recognition, protection, and equity in everyday life. 

Members of the LGBTQI community still face discrimination and lack access to basic services, such as healthcare, education, and employment. Many reported experiencing various forms of stigma, discrimination and marginalization, which is only exacerbated by their class, caste, religious or indigenous identity. 

Access to government services further weakened during the COVID-19 pandemic and emerging legislative activity threatens activists’ ability to speak freely, especially for a younger generation of queer organizers who are frequently mobilizing online. Despite the current challenges, the report documents how Nepalese movements are pushing to actualize the hard-earned legal rights in the everyday life of queer people–and why it is a critical moment to support the country’s flourishing movements.  

Our new report provides a community-centered overview of how funders can use a variety of strategies, such as long-term partnerships, general operating support, and capacity strengthening to instill lasting change for LGBTQI Nepalis who continue to face structural barriers. Key recommendations include:

  • Funders should seek to allocate resources to organizations or intermediaries who understand the intricacies of local movements and can effectively push resources to groups who face structural barriers due to oppression.

  • International funders and allies should support the expansion of a legal framework that moves beyond the “other” category and is more inclusive. While the “third gender” census count was necessary to access government services, its limited definition led to an undercount of the LGBTQI population.

  • Funders should align with diverse strategies, including funding community support programs, legal advocacy, and research which addresses sector-specific issues (e.g., housing, employment, online safety) for LGBTQI+ communities. 

Nepal has been celebrated around the world for its progress, but it is time to address the gaps between its policies and reality. Any meaningful progress in the country must reflect the lived experiences of diverse identities within the larger LGBTQI movement.

Read The Report

Creating Robust Ecosystems: Our 2021 Annual Report is Here!

We are pleased to share with you our 2021 Annual Report, Sustaining Movements, Queering Philanthropy, which illustrates the impact of Astraea’s bold commitment to move resources to support LGBTQI organizations on the frontlines. 

What does it take to create sustainable ecosystems of queer movements, especially in the age of multiple global crises and pandemics? At Astraea, we believe philanthropy should be a steadfast source of support, willing to walk alongside movements to better understand what resources they need in order to redistribute power and achieve lasting social change. 

Every year, we take a moment to reflect on our own roots, refine our mandate, and strategize on how to strengthen the field of philanthropy for the LGTBQI movements we support. We are pleased to share with you our 2021 Annual Report, Sustaining Movements, Queering Philanthropy, which illustrates the impact of Astraea’s bold commitment to move resources to support LGBTQI organizations on the frontlines. 

This year’s report is inspired by mangrove trees and the systems that they nurture and connect. The mangrove stands as a metaphor for our work to build bridges and create enabling environments across philanthropy and movements.

Our movements, fueled by our grantee partners, build power in a myriad of creative, dynamic ways which come together to form robust organizing ecosystems at both the local and international level. From providing critical healing justice resources, to tirelessly advocating for legal rights and implementation–our partners are constantly working to create brighter, stronger futures for ALL our people, everywhere.

Astraea knows that our grantee partners need consistent and flexible resources over multiple years to secure change that positively impacts the lives of LGBTQI communities worldwide. 

In 2021, Astraea redistributed: 

  • More than $5.1 million USD to more than 240 organizations;
  • 70% of our international grants to organizations in the Global South and East;
  • The majority of international funding to countries with obstructed, repressed and closing civil societies; and
  • 36% of our funding to support trans and gender non-conforming organizing.

We have profound appreciation for our grantees, supporters, donors, allies, and staff members, who deeply understand the urgent need to strengthen the very foundation we stand on amidst the threat of exclusion and repression. 

We hope that our 2021 Annual Report demonstrates how every dollar and person in our network contributes to our ecosystem’s growth and power. 

Resourcing the powerful storytelling of our movements!

Through our Strategic Communications grants, Astraea gave a total of $500,000 in funding to 17 existing Astraea grantee partners across Armenia, Nigeria, Kenya, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago. 

In 2021, Astraea made our first open call for Strategic Communications grants to seed innovative, bold, and creative LGBTQIA organizations to deepen their approaches to advocacy and communications. Today, we’re delighted to be able to celebrate this incredible cohort of grantees and share their powerful visions and work with all of you!

Through these grants, Astraea gave a total of $500,000 in funding to 17 existing Astraea grantee partners across Armenia, Nigeria, Kenya, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago. 

Across the globe there is a rise in anti-LGBTQIA rights groups spreading disinformation campaigns. Grassroots feminist and LGBTQIA groups around the world are combating this harmful disinformation by utilizing creative storytelling and powerful messaging campaigns. By uplifting LGBTQIA peoples’ realities and lived experiences, activists are engaging in dialogue to share a vision for a more just and equitable world both within and beyond their immediate communities. Astraea’s longstanding commitment has always been to amplify activists’ voices and stories, and equip them with the tools to make their own media and control their own narratives. These strategic communications grants are a testament to that commitment. 

Each of the grantee partners in this cohort utilize strategic messaging, storytelling, and advocacy as core tools for inspiring action towards collective liberation. Their approaches are as diverse and vibrant as the many communities and contexts they represent, but here is a brief snapshot of some of their work:

  • Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative (WHER) (Nigeria) is an organization that brings together lesbian, bisexual, transgender and nonbinary people to collectively take action to advance and promote their rights in Nigeria. The group is producing a community developed web series to reduce inequality and social exclusion in Nigeria and advance counter narratives through media production. This web series will be available on various social media platforms alongside a newsletter to promote further community engagement. 
  • Intersex Persons Society of Kenya (Kenya) is an intersex-led organization that works to advance human rights and dignity for intersex persons across Kenya. Through a public education campaign, the group will focus on amplifying the lived realities and human rights priorities of intersex persons in Kenya, work towards preventing the spread of misinformation, and ultimately challenge the systemic stigma surrounding intersex livelihoods.  
  • TransWave Jamaica (Jamaica) is a trans-led organization working to advance the health, welfare and wellbeing of the transgender and gender non-conforming community in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region. The TransWave team has previously executed several powerful social media campaigns to increase awareness of the lived realities of their communities. Now, they are excited to be launching a new campaign that will highlight transgender Jamaicans and their contributions across different fields, and challenge harmful stereotypes about gender diversity in Jamaica.

Join us in congratulating these 17 phenomenal organizations for their ongoing commitment to bold and authentic storytelling!

Celebrating the Growth and Leadership of Global Intersex Movements!

This Intersex Awareness Day, we are so proud to share our 7th grant cycle of Astraea’s Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF)! This year, we are celebrating growth and leadership – both of the incredible global intersex movement, and of the Fund and the number of organizations we are able to support—while reflecting on what has been an incredibly challenging year for intersex communities worldwide.

This Intersex Awareness Day, we are so proud to share our 7th grant cycle of Astraea’s Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF)! The first of its kind, the Intersex Human Rights Fund supports organizations, projects and campaigns led by intersex activists and organizers working to ensure the human rights, bodily autonomy, physical integrity and self-determination of intersex people worldwide. This year, we are celebrating growth and leadership – both of the incredible global intersex movement, and of the Fund and the number of organizations we are able to support—while reflecting on what has been an incredibly challenging year for intersex communities worldwide.

The Fund’s seventh round of grantmaking totaled $507,000 in grants to 53 groups, including 7 new and 46 renewals in 41 countries. This cycle, for the first time, we are supporting groups in Ecuador, Peru, Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Bangladesh, as well as our first Roma group in Serbia. With our goal to fund more sustainably, we were able to make our first 2-year-grants to 6 leading organizations in Asia (Campaign for Change in Nepal and the regional network Intersex Asia), Africa (Intersex Persons Society of Kenya and Intersex South Africa) and Latin America (Associação Brasileira de Intersexos in Brazil and Mulabi in Costa Rica).

The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect intersex communities’ ability to organize, expand national, regional, and global advocacy efforts, as well as to build community with one another. Pandemic related restrictions on movement and gathering have strangled efforts to gather in-person, something that has historically been critical for often isolated and under-resourced grassroots intersex groups. In many cases, the pandemic has forced intersex groups—especially those in the Global South—to shift their work and funding to focus entirely on the humanitarian needs of their community members, particularly given the economic instability that many intersex people already faced as a result of stigma, systemic neglect, violence, harm and discrimination.

Yet, intersex communities are working day in and day out towards ensuring the human rights, and bodily autonomy, and ultimately the dignity and celebration of their people and communities. Here are just a few examples of the incredible, intersectional movement building, advocacy efforts, and campaigns our grantee partners are leading:

  • Roma Women of Vojvodina (Novi Bečej, Serbia) is a non-governmental and non-profit association founded in 2007 to improve the Roma population’s social development and to reduce inequality for Roma people in all aspects of society. The group’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.
  • Bangladesh Intersex Forum (BIF) (Barishal, Bangladesh) is the first organization in Bangladesh led by intersex people. BIF works to create awareness of intersex issues and support intersex people’s livelihood and human rights through capacity building, grassroots organizing, advocacy, research, and strategic litigation. More specifically, the organization empowers intersex people with the resources, support, and information they need to break the cycle of trauma that is a result of “correctional” surgeries. Since its inception in December 2020, the group has collected intersex stories from the grassroots to publish in a popular national newspaper, and has begun working to economically empower intersex people by providing them with financial resources and skills training.

Please join us in celebrating all our incredible 2021 Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF) grantee partners building towards more just futures for intersex people, and for us all!

This Intersex Awareness Day, we are excited to have collaborated with intersex activist, illustrator, graphic designer, editor, prop maker, and set dresser Otto Etraud / Toto Duarte to create the vibrant and powerful illustration you see above titled, “Intersex People Deserve Bodily Autonomy.” Currently residing and working in one of the Alimapu hills, Valparaíso, Southern Pacific Hemisphere, Toto has managed-participated in printed art, illustration, and publishing fairs and festivals, as well as exhibited and published their own work across Chile and South America. To learn more about Toto and their work, please visit their website.

Intersex Human Rights Fund Grantee Partners*

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

Asociación Peruana de Personas Intersexuales
Peru

Associacao Brasileira de Intersexos (ABRAI)
Brazil

Bangladesh Intersex Forum
Bangladesh

Bilitis
Bulgaria

Brújula Intersexual
Mexico

Campaign for Change
Nepal

Círculo Violeta
Puerto Rico

Colectivo Intertulias
Ecuador

Collectif Intersexes et Allié.e.s-OII France
France

Egalite Intersex Ukraine
Ukraine

Fundacja Interakcja
Poland

Groupe Intersexe Désirs / Inter-Désirs
Democratic Republic of the Congo

iCon UK
United Kingdom

InterAction Suisse
Switzerland

Intersex Advocate Trust Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe

Intersex Turkey
Turkey

Intersex and Faith
United States

Intersex Asia
Taiwan

Intersex Community of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe

Intersex Greece
Greece

Intersex Human Rights Australia
Australia

Intersex Iceland
Iceland

Intersex Peer Support Australia
Australia

Intersex People’s Human Rights – ISIO Finland
Finland

Intersex Persons Society of Kenya
Kenya

Intersex Philippines
Philippines

Intersex Society of Zambia
Zambia

Intersex South Africa
South Africa

Intersex-Nigeria
Nigeria

Intersexesiste
Italy

intersexioni
Italy

IntersexualesChile
Chile

intersexUK
United Kingdom

ITANZ
New Zealand

IVIM OII Germany
Germany

Ivy Foundation
Malawi

Jinsiangu
Kenya

Mulabi
Costa Rica

OII Chinese
Taiwan

OII Europe
Germany

Potencia intersex
Argentina

Rainbow Identity Association
Botswana

Rede Jacob – Apoio a Familia e Pessoa Intersexo
Brazil

Roma Women of Vojvodina
Serbia

SIPD
Uganda

kolekTIRV (ex-Trans Aid)
Croatia

Trans Smart Trust
Zimbabwe

VIMÖ
Austria

Vivir y Ser Intersex
Mexico

XY Spectrum
Serbia

#QueersMakingHistory and the Collective Power of Our Movements

While LGBT History Month has primarily focused on highlighting exemplary ‘LGBT role models,’ we believe that collective power and organizing, not efforts by individual leaders alone, have brought about the radical transformations our movements have been witnessing in the past few decades.

October is LGBT History Month! Originally conceived in the United States in 1994 (and since adopted by other countries who have selected different months), this month has evolved to become a time dedicated to recognizing pivotal moments in the histories of LGBTQI+ people and movements across the world. Encompassing a number of historically relevant days like International Lesbian Day and Spirit Day, the month of October is positioned to remind both the LGBTQI+ and wider communities of important roles LGBTQI+ people have played in creating and changing the social, cultural, legal, and political realms that we live in today and which so many of us may take for granted. 

While LGBT History Month is meant to celebrate queer people’s accomplishments, it has also become increasingly clear that the commercialization of LGBTQI+ communities’ identities under current systems of capitalism has come to dominate the narrative and conceals some of the critical organizing work, priorities, and visibility of our movements. Much has been written about the development of “Pink Capitalism”, the deliberate incorporation of the LGBTQI+ community and movement into a capitalist market economy. The commodification of social justice efforts along with the rise of the LGBTQI+ “influencer-activist-leader” and political engagement on social media have also begun to create oppressive individualist cultures and elitism within social justice spaces. Yet at the same time, violence against LGBTQI+ communities has also escalated due to the rise of anti-gender ideologies, transphobia, and terfism particularly for those who exist at the intersections of race, class, ability, sexuality, age and gender. Furthermore, the global COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated injustice and inequalities, particularly for oppressed communities. 

At Astraea, we understand that for many communities, there have been incredible individuals who have instilled hope and systemic change for LGBTQI communities within their respective regions as well as globally. While LGBT History Month has primarily focused on highlighting exemplary ‘LGBT role models,’ we believe that collective power and organizing, not efforts by individual leaders alone, have brought about the radical transformations our movements have been witnessing in the past few decades. Appointing specific individuals as leaders of a particular LGBTQI movement, when that movement has actually been nurtured by hundreds or thousands of people who have vastly diverse needs and priorities, takes away from the collective solutions and care work that local organizers are incubating and implementing every day without public recognition.

It is also vital for us to consider how compromised digital security and threats of physical harm and destruction can affect entities who are marginalized within the larger LGBTQI community itself. As a result, many groups need to organize anonymously due to their country or region’s prevailing efforts towards criminalization of non-normative genders and sexualities as well as attacks on civic space. The impact of such grassroots collectives operating largely underground has often gone unrecognized despite their critical contributions to their communities in contrast to groups operating visibly and with greater recognition in relatively safer environments. The contributions of groups who do not get their share of limelight due to security concerns are immense – they often are the first to build intentional communities, create safer spaces, and bring about shifts in culture and behavior. They serve as vital components of a strong movement infrastructure, and funders and advocates need to identify ways to uplift their legacies.

LGBTQI history is tied to so many of our current struggles to upend the deeply entrenched legacies of colonization and genocide that continue to harm our lands and our planet. Since Astraea’s inception in 1977, we have witnessed the ways that individual leadership in a movement can obscure the invisibilized contributions of generations of frontline activists, which can in turn, compromise our collective liberation. As a result, we have always funded and resourced grassroots groups rather than individuals alone. Given this context, as part of our #QueersMakingHistory social media series this October, we have chosen to uplift LGBTQI individuals with limited means from the Global South, all of whom have demonstrated the true power of working together through forming coalitions and alliances. This LGBT History Month, we seek to uplift the emancipatory impact of ‘leader-full’ movements where everyone is considered a leader in their own right and is empowered with the required tools to become effective organizers. And most importantly, we know that when we move collectively, we are truly powerful.

#QueersMakingHistory Highlights:

Jeanne Córdova: Jeanne is a Chicana second-wave feminist lesbian activist and proud butch who has been instrumental in shaping U.S. based gay and lesbian rights movements for many decades. Jeanne has been Astraea’s friend for a number of years. Before she passed away in early 2016, she proclaimed, “It is wonderful to have had a life’s cause: freedom and dignity for lesbians,” and announced that her estate would donate $2 million to Astraea to carry out just that goal.

Hiker Chiu: Hiker is a senior Asian intersex activist who has been a pioneer of the intersex human rights movement in the Asian region. S/he founded OII-Chinese in 2008 which is an intersex human rights advocacy organization and is a platform for Chinese-speaking intersex people to receive information, awareness, connection and peer support. Currently, Hiker serves as a Advisory Board member of the Intersex Human Rights Fund at Astraea.

Kohl Journal: Kohl is a progressive, feminist journal on gender and sexuality focused on the Middle East, South West Asia, and North Africa regions.. This radical journal exists to ensure that MENA regions and communities play a central role in redefining their own intersections and challenges when it comes to feminist and sexuality research.

Lilit Martirosyan: Lilit is an Armenian transgender activist who has been committed to equal rights the LGBTQI+ community. Despite unfavourable conditions, she managed to set up the Right Side Human Rights Defender NGO in January 2016 which has become a safe space for the Armenian trans community and sex workers.

A. Revathi: A. Revathi is a prominent trans woman activist, writer, theatre actor, performance artist and transcestor who championed the rights of sexual and gender minorities in India for many decades.

Tatiana Cordero Velásquez: Tatiana Cordero Velásquez was an Ecuadorian scholar of gender studies and activist who has been part of the feminist collectives that worked to ensure the inclusion and proliferation of women’s and LGBTQ rights in Latin American movements. She has also been a national and international consultant and counselor of women’s funds for more than a decade (Mama Cash, GFW, Astraea, UAF-LA) and of Human Rights Watch for the LGBTI initiative.

Liberty Matthyse: Born and brought up in the rural area of Darling, South Africa, Liberty is a South African non-binary trans woman who has constantly fought against the social, economic and political marginalisation of her communities. Liberty has been the Executive Director of Gender DynamiX since 2018. Based in Cape Town, Gender DynamiX advances access to human rights and social justice for trans and gender-diverse persons through avenues such as health, education and legal advocacy.

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.