June 2022 Reflection: “This is the fight for ALL of our lives”

At Astraea, we affirm that any person who wants to have an abortion should be able to, and not have to explain themselves. We refuse to lean into the darkness of despair. We proclaim our power to choose – to choose to live in our truths, to choose what we do with our bodies, to choose when and whether we want to be parents, to choose pleasure and liberation.

June is Pride Month for many of us and marks a time of joy, celebration, and gratitude at Astraea Foundation for the activists who came before us that fought for our collective liberation.  

Yet, I am also carrying a profound sense of loss and anger about the world we find ourselves in. We continue to see the erosion of fundamental human rights in every region of the world. Today,, the United States Supreme Court stripped away national abortion rights, opening the door to the dismantling of hard earned rights gained over the course of five decades by social justice movements. 

It is OK to be angry. I sure am. I am angry that the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision is yet another example of how governments seek to control our bodies and regulate what we are able to do. I know that regressive views on abortion access cannot be separated from attacks on trans kids’ bodily autonomy, the criminalization of LGBTQI-affirming care, and the relentless efforts to erase our history, memories, and our very existence. 

I am angry at the hypocrisy of invoking individual “choice” around vaccines, gun control, and the exercise of religion, while ignoring the daily violence faced by those of us who are not cis, white, straight, or male, especially as our rights are stripped away. I am angry that some leaders are using an alleged concern for children’s wellbeing to manufacture moral panic. I am angry at the cynical decisions being made over whose lives are essential, whose lives matter, and what is worth protecting. 

There has been a roadmap for decades that seeks to promote conservative and patriarchal agendas, especially related to abortion and LGBTQI rights around the world. American Christian Right groups have spent over $280 million dollars on five continents to fuel anti-gender campaigns against feminist and queer communities. Through this decision, they are telling us exactly what they are going to do. The goal is to control us, to hide us, to ban us, and to even obscure our humanity. 

There is a way forward: we can’t let them. We have to keep imagining and creating a better world.  

In our darkest moments, of which there are many, there have been multi-gendered and multi-racial groups of people fighting for something more. Building power requires a long-term investment in collaborative movements with the energy to make transformative change. 

I look for inspiration in places like Poland, Chile, and Colombia, where organizers are shifting the legal and cultural landscape for the better in their countries. Two years after women-led protests successfully moved Chile away from its dictator-era Constitution, Chile has legalized same-sex marriage and could soon become the first country in the world to give constitutional status to abortion rights. 

In Poland, LGBTQI people continue to organize in defiance of social and governmental hostility while building broad coalitions with feminists, farmers, union workers and others to reject rising authoritarianism. In the past four months alone, abortion has been decriminalized in Colombia, while LGBTQ representation in Colombia’s Congress has tripled. 

At Astraea, we affirm that any person who wants to have an abortion should be able to, and not have to explain themselves. We refuse to lean into the darkness of despair. We proclaim our power to choose – to choose to live in our truths, to choose what we do with our bodies, to choose when and whether we want to be parents, to choose pleasure and liberation. 

This is a fight for ALL of our lives. 

In Solidarity,
Joy Chia
Executive Director

May 2022 Reflection: May Her Memory Be For a Revolution this #IDAHOBIT

Today, as we honor IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia), Urvashi Vaid’s life and work is a clarion call for how to proceed. She pushed for rights and policies, but never took her vision off our collective liberation.

As I sat down to write this piece, I found out Urvashi Vaid had died. Urv, as she was universally known, was a force beyond nature. She was the first woman of color to lead the National LGBT Task Force, a founder of Lesbian Political Action Committee (LPAC) and the author of Virtual Equality and Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class, and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics. When the public face of the gay and lesbian (as it was then known) movement was universally white, gender conforming, and male, she was brown, visibly queer, and proudly lesbian. She was loud and uncompromising. Her relationship with Kate Clinton was the stuff of legend: two powerful women in love, each leaders in their field, and a visible exemplar of tangible support and love.

But beyond her resume and numerous accolades, she was the person who told you that you were messing up (never in that gentle of language). She told you in the toughest and kindest way possible that you needed to be doing more. As news of her death spread, texts and conversations with friends and my partner all had the same theme: “She told me to do more on this issue I was scared to work on and she was right.” She pushed each of us, not on assimilation and whitewashing, but on trans rights, homelessness, criminal justice, and economic inequality. It was an honor when she told you to step up: that the movement needed you, that you needed you, that she needed you to. Her words were always spoken with love and a belief in the world that you could be a part of creating.

Today, as we honor IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia), Urv’s life and work is a clarion call for how to proceed. She pushed for rights and policies, but never took her vision off our collective liberation. As the LGBT movement in the United States professionalized, she never changed who she was or what she believed to fit in. She talked about sex and sexuality, she talked about race and class, and she pushed us to recognize how misogyny pervaded the present day movement.

We stand at a moment where so much that Urv fought for is being threatened. May 17 was specifically chosen as IDAHOBIT to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Yet, today, we see conservative actors around the world fanning the fires of fear by vilifying those who live beyond strict and harmful stereotypes of gender and sexuality. Eroding reproductive rights, curtailing racial justice, erasing LGBTQI histories, and scapegoating LGBTQI youth – the anti-rights political project to regulate and control our bodies, our lives and our futures is clear. But so is our work to create a world where everyone belongs. 

In my last call with Urv, I told her I was leaving my job to become Vice President of Programs at Astraea. She paused and said “We need Astraea. I’m glad you took this job, do good work and don’t fuck it up.” I was a little flustered, a little flattered, and mostly just wanted to keep her respect. I promised her I wouldn’t. 

In Judaism, social justice Jews have taken the traditional mourning phrase of “May her memory be for a blessing” and made it into “May her memory be for a revolution.” Urv’s life and memory already are.

In solidarity,
Rebecca Fox
VP of Programs

Shining a Light on Lesbian Visibility and LBQ Movements

In 2021, Astraea gave over 20% of our funding to LBQ-led groups and supported numerous groups and organizations in regions like those in the U.S. South and the global south that have historically overlooked or obstructed lesbian and queer activists — and still do to this day. I invite you to join Astraea as we celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day 2022 and continue to uplift, resource and stand with our LBQ colleagues, family, and members of the global community.

As the queer mom of a little girl (for now), this time of year has special resonance for me.WIth Lesbian Visibility Day on April 26 and as my daughter heads into the end of her school year, I feel deeply grateful to live in a state that recognizes the love that my wife and I share and lets our daughter talk about her two moms safely at school. I recognize this isn’t true for many other LGBTQI children and parents, as we’ve seen a swath of legislation in United States with an abrupt rise in states attempting to make LGBTQI persons invisible in their own schools, homes and communities. As a community, we hope this day allows us to take stock, stand in solidarity and celebrate the gains of our vibrant community as we push towards full liberation. 

Globally, only 8% ($20.6 million) of the total $560 million in LGBTI funding could be identified as LBQ-specific. In 2021, Astraea gave over 20% of our funding to LBQ-led groups and supported numerous groups and organizations in regions like those in the U.S. South and the global south that have historically overlooked or obstructed lesbian and queer activists — and still do to this day. I’m proud we supported these groups that work intersectionally and across issues of gender, racial, environmental, and economic justice to meaningfully realize what justice looks like for all of us. To be clear, for us at Astraea, women includes all women, cis, trans, and intersex.

LBQ organizing around the world is growing and the groups are nimble, resourceful and robust in their organizing strategies. Most LBQ groups (89%) have been founded in the last twenty years! Utilizing cultural change strategies, knowledge production and research as well as capacity-building, advocacy and movement building strategies, these groups have achieved incredible strides with few resources. Our report “Vibrant Yet Under-Resourced: The State of Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Movements” (published with Mama Cash) reminds us that grassroots LBQ groups are often underfunded or under-recognized, facing barriers that prohibit them from fulfilling their full potential. 

The innovation of LBQ groups is also rooted in collaboration and partnership across geographies, across movements and at all levels from the hyper-local to the international stage. Grantees like Movimiento Lesbia (Peru) and Women in Front (Cameroon) invest in feminist leadership to increase visibility of LBQ leaders within different social justice movements, while also focusing on transforming LGBTQI movements as well. We-Change Jamaica (Jamaica) is claiming political space by increasing the participation of LBQ women in national and regional leadership and decision-making processes. LIFS Peru (Peru) is organizing at the national and international level to push for increased protections related to diverse families and for policy-making to ensure that LBQ women are seen as rights holders and political subjects. 

On that note, I invite you to join Astraea as we celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day 2022 and continue to uplift, resource and stand with our LBQ colleagues, family, and members of the global community. Please watch and share our video above with your networks!

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.
  • Tzk’at (Sacatepéquez, Guatemala) is an indigenous feminist network set up by a Mayan lesbian. They bring the experience of ancestral healing processes and communities—they are healers, midwives, spiritual leaders and more and have both ancestral and Western knowledge of medicine and health practices. The network’s main objective is to contribute an ancestral and feminist approach to the emotional, physical and spiritual recovery of indigenous women and “cuerpos plurales”/intersex people. Tzk’at promotes an indigenous understanding of intersex embodiment and the network is currently building an intersex-led project entitled “Dialogues in Defense of Life, Territory Plural-Intersex Bodies—from Iximulew Guatemala,” which creates space for dialogues on embodiment/corporalities and intersex realities with community partners.

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

TZK’AT
Guatemala

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.

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

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.