Meet Our 2024-2025 GUTC Leaders Fellows!

Meet Our 2024-2025 GUTC Leaders Fellows!

By: Funders for LGBTQ Issues Staff on February 22, 2024

Funders for LGBTQ Issues is pleased to announce the newest cohort of Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) Leaders Fellows: Nico Fonseca, Sanjar Kurmanov, Emily Lai, Míchél Macklin, Rainier Miles, Nahr Suha, and Maximilián Vega Vélez.

The GUTC Leaders Fellowship provides ongoing support, peer networking, and leadership and professional development to a cohort of trans and gender expansive professionals in philanthropy over a 12-month fellowship period.

This year’s seven fellows bring a wide array of experiences and goals to the program, exemplifying Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ commitment to furthering racial equity and gender justice in philanthropy. The fellows hail from all across the country— from Oregon to Puerto Rico— and are all BIPOC identified. 

“This year, we’re excited to expand the fellowship to seven people,” said Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ President, Saida Agostini-Bostic. “Over the last few years, this critical program has increased in demand and we are committed to resourcing and uplifting TGNC leadership within the philanthropic sector as part of Funders’ work to realize our vision of a world where all queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people are liberated, loved, valued, respected, and thriving.” 

Now entering its fifth cohort, the impact of the GUTC Leaders Fellowship has been transformative to the field. Alumni have gone on to leadership roles within philanthropy and associated professions. They have also led and incubated trans-specific funds, highlighting the power of TGNC-led philanthropic organizing within our sector.

Reflecting on the importance of the program, GUTC Project Director, Luna Moreta Avila said, “The need for trans leadership continues to grow within our sector, and it’s imperative to bring new brilliance and insight into philanthropy’s role in resourcing trans communities, which are increasingly under attack right now.” 

We are thrilled to be able to continue to offer a holistic professional development program focused not only on leadership development but also on self-care. We look forward to sharing more about the work of our newest fellows throughout the year. You can read each of their biographies below. 

Nico Fonseca

Third Wave Fund

Nico (they/them) is a fat, neurodivergent, sick and disabled, queer and gender variant artist and cultural worker. Raised by their mother and her mother, red dirt, sweet water, and bodegas. Part of their sacred work is understanding pleasure and desire. It’s about exploring how safety, care and wellness feel when we ground our pleasure and desire in a decolonial praxis of abundance, consent, interdependence, autonomy, access, and love. With over a decade of experience in abolitionist community safety, organizing in intergenerational, multi-class movements, and Trans legacies, their visual art explores what these worlds look and feel like. Their political work embodies them through practice, studying, lots of messing up, humbly committing to the unfolding.

Sanjar Kurmanov

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

Sanjar Kurmanov is a trans-masculine person from a rural area of Kyrgyzstan. He studied Social-cultural Tourism. Instead of pursuing a career in Tourism, one day he fell in love with an outreach worker from the LGBT organization Labrys. And that turned out to be the beginning of his activist journey. For many years he’s been leading trans advocacy to adopt a procedure for changing gender markers in legal documents for trans people. He is eager to support the trans community which transcended physical boundaries. Thus, he participated in various committees of organizations such as the Trans Coalition in the post-Soviet space, the International Trans Fund, and Transgender Europe. For the last three years, he’s been living in Northern California with his partner, daughter, and a little dog named Tabuu.

Emily Lai

Pride Foundation

Emily currently serves Pride Foundation’s 5 state region (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA) through grantmaking. Emily wants to support movement building that centers the agency, healing, and joy of queer and trans BIPOC. Emily strives to learn from “By and For” organizing focused on abolition, decriminalization, climate and disability justice. Prior to joining Pride Foundation, Emily was Executive Director for youth organization -Momentum Alliance. There, Emily helped organize a youth campaign resulting in Oregon becoming the first state to require Ethnic Studies in K-12 schools. Emily enjoys watching music videos, marveling at plants, and sharing stories with people who also have lifelong STIs. Emily loves being on the water and is learning to be a paddle guide!

Míchél Macklin

Texas Pride Impact Fund

Míchél (my-KEY-el) Macklin, Afrolatina DMV Native, Former Co-Host & Producer of “All4One” podcast, and Transgender Community Advocate recently relocated to the Dallas area with the aim to continue to create platforms amplifying black/brown queer stories and contribute to the work being done to stabilise and enrich the lives of Texas’ black/brown transgender communities. Prior to arriving in Dallas, Michel’s started her career in the non-profit space in 2017 via capacity support with DC’s NPR radio affiliate WAMU. Her focus shifted specifically to serving underrepresented and underserved communities in the DC Metro area when she came on board as the head of Admissions and Recruitment for Byte Back Inc. During her time there, she assisted in several key programmatic efforts including spearheading a cohort with the DC Office for LGBTQ Affairs that resulted in an education and certification program to assist transgender and non-binary residents in their employment efforts. She currently manages the MarComm, Social Media, Community Engagement, and Donor Systems for Texas Pride Impact Funds.

Rainier Miles

Black Trans Fund @ Groundswell

Rainier Miles is a Black, disabled, trans, social justice activist who has more than a decade of experience in community collaboration, organization, and outreach. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies. Rainier draws from his lived experience and education to advocate for reparations, representation, and shifts in power. Rainier believes representation matters and can save lives, and that is why he acknowledges that the narrative of Black, trans, and disabled individuals needs to flip from despair to joy. Disabled isn’t a bad word, Blackness is a culture of love and community building, trans people exist. All true statements that are rarely spoken about, and Rainier is working to change that. Rainier is currently the program associate at the Black Trans Fund, where he works to shift the power dynamic within philanthropy and bring Black, trans, and disabled voices into the spotlight.

Nahr Suha

Grantmakers for Girls of Color

nahr suha (they/them) is a resource mover at grantmaker for girls of color, who manages the holding a sister initiative which is dedicated to tgnc young people of color. nahr is a gender-variant, transfeminine, mixed starseed of the swana diaspora. as a community farmer, dreamer & tree hugger, nahr deeply values the rematriation of land so that it may be stewarded by queer trans black and indigenous folks who carry ancestral knowledge & pathways to sustainable futures. they hope to inspire others with their dedication to land sovereignty, especially trans youth whose insights, experiences, & voices are necessary for our collective liberated future. in their work within philanthropy, they have listened intently to grantees who have named the need for healing to take place in trans communities of color. they have led with their heart and leaned in towards work that brings qtbipoc communities back to the soil & in solidarity with one another.

Maximilián Vega Vélez

María Fund

Maximilián Adrián Vega-Vélez (he/they) is a soft trans masculine -neuroqueer- enby and intersex person. Rematriated to the west side of the archipelago of Boriké (Puerto Rico) after being displaced by the colonial-aftermath of La Junta and Hurricane María.

Max is an artist, designer and cultural organizer, foodie, connector, resource mobilizer, experimenter, sometimes a hermit, D&D player and seeker of our ancestral medicines and practices. They are currently the Program Manager of the Sylvia Rivera & Christina Hayworth (trans, queer & intersex) Initiative at the María Fund. Working for the long term vision of a liberated Puerto Rico where colonialism, ableism and capitalism does not exist.

Congratulations to our fellows!

The fellowship program and the Grantmakers United for Trans Communities initiative are made possible in part by the support of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice,  California Wellness, Gilead Sciences, an anonymous donor, the Groundswell Fund, the Kicking Assets Fund, Borealis Philanthropy, and Foundation for a Just Society.

About GUTC

Funders for LGBTQ Issues launched Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) in 2017 with the goal of inspiring a philanthropic culture that is inclusive and supportive of trans people through grantmaking and decision-making. GUTC has published research on funding for trans communities, convened funders for groundbreaking funder briefings and webinars, and launched the historic GUTC Pledge campaign. To date, nearly 60 institutions from a wide range of foundations and philanthropic support organization have pledged to take concrete actions to make their institutions more inclusive and responsive to trans communities.

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