How Philanthropy Can Respond to the Trump Administration’s Latest Attacks on the Trans Community

By: Funders for LGBTQ Issues Staff on May 29, 2019


Last week the Trump Administration announced two policy changes that jeopardize the health and wellbeing of transgender people across the nation. Last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed rolling back existing protections enacted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that prohibit companies, hospitals, doctors, and nurses from discriminating against transgender patients. The day before, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed new policies to reverse the 2012 Equal Access Rule that ensured homeless shelters could not refuse services to people based on their gender identity.

These announcements are the Trump Administration’s latest attempt to reverse hard-won protections. The attempt to rollback transgender rights is part of a broader attack on personal autonomy and safety, including the recent wave of state-level abortion bans. These policy shifts seek to limit the rights of LGBTQ people, women, people in need of abortions and other reproductive health care, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

These anti-transgender policies come in a context in which transgender people–particularly transgender women of color–too often face personal violence and physical attacks. In the past two weeks alone, three Black transgender women have been murdered: Muhlaysia Booker, Claire Legato, and Michelle Simone. The combination of physical violence and the threat of decreased federal protection sends a message to transgender people that it is unsafe to be who they are, whether walking down the street or seeking basic services such as housing and health care.

Across the country, trans communities are mobilizing in response. Advocates are ready to file lawsuits and public comments against these policy changes, and grassroots transgender-led organizations are responding to these violent attacks and the immediate needs of those most at risk.

Philanthropy has a necessary role to play by supporting this critical work, and by advancing inclusion and equity for transgender people within philanthropy and beyond. Despite the significant challenges, the transgender movement has been bolstered by dedicated and resilient organizing and advocacy organizations. However, these groups are not yet funded at the level that reflects the dire needs of trans communities.  For every $100 awarded by U.S. foundations, only three cents focused on trans communities in 2017. Without a significant increase in resources, particularly for transgender women of color-led organizations, the community remains vulnerable, and their lives remain at risk.

“These attacks are a stark reminder that all foundations need to think intentionally about the needs of transgender communities — whatever your grantmaking focus or mission,” said Alexander Lee, Director of the Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) Initiative of Funders for LGBTQ Issues. “If you’re a funder focused on health equity, we need your help making sure that trans people have access to health care. If you’re a funder focused on housing, we need your help making sure that shelters are welcoming of trans people–nearly one-third of whom have experienced homelessness. Now is the time for all foundations, across all issue areas and all parts of the country, to come together to resist these attacks and support the protections and needs of transgender communities.”

One concrete way grantmakers can support the trans community to resist these attacks is to join the Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) Pledge. The Pledge invites foundations to take meaningful action in support of trans communities, encouraging signatories to:

  • Participate in trainings and professional development opportunities focused on supporting trans communities;
  • Improve recruitment and retention of trans and gender non-conforming staff and board members by reviewing internal policies and procedures;
  • Increase grantmaking for trans communities, with a commitment to funding trans-led organizations; and
  • Publicly express support for and solidarity with trans communities.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues and the Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) initiative are committed doing everything we can to increase philanthropic support for trans communities in the face of these heartless attacks. We encourage grantmakers of all sizes and types to take the GUTC Pledge. You can learn more about it on our website, and by contacting the GUTC Project Director, Alexander Lee, for more information.

Image note: Photo by Lena Balk on Unsplash