History was made earlier this summer when it was announced that the Tawani Foundation had awarded a $1.35 million multi-year grant to the Palm Center for their newly launched Transgender Military Initiative. This grant is the largest transgender-focused grant that we know of, single-handedly increasing overall foundation funding of transgender issues by 20 percent over prior years. The grant became all the more historic last week when Tawani Foundation president and founder, Col. Pritzker came out as transgender and announced that she was legally changing her name to Jennifer Natalya Pritzker.
Between Col. Pritzker – who we can only hope will shine a spotlight on transgender issues in philanthropy – and Wikileaks informant Chelsea Manning, transgender service members are gaining newfound visibility. Currently, there is no clear and coherent policy dealing with service by transgender individuals. But reminiscent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation, existing regulations force most transgender troops to conceal their gender identity.
The Palm Center’s new Transgender Military Initiative will consist of eleven research projects being undertaken by sixteen scholars to explore how transgender troops can best be incorporated into our military. The new research will look at: transgender service in foreign militaries; transgender inclusion in police and fire departments; relevant policies utilized by prisons and athletic organizations; an assessment of how military doctors can best accommodate the medical needs of transgender troops; as well as how military policies concerning appearance, hair and dress should be amended. In addition to Tawani Foundation’s support, the project also received $60,000 from the Wells Fargo Foundation.
In the words of former Palm Center Board Member and Johnson Family Foundation Executive Director Andy Lane, “The Tawani Foundation’s gift to the Palm Center to study open transgender military service is simply historic in its size and scope — I’m unaware of any other philanthropic gift for transgender issues on this scale. Palm is poised to undertake very important work to build our knowledge and understanding of open transgender military service, work that should help pave the way for policy change in the future. It is a truly exciting development.”
The grants from the Tawani Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation represent real progress for the transgender community and for LGBTQ service members and veterans. In 2011, the largest grant focused on the transgender community was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant for $268,900 to Transgender Law Center. Transgender funding totaled to just over $5 million equating to just over 4% of all LGBTQ funding. In 2011, the largest LGBTQ grant focused on the military or veterans was a Pride Foundation grant for $103,448 to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). LGBTQ military and veteran funding totaled to approximately $500,000 or 0.41% of all LGBTQ funding.