We Begin With Love: Celebrating Forty Years of LGBTQ Funder Organizing

We Begin With Love: Celebrating Forty Years of LGBTQ Funder Organizing

By: Saida Agostini-Bostic on October 5, 2022

Last Thursday, Funders for LGBTQ Issues celebrated forty years of philanthropic organizing to further our vision of LGBTQ liberation. It’s a heady and surreal moment – it feels audacious to celebrate queer world-building in a time of constant and brutal attack. Being in community with so many of you gave me space to reflect on how much we have accomplished in the past forty years, and pushed me to be rooted in our power as we face the challenges ahead.

Saida Agostini-Bostic speaking during the 2022 Pride in Philanthropy Awards. Credit: Eric S Killen

As I end my first year as President, what I have taken away from my meetings with many of you, is the profound veneration for the history that brought us together. The creation story of Funders speaks to the power of our networks and philanthropic organizing. With the help of inaugural funders like the Ms. Foundation and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and philanthropic leaders such as Katherine Acey and Michael Seltzer – this network helped direct critical resources to LGTBQ communities and expand the community of donors supporting an urgent vision for funding LGBTQ liberation.

I continue to be awed by the faith and imagination it took to hold this vision, and remember this – we came into being because of love. One of my favorite poets, Jericho Brown says “I begin with love, hoping to end there”. This has been the practice of Funders for the past forty years – to come from a space of deep radical love for each other, ourselves, and the world we are building.

Love must be at the root of everything we do. It means that we remember the forebears who came before us, organizing not just for decades but for centuries – whether we are speaking of Marsha P. Johnson, Urvashi Vaid, the Combahee River Collective, ACT UP, Essex Hemphill, or Ray Navarro, we come from a powerful history of boundless generosity, kindness, and care that continues to protect and hold us, even when the state refuses.

Left to right: Claude and Fanny Agostini, on August 2, 1952
Left to right: Claude and Fanny Agostini, on August 2, 1952

As I continue into my own fortieth year, and my second year as President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, I hold deep gratitude for our movement’s ancestors, as well as my own elders. I come from a line of powerful Black, Chinese, and Arawak women, survivors of state, colonial, racial, and gender violence. I learned philanthropy at the feet of my grandmother, Fanny. Now ninety-seven years old, she opened her home to countless children, kin, and complete strangers spanning two continents. She opened her heart to me – first when I came forward as a survivor of child sexual abuse, then when I came out. What I continue to learn from Granny is the sheer muscularity of love, what it means to know that no matter what, when I call, she will answer. That kind of constancy is no small thing. It informs my work in philanthropy and in life.

It is an honor to continue Granny’s legacy in service to the people I love. The work we do at Funders for LGBTQ Issues is sacred and righteous. It is heart work. We honor the legacies of our elders by practicing the same courage it took to make Funders a reality forty years ago.

Today, I am proud to be at the helm of an organization that organizes our sector to center the wisdom, leadership, and voices of Black and Brown TGNC communities in grantmaking. Ford Foundation recently signed on to the Grantmakers United for Trans Communities Pledge, also pledging to double their investment in TGNC communities over the next five years. GUTC launched the next cycle of our fellowship program, investing in the leadership of six incredible TGNC fellows from across the philanthropic sector. We released a revamped Tracking Report for 2019/2020, measuring the scope and scale of LGBTQ philanthropy across the United States. We continued our investment in Southern LGBTQ communities, bringing $3 million new philanthropic dollars to frontline movement organizing through Out in the South, and continue to support the new Trans Futures Funding Campaign, alongside partners such as Borealis Philanthropy, the Trans Justice Funding Project, and the Black Trans Fund, raising over seven million new philanthropic dollars for TGNC organizers at the frontlines.

We have come so far,  and yet there is much work to be done.

In the coming months, we will share our new strategic plan, offering a north star to our membership as we organize to deepen and significantly expand philanthropic investments within LGBTQ movements. We are also pleased to share that the 2023 Funding Forward will offer an in-person gathering, along with virtual options, for the first time since 2019. In a moment of brutal attacks against LGBTQ communities, people of color, and immigrants, Funders for LGBTQ Issues is committed to organizing philanthropy to show up in ways that are community-centered and values aligned.

Our work will continue to hold this one truth – intersectionality is not a strategy, but rather a practice. It is not enough to just make sure we have diverse voices in the room, our work is to articulate and hold a clear vision toward liberation. We are asking our network to join us in this work. If you are not a member and this message resonates with you, become part of our network, and help us build the world we all deserve.

As a descendant of enslaved people, I come from a tradition of miracles. We know what it is to lose everything and find freedom in each other. Even in a time that feels so frightening and unknown, it gives me comfort to remember that this is not the first time we have faced hardship and won.   I am honored to be in this movement alongside each of you.

In love and solidarity,

Saida Agostini-Bostic
President, Funders for LGBTQ Issues

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