Transgender Issues


Despite the dramatic progress of the transgender movement in the last decade, resulting in greater public awareness and significant legal victories, trans people continue to face blatant discrimination, high levels of violence, and poor health outcomes. Trans people of color often face markedly worse health and economic outcomes as they navigate multiple systems of oppression. Some key issues are highlighted below:

  • Health – Transgender people face enormous health disparities, including staggering rates of HIV infection, lack of primary care (including individualized, medically necessary transition- related healthcare), and high rates of attempted suicide.
  • Economics – Transgender people bear the economic consequences of discrimination, including high rates of poverty and unemployment, discrimination in education, and homelessness. Trans people are twice as likely to live in extreme poverty (earning under $10,000 a year), with Latino/a transgender people facing seven times and black transgender people facing eight times the poverty rate of the general U.S. population[1].
  • Safety – Transgender people, and transgender women of color especially, experience frightening levels of physical violence. This is particularly true among transgender people working in sex work and other informal economies. Brutal murders of transgender women occur with alarming regularity, often with little response from law enforcement.
  • Civil Rights – Recognition and respect for the civil right of trans people is critically important because their legal needs span many aspects of life. These needs include identity documents that accurately reflect who they are, protections from employment discrimination, and immigrations rights, to name only a few.

[1] Grant, J.M., L.A. Mottet, J. Tanis, J. Harrison, J.L. Herman, and M. Keisling. 2011. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In 2014, US foundations awarded $9,806,873 to support trans communities, representing 8% percent of total giving for LGBTQ Issues. This is a 53% increase from 2013, when transgender issues received $6,448,133, or 6% of total funds that year.

Looking closer, the largest portion of funding was directed to civil and human rights issues, receiving 3.7 million of total funding, or nearly 40%.

Transgender Funding, by Issue Addressed (2014)

An in-depth analysis of foundation funding for transgender issues may be found in TRANSformational Impact: US Foundation Funding for Trans Communities, a report released by Funders for LGBTQ Issues in February 2015.

In 2014, the top 10 funders to the transgender community awarded $6.2 million, or 63% of the total funding.

Top Funders
Arcus Foundation $1,602,200 16%
Anonymous Donors (Anonymous) $1,113,000 11%
Elton John AIDS Foundation $1,093,156 11%
Ford Foundation $600,000 6%
Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, The Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma $400,000 4%
New York Women’s Foundation $315,000 3%
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice $300,500 3%
Gill Foundation $296,500 3%
Haas Jr. Fund, Evelyn and Walter $295,000 3%
Comer Family Foundation, The $229,000 2%

In 2014, the top 10 grantees received $4.8 million of the total funding, or half of all grant dollars awarded.

Top Grantees
Transgender Law Center $1,294,615 13%
National Center For Transgender Equality (NCTE) $917,500 9%
Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) $567,000 6%
Gender Spectrum $420,000 4%
SAGE $400,000 4%
Racial Justice Action Center (RJAC) $335,000 3%
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation $300,875 3%
Freedom Center for Social Justice $258,150 3%
Women with a Vision $187,500 2%
Mazzoni Center $183,000 2%

Funders have several opportunities to improve the lived experience of transgender communities:

  • Support a diverse ecology of transgender organizations. The ecology of transgender organizations is uneven and relatively small. Only a handful of transgender organizations have annual budgets of more than $500,000. The organizational infrastructure varies significantly by country, state, and city. Some large cities may have several transgender organizations, each addressing a different need (e.g., legal services, criminalization, healthcare), while in many places a single grassroots group is doing its best to address all the needs of trans communities in an entire city, state, region, or country. Funders have an opportunity to strengthen the ecology of transgender organizations by supporting and strengthening groups of varying types and sizes. Transgender communities will benefit from a richer ecology of organizations representing a variety of strategies, issue expertise, budget size, and geographic focus.
  • Build the capacity of grassroots transgender groups working at the local level. A growing number of transgender groups are working at the grassroots level to advocate for gender identity rights and to provide services ranging from peer support groups to legal assistance. In only its second year, the Trans Justice Funding Project has identified dozens of transgender groups in the U.S.— some incorporated with 501(c)(3) status, while others are informal groups that don’t have nonprofit status. These groups are doing invaluable work, though most have no staff and many are new to fundraising and resource development. Funders have an opportunity to build capacity of these community assets. It is important to note that funders doing capacity-building work may need to adjust measures of success and impact, especially when working with groups that are grassroots, transgender-led and working in hostile or isolated climates.
  • Provide support for increasing transgender cultural competence of mainstream service providers and systems. Transgender people often face difficulties accessing a range of services, from healthcare to government assistance, due to lack of awareness and competency in many mainstream service providers and systems. Funders have an opportunity to support training programs and partnerships that build the capacity of service providers to effectively serve transgender communities. This is particularly important in rural areas, where people are less likely to have access to trans-specific programs and services. 30 transformational impact.
  • Nurture transgender participation in philanthropy at all levels. There is a long history of transgender people giving generously, but mainstream organized philanthropy has also excluded transgender people in a number of ways. We have identified fewer than 10 out transgender staffers employed at foundations, and many foundations still do not include gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies. Foundations and other institutional funders have an opportunity to improve their own inclusiveness of transgender communities, and to develop programs that build a pipeline of transgender leaders in philanthropy. There is potential to increase engagement of transgender and allied donors in supporting trans communities, through projects such as giving circles and donor convenings. 5) Support efforts to improve data collection on gender identity. Many federal programs and major surveys do not collect data on gender identity. This lack of data has made it difficult to identify and fully understand the unique needs of transgender communities. Funders have an opportunity to support researchers and data collection agencies to integrate gender identity into ongoing data collection efforts. The philanthropic sector also has the potential to improve its own data collection on transgender communities, by including questions about gender identity in assessments of board and staff diversity and in data on populations served by grantees.