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. We’ve highlighted some key issues 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 more than twice as likely to live in extreme poverty (earning under $10,000 a year), with Latinx transgender people facing three-and-a-half times, and Black transgender people facing three times, the poverty rate of the general U.S. population[1].
  • Safety – Transgender people, and Black transgender women especially, experience frightening levels of physical violence. This is particularly true among transgender people participating in sex work and other informal or criminalized economies. Brutal murders of transgender women occur with such alarming regularity, often with little response from law enforcement, that the American Medical Association declared violence against transgender people an epidemic in 2019.
  • Civil Rights – Recognition and respect for the civil rights 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 immigration rights, to name only a few.

[1] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

In 2018, trans funding in the United States reached a record high of $28.6 million. While this increase is welcomed, funding for trans communities does not match the need. For every $100 awarded by U.S. foundations only, 4 cents supports transgender communities.

Only $10.4 million, or 36 percent, of reported funds in 2018 supported trans-specific organizations, with only 17 percent of the funding for trans-specific organizations being awarded as multi-year support and only 5 percent being awarded in the form of capacity-building grants. Stable, long-term funding commensurate with community needs in this time of heightened crisis, and ongoing violence against transgender women in particular, remains elusive.

Foundation Funding for U.S. Trans communities (2014-2018)


Chart by Visualizer

Learn more about the latest funding trends related to transgender communities with these resources:

  • GUTC Infographic: Foundation Funding for U.S. Trans Communities
  • 2018 Tracking Report: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Grantmaking by U.S. Foundations

To learn more about trans funding and explore how your foundation might become more inclusive and supportive of trans people through your grantmaking and decisionmaking, check out our Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) Initiative at

Over the two-year period 2017-2018, the top foundations supporting transgender issues and communities accounted for 55 percent of all funding for transgender communities.


Top Ten Funders for Transgender Communities (2017-2018)


Funder Name Amount
1. Gilead Sciences $6,100,629
2. Arcus Foundation
3. Tawani Foundation
4. Gill Foundation
5. Borealis Philanthropy $2,921,850
6. M.A.C. AIDS Fund $1,957,232
7. Tides Foundation
8. Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund $1,357,500
9. New York Women’s Foundation
10. ViiV Healthcare

NOTE: Anonymous donors awarded $5.5 million between 2017-2018. If they were to be included in this list, they would rank as the second-largest funder of transgender communities.

This list of top funders includes dollars awarded for re-granting, so as to capture the full amount of funding flowing from (or through) each funder.

Over the two-year period 2017-2018, the top ten recipients of foundation funding for transgender issues and communities received 36 percent of all funding for transgender communities.


Top Ten Grant Recipients of Funding for Transgender Communities (2017-2018)


Organization Name Amount
1. Transgender Law Center $5,589,369
2. Palm Center $3,764,250
3. National Center for Transgender Equality
4. Borealis Philanthropy $1,586,000
5. Casa Ruby $1,041,602
6. Sylvia Rivera Law Project $1,005,500
7. University of Minnesota $891,000
8. Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower
9. Planned Parenthood Federation of America $734,766
10. Pride Foundation

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

  • Support a diverse ecology of transgender-ledand transgender-focused organizations. The ecology of transgender-led organizations that focus on improving the lives of transgender people is uneven and relatively small. Only a handful of such organizations have annual budgets of more than $1 million. The organizational infrastructure varies significantly by country, state, and city. Some large cities may have several transgender-led organizations, each addressing a different need (e.g., legal services, criminalization, healthcare). However, 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. The Trans Justice Funding Project has identified dozens of transgender-led 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 the capacity of these community assets, particularly those led by Black transgender community members and groups. 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 serve transgender communities effectively, including increasing their hiring of transgender staff. 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 through informal networks and via institutional philanthropy, but mainstream organized philanthropy has also excluded transgender people in several ways. We estimate there are  fewer than 60 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.
  • 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 challenging 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.

To learn more about how your foundation might become more inclusive and supportive of trans people through your grantmaking and decisionmaking, check out our Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) Initiative at