Association for Gender Rights Advocacy
24 W. 25th St., 9th
floor New York, NY 10010
Tel: 212-675-3288, x266 Fax: 212-675-3466
In late 2000 and early 2001, controversy erupted
within the transgender
community around the new strategic direction for GenderPAC announced by
Riki Anne Wilchins, GenderPAC's executive director. In response,
22 activists signed an open letter to the community in January
2001. For more information on that controversy, read the open letter.
letter to gender rights activists
Jan. 3, 2001
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
We are writing to you to express our concern about the current crisis in
transgender politics. We think it is time to start a broadly based
dialogue to examine productive responses to this situation.
The new century brings with it considerable opportunity and promise for
the transgender community, particularly in view of the organizing taking
place on the state and local level. The formation of the New York
Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) in June 1998 and the
recent launch of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ)
represent a significant advance for the transgender political
communities in the Northeast. Existing transgender groups like It's
Time, Illinois and individual trans-activists have built increasingly
fruitful relationships with state LGBT political organizations.
However, a disturbing vacuum is developing at the national political
level. For the last few years, GenderPAC has functioned in fact, if not
in name, as the voice of the trans-community on federal public policy
issues. But, after a year of wrenching internal struggle, that
organization is now distancing itself rapidly from transgender concerns
We share with Riki Anne Wilchins, GenderPAC's executive director, a
critique of the narrow 'identity politics' that would divorce the
concerns of transgender-identified people from a broader politics which
recognizes oppressions experienced by *all* people who express their
gender in non-normative ways. In our advocacy work, we try to find ways
to take into account the complexities of variant expressions of gender
without falling into simplistic identity categories.
But in the name of "non-identity
politics," GenderPAC is now pursuing a "mainstreaming"
strategy that appears to involve de-emphasizing its connection to the
trans-community. This new focus has resulted in the dropping of some of
GenderPAC's transgender-focused projects. GenderPAC's call for its
"National Conference on Gender" next spring made it clear that
proposals for trans-focused workshops would not be well received.
Additionally, GenderPAC's Congressional E.E.O. Project, which it
launched with great fanfare earlier this year and which it still touts
as its showpiece effort in the political world, has, in fact, been
languishing since early summer.
Sadly, trans-identified GenderPAC directors who have spoken in support
of a transgender focus have been treated with considerable disrespect
and pressured to resign.
GenderPAC was founded as a coalition of transgender-specific and other
queer organizations with a mission to pursue the political empowerment
of the transgender community through advocacy, federal legislation and other means. The scuttling of this original mission in favor of a vague
focus as a 'national gender rights organization' means that there is now
no credible organization to advocate on behalf of the transgender community at the national level. With queer concerns occupying a growing
place on the national political agenda, we cannot afford to let this
Given these recent disturbing developments, we believe that there is an
urgent need to begin a discussion within the transgender community about
reviving a presence at the national level. Toward that end, we would
like to invite all interested gender activists -- whether the primary
focus of their work is political, educational, or cultural -- to
participate in a broad-ranging discussion of the issues raised by
GenderPAC's dramatic shift in direction. We are planning to organize an
e-group as the most feasible way to include interested individuals in such a discussion.
If you are interested in taking part,
please let us know. But even if you are not, we would love to hear your
views on the community's situation at the dawn of the 21st century.
For more information on the issue, e-mail
co-chair of NYAGRA, who participated in drafting the letter.