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New York 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.


An open 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 and community.

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 come about.

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 Pauline Park,
co-chair of NYAGRA, who participated in drafting the letter.

Contact:
Pauline Park
mudang@ix.netcom.com