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Practical Tips for Group and Organizational (esp. LGBT organizations)

First things first -- especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations.

"One of the most significant challenges LGBT organizations face is that transgender (and bisexual) labels have often been added in name (the addition of the “B†and “T†to LGBT) without any authentic effort to integrate transgender and bisexual people and experiences into the organization. While often well-intentioned, changes in name only render the impact of adding those letters almost meaningless, as transgender people have learned the hard way. Because the addition of the “T†only sometimes translates into concrete programs or even a genuine welcome, trans people may view the “T†with suspicion or simply ignore it altogether." 

~ from Opening the Door to the Inclusion of Transgender People by NCTE

  • Don’t assume you are serving us at all by just adding a “T†on the end of your acronym. Issues around sexual orientation are fundamentally different than the those of gender. (from Trans Respect 101 by Micah Bazant)

Opening the Door to the Inclusion of Transgender People

Much of the information on this page is adapted from Opening the Door to the Inclusion of Transgender People from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force outlines practical steps and strategies that organizations should consider when working to become more inclusive of transgender people. Download the full guide for a more in-depth set of recommendations, including case studies.

More Tips on Organizational Development

The following suggestions come from Opening the Door to the Inclusion of Transgender People by the National Center for Transgender Equality. The full guide include a more detailed treatment, as well as reflection questions and action steps.

  • Work Toward Full Integration at Every Organizational Level:  If transgender people are not in the decision-making process as staff or board members, then the organization is likely to be missing the insights of the transgender community in setting its agenda. If an organization claims to serve all LGBT people, but transgender people are not among its members, clients, or attendees, then the organization is failing in its expressed mission. One common pitfall that LGBT organizations have fallen into is to rely on the leadership of one transgender person (or a select few) or to use the one person as a liaison to the rest of the transgender community.
  • Recruit a Broad Range of Trans People:  In order to include transgender people in your programming, you will need to continually and deliberately work at recruiting transgender people to participate. In addition, experienced community organizers realize that people come and go in their level of involvement with organizations, so it is important to continually be reaching new people even as we seek to retain and develop those who have been with us for a while.
  • Create a Welcoming Environment: The environments we create send out cues about who we expect to be there. Thinking clearly about the signals you send can help your organization be more welcoming to transgender people. When a transgender person walks into the space, do they see things that communicate that you expected them to be there?
  • Deal with Prejudice:  Regardless of the “reasoning†behind the bias against or discomfort with transgender people, it must be addressed. After all, you may have worked hard to create a dynamic, welcoming environment and have developed all the right trans-inclusive policies, but one transphobic comment by a staff or board member can sabotage all of those efforts.
  • Acknowledge Past mistakes Regarding Trans-Inclusion: Even organizations founded more recently with the intention of serving LGBT people may not have done their work in trans-inclusive ways from the beginning. Thus, as the organization moves into becoming transgender-inclusive, previous actions of the organization can be a major barrier. Until these actions are addressed, there may be distrust of the organization by transgender community members.
  • Have Trans-Inclusive Programming, Services and Advocacy Positions: It is important to understand the communities you are seeking to serve. Far too often, we waste precious money and resources on programs based on what we think that people will need or want rather than taking the time to find out what the genuine needs are.
  • Understand Transgender Experiences: You should also be aware that transgender people live every day with negative stereotypes and attitudes from an intolerant society. Transgender people live full lives with all of the same passions that non-transgender people have. It is important not to view transgender people as victims, even while recognizing the negative impacts of transphobia.
  • Understand One’s Role as an Ally: A transgender ally doesn’t just talk about being inclusive, but instead they take concrete action, using their privileges as a non-transgender person to effect change. And, an ally doesn’t sit silent when they see transphobia appear. The most confusing aspect of being a transgender ally is how much of a lead to take on transgender issues in relation to transgender people. Generally, it is best to think of oneself as in a “sidekick†role–-Robin to Batman, for example. Transgender community members need you to dig in and do work with them, but it may not be appropriate for you to be setting the agenda for the group.
  • Have Fair Employment Practices: To be a transgender inclusive organization means being open to transgender participation in all levels of our work, including hiring transgender people.

More About Being an Ally

Check our main ally support page for more resources and practical tips.

For Individual Allies
For Organizational Allies|(esp. LGBT)
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