From access to health care and legal gender recognition to protection against violence and discrimination, trans communities around the world are fighting increasingly urgent and visible battles for their rights and needs. In the process, these activists have built a global movement—and because trans organizations continue to be hampered by a critical lack of resources, they’ve done it on a shoestring budget. It’s time that changed.
A 2013 survey of 340 trans and intersex organizations around the world, for example, revealed that more than half were operating on a budget of less than $10,000 a year. The survey also found that trans-led groups were less likely to have external funding or paid staff—making them both less sustainable and more vulnerable to burnout.
For these and other reasons, Global Action for Trans* Equality gathered a group of activists and funders got together in Berlin in 2013 to explore new ways to bring resources to trans communities. At a subsequent meeting two years later in Istanbul, the International Trans Fund (ITF) was born. Hosted by the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and supported by foundations and donors, the ITF is a new and participatory funding initiative.
As Broden Giambrone, the ITF’s director, notes in the above video, the fund follows the principle of “nothing about us without us,” giving trans people control over decisions about their needs. That principle defines both how the fund works as well as where the money goes; organizations that receive grants must be trans-led, and their work must do more than provide direct services—it needs to support the larger movement for trans rights. To ensure that its resources are not available only to those with experience in traditional NGO settings, for example, the fund accepts proposals in five languages and lets applicants submit proposals by video.
This month, a panel of trans activists from 12 countries will meet in Mexico City to choose the recipients of the first round of grants. For grassroots movements with limited resources, even small amounts of funding can be transformative—and that’s why it’s so important to support trans people who are organizing to advocate for their communities.