Dave Scamell: Why I’m Dedicated to Funding Trans and Intersex Organizing

Published on the AJWS Blog

At the time of this article’s publication, Dave Scamell was the Director of International Advocacy at AJWS and co-chair of the GPP Trans* Funding Working Group. He has been the Director of Government Relations and Field Engagement at GPP since 2018. 

I have the great privilege in my role at AJWS to work with activists around the world who are fighting for the rights of  transgender  and intersex  people. Many are working to stop the widespread violence and discrimination against their communities. Others are doing the long-term work to reform the legal systems and shift the cultural narratives that perpetuate discrimination against people based on their sex characteristics or gender identity. The work of organizations like ASTRANS—which provides medical and social support to trans people in El Salvador—is fraught with obstacles and life-threatening risks.  But this work is essential to protect the human rights of all people.

While these groups have made courageous strides for the rights of trans and intersex people, they face a significant lack of funding and limited organizational capacities. I recently worked with partners at Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE) and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice (Astraea) to survey over 450 groups working on trans issues and more than 50 groups working on intersex issues , and the results of these two reports are startling. Despite increased awareness and media coverage on both intersex and trans issues, these groups are deeply under-resourced and neglected by international funders. Here are a few key insights from the State of Intersex Organizing report and State of Trans Organizing report, which you can read in their entirety here.

  1. Intersex and trans groups are chronically understaffed. Fewer than 1 in 5 intersex groups and 1 in 3 trans groups having full-time paid staff. 75% of organizations surveyed report needing support in healing from trauma and preventing burnout.
  1. More than half of the trans groups and three-quarters of the intersex groups surveyed had annual budgets of less than $10,000. Global funding for broad LGBTI groups has grown exponentially in recent years, but just 6% of trans groups and almost no intersex groups receive funding from donor governments.

We cannot build a better world where all people can realize their human rights without supporting the organizations that are fighting for the rights of intersex and trans people. I am hopeful that these reports shine a light on the immense needs of these vital organizations. If you are as concerned as I am about the rights of intersex and trans people, I urge you to explore these reports and share them with your friends, families and colleagues.

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