Sunday, July 5, 2015

Letter to Equality Maryland Board

Dear Board Members of Equality Maryland,

I first want to offer my gratitude for the amazing work which has been done in the name of Fairness and Equality across the great state of Maryland over the last several years.  It is demonstration enough of what a vigilant and responsive non-profit can do with leadership and commitment.

With respect to the public statement released this past week concerning Equality Maryland’s future, I am reminded of a situation in 2011. In the aftermath of the Marriage failure in the House after passing the more challenging Senate, during which time Equality Maryland had signed on with others in partnership over the legislative plan to exclude public accommodations from the trans bill, at that moment of time, EQMD stared into a similar abyss.

When Lynn Bowman arrived to guide EQMD through its regeneration, a series ofCommunity Listening tours took place. While for some this was merely a mechanism for community members to vent at recent transpirations, others saw it as an opportunity to be engaged and have their needs articulated and considered.

So I will be frank.

The current composition of your board speaks to the lack of vision in communities which still struggle and which still have considerable unmet needs to be addressed. The work is not over for those in such communities, however, true representation from those communities do not exist on your board. When I see such constructed entities, I question if that body has the capacity to understand the areas which need championing. I recently have had conversations with community leaders in the Maryland and DC area and most are scratching their heads as to why EQMD cannot seen the many challenges which still exists and is having a difficult time pivoting towards those concerns. My response has been and will continue to be, board construction. If a community is not at the table, they most certainly are on the menu.

It has been my most distinct pleasure to have worked with Lynn Bowman, Patrick Wojahn, Carrie Evans, Owen Smith, Vanessa Bowling, Keith Thirion and the countless volunteers whose work supported the mission of EQMD. It would a tremendous loss for such a resource to disappear.  The only thing Morgan Meneses-Sheets has ever said, which I find truth in, is that sometimes organizations successfully work to establish their own demise through victory.  If they are not vigilant and responsive, they die.

So my suggestion is to remain in business. If it means a similar commitment reformation as in 2011, so be that. However, there needs to be community meetings and there most certainly needs to be real qualified leadership from transgender and gender non-conforming members of communities of color and the organization needs to remain centered in Baltimore, where the greatest needs still exist. The riots in April have demonstration the crises faced at the intersections of race and economic opportunity, now overlay gender and gender non-conformity onto that and we can see were programing is still needed for the countless unattended LGBT youth due to societal and familial rejection, trans women of color and the opening of employment opportunities to them, Latino LGBT community members and concerns of deportations and barriers with English as a Second Language preventing successful navigation in schools as well as society itself, to full and productive citizenship.

New partnerships need to be made, and older ones strengthened. Maryland still has a need for Equality and a need for Equality Maryland.

In solidarity and support of The Work,

Jennifer Fischetti
TransMaryland, founder 2007
Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, founding steering committee member, 2011-present
Gender Identity Groups, lead facilitator, 2006-2011
Transgender Response Team, member 2011-2014
Trans*Empower, founder 2014