An Open Letter to Our Community

9/21/17

Dear Friends:

Saturday, September 9, 2017, was an important day in the history of the Pride Center of the Capital District. It was a day voices were heard. It was a day commitments were made. It was a day of healing.

This open letter is the response of the Pride Center to the forthright and sometimes painful dialogue of that day. We heard your pain.

It is and always has been our belief that transgender men are men if that is how they identify. Transgender women are women if that is how they identify. Non-binary people exist and are who they say they are. If a transgender woman says she is a lesbian, then she is a lesbian, and she should find herself welcome among other lesbians. This is important because transphobia shows itself by finding reasons to exclude trans and non-binary people from society. It seeks to other them. To find reasons why they do not belong. We reject any attempt to delegitimize another’s core identity.

We oppose any attempt to exclude transwomen from any female-only, and transmen from male-only spaces, whether public or private oppose any attempts to view or treat transgender men as “confused lesbians”. People are who they say they are and should be treated as they wish. Pronouns must be respected. These are basic manners and how we treat each other with respect.

Many of those who came to our open forum on September 9 voiced concerns over a number of issues including transparency, staffing and personnel changes, structural problems involving participation, and poor and ineffective communication. These are valid concerns we take them very seriously. Here is what we are doing to address your concerns:

We will listen, work resolve problems, and improve the services we provide. We will take specific steps to improve representation and participation from the trans and People of Color communities, recognizing the intersectional needs of all.

To flourish, our programs need to increase participation and representation. Ours is a diverse, colorful community, yet we lack representation in key communities, most noticeably People of Color and Transgender/Gender-Nonconforming people. We want to fix that. To that end, we will expand the Board of Directors, and make changes to the by-laws to fix some of the problems with the current language. We will submit our proposed language to expand the size of the Board at the October Board meeting and it will be voted on the following month. As soon as we have finalized the details we will share it with the community.

We encourage People of Color and Trans/Gender-Nonconforming people to apply to the Board. All who are interested in effecting change are also encouraged to join a board committee. You do not have to be a board member to join a committee. We need your voices in our governance because your voices are vital to everything we stand for and do. Anyone who is interested, please send an email to mharvey@capitalpridecenter.org and an application will be sent to you.

We want to pair with our natural partner agencies to improve the representation of Queer People of Color in all aspects of life. We will work with anyone who wants to end racism and see all People of Color flourish. We will work with anyone who wants to see our Youth succeed. And we welcome any ideas on how best to accomplish this.

We heard the call for greater transparency. This conflict has exposed that many of you feel disconnected and in the dark. We are taking steps to improve our internal communication and to rebuild relationships that have been harmed by a lack of information.

We will continue to have regular, quarterly Community Forum meetings just like the one on Saturday, September 9. We want to continue the conversation and exchange ideas on where we are going and how we are doing.

We are bringing back our quarterly newsletter, this time in electronic form with a limited print run for those in our community who might not have full use of the Internet. We are hoping to feature a regular column written by someone who is trans/gender non-conforming, to explore issues and their impact on trans people. We also welcome the voices of People of Color and Queer Youth. This is your newsletter. Let’s use it to amplify your voices.

We are also reviewing our social media policy. We will be implementing the following policy shortly: The main Facebook Page for the Pride Center will be used solely for announcements and updates. We will create a private discussion board for all of us to talk about whatever we want. This private group will be run by a hands-off Admin whose only purpose is to ensure the community guidelines of respect are followed. We will present you with a detailed explanation of how it will work before we implement it and how we can use this to foster a positive and robust exchange of ideas. We want this to be a public forum, a place for people to discuss events and news, a place to provide each other with help.

We will also make it a point to be more available to listen to you so we can begin to forge stronger relationships together.

And lastly, we want to do something meaningful for the upcoming Transgender Day of Resilience. I want to know from you how we can best honor those who have survived and thrived, as well as those who have perished before their time.

This conflict, while difficult to go through, has created a new space for growth. It has drawn our attention to things that need to be addressed. And it has given us a new opportunity to work together for the benefit of all of us. The Pride Center of the Capital District is the oldest continually run LGBTQ center in the United States. We have a long, proud history and a legacy of resilience and hope. We do good work and the Capital District is a better place because of all of us together. Let’s keep doing good work and moving forward.

In Unity,
Martha Harvey, Executive Director
Joseph Kerwin, Board President
Cynthia Bott, Ph.D., Board Vice-President
Timothy Beebe, Board Secretary
Stephanie Slominski, Board Treasurer
Scott Levine, Board Director
John Daniels, Board Director
John Kraigenow, Board Director
Maggie Morrison, Board Director