Funding Awareness on Transgender Issues

The Calamus Foundation awarded $300,000 to the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) in June to fund public education on issues involving gender identity (see Calamus Foundation: Grants for LGBT).

ESPA interim executive director Lynn Faria argues that raising awareness is one of the most important and effective tactics the transgendered community has in the struggle for equality. The money from Calamus will go exclusively toward educational efforts and cannot be used for lobbying.

In addition to maintaining a website with legal resources for the transgendered, the ESPA runs a project called Transcribe. The project encourages transgendered people in New York State to speak openly about their experiences with discrimination and workplace harassment.

Faria said New York is currently at a "tipping point" on transgender rights, and that Calamus "sends an important message to other funders in the community" during this trying time.

New York's transgendered community is "frustrated and impatient over the long delay in moving the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA)," according to Peter Schindler of Gay City News. GENDA deals with Civil Rights, Medicaid coverage, and a number of other crucial issues facing the transgendered community.

Care2 says the lower chamber has consistently approved GENDA, but it has run out of steam in front of the Senate at every yearly session meeting between 2008 and 2011. This continues to occur in spite of the fact that 78% of New Yorkers support the bill's passage, according to an ESPA press release.

New York did pass a gay rights bill in 2002, known as The Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act (SONDA). For the transgendered community, the problem is that SONDA fails to address issues afflicting transgendered people specifically, as opposed to gay or bisexual people. Such discussion could have potentially hindered the bill's passage at the time, Shindler said.

Saul Kaplan founded The Calamus Foundation in 1994 to provide care and services for HIV sufferers and the LGBTQ community. After his death in 2004, the foundation inherited Kaplan's estate and administers it in accordance with his wishes. In 2010, the foundation had assets of just under $15 million.

Earlier in the year, Calamus awarded $500,000 to the Ali Forney Center to fund the opening of the first 24-hour service center and shelter for young, LGBT homeless. Calamus also offers scholarships for those marginalized by gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation through The Point Foundation.