Ceasing Partnership with Stonewall Columbus until Further Notice

header image by Ethan X.

For Immediate Release:

Ceasing Partnerships with Stonewall Columbus until Further Notice

Effective immediately, TransOhio will no longer be working with Stonewall Columbus (hereafter referred to as Stonewall). This has been a difficult decision, which we—as individuals and as an organization—have been grappling with for some time. Publicly severing ties is a last resort taken after numerous patient educational attempts have been made by various individuals and organizations over many years. As Central Ohio’s main LGBTQ+ Center, Stonewall has an obligation to support and protect the most vulnerable among us. This especially includes community members who are situated at the intersection of oppressions, including racism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, ableism, and xenophobia. Stonewall has failed to live up to that duty for far too long, and it must be held accountable if justice is ever to be achieved. Formal severance of our community partnership is thusly motivated by the pressing need for accountability and justice in equity-focused work.

The relationship between Stonewall and TransOhio has been tumultuous for years. Stonewall’s exclusion of transgender people in programming—whether deliberate or unintentional—played a significant role in TransOhio’s inception. Our founder spent a great deal of time working with Stonewall as a board member and then as a community partner (as Chair of TransOhio) to uplift the voices of transgender people and focus on the needs of transgender community members in Columbus and beyond. These efforts, as well as the efforts by subsequent organizational leaders, have been repeatedly met with excuses, resistance, and pleas for unity—which inherently silences the valid dissent of those marginalized for the sake of maintaining the status quo, effectively placing the comfort of Stonewall’s leadership over the safety and security of the very people it is supposed to serve for the sake of not risking the comfort of those in more dominant positions.

Over the past fourteen years, TransOhio has strived to fill the void left by bigger LGBTQ+ equality organizations and community groups like Stonewall. There have been many missed opportunities for partnerships and joint programming, as Stonewall has a history of prioritizing attaining funding over pursuing equity for transgender and nonbinary people. It would be unfair not to recognize Stonewall’s more recent attempts at inclusion, specifically the “Beyond Binaries” event, the addition of transgender individuals to Stonewall’s Board of Trustees, resignation of Karla Rothan, and current Executive Director AJ Casey’s “100 Days of Listening” initiative. While we applaud these changes, it simply is not enough to repair the damaged relationship between our two organizations, nor does it adequately address the systemic nature of the racism and transphobia that has historically and contemporarily been perpetuated by the organization.

In light of recent admissions by Stonewall President Rob Podlogar at the July monthly meeting of Columbus activists known as “Transformative Justice Leadership Conference” that the organization did not need to apologize for the events of 2017 Columbus Pride, TransOhio feels it has a moral obligation to cut ties with Stonewall and stand with our community. More specifically, when directly asked, Podlogar stated that Stonewall would not apologize to Black Queer Intersectional Collective (BQIC) or the Black Pride 4 stating, “[we] having done enough
community outreach; an apology isn’t due.”

We believe that an apology most certainly is due—however delayed—and that denial of this most basic step to restoration continues Stonewall’s pattern of racist and transphobic behavior. That legacy includes partnering with a local church that has transphobic policies—such as excluding transgender community members from decision-making—to requesting uniformed police officers at the Columbus Trans March despite the violence that took place against the Black Pride 4 at the hand of Columbus Police (a department that consistently ranks as one of the highest in the nation for police killings of Black residents per capita). This state-sanctioned and Stonewall-sanctioned violence includes the targeting and subsequent prosecution of a past TransOhio board member among other community activists.

In these troubled times, everyone in the greater LGBTQ+ community—regardless of color—must band together for the greater good, with a focus on uplifting the most marginalized in our community. This is the sixth year in a row since 2013 that the media has dubbed this “the most dangerous year for transgender people.” Yet Stonewall has not done the work necessary to fight against the systemic barriers and stigma that affect gender nonconforming individuals, nor to promote our community’s safety and welfare. Unless and until more comprehensive, robust, transformational, and long-lasting changes are implemented, we cannot and will not work with Stonewall. We love our diverse community enough to seek the justice we all deserve whenever we can, even when it is not popular or politically advantageous.

Justice delayed is justice denied; and justice has been delayed for far too long already. We must delay no more.

Sincerely,
TransOhio Board of Directors
James Knapp, Chair
Aubrey Glasser, Vice Chair
Diane Brennan, Treasurer
AS Green, Secretary
Arykah Carter
JJ Glasser
Ginger Williams
Felicia DeRosa
Lena Tenney
Jennifer Evans
Ashton Colby
Julio Jones

“Never Forget Justice is what Love looks like in public.” -Cornel West