The South is Queer and Trans, Our Funding Must Be Too  

Anti-LGBTQ legislation is creeping its way across the South. From banning drag shows and gender-affirming healthcare to restricting transgender athletes’ participation on sports teams and pushing homophobic “Don’t Say Gay” laws, extremists are working overtime to create legislation that ensures that LGBTQ people aren’t safe in the region. Contrary to the message of right-wing legislators, these laws have nothing to do with health or public safety. Instead, they are campaigns bent entirely around restrictions on self-determination and the social inclusion of our extremely vulnerable neighbors and loved ones. We must show up for queer and trans folks in this moment.  

Overwhelmingly, the stories that get amplified around transgender people center on violence and death. While we won’t be doing that here, we want to be very clear: lawmakers are creating the conditions that make this level of violence not only possible, but likely. The more difficult we make it for people to access housing, healthcare, education, and jobs, the more difficult we make it for people to access safety, care, and a future where they can thrive. Queer and trans people are under attack, and it is our responsibility to provide cover for these communities. We must be as aggressive in our fight to protect queer and trans people as the right is intentional in harming them.    

Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ most recent tracking report shows that funding for LGBTQ grantmaking has stagnated as of late.  For every $100 granted by U.S. foundations in 2020, only 23 cents specifically supported LGBTQ communities. Despite political fearmongering and underinvestment, queer and trans organizers continue to lead powerful, intersectional, and community-centered work in the South. Out in the South educates funders on how to show up for and invest in LGBTQ-led organizations in the South. Contigo Fund is an intermediary supporting projects that uplift and heal communities affected by the Pulse Massacre in Orlando, Florida. The Queer Mobilization Fund in North Carolina prioritizes and supports BIPOC on the frontlines of queer and trans movements in the South. These are just a handful of organizations helping lead this work and is by no means an exhaustive list.  

Funders have an opportunity to meet the moment head on and to make investments that will uplift LGBTQ communities in the South. We ask that you consider these actions:  

  • Commit to making your first grant to an LGBTQ-led or serving organization in the South; 
  • If you are already funding Southern LGBTQ work, deepen your investments with those organizations with no additional strings attached;  
  • Find the connections between the work you’re already funding and the LGBTQ communities who are affected by those same issues;  
  • Make general operating grants and move them as quickly as possible, especially prioritizing organizations led by Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant leaders in states that are currently under attack.  

If queer and trans movements have taught us anything, they have taught us that when the status quo harms one of us, it harms all of us. We have been shown that alternatives are always possible, if only we are brave enough to explore them. We know that the South – a place of beauty, transformation, and resistance – cannot exist without queer and trans people. We have the power to shape our communities to fit our wildest dreams, and the resources necessary to care for each and every one of us – so let’s do it.