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Creating Change with my 70-year-old Indian parents

May 14, 2015

After I told my parents I was gay at 18, our relationship went through several difficult years. And while I grew up in Southern California, what people perceive as a liberal stronghold, my parents were the quintessential super-strict Indian parents. But after their own glacially-paced (or so it seemed in my American-born eyes) coming out, they have become the amazingly cool parents I would have never imagined. They have marched in San Francisco Pride three times (twice with more enthusiasm than me), been to a couple of queer weddings, and often enough ask me if I have met the perfect man.

Shobha Bajaj, Shiv Bajaj and Saurabh Bajaj

Shobha Bajaj, Shiv Bajaj and Saurabh Bajaj

So there we were at the Saturday afternoon plenary in Denver earlier this year, for Rea Carey’s State of the Movement speech. The Ferguson organizers took the stage as planned, and in true Creating Change fashion, stayed on stage for many more minutes protesting the need for community recognition of black lives and black trans lives.

My parents absolutely abhor cursing. I once said “piss” in front of Mummy and thought I would need to vacate the premises immediately. And now we were at the plenary, and on stage a million “fucks” were being thrown.

I listened carefully to what my fellow people of color had to say about the need for all of us to recognize the struggle and demands of black LGB and black trans folks within our own progressive LGBTQ movement.  One woman’s words about the epidemic of violence against trans women of color brought me to tears: “Remember [my] name: Raquel. Because if something happens to me for loving a person I love, that’s the death I face.” Her courage was breathtaking, and the need for it, heartbreaking.

I also listened in horror to all the “adult” words, wanting to sink through the floor, as I thought about how offended my parents must be. I honestly thought about asking them to turn their hearing aids down.

The plenary finally came to an end and we left the hall. I was exhausted. The difficulty of hearing the choice in words was far behind the difficulty of hearing the pain and anger in the voices and stories of black folks on stage.

My parents looked just as exhausted, but then again, they’re 70 plus. When I asked Mums how she felt, she surprisingly said “refreshed.” She hadn’t liked the language on stage, but thought that people had said what they needed to express, and she was glad to have heard it. Then Pops spoke up: “The woman at the end was so nice, so sweet.”

Over the years, my parents and I have talked about the many challenges transgender people face. They know real equality for me means full lived freedom for all, including trans people. They had questions, of course, but also drew on their knowledge of hijras in India. I remember one year Mummy came back from a visit in Delhi and relayed with excitement how the city was treating hijras with more dignity and respect.

And now my parents both were sharing their admiration of Aaryn Lang, a black trans woman, who to them had spoken so beautifully on stage (and to their pleasure, with few curse words). Aaryn said, “Helping trans people is so simple; it’s treating us like you want to be treated out in the streets.” The words had resonated with Mummy and Papa, who had endured prejudice when told to “go back where you came from” many times as young immigrants in Los Angeles county.

All of our journeys are incredible. My parents’ journey took them from fleeing what is now Pakistan during the Partition of India, to their arranged marriage in Delhi, to a move all on their own to California to raise three kids, to being out and proud parents of a very out son. And now, in their seventh decade, they have changed and become the advocates I wouldn’t have expected them to be.

Positive and lasting change can often seem like a slow and difficult process. And while there is still more work to be done to end anti-transgender violence, eliminate racially biased policing, and secure full freedom, justice, and equality for LGBTQ people, it is important to acknowledge significant changes we have already made. For me, I have been lucky enough to create change alongside my parents.

By Saurabh Bajaj, Director of Individual Giving, National LGBTQ Task Force

Donation, Not Discrimination: Lift The Blood Donor Ban

May 13, 2015

For years, I helped save lives and brought joy to my life by donating blood. My blood type is needed and sometimes in short supply. Yet the FDA’s decision to ban gay and bisexual men from donating blood in the 1980s ended my ability to help others through this simple act.

Picture of Russell Roybal

Russell Roybal, Task Force Deputy Executive Director

 The FDAs decision in the early 80s was partly ignorance. But ultimately, it was a political move that was intentionally discriminatory. I was far from the only person impacted. Millions of gay and bisexual men were blocked from donating lifesaving blood, despite the fact that screening for HIV had become a standard part of the donation process. The ban targeted every man who had sex with men, regardless of risk behaviors. It didn’t matter whether you used protection, how frequently you were tested for HIV, and if you had one partner or multiple.

And that’s not even the whole story. The FDA at the same time also banned donations by people who injected drugs and people who at any point in their life exchanged sex for money – again, regardless of frequency, risk behavior, or how long it had been since the person had engaged in those behaviors. In practice (and by some reports, in policy), the FDA bans donation by all transgender people who have had sex with men. Each of these bans is grounded in stigma. They create whole classes of people who are marked as irresponsible and dangerous.

Though the ability to test for HIV and scientific understanding of transmission risk has been available for many years, the FDA waited for 30 years to begin to lift the ban against some gay men donating blood. While this decision by the FDA is a step forward, it is far from a victory. The “lifting” only applies to gay and bisexual men who haven’t had sex with men in the previous year, and doesn’t change any of the other discriminatory bans. The science exists to protect the blood supply, and the way forward is clear: it is time to stop discriminating against gay and bisexual men, people who’ve engaged in sex work, and people who’ve injected drugs.

Donation not discrimination.001  Join us in calling on the FDA to lift the ban completely.You can do so by submitting your own thoughts online through their public commenting portal here.

By Russell Roybal, Deputy Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force 

A Good Start, But Still Just a Start

May 6, 2015
Barbara Satin, founder of Twin Cities Transgender Day of Remembrance and National LGBTQ Task Force Assistant Faith Work Director

Barbara Satin, National LGBTQ Task Force Assistant Faith Work Director

It was with some trepidation that I turned on the local NBC affiliate to watch the Bruce Jenner interview on 20/20 with Diane Sawyer.

Shaping my attitude were a number of similar interviews of high profile trans people by media stars – Katie Couric and Piers Morgan are the freshest in my memory but this has been a road badly traveled before and I had low expectations for this newest attempt. Given Jenner’s connection to the celebrity-seeking Kardashian clan added to my apprehension.

I will quickly admit I was relatively pleased with the program: Sawyer earns applause for leading the interview but not strangling its authenticity. Jenner rates an ovation for being honest and open about this journey and willing to address the issues Sawyer posed – even the ones that were challenging. The answers were not always as complete or articulate as might be hoped for but there were answers.

The weak spots were the explanations of who we are as trans people – who makes up this beautiful, complex world of gender non-conforming people.

For what my opinion is worth, I rate the two hours as well spent and see the interview as a wonderful start to a much broader conversation across this nation.

Yes, a good start but still just a start.

The complexity of trans lives is too much for a two-hour program to capture more than just a glimpse of what it is to be trans – whether a trans woman (like Jenner) or a trans man, a gender queer or gender non-conforming individual.

And once we begin unpeeling this trans onion (I am drawn to this metaphor because an onion adds zest to wherever it touches, can be sweet and tasty yet still capable of producing tears) we uncover the myriad of identities that make up our gender variant lives: transsexual; crossdresser; transgenderist; androgynous; two-spirit; intersex: and the litany of pre-op, post-op and non-op. The list goes on.

In the Jenner/Sawyer interview we heard the open, heart-felt revelations of how challenging it is to be a women-identified trans person who is white, wealthy, old, established and. a celebrity. That is the Jenner story.

It’s important that we hear that story and talk about it.

That narrative, however, will differ significantly from a story by a black trans woman living in poverty — because of discrimination and racism. Or if she is employed there is no job security and she lacks health care for gender related medical treatment. She even experiences problems finding a medical professional willing to treat her even in an emergency.

It’s important that we hear that story, too, and talk about it.

Or, the young person who doesn’t want to be labeled with any gender marker, believing that personal freedom lies in breaking the ties of gender binaries but, as a result, is bullied relentlessly because of behavior and appearance – for things like wanting people to use non-gendered pronouns like “they and their” as a descriptor and for adopting clothing choices that don’t fall into the traditional styles that mark someone as girl or boy.

That story is also important for us to hear and talk about.

And the violence that is brought down upon trans people simply for being who they truly are – the murders and assaults that tarnish our nation – especially for people of color and black trans women in particular. Then there is the violence that is often hidden by society’s unwillingness to talk about suicide and especially the outrageous 41% rate of suicide attempts by trans and gender non-conforming persons who feel they have no other options in their lives.

We need to hear that story and talk about it.

Before the show started on Friday evening, I had asked my Facebook connections who were going to watch the interview to comment..

The response came from a wonderful mixture of queer and straight, trans and cisgender, young and old individuals. The comments were overwhelmingly supportive – even while some had issues with parts of the conversation. But the biggest part of the comments centered around the need to know more – “I want to know more – continue…” was a response that seemed to capture the need for more – more conversations, more informational resources, more stories, more, more, more.

Let me cite just one of my responders as a wrap-up to this commentary: “What a rare occurrence of celebrity and media coalescing for positive change in the world. So many valuable ripples can come out of this…. a milestone in evolution.”

Yes, a good start but still just a start.

By Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

Commitment to Full Inclusion of Transgender Women at MichFest

April 11, 2015

We are writing to state clearly our commitment to the full inclusion and welcome of transgender women, as women, in the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest). We will continue to actively work to fulfill that goal.

After a number of conversations, we do not believe the petition/boycott is going to be ultimately productive in achieving the goal of a fully inclusive Michfest.

There have been a number of misstatements and distortions that have been included in some media reports, social media and blogs about our positions regarding Michfest that have wrongly equated taking our names off the petition with a lack of support for trans women.

We have not abandoned our efforts to work for a fully inclusive Michfest. Our goal is a Michfest that fully welcomes trans women.

What we have done is remove our names from the petition in order to pursue an active, intentional dialogue which we hope and believe will be a more productive course in achieving the goal of a fully inclusive Michfest.

We encourage people who have not done so to read our full letters below.

-Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director, and Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director


Kate’s Letter:

As you know, last summer NCLR signed the petition sponsored by Equality Michigan calling on the organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest) to embrace the presence of transgender women at the iconic gathering. In the wake of our signing, you contacted us to express your disappointment and anger that NCLR would sign a petition which called for a boycott of the festival.

Many of the letters we received recognized transgender women as women and sisters in struggle, while also arguing that the intention of Michfest does not diminish the lived experience of transgender women.

Since then, we have been involved in a number of conversations with Michfest womyn, Equality Michigan, transgender leaders and colleagues who signed the petition. These conversations have made clear that there are essential values and perspectives we all share and that the petition was not going to be an effective vehicle for a resolution.

NCLR has removed our name from the petition and will be actively engaged in conversations in which we honor our differences while also pursuing a conclusion that supports the gender identity and inclusion of all women in Michfest. We have faith that such a resolution is possible.

This entire process has been one of great learning for me and, while we may disagree on some issues, I think there are many values we share. I signed the petition on behalf of NCLR because our core passion and commitment is that we all be able to live fully and be embraced as our authentic selves.

We are grounded in some deeply held principles, including the belief that discrimination and bigotry against lesbians is rooted in sexism, misogyny and the devaluation of women. We do not believe it is possible to win liberation for lesbians in a world where misogyny thrives. We also do not believe we can end the oppression of women and lesbians in a world where transgender women are reviled and targeted.

NCLR has come to a deeper understanding of what Michfest means to our community and seeks to honor that through this process. We also acknowledge the Michfest organizers have been involved in an ongoing conversation over the years on this issue. We are committed to honest and forthright dialogue as a more constructive means for seeking resolution and common ground.



Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director

Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director


Rea’s Letter:


Last year, the National LGBTQ Task Force signed onto a petition organized by Equality Michigan which called upon the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest) to fully welcome and include transgender women, as women, at the festival.

You took the time to write to me and I appreciate that you did – you and others shared with me your perspectives and experiences on the land that some described as “sacred,” “an annual touchstone,” iconic” and “home.” I heard that you are angry and hurt by the Task Force and other organizations signing the petition.  I heard from you and others that Michfest is a truly historic and transformative annual event that has influenced, inspired and helped to liberate millions of womyn/women from the daily trials and tribulations of misogyny and sexism. It holds a very special place in the hearts of lesbians and other womyn/women.

In the months between then and now, I have talked with womyn/women who have attended, womyn/women who would like to attend, and other people who have a variety of views.  I’ve talked with our colleagues at Equality Michigan, leaders of other organizations who have been engaged in this, and with transgender women.  From these conversations, I have gleaned shared values, differing opinions, and have come to a view that in order to move forward in any type of dialogue we must move beyond the petition.

I am writing to let you know that the Task Force has asked that our name be removed from the Equality Michigan petition and we will be seeking other ways to be in dialogue about Michfest’s intention regarding transgender women. As we reflected on the petition’s contents and read carefully letters from concerned people like you, we came to understand that the point in the original petition that called for a boycott of vendors and performers was misaligned with our own support for womyn/women artists, craftspeople and musicians.  Although that point was withdrawn from the petition, we recognize and share the deep concern about the possible economic impact on womyn/women striving every day to make a living through their art, craft and music.

Please know that the Task Force’s view regarding the MichFest intention is rooted in our core value of inclusiveness and the festival’s extraordinary transformative power. For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people in all areas of our lives – whether it be in the workplace, the government, companies and, yes, in our own community.

The Task Force will remain in active discussion with MichFest womyn/women, Equality Michigan, transgender colleagues, and other organizations that signed the petition.  The Task Force is committed to productive discussions in which we honor our differences and also pursue our desire for MichFest to fully welcome the gender identities of all womyn/women at the festival, including transgender women.

For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for a changed world. A world in which we can all experience liberation. A world in which misogyny cannot thrive. A world in which womyn/women, lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women no longer experience sexism, targeted attacks and the most horrible form of violence – murder. As we intensify our work to take on all of the challenges we face as a movement, know that these values are at the heart of what we do.



Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director

Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director

Historic Trans Women of Color Briefing Held at the White House

April 7, 2015

This post by Kayley Whalen originally appeared in the Huffington Post Blog on 4/3/2015

On Tuesday, I attended a historic, first-ever briefing on issues facing trans women of color at the White House. Convened by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the briefing was held on the International Transgender Day of Visibility — March 31 — and during Women’s History Month. Panelists who took part in the briefing were comprised of Black, Asian American, American Indian and Latina trans people from from all over the country, with varied immigration statuses. The panelists were:

  • Tracee McDaniel; Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc.
  • Ruby Corado; Casa Ruby
  • Mattee Jim; First Nations Community HealthSource
  • Bamby Salcedo; Trans-Latin@ Coalition
  • Dr. Ayana Elliott, FNP; The Elliott Group, LLC
  • Raffi Freedman-Gurspan; National Center for Transgender Equality
  • LaLa Zannell; New York City Anti-Violence Project
  • Kylar Broadus; National LGBTQ Task Force
  • Cecilia Chung; Transgender Law Center
Panelists at TWOC Briefing (Cecilia Chung and Kylar Broadus not pictured)

Left to Right: Tracee McDaniel, Ruby Corado, Mattee Jim, Bamby Salcedo, Dr. Ayana Elliott, Raffi-Freedman-Gurspan, Lala Zannell (Kylar Broadus and Cecilia Chung not pictured)


As a Latina trans woman, the briefing felt like a breath of fresh air; a rare moment where I could witness my community united together, speaking our truths and knowing that we were being heard. This year began in tragedy for my sisters; in just January and February seven trans women of color were murdered in the US, in addition to the killing this week of Mya Shawatza Hall. As someone who has worked to bring national visibility to this violence against trans women of color through the National LGBTQ Task Force’s #StopTransMurders campaign, I carry around with me every day the huge emotional weight of each of these murders, and it’s easy to lose hope. However, the inspiring transgender leaders present at the briefing — including audience members from groups such as the Trans Women of Color Collective — demonstrated that not only are we surviving, we are thriving.

We are living in a moment when, for the first time, a handful of transgender women of color celebrities have been in the public spotlight, including Laverne Cox and Janet Mock. Yet only 8 percent of Americans personally know a transgender person. When a trans person is in the news, except for rare exceptions such as when Laverne Cox was nominated for an Emmy, it’s almost always about violence. As Janet Mock recently wrote in her blog, “The names of our sisters shouldn’t only make headlines when we walk a red carpet or lay in a casket. Our visibility shouldn’t be subject to such extreme circumstances”

Yesterday’s briefing at the White House is one step to changing this narrative and bringing positive visibility to many more trans women of color. Each of the speakers, many of whom had personally experienced anti-trans violence, were an example of the resiliency and vibrancy of our community. Each of those present is working as an advocate to change the narrative about transgender lives — that our lives matter, that we are hirable, that we deserve good jobs, education, healthcare, safe housing and loving relationships free from violence. Trans people’s lives need to stop being criminalized; we are tired of being profiled and harassed by police; we are tired of being imprisoned simply for trying to survive; we are tired of being detained by immigration authorities when we come to the U.S. to escape from violence; we are tired of being harassed, assaulted and being denied medical care in jails, prisons and detention centers; and we are sick and tired of having to prove that we are human beings who deserve dignity and respect.

Structural violence and discrimination is an everyday fact of life for transgender people. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 78 percent of trans people experience harassment at school, and 90 percent experience harassment or discrimination on the job. These and other factors lead to high unemployment and homelessness rates, which contribute to trans people being four times more likely to live in extreme poverty — reporting a household income of less than $10,000 per year — than the general population. Trans people of color suffer the most from this structural discrimination, with 34 percent of black trans people, 28 percent of Latino/a trans people, 23 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native trans people and 18 percent of Asian American trans people living in extreme poverty. It is clear that working towards economic justice must go hand-in-hand with our work to end violence against trans people.

On Wednesday night, at an office two blocks from the White House, I attended an inaugural celebration of the opening of the new national office of the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC) and Casa Ruby’s new TransLife Center. Both organizations are founded and led by trans women of color, and both are engaged in powerful advocacy to ensure that our lives are valued. Economic empowerment and leadership development are central to the missions of both organizations. It is so necessary that we as trans sisters help each other access jobs, housing and other needs, because we best know how to care for each other. And we need our allies to support us with resources and opportunities that will allow our organizations to thrive. There is nothing more powerful and needed than trans women of color nurturing and supporting other trans women of color in becoming powerful new leaders and spokeswomen for our own liberation.

In February, at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Denver, nearly 100 transgender and queer people of color stormed the stage, unified by the message “Trans Lives Matter.” They called attention to the recent murders and structural violence against trans women of color, and the recent killing of queer Latina Jessie Hernandez by Denver Police. Bamby Salcedo, one of the panelists at the White House briefing, was also one of the leaders of the protest at Creating Change. During the protest she declared that Trans People of Color are in a “state of emergency” and presented a list of demands for how the LGBTQ movement can address this emergency. One of her key demands was that LGBTQ and allied organizations “leverage their access to policy makers and funders and use their privilege to support trans-led efforts in eradicating the ongoing structural violence that our community faces.”

Bamby Salcedo selfie with trans women of color from the White House Briefing

Bamby Salcedo selfie at the Task Force office after White House Trans Women of Color Briefing

Tuesday’s White House briefing demonstrated the commitment of the National LGBTQ Task Force to ending this state of emergency. While speaking with Bamby after the White House briefing she told me “the Task Force heard us.” But this is only a start, and we have a long way to go to. The LGBTQ movement has to continue to use our resources to center the voices of and support those most marginalized by systemic oppression including racism, transphobia and sexism. There is also a shameful history of the LGBTQ movement silencing and invisibilizing the very trans women of color who founded this movement — Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and more — that we must be accountable for and work to reverse.

I’m excited to have the privilege to do this work every day in my role at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Every day I ask myself, what more can I do to use my space, my privilege, to make space for and lift up the leadership of other trans women of color. I urge everyone who is working for LGBTQ equality to join me in this commitment. Together we can ensure every member of our community can live free of violence, free of persecution and able to fully embody our diverse identities in every aspects of our lives.

by Kayley Whalen, Digital Strategies and Social Media Manager, National LGBTQ Task Force 

Kayley Whalen

Kayley Whalen

My Crash Course in Advocacy

March 27, 2015

Experience, as the saying goes, is a cruel teacher: it gives a test before presenting the lesson. It is also, as I have come to learn, the single most important ingredient in success. The great thing about experience is that it comes in many forms and varying levels, and best of all there’s no such thing as too much of it.

Meredith Wolpe

Meredith Wolpe, National LGBTQ Task Force Intern

This week, during my internship at the National LGBTQ Task Force, was full of many first experiences for me. It was my first time interning at a nonprofit organization, my first time watching a Commissioner’s briefing, my first time listening in on staff meetings and conference calls. I could go on, but you get the idea.

My first day here at the National LGBTQ Task Force office, I found myself playing a never-ending game of catch-up. As I scrambled to write down every single task and piece of information that was being passed to me, I struggled to keep up with the stimulating, fast paced environment. In between staff meetings, conference calls, and debriefings, I tried to hurry back to my desk to look up names or unfamiliar bills and amendments that had come up in the meeting I had just attended. Looking back over my notes from the beginning of the week, I see many words or sentences only half written out, practically illegible as I rushed to jot down the next point of a conversation.

I decided to make myself an outline of all of the major hot topics this week, so that I could refer back to them later to refresh my memory. Topics including the re-introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Loretta Lynch’s prolonged confirmation as US Attorney General, the Hyde Amendment, and the new Utah LGBT anti-discrimination housing and employment law. What I quickly learned is that none of these current events are disconnected from each other. Apart from the obvious fact that they all relate in some way to LGBTQ rights, they are also all intricately related and intertwined with each other.

I came here this week with hopes of getting a feel for a nonprofit work environment. One of the beneficial experiences I gained was the opportunity to briefly interview members of different departments, in order to get a better idea of what each of them does and how they work. What was so cool to me was that here, in this one small office on Massachusetts Avenue in DC, every single person is making a difference. From working on Federal legislation level to grassroots organizing, people here are creating measurable change for the better. Listening to Public Policy and Government Affairs Director Stacey Long Simmons discuss the crucial wording of a small phrase on a piece of legislation, or watching Faith and States Organizing Manager Kathleen Campisano’s face light up as she described to me the unparalleled feeling of speaking with a voter, and knowing that she changed that voter’s mind: these are the important lessons I am left with. Every change, no matter how nuanced or small, makes a difference.

I found myself coming in each day with a deeper understanding of the work being done. As a current college undergrad, I am told so often that life and issues are not black and white, and here at the National LGBTQ Task Force I was able to see this first hand. As I observed, it is not always clear where an organization stands on a particular bill or subject, and making these types of decisions only comes with experience. I have deep appreciation and admiration for all of the people I worked with here, and I can only hope that one day I will gain as much experience as they have, to be able to do this type of important work with such dignity and ease.

by Meredith Wolpe, National LGBTQ Task Force Intern

Dr Jean V. Hardisty: Memories of Friends and Comrades

March 25, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2015 —Jean Hardisty, lithe and slight of frame and a daughter of the genteel South of Maryland and Washington DC, lived in two great cities in the United States. Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, opened itself to Jean when she studied political science at Northwestern University, earning a Ph.D. and setting her on a path of social justice analysis and research of the right wing movements in the U.S. and the world. Later, Boston, the Hub of the Universe, would be her home, where she opened the permanent offices of Political Research Associates, her lasting contribution to progressive and left movements in this country.

Jean Hardisty

Jean Hardisty

Jean Hardisty’s gigantic intellectual shoulders made her a hub of the universe of LGBTQ and other progressive organizers as we worked to better understand the anatomy and physiology of virulent right-wing movements that challenged us at every turn. Jean’s thinking and writing would become seminal for the Task Force Fight the Right Project, among other organizing entities.

The genius of Jean turned on fundamental aspects of her personality and charisma: Jean’s witty and plain-spoken perspectives were laced with human kindness and magnanimous empathy for we who wanted to crush the right wing movements. She taught us that it is the leadership of these movements that need to be crushed, not the rank and file followers, even while they did the dirty deeds that their leaders asked of them. She schooled us to avoid hate and vitriol and to veer towards compassion and heart-driven conversation with rank and file followers, while doing our best work to expose right wing leaders for their callous manipulations of the insecurities and economic distress of their followers. Her mentorship of all of us shaped our thinking, our organizing, our strategies and tactics, and our very lives.

Jean’s spouse of 16 years, Peggy Barrett, related in a memorial post:

In the weeks before her death, Jean, her deft humor ever intact, said she wanted to die “the way Jackie Onassis did: be with family and friends and then just go.” She managed to die just that way. She was a storyteller, a champagne drinker, and a lover of life. All of us who loved her will carry on her legacy.

Jean presented at Creating Change conferences; worked with Task Force staff on the Fight the Right Project in the early ‘90s; testified in 1993 on the political and religious right wing in the preliminary hearing in the ultimately successful challenge of Amendment Two in Colorado; participated in the Moral Values Project convening in 2006, a Task Force project; and was a donor to the Task Force. Jean’s web site,, is a treasure trove of incisive political analytical writing. For historical perspective on Jean’s influence of our work, read The Right Response, a Task Force report summarizing the work of the Fight the Right Project, 1993:

Friends and comrades remember Jean:

We have lost one of our best and brightest, Jean Hardisty. My generation of progressive community organizers owes our analysis of the virulent and anti-LGBTQ right wing to Jean. Her work both anticipated the massive power of the right wing in our country as well as provided us with the tools and information we needed to combat right wing forces at the local, state, national and international level. Jean was a visionary, an intellectual heavy weight who could speak in plain English, and she was a really funny and kind person.

–Kerry Lobel, Task Force Deputy Director, 1995 – 1996; Executive Director, 1996 – 2000

As the LGBTQ nation learns of the death of our beloved Jean Hardisty, there will be many who are not aware that her extraordinary work of revealing and analyzing the right wing has affected every queer life. Jean was a mild-mannered, tough-as-nails-warrior and a proud open lesbian who exposed the Right’s attack against LGBTQ people and all social advances in this country. And she charged us with taking on the fight as relentlessly as she did.

I share one remembrance of this precious woman that captures her spirit. On our last call nine days before her death, Jean said that she so wished she had the health to finish writing her piece on Neoliberalism and Poverty. Then she said, “When I get to the Pearly Gates, they will say, ‘You commie lesbian bourgeoisie!’” To which I replied, “Jean, I thought you would hear ‘You commie lesbian!’—and you would reply, ‘You got THAT right!’” In the great spirit of friendship and politics, we had a good laugh.

–Suzanne Pharr, organizer, movement mentor, and author of In The Time Of The Right: Reflections On Liberation and Homophobia: A Weapon Of Sexism

Jean Hardisty was a powerful influence on the Fight the Right Team. She was among the first of our community leaders to recognize the threat posed by the religious right. At the Creating Change Conference in 1993 in Durham, North Carolina, Jean was presented at a session on the right wing incursions taking place all over the country. Jean quietly waited her turn as each presenter spoke. But, eyes were glazing over at the complexity of the movement against us. Then Jean spoke. What she said galvanized the crowd: she talked about the right wing strategy, its the leadership and their plans, and the important role that LGBTQ people across the country were about to play in confronting and defeating the right’s anti-queer campaign. She made it clear that the danger to us was real, but the stakes in these fights were much higher, having to do with an attack on civil rights in and a much broader and vicious social and economic agenda. What I remember most is how she humanized the followers of the right. She spoke to the fears the right exploits, and to the very real problems and concerns undergirding those fears. Jean called us to compassion rather than to demonization. She made it clear that in order to win this fight, we needed to understand that the “other” in that fight were human beings, reminding us that you can’t win over people you hate. Jean was a gifted thinker, a brilliant research strategist, and a great communicator, but, first and foremost, she was a kind a caring person. She managed as few are able to fight the good fight without picking up the master’s tools.

–Scot Nakagawa, Task Force staff, 1992 – 1997, first writing the Fight the Right Action kit, then serving as Fight the Right Project organizer and, later, Field Director

To learn more about the National LGBTQ Task Force, visit us online:


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