- Photo by Lance Yamamoto
- Surina Khan of the Women's Foundation of California.
The successful appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court in September was a major setback for gender justice. Not only did it cement a conservative, anti-reproductive rights majority of men on the highest court in the land and set the stage for the rollback of Roe v. Wade, it was also accomplished through a means that dismissed the voices of sexual assault survivors. Some even likened the confirmation process to a collective abuse of consent by social conservatives.
And the Kavanaugh appointment was just one example of our disturbing political moment in which so much progress feels like it could be suddenly reversed. We seem to be living in an era when more and more of our public life is being propelled by a sentiment of white male resentment, opposed to the liberation of women, queer and trans people, people of color, and immigrants.
The fear of losing status in a racial and gendered hierarchy seems to be driving many destructive trends in our society, and not just in terms of national elections and court appointments. The trouble has seeped deeper into our culture, our economy, and our local civic life.
What to do?
It's likely you're already doing a lot. Readers of the Express tend toward being politically engaged and informed. But if you're looking for some new organizations to work with, or give money to this holiday season, here's a few.
Women's Foundation of California
In terms of broad impact, the Women's Foundation of California is the best group to support. It provides grants to grassroots gender justice groups across the state, and the Oakland-based foundation operates its own programs that foster leadership and drive policy changes in Sacramento.
"California is an incredible place, especially in the political moment we're now in," said Surina Khan, the foundation's CEO. "There is so much wealth here, and yet we have the highest poverty rates in the nation, and the majority of people in poverty and women and children, and majority of that are women and kids of color."
Khan said her group defines gender justice broadly: It's not just about cisgender women. It includes people who identify as non-binary and transgender. The goal is to dismantle heteronormative, transphobic, white supremacist, and patriarchal forms of power and replace this with a feminist form of justice.
Since 1979, the Women's Foundation of California has worked to transform philanthropy, but even today, only a small proportion of the nonprofit world is focused on addressing gender inequalities. Donors who give to the foundation can support the work of numerous organizations with a deep reach into California's diverse communities, including groups like California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, which advances the right to choose in Latinx communities; the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, which creates healthier workplaces for low-wage salon workers, many of them Asian immigrants; and the Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project, which unites Mixteco and Zapoteco language speakers in the health care industry.
"The other way people can get involved with us is, if they want training, they want to learn how to be a better advocate for their communities by applying to our policy institute," said Khan.
The institute convenes cohorts of activists who write legislation and advocate for it in the legislature. Although it began as a training, the Women's Foundation fellows have succeeded in getting 35 of their policy projects signed into law, including last year's Name and Dignity Act, which ensured that transgender people are recognized for their true selves while incarcerated, rather than being assigned a gender by the state. Other policies passed by the program's fellows include the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and a law that expanded childcare access for people taking ESL classes as job training.
"We now have a network of 500 leaders who have gone through the program," said Khan. "It's a movement leadership program, and the reach of the network is huge."
Access Women's Health Justice
Many Californians assume that reproductive health care is accessible and affordable in our state and that we don't have laws standing in the way of a woman's right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Many assume that it's states like Mississippi and Indiana that are the problem. But the truth is that there are many places in California where it's still troublingly difficult for women to access healthcare and support.
Oakland's Access was founded with this problem in mind. The group operates a bilingual English and Spanish Healthline that connects women with information about their health care rights and makes referrals to health care providers.
Counselors who operate Healthline also provide advice and information to help women navigate the complex health care system. They also refer women to networks of volunteers who can provide services like transportation and emergency funds for women who are isolated or otherwise need assistance. Access also advocates for policies that make reproductive health care more affordable.
Access is a recipient of support from the Women's Foundation of California and other grantmakers, but the group also accepts contributions directly. As much as they need money, Access also needs volunteers to operate its Healthline. And volunteers for the group's Practical Support Network provide transportation, short-term childcare, overnight housing, and other services to women in need of support.
Transgender Law Center
With hateful canards advancing blatantly discriminatory "bathroom bills" that serve to promote and normalize broader kinds of discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and family law, the need for a strong defense of transgender people's rights is as urgent as ever.
"TLC does what it takes to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving and fighting for liberation," Jill Marcellus, the Oakland group's communication's director, told the Express. "TLC has won historic court victories impacting every aspect of transgender people's lives, including in employment, prisons, education, health care, and immigration."
The Transgender Law Center's list of accomplishments is long. Just a few examples: In California, TLC helped pass the Gender Nondiscrimination Act of 2003, which gave trans workers the same employment protections as everyone else. In Maryland, they argued and won an important 2015 case that established that transgender men and women can be recognized as the legal parent of their biological children. In health care, TLC has challenged federal rules that categorically excluded transition-related surgery for transgender veterans and successfully got California's prisons to change rules so that transgender prisoners can have the clothing and commissary items fitting their gender identity.
Not only does the group work to defend trans rights against state-sanctioned forms of bigotry, it proactively works to build a movement or cultural transformation.
In addition to accepting financial donations, TLC needs volunteers. If you're an attorney, TLC operates a Community Resistance Network that does intake for trans clients in need of legal help, often taking cases to court. The Trans Immigrant Defense Network is similar, but focuses on providing immigrants with defense against deportation.