The Gender Justice League, a nonprofit with an important presence on Capitol Hill providing support and advocacy for transgender and gender diverse people, has announced executive director Danni Askini has stepped down from the organization she helped found:
Gender Justice League has been rapidly growing in size, budget, and influence. However, under our current model, we will not be able to sustain this rate of growth indefinitely. We are taking this opportunity to undergo a strategic restructuring of our organization.
Askini’s legal situation, meanwhile, is fraught.
The activist traveled to Sweden earlier this year facing growing threats, the nonprofit said, as a target for “Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups in the United States, due to her work at Gender Justice League, and being a highly visible trans woman activist.”
Askini says the State Department is deliberately hindering trans travelers over gender. Now she is worried about what will happen to her if she tries to return to the United States facing passport issues over the State Department’s concerns over her citizenship paperwork, she told Swedish news outlet, The Local.
“In US immigration detention facilities, transgender women are often detained with men, and they run a huge risk of getting raped or sexually assaulted there,” Askini told The Local. “So I am trying to explore what my legal options are to remain in Sweden. It is rare, coming from the US, to apply for asylum in Sweden.”
Askini said her 90-day tourist visa would end October 9th.
The Seattle LGBTQ Commission has called on officials to ensure Askini’s wellbeing.
The Seattle LGBTQ Commission is highly concerned about the wellbeing of Seattle resident and prominent trans activist and human rights defender, Danni Askini, who had to flee the U.S. due to threats against her safety.
— Seattle LGBTQ Commission (@SeattleLGBTQ) October 13, 2018
A legal fund for the activist has raised more than $17,000. Originally aimed at helping Askini settle the citizenship issues with the State Department, an update from Askini last month said the goal had changed. “it has been made clear to us that I cannot reobtain a U.S. passport,” she wrote. Askini’s new goal? Securing permanent status in Sweden.
The Gender Justice League, meanwhile, said that deputy director Elayne Wylie will lead the organization while the search for a new executive is underway.
UPDATE 12/3/2018 10:20 AM: The Seattle LGBTQ Commission is leading an effort to call on public officials to support Askini in her ongoing passport and citizenship proceedings.
The Seattle LGBTQ Commission, Seattle Women’s Commission, Seattle Human Rights Commission, Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities, and the Seattle Immigrant & Refugee Commission are highly concerned about the wellbeing of Seattle resident and prominent trans activist and human rights defender, Danielle (Danni) Askini, who had to flee the U.S. due to threats against her safety. They have submitted a joint letter outlining their concerns and requesting that WA state lawmakers speak publicly in support of Ms. Askini’s safety.
Specifically, the group of Five Commissions have asked Sen Murray, Sen Cantwell, Rep Jayapal, and Rep Smith to work to ensure her safety and well-being until she is granted her new U.S. passport that they believe she is entitled to. Ms. Askini is currently seeking asylum in Sweden, but risks being deported back to the United States and potentially detained in a men’s facility, as the U.S. State Department has repeatedly rejected her amended birth certificate with her correct gender as sufficient documentation to establish citizenship. It would be unconscionable to subject her to the emotional and possible physical risk that that would entail. The mistreatment of Ms. Askini has risen to the attention of and has been investigated by the United Nations Human Rights council.
Ms. Askini had her first hearing regarding her asylum application on Monday, November 19th, and needs continued public support in this matter as she waits for the outcome and potentially needs to appeal. The Five Commissions believe she is deliberately being targeted by the State Department as a visible trans activist, as someone who has been outspoken against institutions of power, and risks particular mistreatment due to her gender if she is forced to return to the U.S. at this time. The members of these Commissions urge individuals to continue to contact their elected officials and representatives of large human rights/LGBTQ+ organizations to speak publicly in support of Ms. Askini reaching a solution that ensures her safety and well-being in this process.
The Seattle City Council recently unanimously passed Resolution 31844 (proclaiming that Seattle affirms the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in the wake of increased targeting of local activists) at the request of these Commissions as part of a first step in working toward increased support for the rights of activists. Danni Askini, Maru Mora-Villalpando, and many other human rights activists have faced threats both from individuals and from this federal administration. Seattle needs to ensure that we are not complicit in making activists less safe.
“Danni Askini is a champion of human rights, especially for those who are trans or are otherwise under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Her impact on this community is enormous, but this time she needs us,” said co-chair of the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, Jessi Murray. “We need to fight for her rights, her dignity, and her safety. She deserves the right to live without fear of being targeted for who she is and what community she serves.”
Further information about Ms. Askini’s case can be found in this letter from the UN Human Rights Council:
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