The Gender Justice League, a Capitol Hill based nonprofit providing support and advocacy for transgender and gender queer individuals will be putting on this month’s Trans Pride Seattle with a different perspective. Earlier this year, Danni Askini, the organization’s executive director and co-founder, stepped down.
“I think every nonprofit faces different tiers, milestones, and levels in their organization’s growth. You can plateau and create a system sustaining that plateau, or you can look to expand how you engage with and what you offer the community,” said Elayne Wylie, now the organization’s co-executive director with Tobi Hill-Meyer.
2019’s Trans Pride Seattle is slated once again to begin at Capitol HIll’s Cal Anderson Park.
As the nonprofit is working to put together its first Trans Pride without Askini, Wylie said the organization is striving to continue to advocate for transgender and gender diverse individuals — a mission that has grown in its new world without its longtime leader.
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“Every organization endures course correction when planning major events,” Wylie said. “We’re still working to center communities of color, as black trans women experience the highest rates of violence and murder in the U.S. Centering those experiences in our work and listening to those voices is of vital importance. We live in a society right now where it’s becoming increasingly dangerous to be trans.”
Wylie noted Askini’s contributions to the organization were equivalent to that of three people in her position.
“Not having Danni at the helm has been challenging because of the depth and breadth of her relationship in the community, but she spends considerable time developing and nurturing those relationships,” Wylie said.
CHS previously reported on Askini’s decision to step down in October. A trans woman and prominent advocate for transgender individuals, Askini traveled to Sweden after facing serious threats. In October 2018, Askini faced gender-based concerns involving her passport if she tried to return to the United States.
According to Wylie, different facets of individuals’ identities mean 2019 Trans Pride attendees will have a variety of experiences at the event. To ensure Trans Pride is safe and inclusive, Gender Justice League must be attentive to how various forms of intersecting stigma impact attendees. Wiley notes safety and inclusivity go hand in hand.
“It’s pretty easy to hear the Nazis are gonna show up and people will get hurt, but when you recognize trans people can be responsible for securing themselves and securing their environment, I think that’s a really powerful statement. It doesn’t require increased firepower from local police,” Wylie said.
Gender Justice League has developed relationships necessary to foster a secure and inclusive environment at Trans Pride, organizers say. Along with becoming more attentive to nuances in its advocacy, the non profit has sought out partnerships with other organizations, especially groups dealing with immigration. Gender Justice League established a new partnership with Washington Immigrant Solidarity Group this past year.
“These partnerships work through the intersecting struggles people who are both transgender and immigrants experience,” Wylie said. “Each community experiences discrimination and oppression in different ways, and when they overlap, it creates more unique and dire challenges, requiring our entire community to rally around these individuals.”
Despite uncertainty the organization faced this year in the wake of Askini’s exit, Gender Justice League responded by increasing its attentiveness to intersectionality in oppression, developing new partnerships, and learning from its experiences.
“I’m looking back on the last 11 months and we’re doing better than expected,” Wylie said. “We’re all doing this to serve a community that is extremely marginalized. That’s part of our core mission, to create a community where people can live their lives safely, true to themselves, and free of discrimination.”
Trans Pride Seattle 2019 takes place Friday, June 28th starting at 5 PM. Visit Gender Justice League’s transprideseattle.org website to learn more, volunteer, or donate.
UPDATE: Organizers have released a statement addressing concerns about right-wing protests at this year’s Trans Pride Seattle event: