For Pride month, we are donating 10% of sales from our Rainbow Pride Stripe print to the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). We talked to NCLR's Executive Director, Kate Kendell, about the work NCLR is doing for the community.
What drew you to the NCLR?
I was staff attorney for the ACLU of Utah and long-distance dating my now wife, Sandy Holmes who lived in San Francisco. Sandy was on the Board of NCLR and faxed me (keep in mind, this was 1994…) the job description for Legal Director at NCLR. I remember reading the announcement and thinking, “I really, really want this job.” The rest…well, it obviously worked out. And Sandy, fortunately, did not need to move to Utah…;)
What resources do you provide for the LGBTQ community and how do people access them?
NCLR is one of our community’s pro bono law firms. We represent LGBTQ people in fighting for justice in the courts on a whole range of issues: family, relationships, immigration, sports, aging, religious refusals, conversion therapy, and transgender attacks. We also fight for fair and inclusive policies at the Federal and State government and agencies. Every year we assist thousands of LGBTQ people who reach us via our Helpline, e-mail, social media or by word of mouth. We charge nothing for our services. Most of our work is supported by individual donors who want to see LGBTQ people living fully and freely and they know we have been very effective in getting closer to that goal.
What are some tactics you are you using to challenge the ban of transgender people in the military?
NCLR was the first to sue the Trump Administration to challenge his intent, announced in three tweets, to reinstitute the ban of transgender soldiers serving in the military. We were soon joined by two others cases and we are co-counsel in a fourth case in California. At every stage of the litigation so far, we have won. Currently there is a nationwide injunction preventing the ban and trans soldiers are serving openly. We are also using this case to educate the broader population about who trans people are and to engage allies in supporting trans service. Both U.S. Senators John McCain and Orrin Hatch are on record supporting trans service.
How can people become more involved in the fight?
Never has community engagement been more crucial to our goals and to, truth be told, saving our democracy. Folks can give to and support NCLR, with donations to our work for sure, but also likes and retweets and posts on social media. Talking to friends and family about not just NCLR’s work, but the work of many organizations trying to assist the most vulnerable and those under attack by this despicable Administration. We can’t do everything about everything, but we can do something about something. That needs to be our mantra every day.
What other issues is NCLR working on?
We are a deeply intersectional organization—meaning we work on a range of issues not traditionally considered LBGTQ, but since LGBTQ people are EVERYWHERE, every issue has an impact on the lives of LGBTQ people. We work on criminal justice reforms, HIV criminalization, conditions for those who are incarcerated, especially transgender inmates, we fight for poor and/or rural LGBTQ individuals and families. Our goal is to assure that EVERY LGBTQ person can live a life free from stigma, abundant in opportunities to live a fulfilling and safe life.
You recently announced that you are stepping down as executive director of NCLR. What’s next for you?
This has been the best job ever. I know that. But I also know that the most effective organizations need new leadership and the fresh perspective such leadership brings. I will miss my team and this work, but I know the time is right and NCLR will thrive. I plan to still go at 120%, that is just who I am. I hope to do a mix of consulting, coaching, teaching, leadership development, Foundation and Board service. Plus, I’m learning to skate board and plan to log many more miles on my bike. I’m excited for my future and the future of this organization that I love to my core.