Shifting Cultures, Policies, and Philanthropy Toward LGBTQ Equality

April 8, 2021

LGBTQ movements are making historic progress. In February, the Equality Act, which would expand non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans at the federal level, passed the U.S. House of Representatives. LGBTQ leaders are at the forefront of multi-issue movements for racial, gender, and social justice. And yet the threats of hate and stigma persist, from attempts to justify discrimination on the basis of religion in some U.S. states to a global gender restrictive movement that is pushing misinformation and moral panic.

To achieve a world in which all LGBTQ people live with dignity, safety, and opportunity in inclusive communities and societies will require strategic efforts on multiple fronts.

The latest grants in Arcus’ Social Justice Program support organizations working to change cultures and policies. The essential voices of community members and faith leaders are guiding transformative movements for positive change across issue areas and around the world.

Cultural change to strengthen safety and inclusion for LGBTQ people in the coastal region of Kenya is at the heart of the work of PEMA Kenya, which received renewal funding. The group’s prior advocacy and community engagement have contributed to a reduction in violence and calls for violence from anti-LGBTQ faith leaders; a rise in awareness among police about gender-based violence, hate crimes, and discrimination; and increased amplification of LGBTQ issues in local media, among other accomplishments.

PEMA Kenya will continue sensitization training for religious leaders, police, health care providers, local leaders like chiefs and village elders, judiciary members, media professionals, and others around issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including accessing legal and medical services, changing identity documents, and navigating disinheritance and evictions.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues received a grant to continue transforming the U.S. philanthropic sector to better understand, support, and improve the lives of diverse LGBTQ communities and movements. The funder network’s Out in the South initiative is bolstering support for a growing ecosystem of LGBTQ organizations throughout the South, a region home to both hostile state laws and visionary social justice movements with effective BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) LGBTQ leaders.

The Transgender Law Center received continued support for its ongoing work to change U.S. law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.

TLC also received support for the Border Butterfly Project, a collaborative endeavor involving trans-led grassroots groups and other LGBTQ and immigrant rights partners that provides comprehensive support to LGBTQ migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Centering those most impacted by violence, the project weaves together direct legal support for queer migrants, advocacy to ensure conditions in detention centers are made visible and actively addressed, and work to end the detention of trans people.

As women and LGBTQ communities in the U.S. experience discrimination and restrictions under the guise of “religious liberty,” reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights movements are joining together to push back. A grant to Proteus Fund will continue support for the Rights, Faith, and Democracy Collaborative (RFDC), which is moving resources to local coalitions working to combat religious exemption laws and enact positive protections and acceptance for these communities.

Understanding that transformative culture change takes time and requires multifaceted approaches, a cohort of RFDC-supported reproductive justice and LGBTQ groups in Georgia and New Mexico are working on messaging and relationship-based campaigns to engage religious leaders, businesses, medical providers, and other institutions with an eye toward advancing non-discrimination policies and achieving long-term change.

Also receiving support this funding cycle is the Triangle Project to increase access to justice and services, inclusion, and safety for LGBTQ people in South Africa. The grant will support multi-pronged work to address hate crimes, including case management, data collection, and grassroots trainings to increase reporting.

Learn about all Arcus grants awarded since 2007.