March 27, 2018 at 11:29 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
GetEQUAL to shut down
GetEQUAL, Klan, gay news, Washington Blade

GetEQUAL will shut down in the coming weeks. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

GetEQUAL Executive Director Gaby Garcia-Vera on Tuesday announced the organization will shut down.

Garcia-Vera in a letter acknowledged their decision to fire Aaryn Lang as GetEQUAL’s Movement Building and Campaign Manager earlier this month “struck a nerve in the community.” Garcia-Vera also wrote several board members “had announced their plans to transition out” of GetEQUAL “before Aaryn’s transition out of the organization” and others “resigned in the midst of the social media controversy that followed.”

Garcia-Vera in the letter noted Lang demanded three months severance pay and an “overhaul” of GetEQUAL’s board of directors. The letter also said Lang demanded GetEQUAL make donations to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Trans Sistas of Color Collective, Black Queer and Intersectional Columbus and No Justice No Pride.

Garcia-Vera wrote Lang’s request for three months severance pay “is an amount greater than the total amount of all of the organization’s current net assets.”

Garcia-Vera said the demand to overhaul GetEQUAL’s board of directors is “fair, reasonable and appropriate.” Garcia-Vera noted GetEQUAL is unable to make donations to other organizations.

“However, we wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of this demand, and know that queer communities of color — especially trans women of color — have been historically under-resourced,” wrote Garcia-Vera. “The leadership of trans people of color has too often been erased from our movements, and their contributions have been undervalued in the pursuit of the advancement of ‘gay rights.'”

Garcia-Vera’s letter outlines “the responses to each of Aaryn’s demands, with as much openness and authenticity as possible.”

“But before I do that, I must share with you that — given our already fragile position — I do not believe GetEQUAL can recover from this controversy,” it adds. “Our financial assets are barely sufficient to cover our operations for more than a few weeks. Our board of directors has collapsed. Raising new revenue and rebuilding the board would be a tremendous challenge even if we weren’t in the middle of a social media storm.”

Garcia-Vera also expressed concern that GetEQUAL’s “capacity to advance our mission has been undermined.”

“GetEQUAL has always been the left of the left, the voice of the voiceless, and I don’t feel we can effectively play that role when there has been so much division and hurt among the communities that we mobilize and represent,” wrote Garcia-Vera.

GetEQUAL founded in 2010

Robin McGehee, who was co-director the National Equality March that took place in D.C. in 2009, and Kip Williams co-founded GetEQUAL in 2010.

GetEQUAL staged a series of protests against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which included Lt. Dan Choi and other servicemembers handcuffing themselves to the White House fence.

Ellen Sturtz, a lesbian activist who was affiliated with GetEQUAL, in 2013 heckled then-first lady Michelle Obama during a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in D.C. over an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees.

Then-President Obama in 2014 signed the executive order that took effect the following year. Jennicet Gutiérrez, a transgender undocumented immigrant who was affiliated with GetEQUAL, in 2015 heckled Obama over his administration’s immigration policy during a White House Pride reception.

GetEQUAL members in recent years have protested against racial profiling and other issues.

GetEQUAL, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, White House, President Obama

GetEQUAL members gathered outside the White House on Feb. 10, 2013, to urge then-President Obama to sign an ENDA executive director. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

“The history of GetEQUAL — while short — is one that is rich in movement,” wrote Garcia-Vera in their letter. “We have seen our organization and its leaders take bold unapologetic action across movements and hold leaders accountable for both their actions and their inaction. We considered ourselves the left of the left, and in pursuit of that bold vision for liberation, we are proud to have played a role in the fight for LGBTQ people across this country.”

“We have supported the work of immigrant rights, racial, economic and reproductive justice as essential to LGBTQ justice,” added Garcia-Vera. “We do not live single-issue lives, and so while our focus has always been LGBTQ liberation, it has never been work that has existed in a silo from our other identities.”

Garcia-Vera in their letter notes “I will do my best to close GetEQUAL with responsible and loving stewardship.”

“I will work to assure that we pay all of our debts, and that all of our transitioning employees and contractors are treated with fairness and compassion,” said Garcia-Vera. “I will look for ways to pass on our intangible assets of contacts and other resources to other organizations that share our vision and values.”

McGehee on Tuesday lamented GetEQUAL’s closure.

“I simply feel heartbreak to see the ending of GetEQUAL at a time when it is needed the most,” she told the Washington Blade.

Robin McGehee in 2011. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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