After years of operating as the only policy-focused organization for transgender Illinoisans, Illinois Gender Advocates (IGA) is considering closing up shop.
The organization, which has dwindled to a handful in recent years, put forth a motion at its Dec. 4 meeting to dissolve. IGA needs to give 30 days' notice before it can vote on the measure, and two thirds of the membership need to approve the dissolution.
But the measure is expected to pass. According to Tammy Jubi Dutcher, who served as IGA president until just recently, IGA has around seven paid members.
"It's just been one or two people actually doing anything," said Dutcher. "It had gotten to the point where the only people showing up for the general membership meetings were the board members."
For years, IGA was the only Illinois organization focused primarily on transgender policy work. The group began in the late 90s, according to veteran LGBT activist Rick Garcia.
In its early years, the organization was called "It's Time Illinois." It later changed the name to Illinois Gender Advocates, but its mission to advance rights for transgender Illinoisans remained.
Garcia said that IGA successfully educated many gay rights activists about transgender issues, pressing Garcia and others to include gender identity in city and county rights laws.
And the organization served as a rare entity for transgender people who wanted to be politically active.
"Most of the other groups [for transgender people] tend to be support groups of one kind or another," said Dutcher.
Most recently, IGA had been working internally with the Illinois Department of Public Health to make it easier for transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates. That work, however, has not produced the desired change in policy.
For a number of years, IGA also hosted a sit-down talk show on CAN TV as part of a consortium of LGBT groups that share a Friday evening spot.
But despite activity in recent years, IGA saw a membership decline from more than 30 people in 2009 to less than 10 this year.
Dutcher noted difficulty in attracting younger people to the organization, which was primarily made up of elder Caucasian trans women, she said.
Perhaps most significantly, The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) recently announced a new project aimed at advancing transgender rights that will be led by both young leaders and elders.
Co-chairing TCRA's Transgender Rights Project is June LaTrobe, who worked as policy director of IGA in recent years. Much of her work occurred in partnership with TCRA and Garcia (Garcia works for TCRA).
LaTrobe said she was saddened by the possible loss of IGA. "I think it's an example, however, of the need for people to be involved in a diversity of the issues that affect their communities," LaTrobe said.
Garcia echoed those sentiments.
"I think it's unfortunate that it's dissolving," he said. "But I think there are other organizations to pick up the slack that have more resources than IGA."
IGA could vote on the proposed dissolution in early January.
Disclosure: This reporter was formerly briefly involved in IGA.