After more than five years as Center on Halsted's volunteer transgender liaison, June LaTrobe has announced her resignation, spurred by the Center's acceptance of a donation from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for a Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) event.
LaTrobe issued her resignation in the form of a letter to Center staff Nov. 14., stating, "I can not be a part of putting money above principle."
HRC is donating money for the "Night of Fallen Stars," a portion of the Center's annual Transgender Day of Remembrance event that features performances by Broadway Youth Center (BYC) youth. The event is scheduled for Nov. 18.
HRC has historically been the ire of some transgender people, who feel that the organization excludes transgender communities. In 2007, the controversy came to a head when HRC backed a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that did not include trans protections. Others have criticized the organization's focus on winning marriage equality, alleging that HRC neglected trans issues in the process.
HRC has since changed its position on ENDA. In addition, the recent installment of Chad Griffin as the organization's new president has been seen by some as a new era for HRC.
Asked to comment on the controversy, an HRC spokesperson stated, "HRC is proud of our continuing work with the transgender community — a commitment that is woven throughout all of our efforts on the federal, state and local levels. From expanding benefits through our workplace project to continuing to press for a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HRC works tirelessly for the entire LGBT community."
But LaTrobe said any changes at HRC have not hit home for local transgender people.
"Locally, they have not been involved in anything in terms of supporting the trans community," said LaTrobe. "It's really a case of them trying to buy their way back into the community's good graces."
LaTrobe has been responsible for planning much of the TDOR event in past years, inviting community groups to table before the performances and coordinating the evening's tribute to trans murder victims. BYC has also collaborated on the evening with the Center in years past.
According to Brian Richardson, a spokesperson for Center on Halsted, Center on Halsted is paying for the event, despite collaborations with BYC and other groups. He said the donation in question amounts to $250. HRC is not appearing as a sponsor of the event, he said. Rather, the money was a contribution.
"It's a joint event between the Center and BYC with participation from a number of other organizations," he said. "This contribution helps defray the operating costs of hosting an event like this."
Richardson also acknowledged past controversies with HRC but said the Center was hoping for a fresh start.
"It's true," said Richardson. "HRC has had enormous challenges working with the trans community over the past several years. That said, we hope to work with their new leadership on fighting for both the trans community and the broader LGBTQ community."
LaTrobe has volunteered at the Center for nearly as long as it has been open on Halsted Street. She has been responsible for much of the organization's transgender programs over the years.
Richardson said that the Center is sad to see her go and wishes her luck.