An update about Equality Arizona from Jeanne Woodbury
I’m going to start and end this newsletter with a personal note. Really, it’s just a funny thing to try to talk about transition of any kind without tying it into my own experience as a trans person. At my first consultation for HRT, there was a lot of ground to cover – my goals for the future, my sense of self, and who I wanted to become – but the first step was to take my vitals, to run blood tests, to understand my mental and physiological health at that moment. And I wasn’t healthy; like many people, it took a near-death experience to galvanize me into action. There wasn’t anything profound about it. I had lost course, I was falling apart, and I finally knew I had to make a change.
Where We Are, and Where We’re Headed
For a person or for an organization, these are moments of incredible opportunity. Being confronted with not just the possibility that you could die, but the fact that you will, forces you to take risks and to let go of the baggage of the past. You’re already falling – let go, and take the leap. Equality Arizona is facing one of these moments right now; with less than a month until the midterms, we’ve had to make difficult layoffs to stabilize our budget. Untangling our financial crisis has meant recognizing that we can’t take our own continued existence for granted. Either we find a way to add value, or we’ll be swept away, because for better or worse, the work will continue without us.
And that work is essential. Our rights as queer people – to form relationships, to receive healthcare and education, and even to exist in public – are under threat from a patterned and organized campaign stretching back 45 years to the formation of Anita Bryant’s homophobic “Save Our Children” coalition. It’s a long and painful erosion of trust, ostracizing LGBTQ+ people from society. Winning rights on paper has never done enough to slow that down, and will never be enough for our community. We think the answer is simple – simple, but not easy – building back trust means finding new ways to depend on each other, and embedding ourselves in our shared civic and political systems. So wherever decisions are being made in Arizona, we’ve decided that it’s our job to make sure LGBTQ+ people are involved in that process.
Equality Arizona needs to, and will continue to exist for this reason. We’re dedicating 100% of our energy to making sure LGBTQ+ people in Arizona have the opportunity, capacity, and confidence to make change as advocates, voters, and candidates. Part of the rebuilding process means getting lean, so we’re streamlining all of our activity into three categories and committing to delivering high-value, focused programs and resources in each:
Media & Events
We’ll have some exciting announcements soon about new and revamped projects, so stay tuned. If you want to get involved in the relaunch, get in touch! We need active partners in the work, and that starts with you. And the simplest and most immediate way to help is with a donation.
How We’re Thinking About The Work
Something that plagues a lot of political organizing (and corporate strategy in general) is an emphasis on “vision” over “value.” At its most basic level, politics is about how we form and structure our relationships to each other. And like any relationship, while it’s good and important (and unavoidable) to bring your own ideas and desires to the table, it’s not a given that everyone else involved will want the same things you do, and that’s okay – all you can do in the end is to be kind and to care for them. It’s rare to talk about politics in terms of consent, but that should always be at the core of how we relate to each other. You might have a brilliant vision of how the world could work – great! – but you can’t control that, and you shouldn’t try to. The highest and best pursuit is to put something of value out into the world, and to do that with care and attentiveness to detail.
For us this means approaching the work with focus and conducting ourselves with as much transparency as possible. We’re going to wear our opinions on our sleeves, but we’re not going to chase down any singular policy or political outcome if it means compromising our core values of care and consent. Most importantly, we’re not going to try to do or be everything for everyone; we’re going to focus on what we think can provide the most value for you – the quarter million queer people of every race, of every faith, in every family and county and tribe across the state of Arizona – and then execute on those few ideas incredibly well.
Wait a Second, Who’s Jeanne Woodbury Anyway?
That’s me! I’m Jeanne. I write this newsletter and host the Arizona Equals Podcast. For the next six months, I’m also taking on the role of Interim Executive Director. It’ll be my job to get us started on this new trajectory while we search for the best permanent Executive Director to lead the organization moving forward. Right now I’m focused on refining and defining our two year strategic plan, and it’s been a lot of fun to think through all of the overlapping challenges that entails, but the absolute best part of my job has been and continues to be meeting so many new and incredible and smart people nearly every day. So let’s get coffee! Send me an email at email@example.com, and we can meet up at Brick Road.