Mission and History
The Gender Justice Leadership Programs (GJLP) are youth-led programs for trans and gender nonconforming young people to build public understanding, empathy, and a movement for liberation through storytelling and media organizing.
- Our campaigns have reached thousands of people, including our first #TransTRUTH selfie campaign to our GSA Day 4 Gender Justice campaign, #MyTransBodyIs
- Our platform has allowed transgender youth to connect with others, express themselves online, and for some, come out for the first time
- The Roses Initiative was created in 2020 as a safe space for Black, brown and indigenous trans and nonbinary girls to address their specific needs and explore their power
- Our work has been featured by multiple news networks, including MTV News, Buzzfeed, Fusion, and many others
In the early 2010s, queer and trans young people, supported by GSA Network and Transgender Law Center, advocated and lobbied across state capitols to pass various queer and trans-centered bills, including the School Success and Opportunity Act and the FAIR Education Act. Activists shared their stories and motivated their audience into action, but it also became clear that trans youth media advocates needed more support on many levels that are impacted by media work.
As a result, the first Gender Justice Leadership Program, TRUTH, launched in 2015 as a joint program of Transgender Law Center and GSA Network. The inspiration for TRUTH came from the experiences of trans young people and their families who shared their stories with local, state, and national media as part of various campaigns to change policies in their communities. These young people often succeeded in changing hearts and minds, but they didn’t always have the resources they needed to stay safe, healthy, and supported in the aftermath of sharing their stories.
TRUTH, informed by the lessons of those campaigns, sought to:
- Build public empathy and understanding around trans youth issues by providing guidance and a platform for youth and families to share their stories effectively and authentically
- Create infrastructure for transgender and gender nonconforming youth to support each other, connect, and strategize about how to use media and storytelling as a tool for liberation
The program launched with five videos from transgender young people and families, a storytelling toolkit guiding young people through effective storytelling for creating change, and a toolkit with best practices for journalists covering trans youth issues. Over the following year, National TRUTH Organizer Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff built out a formal structure through the TRUTH youth councils to ensure transgender and gender nonconforming young people lead the work of the program. The California TRUTH Council launched in August 2015, the National TRUTH Council launched in June 2016 at the Allied Media Conference, and the Southern TRUTH Council launched in June 2017 at the Queer Youth Leading the South (QYLTS) camp.
The program marked November 17, 2016, the Friday before Trans Day of Remembrance, as TRUTH’s first GSA Day 4 Gender Justice with the theme: What does Gender Justice mean to you? TRUTH’s second GSA Day for Gender Justice invited trans and nonbinary youth to join in conversation to affirm what #MyTransBodyIs in 2017.
In 2018, TRUTH reorganized the youth council structure and created what we see today, one large National Trans Youth Council. Within the council, regions met as committees but worked as one team. National TRUTH council members from the Midwest and Northeast regions gathered in Chicago, IL to experience community building, political storytelling workshops, and community service. At the same time, Western and Southwestern TRUTH council members gathered in Oakland, CA for a few days of community building, political education, and media training. The program was also recognized by the International Court Council for the Fredd E. Tree Spirit of Stonewall Award.
By the end of 2018, the TRUTH leadership council launched the 9 point platform on the third annual GSA Day 4 Gender Justice which calls into action an intersectional movement for justice and a future where trans youth can survive and thrive. Youth Leaders also published a zine about Trans Day of Remembrance, highlighting how trans individuals have experienced both trauma and healing as well as the lessons they learned about mourning our dead and building safe spaces.
In 2019, TRUTH council members presented at Creating Change about storytelling as a powerful tool for social justice while Southeastern youth council members gathered in New Orleans to work on podcast skill building and healing justice. TRUTH’s 4th GSA Day for Gender Justice focused on the platform’s first point, trans youth self-determination, with hashtag campaigns like #TRUTHFeatures and #MyTransDestinyIs.
The second Gender Justice Leadership Program, the Roses initiative, began in 2020 and was created to address the specific needs of trans girls of color. It is a safe space for Black, Indigenous, and brown trans and nonbinary girls who wish to build community, center gender and racial justice, and engage in advocacy work. To welcome new members, staff created survival kit care packages that included wellness tools, school supplies, and more. In March, unprecedented times emerged with COVID-19 changing how we organized. TRUTH canceled all travel for the year and found ways to stay connected as we navigated and adapted to a new virtual world. TRUTH’s 5th GSA Day for Gender Justice centered on the platform’s second point of abolition.
The Roses program continued its work into 2021 with workshops on storytelling held by Xelestiál Moreno-Luz. They focused on community video making, photography and memory, and graphic design and resistance centering the voices of Black, brown, and Indigenous trans girls. The program also featured an Instagram Live series called The Gurls Are Talking: Intergenerational Trans Girl Power with staff members Mulani Jackson and Gia Cordova.
2021 was, unfortunately, a record-breaking year for anti-trans legislation with over 150 bills introduced from various representatives throughout the US. In response to this attack on trans youth, TRUTH created the No Pride Without Trans Youth zine and held an Instagram Live series called Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop! Both platforms featured trans and nonbinary youth exploring what people can do in solidarity with the community and how trans youth can empower themselves. The IG Live series followed four themes: No Pride Without Trans Youth, Black Trans Youth Power, Trans Joy 4 Liberation, and Show Up 4 Trans Youth. TRUTH also featured hashtag campaigns like #MyTransBodyIs and #LoveLetters4TransYouth to help combat the onslaught of negativity surrounding trans youth and trans bodies.
In the next couple of years, GJLP hopes to continue working towards trans and GNC liberation with youth at the center of our work. 2021 will mark the 6th annual GSA Day 4 Gender Justice and will focus on the platform’s third point calling for an end to disposability politics and a commitment to transformative justice. TRUTH will continue to push the 9 point platform forward for all trans and GNC youth, while Roses will strive to center the specific needs of trans girls of color.