Advocates Praise Trans Equity Funding in State Budget

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a series of LGBTQ-related initiatives and funding in the latest state budget.
Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

The latest New York State budget includes millions of dollars in funding for queer initiatives, including $12.5 million for LGBTQ health and human services as well as a hard-fought $1 million fund for organizations serving transgender individuals in the state.

The budget, finalized in early April after some delays, is drawing praise from advocates who called on lawmakers to bolster funding for trans-led organizations at a time when broad LGBTQ-related funding has not always reached transgender and gender non-conforming communities.

The fund was inspired in part by a similar initiative in California, where lawmakers established a $13 million wellness and equity fund to support trans people in the state. The idea to bring such a fund to New York was brought to Governor Kathy Hochul’s attention earlier this year in a joint letter written by eight trans leaders, including New Pride Agenda executive director Elisa Crespo, Trans Equity Consulting founder Cecilia Gentili, Gender Equality New York board member Arrie Moore, Gender Equality New York executive director Juli Grey Owens, New York Transgender Advocacy Group co-founder Kiara St. James, Destination Tomorrow founder Sean Coleman, Empire Justice Center policy and government relations manager Eòghann Renfroe, and Equality New York board member Teri Wilhelm, who is also a TGNC navigator at the Albany Damien Center.

“As other states across the nation seek to relentlessly attack the rights of transgender people, Albany has done the exact opposite by championing equity and inclusion where it matters most,” Crespo said in a written statement.

New York-based advocates sought $15 million for the fund in the Empire State — and although the full financial goal was not met, advocates are still welcoming the additional resources.

“Equitable funding is the cornerstone to providing support and resources to our most vulnerable community members,” Coleman said in a written statement. “This first step will lay the foundation towards building sustainable TGNCNB organizations across New York State.”

The State Senate helped lead the way in establishing the $1 million fund, prompting State Senator Brad Hoylman to commend Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for her work on the issue.

“With this new fund, Albany has demonstrated that we have the backs of transgender and gender non-conforming folks,” Hoylman said in a written statement. “The Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Wellness and Equity Fund will provide housing, mental health resources, health services, and cultural initiatives to our state’s most vulnerable populations.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick described the funding as “transformative” while emphasizing that it will uplift organizations at the grassroots level.

“This year, in a continuing effort to respond to the needs of transgender New Yorkers, initial funding for the TGNB Wellness and Equity Fund marks another critical step forward,” Glick said in a written statement.

In announcing the finalized budget, Governor Kathy Hochul also pointed to other new initiatives, including an option of an “x” gender marker on state forms and the ability to update names or gender designations on marriage certificates.

The budget also included $12.5 million for the state’s Division of Human Rights in an effort to combat discrimination in New York.

“The past two years have been hard for us all, but especially hard for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers who have always been forced to deal with levels of isolation due to homophobia and transphobia,” Hochul said. “That’s why it’s so important that our newly enacted budget presses forward in the fight for equality with historic levels of state funding and initiatives for LGBTQ+ equity.”

Advocates are continuing to work with the State Legislature to fight for a steadier stream of funding. One bill intended to address that issue, named after the late Queens-based trans activist and community leader Lorena Borjas, has been proposed by Assemblymember Catalina Cruz of Queens.