At Transgender Law Center, our motto is “making authentic lives possible.” Authenticity – the opportunity for all people to be who we really are and to live our dreams – is a core value for us. It guides our work every day, and ideally it informs how we live our own lives.
I have been thinking about authenticity a lot recently as I have come to a difficult decision. After more than 7 years as executive director of Transgender Law Center, I have decided to step down in early 2015.
I have loved my time at Transgender Law Center. I was fortunate to succeed a visionary and hard-working co-founder, Chris Daley, who grew the seed of an idea – culturally and legally competent advocacy for transgender people – into a thriving, independent organization by the time I came on board in 2007. At the time, we had four staff members, an annual budget of $325,000, and about 900 people contacting the organization for help each year. We were already one of the largest transgender advocacy organizations in the U.S. at the time.
Today, we have fourteen staff, an annual budget in excess of $1.5 million, and field more than 2500 requests for help each year. I am proud to have been part of an incredibly committed team that has strengthened employment protections nationwide, secured coverage of transition-related care for transgender Californians, and helped to change the cultural narrative about transgender lives.
To top it off, our Board just approved a bold strategic plan that will significantly expand the organization’s reach and impact across the country. It is an incredibly exciting time – at Transgender Law Center and within the broader movement for transgender equality.
So why would I plan to leave Transgender Law Center in the midst of what I believe to be a historic moment for trans and gender non-conforming people?
I have a profound feeling that it’s time for change at Transgender Law Center. Personally, I feel ready for a new challenge in my life. Professionally, I know there’s never been a better time for TLC to undergo a successful change of leadership: we are stronger than ever, and have brilliant staff who are ready to lead the organization into its next chapter.
I don’t know exactly what I will do next, but I have a profound sense that this is the right moment to hand the baton to the next generation of leadership at TLC. I’ve had a few moments of clarity like this throughout my life – moments when I knew it was time to leap even though I did not yet know where I would land. Each of those moments – moving from the Midwest to California with only a dream; taking my first shot of testosterone; and deciding to be unapologetically and publicly out as a trans man – were filled with excitement, hope, and (to be honest) fear. But I knew, deep in my heart, that it was time for profound change. Fortunately each of those experiences brought more joy and delight to my life than I would ever have imagined. Because of these experiences, I have learned to trust that internal voice that says, “This is the time!”
And this promises to be a profound time of growth for Transgender Law Center. Leadership transition can be a valuable and powerful moment for any organization. We are fortunate to have brilliant, dedicated, and capable staff at Transgender Law Center who work every day on the ground floor of the trans equality movement.
After deliberation among Board and staff, we have decided – rightly, I believe – to start the search for my replacement from within the organization. I feel confident that we have highly qualified internal candidates who are ready to step into the senior leadership position at Transgender Law Center. We will let you know how the internal search goes, and also let you know of other employment opportunities that are likely to emerge in the coming months.
I’m not saying goodbye yet, though. I plan to stick around to help the organization and the new executive throughout the transition process. Even after my formal departure in early 2015, I’ll be available to help and cheer on the organization in any way I can. I’ll continue to support Transgender Law Center (including financially) and hope you will too!
Finally, I wanted to thank the amazing colleagues, staff, volunteers, and community members who have taught me so much over the years. I love this work and our movement, and I plan to be in the trenches together for many years to come.
Masen Davis Executive Director