For decades NWGA has been about pear support, regular fun activities and educating public service agencies as well as other organizations on trans*, gender fluidity, non-binary identities and more.
Starting in the late 2010’s, we are finding a new stride in strengthening our public education offerings, increased advocacy and community building. All while maintaining our regular and seasonal fun activities.
As of 2018 we’re thrilled to say that our mission will endure for decades more, through our principle partnership with Pride Northwest as our gracious sponsor. Who supports many LGBTQ+ org’s in elevating, advocating and truly transforming lives in tangible ways–large and small.
We’re so very grateful for the investment that Pride NW has made in us.
At a time when showing one’s face on the street was meet with scorn, ridicule, and police apathy towards victims of violence and discrimination, it was time to organize. Formed in 1980, The Northwest Gender Alliance ‘NWGA’ is one of the oldest continuously functioning trans groups in the United States.
The group, more like a club at the time, met in private homes. Later, members pooled their money and rented a house for their meetings–a club-house if you will. But then neighbors complained, and the group started using the Potter’s House church’s dining hall. Members of the church joined in many of the yearly events held. About the same time the Potter House closed the Q Center opened at their original location near OMSI. And when the Q Center moved to their north Mississippi address, the NWGA came along with them and have been meeting at the Q Center ever since.
Early meetings focused on mutual support, deportment, make up and clothing–as well as safe outing in the community. But it wasn’t long until certain bold members became activist. Roni Lang for one went to Portland’s city hall to speak with the then Mayor Bud Clark and the police chief. Soon the police’s ongoing training included transgender sensitivity. Later, after meetings with Mayor Vera Katz, the training effort continued as she held a town hall meeting with members of the trans community. When the Police Review Board was established, two NWGA members were appointed. Individuals wishing to become police officers would be interviewed by this board. And if there were problems with an officer’s action, they would have to go back to answer to the Board. Between the training and the review board, great strides were made in dealing with trans people in crisis situations.
Later, two NWGA members spoke to the Oregon legislature hearings when the issue of marriage equality was being decided on. Many of our members have gone on to serve in other organizations around the region, including Basic Rights Oregon, TransActive, Human Rights Commission, GLISEN, GLAPEN, the Q Center, at least three chapters of the Imperial Sovereign Court, PFLAG, YWCA, and others.
Over the past 39 years we’ve had in excess of 3,500 members. The NWGA started out as a group of crossdressers who welcomed “transsexuals” (as they were known then). Today, our demographics are very different. Many, if not most of our members stayed long enough to solidify their transition, and then moved on. Originally we thought of them as lost members, but upon further reflection they got what they needed and moved on. We call that graduating.
Another change that has happened in the last 39 years is the explosion of trans groups in the Pacific Northwest. In 1980, folks were coming down from Seattle for a three-hour meeting. In 1983, those long commuting members formed the Emerald City Club of Seattle. They in turn had members from British Columbia who made regular trips to Seattle. In 1986 The Cornbury Society was formed in Vancouver, BC. Since then, dozens of groups have sprung up all over Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. Many of these groups are either regional or niche oriented, such as for trans men, non-binary & Trans/Intersex.
Today the understanding of those who are transgender has greatly improved since the ’80’s. Terminology is rapidly changing to represent these new understandings. The advent of the internet has created an environment where people can learn about themselves and others in the privacy of their homes.
Public education is a hallmark of NWGA’s efforts–providing classes for a large number of groups, organizations, employers, schools and governmental agencies. We also participate in events like Portland Pride, Vancouver Pride celebration and the Peace and Justice Fair in Vancouver, WA. Every year we speak to thousands of people, sharing our stories and helping people to understand that we are just like them–with one exception. Focus is given on social interactions that don’t offend or trigger others.
In our 39th year we find ourselves as relevant as ever as the need for education, safe social functions and 1-on-1 support continues. We welcome new members who are trans (any part of the trans spectrum), family, friends and advocates.
Visit our partners. Some of which have been working with us for many years.