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    My Journey from Donor to the Board of NCLR

    By A. Sparks–

    NCLR’s focus on justice and equity for everyone in the LGBTQ community led me to take a more active role in the organization’s future.

    I first heard of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) when I was in high school, closeted and alone with no connection to the LGBTQ+ community. Finding out that an organization like NCLR even existed immediately gave me hope. I was inspired by the “out and proud” activism happening in San Francisco, led by incredible women who were fighting for a future that I hope to one day live.

    Initially I was drawn to the inclusivity that NCLR promoted, rooted in queer women’s values, charged by incredible women taking a stand and advocating fearlessly for their community. NCLR has spent the last 45 years combating homophobia and transphobia through the U.S. legal system and fighting against laws and policies that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community and our families. NCLR believes that when we are all able to live our lives free from persecution and discrimination, we will truly achieve full justice and equity for everyone.

    When I eventually made my way to San Francisco, I began to get involved with local LGBTQ+ organizations; joining boards, launching giving circles, organizing donors, and participating in advocacy work. Along the way, it seemed that everywhere I turned, NCLR was always there. Not only was NCLR collaborating in the fight for marriage equality and LGBTQ adoptions, supporting immigrants through direct legal services, and educating the public and policymakers, they were also consistently raising issues that others were hesitant to touch like conversion therapy as a human rights violation and recognizing the inherent intersectionality between LGBTQ and economic, gender, racial, and disability justice.

    I knew I wanted to be a part of NCLR’s work, so I started giving and have consistently supported the organization since 2012.   

    When Kate Kendell, NCLR’s charismatic and courageous Executive Director for 22 years, announced she would be stepping down, I was initially worried about what would happen to NCLR’s legacy. However, when I learned that the charge would be taken up by Imani Rupert-Gordon, I couldn’t have felt more relieved.

    I first met Imani in 2015 and was inspired by her work in Chicago supporting the leadership of Black LGBTQ+ women and gender-expansive folks at Affinity Community Services. Instantly, I felt confident that not only would NCLR’s legacy be in good hands, but also that under Imani’s leadership NCLR would be best poised to tackle the unprecedented challenges to come.

    I decided to further support NCLR by joining the organization’s Board of Directors in June 2021 and quickly took on the role of chairing the Development Committee. My service on the NCLR Board has given me the privilege of learning about the intentionality and inclusivity that NCLR takes to protect the most vulnerable members of the community.

    Despite following NCLR’s work over the last 24 years, I’m still astounded by the incredible victories, hard-fought cases, and lofty campaigns that NCLR spearheads. We’ve continued to fight against unjust laws like the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law in Florida and anti-transgender youth legislation in states across the country.

    Through our Born Perfect campaign, we have worked to pass laws in more than 20 states and hundreds of localities to ban conversion therapy, saving countless LGBTQ youth from depression and suicide. Our Immigration Project, started in 1994 and the first in the country led by an LGBTQ+ organization, has helped more than 450 clients fleeing persecution in their countries of origin and our skilled legal team has never lost an asylum case. Consistently, NCLR’s legal, policy, and legislative victories have set important precedents that improve the lives of LGBTQ people and better ensure justice for all.  

    This year, we will be coming together on November 11 for the Champions for Justice Dinner + Party in San Francisco to be in community, celebrate queer joy, and honor NCLR’s 45 years of service. I hope if you are in the Bay Area, you can join us for our first in-person gala since 2019. For further details:

    NCLR has always advocated for radical inclusivity to meet the challenges of an unjust legal system and exceeded expectations in the spirit of LGBTQ+ social justice work. I am proud to be one of the many donors and volunteers who support NCLR’s work—and I invite you to join us so NCLR can keep fighting for justice and equity for everyone.

    A. Sparks is the Development Chair for the National Center for Lesbian Rights Board of Directors.

    Published on November 3, 2022