An organization dedicated to making people feel uncomfortable now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of ending operations.
GetEQUAL is closing, executive director Gabriel Garcia-Vera confirmed to SFGN. Financial problems and internal staff dysfunction prompted the shutdown, he said.
“In the coming weeks, I will do my best to close GetEQUAL with responsible and loving stewardship,” wrote Garcia-Vera in a letter dated March 27. “I will work to assure that we pay all of our debts, and that our transitioning employees and contractors are treated with fairness and compassion. I will look for ways to pass on our intangible assets of contacts and other resources to other organizations that share our vision and values.”
Garcia-Vera, a queer Latinx organizer, had been at the helm of GetEQUAL less than a year and described his relationship with movement building and campaign manager Aaryn Lang as troubled from the start.
“Unfortunately, while well-intentioned, the ‘arranged marriage’ set-up in the hiring of both Aaryn and me created a context in which neither of us was well-positioned to succeed,” Garcia-Vera wrote.
Lang, a black trans woman, accused the GetEQUAL board of directors of racism and transphobia and demanded donations be made to other organizations supportive of transgender and queer people of color. Garcia-Vera denied the allegations of discrimination and said GetEQUAL’s board had collapsed, assets were extremely limited and fundraising nearly impossible due to a “social media storm.”
In a Facebook post, Lang labeled GetEQUAL’s closing a “victory.”
“GetEQUAL is closing its doors and though this is a victory I do not delight in it, it is a victory nonetheless. A victory that I hope will aid us in our collective growth as a movement,” Lang wrote.
Founded in 2010, GetEQUAL first gained attention with its demonstrations against the U.S. military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Led by Lt. Dan Choi, an out U.S. Army officer, three GetEQUAL members were arrested for handcuffing themselves to the White House fence.
Following the repeal of DADT and on the heels of the landmark Supreme Court decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, GetEQUAL went in a new direction. Still advocating non-violent direct action, the organization began to focus more on the transgender community and racial and social justice issues.
“Liberation Can’t Wait” became the new GetEQUAL rallying cry.
Under the direction of Angela Peoples, GetEQUAL protested and disrupted Pride parades and festivals for “their corporatization, heavy police presence and overall failure to support and uplift queer and trans youth of color.”
Will Kohler, author of the blog Back2Stonewall, called GetEQUAL’s dilemma rich in irony.
“The irony of GetEQUAL being accused of racism and transphobia after years of accusing the gay and lesbian community of racism and transphobia is not lost on many in the community who have questioned their tactics and behavior…,” Kohler wrote.
Garcia-Vera, who was named to SFGN’s OUT50 list in 2017, said he was shuttering the organization with a heavy heart.
“I know this conversation has struck a nerve in the community,” Garcia-Vera wrote. “I want to acknowledge that anti-blackness, racism, misogyny, anti-trans sentiments are things that we must all unpack, and also are things that we are all taught. I believe that these conversations are things that as a community we must be willing to unearth if we truly believe that our struggle for liberation is connected.”