Gender JUST was founded in 2007, although our history is linked back to the histories surrounding our multiple identities. Gender JUST takes pride in grounding our current organizing in the history of the many movements which gave way to our work: from the slavery abolitionists of the 19th Century to the prison abolitionists of the 20th Century, from the Stonewall Riots in 1969 to the Cincinnati Riots in 2001, and the Black and Brown and Red Liberation movements to the Gay and Queer and Trans Liberation Movements. We place a high priority on incorporating the experiences of those who came before us, learning from their victories and their mistakes, and educating ourselves about the movements which laid the foundation for our organizing.
After a series of intentional conversations, house meetings, and forums in 2007 about the lack of intersectionality in social justice movements, Gender JUST was formally founded. A small group of queer Chicago-based community organizers, coming out of the traditional community organizing movement in Chicago, initiated a formal dialogue about the intersections of queerness in organizing. Specifically, organizers raised:
a) the problems of racism and other forms of oppression and discrimination within LGBTQA/GNC communities, and
b) prevalent heterosexism and transphobia within the traditional economic and racial justice organizing fields. After this series of conversations, participants voted to found Gender JUST in November of 2007 as a home for organizing around issues at the intersections of race, economics, and gender.
Gender JUST formed itself as a place for those marginalized within traditional LGBTQA communities, namely people of color, youth, trans people, immigrants, people living with disabilities, and others who have not felt that mainstream LGBTQA organizations represented their interests. Young people have always been central to Gender JUST. As a community often left out of decision-making and frequently exploited within mainstream LGBTQA advocacy, young people have played a key role within Gender JUST’s work to challenge oppression within LGBTQA communities.
At the end of 2008, Gender JUST began taking on issue-based organizing campaigns, with the Safe & Affirming Education Campaign being the first. As with all of Gender JUST’s work, this campaign is approached through an intersectional framework; youth bring all their many identities to the table to develop specific proposals to eradicate discrimination, harassment, and violence on the basis of sexual orientation, gender
identity and expression, race, class, disability, religion, or any other factor within Chicago Public Schools (CPS). This youth-led effort has been incredibly successful and has had many accomplishments thus far, such as establishing a task force to deal with oppression within CPS and assisting to incorporate Gender Identity and Expression into the CPS anti-discrimination policy, after bringing 175 community members together to present student developed demands to the head of CPS at a forum in June of 2009. Gender JUST started the Committee on Urban Resource Sustainability and Equity (COURSE) in 2009 to address funding inequities for HIV prevention. These funding inequities mirrored a racialized segregated history in Chicago and Gender JUST felt that this issue was central to the organization's mission. COURSE has been a place for those
most marginalized in Chicago’s LGBTQ communities (queer youth, people of color, trans folk, South and West side communities, immigrants, those living with HIV/AIDS, families experiencing homelessness) to come together and demand accountability.
Gender JUST has taken on a number of project, mobilizations, trainings, and other efforts to fulfill the mission. From assisting to stop the deportation of Rigo Padilla to playing a lead role in the Showdown in Chicago, a series of protests to demand accountability from the banking institutions that have caused the foreclosure crisis, Gender JUST has built a name as the Chicago organization building power and developing leadership by organizing for racial, economic, and gender justice!