Some of us are old hands at making things happen in our community, while others are new to the role of advocate. New or old, there’s plenty of good, practical advice you can use in a new guidebook issued by the Transgender Law Center, “Organizing for Transgender Health Care.”
Although the efforts the Transgender Law Center address are all related to improving health care for transgender people, it’ll take very few brain cells to translate their examples into ones that, say, are geared toward improving health care or social services for LGBT elders.
The guide has three main parts. The first section, “How do we make change?” makes a very useful distinction between advocacy and organizing, and then gives both graphic and narrative models for making change happen. The second section provides four short profiles of diverse community efforts to improve health care for transgender people, focusing on who initiated the project, who was involved, how they organized, what they achieved, and key lessons. The third section, best practices, focuses on building your core team, building your membership, choosing your issue, identifying targets, talking about your issue, and following up effectively. For example, the guide suggests that when it comes to choosing your issue, “There is a balance to be set between biting off more than you can chew and not aiming high enough.” They ask,
- Is it Meaningful? Do community members care about the issue?
- Is it Moveable? Does the issue have enough potential political support that progress can be made with decision makers?
- Is it Manageable? Is the policy too large an issue for the group to move the project to completion? Too small? The right size?
Another tidbit of advice: “Your message should be simple and clear enough so that anyone who hears and agrees with it can easily repeat it to someone else – which is exactly what you want them to do.”
Don’t skip the appendices! Of particular note are two worksheets from Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. The worksheet for analyzing policies helps in identifying key actors and institutions, analyzing the policy environment, summarizing your findings, and identifying options for policy change. The outlining an advocacy strategy worksheet will help you select a policy issue, select target audiences, set a policy goal, identify allies, and identify opponents.
Visually working off their own advice that “[a]n issue never becomes more real than when you are looking into the eyes of someone who struggles with it,” the guidebook includes multiple full-color pictures of transgender people and allies speaking at public events, meeting with policymakers, and discussing strategy.
It’s a good addition to any activist’s working resources. It’s available free at http://www.transgenderlawcenter.org/Organizing%20for%20Health%20Care%20Advocacy_web.pdf