A Message from Julie Johnson- Chairperson

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #096, Winter 2001.

International Foundation for Gender Education, Inc.

I would like to address the condition of the International Foundation for Gender Education with you, our readers and supporters. I feel it necessary for you to have firsthand knowledge of where we are and where we are going.

IFGE offers a variety of programs. The most visible is our quarterly journal, Transgender Tapestry. While we maintain this journal as a separate program, it is in reality fully integrated with the rest of the organization.

Many people feel that in this day of the Internet Transgender Tapestry is the primary reason for IFGE?s existence. I would ask that you read not only about the magazine, but about our other projects and services, and what we are doing about IFGE as an organization.
Transgender Tapestry

You?ve probably noticed the many changes in Transgender Tapestry. Tapestry, as we call it, is one of the oldest, most professional, and well-respected journals of its type. It furnishes a forum for reasoned discussions of gender and related social issues. For many otherwise isolated people, it provides initial and ongoing contact with the transgender community.

Over the last several issues we have tried to give you, our readers, more meaningful input into the magazine. We have presented new perspectives on the subject of being a crossdresser, a transsexual, or an otherwise transgendered individual. We have tried to eliminate fluff and we have done our best to give you fresh new material. We continue to strive for increased diversity. To this end, we maintain a pro-active policy toward greater coverage of FTMs and people of color.

Dallas Denny, one of the best editors in our community, heads our magazine?s staff. We have an equally dedicated Art Director, Larissa Glasser. And we have you: virtually all of the editorial content is provided by you, our readers.

We?ve found new methods of production that cut cost and allow more use of color. We?ve reduced the page count to better reflect the economics of producing a higher quality journal for a small, specialized readership.

Our circulation statistics are no secret. We have around 1200 paid subscribers and sell another 2000 or so copies through retail outlets and via our distributor.

Usually, magazines obtain a sizeable portion of their revenues through advertisements. That, however, is not the case with Tapestry, probably because of the nature of our subject matter and diverse readership. At best the magazine breaks even. As with other publications in specialized fields, there seems to be a ceiling to the potential number of subscribers?and as costs continues to increase, our bottom line falls.

The Condition of IFGE

Transgender Tapestry is but a small part of IFGE as an organization. We continue to provide critical information and referrals to transgendered and transsexual people. We maintain a website at . We continue to operate our Synchronicity Bookstore. We provide grants to worthy organizations and individuals through our Winslow Street Fund and educational scholarships to out and proud transgendered students through our affiliated TSELF program. In 2001, thirteen students in the helping professions received a total of $20,000 through the independently funded TSELF program.

Rumors about IFGE, many with a kernel of truth, have floated through the transgender community for years. Some of these rumors concerned the often precarious financial condition of IFGE. Current rumors are no exception. When I joined the board of IFGE about four years ago, the organization was broke. We were under criticism for borrowing fifteen thousand dollars from our own balance sheet asset, the Winslow Street Fund (The loan was paid back in full and ahead of time, I might note). Our audit showed we owed vendors and others a sum close to the entire amount in the Winslow Street Fund.

We worked hard to cut costs and solicit funds to improve our situation. Several people stepped forward with sizeable donations, and by January 2000, things were starting to look better. We had increased our net worth to half the value of the WSF. In March of 2000, we raised $100,000 at our convention, and it looked as if we would reach our goal of having a net asset value larger than the Winslow Street Fund. Then the stock market started is long downward slide.

Like most charitable organizations, IFGE doesn?t receive enough funds through dues (and, in our case, magazine and bookstore sales) to cover the cost of overhead and staff salaries. We?ve historically required about $10,000 a month over our revenues to fund our general needs. As is the case with most other charities, our largest donations have tended to come from people who have made money on the stock market. At the time of this writing, the values of stocks have declined almost SIX TRILLION DOLLARS over the last eighteen months. That has been directly reflected in the giving to all non-profits?and in a big way. IFGE is no exception. But not only are our larger donors affected?the slowing of the economy has reduced the size and frequency of other donations.

Although donations have decreased, costs haven?t. And so, inevitably, the funds we had built up have been used, and we find ourselves in the same condition we were in four years ago.

In August, 2001, we made the difficult choice of reducing the size of our offices further reducing the size of our Waltham staff. Also in August, Executive Director Nancy Cain decided to retire from IFGE. We will certainly miss her.

Denise Leclair is now IFGE?s full-time manager, assisted by part-timer Joan Hoff, who handles office functions. We estimate that with reduced space requirements and reduced staff, we will be saving close to $100,000 per year. There?s still the same enormous amount of work to be done, of course. Many members of the Board of Directors and others interested in IFGE have taken on functions as volunteers.

Planning for Our Future

At the IFGE Board of Directors meeting held at Southern Comfort on September 22, 2001, the board heard the results of a survey of a cross-section of the ?stakeholders? of the transgender community. This study had been done over the summer of 2001. The results were compiled by professionals in this type of work?Erica Lee of Montana and Lisa Scheps of Chicago.

We solicited frank and confidential opinions of what people liked and disliked about IFGE. Nearly half of those who were asked responded and provided invaluable insight. Most also voluntarily left their name and often their phone numbers to further discuss the organization.

What did we learn? Lots! We heard about our faults, both real and perceived. But equally important, we learned the transgender community does NOT want to see IFGE go out of business, or to lose Transgender Tapestry. But we also confirmed what we had long suspected?that the Internet has surpassed other means of communication as the primary source of information, particularly for those just coming out.

We learned that perhaps, just perhaps, the number of people out and in need of the services IFGE?or any other transgender support organization for that matter?is smaller than previously thought. Perhaps we have become unneeded because of our own success in making transgendered people more acceptable and safe.

So where do we go from here? First, we will continue to ask for your financial help?at least until we can formulate a new plan.

In setting up our new plan of operation, everything is on the table. What services will we provide? How can Transgender Tapestry best serve its readers? Where will the organization be located, and who will be its employees, if any? How will the organization be funded? Who will be the future Executive Director? Will IFGE exist at all in its present form?

Stay tuned. And continue your support of IFGE!

Julie Johnson

Chairperson of the Board of Directors