It is with deep regret and sadness that Move to Amend has decided to disassociate with Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) as a coalition partner and organizational co-sponsor of the national symposium “The System Won’t Save Us”, that is planned for April.
We would like to first be clear that we deeply support the numerous current and former CELDF staff members who have spoken out, and in many cases resigned from their positions over a culture of transphobia. We also deeply support the communities across the country who have, and are working to enact a Community Bill of Rights in the pursuit of establishing local sovereignty and Rights of Nature.
We believe the numerous and consistent allegations we have heard, and so it is out of that support that we felt we had no choice but to make this very difficult decision.
We had already been aware of one staff resignation over these issues, as it was someone we had gotten to know during the planning process for “The System Won’t Save Us” national symposium. We also learned the majority of the CELDF staff contingent we were working closely with also shared those views about the organizational culture, which were outlined clearly in the resignation letter (along with a generous offer to continue working with CELDF’s leadership to address and work through these issues).
When it became national news that the resistance to the mining operation at Thacker Pass in Nevada was being splintered due to one of the groups, Deep Green Resistance, holding deeply and violently transphobic views (that they keep at the fore of their ideological underpinnings) – we also learned that some members of CELDF leadership had relationships with members of this group. This was concerning to us. And it was concerning to some of the CELDF staff we had gotten to know. It also led to another resignation.
CELDF has now put out two statements related to Thacker Pass. The first statement does not name Deep Green Resistance but does outright condemn transphobia. It was a good statement.
The second statement, however, acknowledges the allegations of transphobia from “current and former staff members” but claims they are “false and unfounded.” This can only be interpreted as claiming these current and former staff members are lying. When we asked about the process for that statement being released, we learned it was not run by the communications team. Which promptly led to another resignation – the communications team staff member who wrote the initial statement.
We attempted to create space to address our concerns with these members of CELDF leadership on several occasions in hopes we could continue moving forward in coalition, and were met with denial and defensiveness and what appeared to be an unwillingness to admit or confront these issues. Our understanding is that numerous CELDF staff members have resigned since the fall, which signals there is a problem in the organizational culture that is making people feel unheard and unsafe.
Move to Amend has always held the position that our cause means nothing if we are not actively working for the liberation of the most marginalized, and we prioritize solidarity organizing with those groups. In 2015, we began a process of requiring deep political education for our National Team as well as our local affiliate groups. Our Movement Education Program looks at movement history, racial, class and gender justice, and ends with the creation of an internal democracy plan and a local solidarity organizing plan. We knew that mandating political education would lead to some groups leaving. And many did. But that is a loss we were willing to absorb to prune and advance our organization with the analysis and principles we believe are crucial for the health and power of any genuine justice movement.
Transphobic culture is everywhere. Our firm belief is that if queer and trans folks – and their allies – are claiming that there is a covert transphobic culture of microaggressions and dismissal of concerns, as well as a tolerance of overt transphobia in their organizational relationships, then it is valid. It is not the place of cisgender-heterosexual people to “disagree” and frankly outrageous to say it’s “false and unfounded” – this only confirms to us the many claims of dismissal expressed by current and former staff members.
Move to Amend remains committed to working with the individual current and former CELDF staff members we have formed relationships with over the years, and will continue to support and lift up the work of community Bills of Rights.
We still deeply respect the mission and accomplishments of CELDF. That is why we hope that they choose to commit to doing the introspection and work that will lead to a healthy culture change within the organization, so that members of marginalized groups can feel safe and proud to belong to it.
Move to Amend National Team