The Southern Arizona Gender Alliance issued a press release this morning announcing it will separate from Tucson's LGBT community center and return to how it all started—"as an independent grassroots organization."
This past year, the Weekly has reported on different challenges facing Wingspan—a series of staff firings and management issues, and then concerns that transphobia was a real issue taking place at the center among staff and not being addressed properly along with other problems due to the struggling agency's constant employee turnover.
So, this news from SAGA isn't a huge surprise, although what's clear in the press release is that this isn't about hard feelings or concerns that the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation won't be a good fit for SAGA. However, if anyone has actually been paying close attention to the LGBT community nationwide and locally, I hope they recognize something that's very important—that well, the transgender community has it going on.
If SAGA continues in this trajectory—recognizing the need for transparency, strategic planning, media strategy and more—they just might successfully take on a few social justice issues and do some other needed community-building Tucson can use.
Congratulations, SAGA. Here's wishing you the best.
More from SAGA's press release:
Effective July 31, 2014, SAGA is ending its long-standing formal partnership with Wingspan, Tucson's community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Wingspan announced earlier this month it was closing its doors and is negotiating with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation to retain the staff and continue its flagship programs, the Wingspan Anti-Violence Project and the Eon Youth Lounge. SAGA has decided not to participate in that negotiation and instead become self-managed by volunteers and to study options and determine next steps.
"We're very sorry to lose the community center—Wingspan helped SAGA establish itself and provided a consistent home for our groups, programs, and community for many years," said SAGA's former executive director, Michae; Woodward, who currently serves on the volunteer leadership team know as the SAGA Advisory Council. "The council is still very committed to the SAGA mission and the community's needs."
Due to funding and other challenges at Wingspan, the SAC had already been talking about a possible split months before the Wingspan closure was announced. "I don't think this move will surprise very many people. We have complete confidence in Wendell Hicks and the SAAF staff, and we're relieved to learn that those vital Wingspan programs will continue—both are important to the trans community," added Kevin Maxey, a co-founder of the organization. "But the Advisory Council feels we're best off forging our own path forward."
SAGA had already scheduled a strategic planning retreat for Saturday, Dec. 6. That retreat will go on as planned (time and location to be announced) and will focus on SAGA's future and options for growth and sustainability. Anyone with an interest in supporting the transgender community will be welcome to attend.
The search for suitable, long-term space for meetings and other SAGA business is underway; those results will be announced at a later date on the SAGA website (www.sagatucson.org) and to the group's listserv subscribers.
More information and the SAGA schedule after the jump.
Meanwhile, SAGA will continue its regularly scheduled monthly meetings, most of which will be held in the short terms at Fluxx Studios, 414 E. 9th St., for at least the month of August:
SAGA General meeting (open to everyone interested in gender issues, including friends, family, and allies) is held the first Monday of every month, 7-9 p.m. (Aug. 4 at Fluxx)
Dezert Girlz meeting (for feminine-identified trans people) is held the second Monday of every months, 7-9 p.m. (Aug. 11 at Fluxx)
Dezert Boyz meeting (for masculine-identified trans people) is held the third Tuesday of every month, 7 to 9 p.m. (July 15 at Wingspan, Aug. 19 at Fluxx)
Dezert Partnerz meeting (for non-trans partners and spouses of trans people) is held the fourth Thursday of every month, 7 to 9 p.m. (July 24 at Wingspan, Aug. 28 at Fluxx)
Trans Parents (for parents of young trans and gender-creative children) meets at the home of one of the parents. Contact email@example.com for details
Dezert Counselorz, a consultation group for therapists who work with relationship- and gender-variant clients meetings every third Saturday (July 19, Aug. 16) from Tucson Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, 2230 E. Speedway Blvd., Suite 140
SAGA Advisory Council meets on the second Tuesday of every month, 7 to 9 p.m. (Aug. 12). The SAGA Advisory Council meets at the City of Tucson's Ward III Office, 1510 E. Grant Road. Anyone interested in helping to plan and coordinate SAGA's activities and future direction is welcome.
For further information, to volunteer, or for other assistance, visit www.sagatucson.org. You may also call the new SAGA hotline at (520) 477-7096. Leave a message with your contact information and a brief question and someone will get back to you as quickly as possible.