We recently spoke with Ali Canon, former OFC Board member, about why he supports Our Family Coalition, and why he urges others to as well. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Ali will be at our upcoming Night Out gala fundraiser next Friday evening, May 12. Join us there, and continue this conversation with Ali in person!
1. OFC helps me and my family feel reflected. One of the biggest reasons that I’ve given to OFC all these years – my time, financially, as a family, my wife and I, with my own involvement – is that as a transgender dad, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to see myself reflected in the world. As a parent, and particularly as a transgender parent – even within the world of queer parents – it’s still a relatively small minority of folks that have a parallel identity to mine and our family. So knowing that OFC is supporting my family in concrete, programmatic ways makes all the difference.
2. OFC engages in powerful, transformative work in the schools. I’m super passionate about the education work of OFC. I’m an educator, married to a principal. I came up through the public schools, and my family have been middle and high school teachers; I know the impact of OFC’s work in schools. And I think educational work is significantly about institutional change. Educators who are wanting to do LGBT-inclusive work need the kind of resources that OFC provides, so they can support schools and districts. The evidence shows that doing ‘welcoming and inclusive schools’ work in fact makes schools safer. Finally that data has arisen: when there are multiple interventions in place – the curriculum, the supportive staff, the outreach to parent communities – all those things make schools safer. The same goes for the presence of secondary-level things like GSAs, and student groups that are also engaged in supporting queer students and allies. To me, OFC is a leader in that work, and it still remains fairly dangerous and risky to do that work at the elementary school level. And that’s where OFC has located itself for years now, making significant inroads in the Bay Area and other parts of California. Thanks in part to OFC’s advocacy, we’re now seeing the arrival of the FAIR Education Act. OFC has been at the table helping determine what that curriculum looks like. It’s going to roll out in schools soon, and that’s huge. It will lead other states to consider what that could look like for them. And that’s good news.
3. OFC as an organization has grown and evolved along with our movement. In going on nine years of involvement with the organization, I’ve seen significant growth. And that makes me more excited to remain involved. Growth in the organization has increased capacity, which has turned into policy work that we now stand for. That engagement capacity, that collaboration capacity, increases the visibility of the work that we do. For instance: when we got involved with the marriage equality campaign, we worked to keep families visible, and at the table there. And now LGBTQ families are part of the national marriage equality conversation. That wasn’t so when marriage equality work got started, and it’s also under great threat with our current administration.
The work that OFC does can’t go away. Supporting OFC at Night Out is an amazing opportunity to celebrate that work, and to guarantee that it will keep going strong through the tough times ahead.
4. The backlash to all our gains is real, and OFC needs the support to counter it. We’ve made institutional change, which is great. But when institutional change occurs in the community, that’s when you see backlash. One of Trump’s first (successful) initiatives was removing Obama’s protections of transgender students in school. Now states can formally discriminate against transgender students, or gender nonconforming students, and jeopardize their safety. Students in the Bay Area are experiencing horrific racist and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks; gender nonconforming and transgender students are experiencing microaggressions and more blatant forms of transphobia because of that action. The good news is that educators in many places, even the most conservative ones, want to make their schools safe. They’re invested in that. Are there are also people that are not there for all kids? Absolutely, and those are unsafe schools and districts. The Trump administration is giving people who harbor hatred, who function from a place of hatred and have been waiting for a “green light,” to go for it. Young people attacking one another; adults attacking young people; adults attacking other adults. That’s how I see it: a green light on violent response to institutional change. Which in a way is why we have the regime that we have: people are pissed about that change; they’re afraid, and they’re hateful.
5. OFC continues to show up for families who are at the margins. I’m proud of the work that OFC does, and I’m proud of the kind of opportunities that OFC creates for individual families, unlike mine, who have less access to power and privilege. My privilege as a middle class white man is not lessened because of my transition. I’m aware that my family has a lot of access that other families who are much more marginalized don’t – whether they’re people of color, in low-income communities, or are immigrant families. I’m proud of the amount of ways that OFC is supporting families who don’t have the ability to navigate different systems of support – whether those are education or health or neighborhood supports – and I think that’s really vital. Now more than ever, we have to keep fighting and celebrating the institutional change that we, particularly in California, have achieved. Organizations like OFC are the ones who have given us those wins. We have to lead the way for the states that are going to be really vulnerable, we have to help protect the most at-risk people. That includes families, LGBT students and allies, everyone that wants to make communities and schools safe. The work that OFC does can’t go away. Supporting OFC at Night Out is an amazing opportunity to celebrate that work, and to guarantee that it will keep going strong through the tough times ahead.