Marsha Botzer at Seattle Pride 2012

Ed. note: This editorial by Equal Rights Washington co-founder and director Marsha Botzer is excerpted from the Seattle Pride Guide 2015.

C oncerning Trans and Gender Nonconforming people, once there were dangerous meetings, hidden meetings.  As with so many other human struggles our awakening around gender identity came slowly at first, with a few brave ones visible and speaking, and many more left isolated by swirling fears.

Not so today!  Now our voices rise with others to proudly call out our identities.  Our allies rise as well:  You are with us, we are with you!

We have overcome the arguments that once drove even our bravest back, we have built groups, organizations, and social support systems through endless interaction and innumerable all night conversations about identity and sexuality, self and reality!  We know this is the way all struggles have grown in this country.  We have learned so much from those who have done so much.  We have joined Lesbian and Gay and Bisexual activists, the world-changing efforts of the global fight for the rights of women and labor, and the titanic struggles of race and class that look into the deepest meanings of being a person, of being human.

Transgender and Gender Nonconforming people have always been around, always there, but rarely visible.  Now is a powerful time in history where for the first time we can truly add our voices to the great mix of discussion worldwide.  This is why we have growing numbers of families that support their Trans members, schools and workplaces that welcome, and protective laws that include us.  But it is still the beginning, just the beginning.  Our experiences expand your experiences, and all can benefit.

I am proud Seattle’s Ingersoll Gender Center remains a leader in this history making.  We have been helping Trans and Gender Non-conforming people, their families, friends and workplaces, for decades.   Since the late 1970s and our incorporation as a non-profit in 1984, Ingersoll has assisted many thousands of people to find their individual ways to self-understanding and peace – basics of freedom and a good life.

Where once there were fearful revelations and charges of sickness and confusion, now we can offer welcoming groups and services that honor the humanity in exploring and understanding gender identity.  We have replaced unhappiness with discovery and fear with knowledge.  Ingersoll has been the foundational birthplace of individual selves, supportive allies, and many new organizations.  We partner with care providers, researchers, and friends across the world to build the strongest possible system of support.  And by linking hands with many brilliant local allies and national groups that include Transgender and Gender Non-conforming people in their work we expand our service beyond the limits of a single organization.

Ingersoll provides introductory information, referrals for care, counseling and medical information, access to legal information, help on employment and workplace issues, and tools to build community.  We offer education and training to intuitions and businesses; we advocate, and we continue to seek training ourselves – learning is constant!  We offer a wonderful just-for-fun-party, Snowball, for the whole Community to relax and wind up every year.  And each week of every year Ingersoll provides an open support group for the whole Community; we have not missed a single week in decades because our primary mission is to be there for you.

During our many years of service Ingersoll has made thousands of friends and had many opportunities to participate in the larger discussion of gender and identity around the globe.  Our members have spoken in conferences throughout the world, and through the education we do we have made possible changes in policies and laws in many regions.  Washington State, King County, and Seattle in particular, are some of the best places in the United States for people to explore gender identity issues and to discover Community.

I am the Founder of Ingersoll, but Ingersoll is fully and wholly an idea that belongs to our Community and the larger discussion.

Here is the truth:  Our amazing project is created by our Volunteers and Supporters.  Sometimes I feel surrounded by memories of the hundreds of individuals who have stepped forward over the years to offer their energy and ideas to our mutual objective of help.  Deepest thanks to them All!  They made the way clear for our current Volunteers, Board and Allies to do what we do today.

If you want to know what guides us, look at this quote from Robert Green Ingersoll whose name we take:  “The time to be happy is Now, the place to be happy is Here, and the way to be happy is to Make Others So!”

If you would like to get to know us better, check out our site: http://ingersollcenter.org/

Marsha Botzer
Marsha Botzer
Marsha Botzer is a co-founder of Equal Rights Washington and its affiliates ERW Education + Engagement and ERW Political Action. She is a Director on Equal Rights Washington's board.