The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) works to ensure the well-being, safety, and lived equity of all trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people in Massachusetts. Dedicated to ending discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, MTPC develops leaders and builds coalitions, broad-based participation, and community power.
MTPC is a recipient of our 2023 Community Impact Grant. We spoke with their staff, including their Executive Director, Tre'Andre Carmel Valentine, about what drives their work and where MTPC is headed next. Boston Women's Fund: What led you to take this leadership role? Can you tell us about your connection to this work and the specific need you saw for women, girls, and gender-expansive individuals?
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition: After being involved with MTPC’s Steering committee and events, when the executive director role opened up and I was asked to take it, I initially didn’t want the job. The organization was focused purely on policy and legislative work for 10 years, and leading in that area wasn’t something I was excited about. I didn’t feel connected to it.
But when I heard the organization was looking to do more to respond directly to the needs of our community, I saw this as an opportunity for MTPC to make a difference in a new way. I wanted MTPC to not only advocate for trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive people, but also be a place that lives up to our values, a place of employment for trans people, and a place where trans people can be seen, heard, and valued.
For me, that comes from witnessing domestic violence in my home, witnessing violence against women and girls nationally and globally, and from trans femmes and nonbinary femmes being cast aside and not seen for their humanity, the light that they are, and what they contribute to our society.
Also, when I joined, we were just a staff of one, which is not a structure that leads to equitable work. For an organization that talks about equity a lot, we needed to embody that. Part of taking this role was also about laying the foundation for MTPC to walk its talk — not only externally but internally, as well.
How is MTPC working to build power within the communities you serve?
From our community programming to our capacity building services, we aim to build transgender power in all things we do. We see trans power as wellness, lived equity, and access to economic, political, and cultural power for all transgender and nonbinary people in Massachusetts and beyond. This looks like envisioning and actualizing new futures through our community programs, including:
Trans Leadership Academy that uplifts low-income, BIPOC and/or formerly incarcerated individuals to be in positions of leadership.
Identity Document Assistance Network that removes barriers for trans people legally changing their name and updating federal and state identity documents.
G.E.A.R. program that centers comfort and joy by providing affirming garments and products to trans people at no cost to them.
REACH Emergency Funding that alleviates financial hardship.
As a for trans, by trans organization, building trans power is at the heart of our mission, values, and work.
What’s one thing people might not know about your organization?
MTPC is the oldest active trans-advocacy organization in the United States! We were founded in September 2001 by a group of trans activists and lawyers who came together to build momentum around the fight for trans rights in Massachusetts. In the early days, MTPC was primarily centered on community building and education, hosting events and town hall meetings across the state to gather feedback about trans needs and experiences.
Our big policy wins include Boston’s “Ordinance regarding discrimination based on gender identity or expression” in 2002, followed by the Commonwealth’s Transgender Equal Rights Bill in 2012, and An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination in 2016. In addition to advocacy work, MTPC has also created the “I AM: Trans People Speak” awareness-building video campaign, hosted legal clinics throughout the state, and continues to hold trainings with businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, and other groups to be inclusive of and affirming for transgender and nonbinary people.
What’s next for you? What project or goal is MTPC working on right now?
The Trans Leadership Academy (TLA). The inaugural cohort of the TLA celebrated their graduation in July 2023 after completing a three-month leadership and job-skills development program with a 91% graduation rate. The TLA Reflections and Impact Report can be found here. In addition to running the next TLA cohort, MTPC will be working on developing the TLA Network, a two-fold program element as part of the overall Trans Leadership Academy program that incorporates further community, alumni, and participant involvement, as well as business and corporate partnerships, career workshops, coaching, and more.
MTPC’s focus has shifted to developing programs to respond directly to community needs since successfully advocating for legal protections and rights statewide and in various municipalities. As anti-trans sentiment and trans-antagonistic violence and erasure move throughout the US, Massachusetts is not immune. We continue to see anti-trans arguments in court cases, school board meetings, and municipal politics in the state. Despite our prior work to deconstruct this political violence and oppression, MTPC does not currently have the capacity to address the rising tide of discrimination. But we are seeing the need to re-engage and enhance our advocacy work to ensure that trans communities and trans rights continue to have a strong defender, while providing critical support for our trans and nonbinary and gender expansive community members.
Continuing to sustainably and responsibly scale our organization will be both the biggest challenge and opportunity we will encounter. This will encompass many issues including increasing our revenue, growing our programs and services to meet the needs of our constituents, hiring new staff, appropriately compensating all employees, and beginning our next strategic planning process.
What does liberation look like to you?
Liberation looks like radical love with authentic accountability. Radical love is self-love intrinsically intertwined with a love for all humanity and our planet. It’s a love that honors our identites, our histories, our experiences, our trauma, and our needs, coupled with authentic accountability, taking ownership of the hurt or harm we all cause, and deep dive self-reflection about who and how we are. It’s being responsible for the impact of our words, our actions, and our ways of navigating the world. It’s acknowledging and being responsible for the ways in which we have benefited from the oppression of others and actively pushing to dismantle the systems of inequity that continue to be upheld.
Liberation means living in a world where there is a culture of intersectional and multigenerational learning, where we build and share community power. Liberation is freedom from all of the chains that bind us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, culturally, and systemically.
For MTPC, liberation is when trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive people have ALL of the tools, resources, and support to thrive in life. Although MTPC’s work focuses on the well-being, safety, and lived equity of all trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive people; ultimately, our work is inherently tied to the collective liberation of all oppressed peoples. We acknowledge that we may not achieve the full vision of trans liberation in our current lifetime, but it is our intention to create a safer world and new vibrant futures for all trans and nonbinary people.
Big thanks to MTPC for sharing their story! Support Massachusett's Transgender Political Coaltion's work here.