“The time to be happy is now!”
Ingersoll Gender Center is a mutual support and education organization for transgender, gender variant* and genderqueer people, and the people who support them. Ingersoll is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization headquartered in Seattle and serving the Greater Seattle and Puget Sound region and beyond. Ingersoll is an all-volunteer organization that focuses on direct peer support, community building, education and advocacy. Ingersoll has become a model for peer support organizations and enjoys an international awareness for its long-standing and success and innovations.
Ingersoll’s Mission Statement:
Ingersoll Gender Center supports transgender people toward growth and well-being. We provide support, education, advocacy, and information resources for people interested in gender identity issues, and for service providers, employers, families and friends as well, in order to promote understanding, awareness and acceptance of gender diversity.
- Awareness and celebration of diverse gender identities and presentations;
- A climate of freedom, learning, love and wisdom;
- Personal development, self-understanding and valued relationships;
- Continuing research into the issues of gender identity rather than a focus on any particular etiology, theory, or counseling method;
- Non-discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, national origin or disability;
- People creating improved relationships, increased self-confidence, stability in employment and social situations, and integration of self and community;
- When applicable, the use of the Standards of Care established by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), formerly known as the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, as general guidelines.
- The courageous efforts of transgendered persons to be true to themselves and to live with integrity.
Ingersoll Gender Center’s name
Ingersoll Gender Center was named after the great 19th century humanist and free-thinker Robert Green Ingersoll. Though, unfortunately, lesser known today, he was in his time a famous orator, attorney and Illinois Attorney General. His radical views against slavery and for woman’s suffrage and for humanist values in general made him a model for Ingersoll’s message of radical human dignity. Ingersoll Gender Center’s slogan is excerpted from one of R.G. Ingersoll famous quotes: “…The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.”
What Ingersoll is doing today
The core of Ingersoll Gender Center’s programming is our perennial peer support program. Ingersoll has provided peer support services continually for over 1800 consecutive weeks without exception, through blizzards, on Christmas day, without fail. Having a reliable, safe place to go, to know you are not alone and have value, have friends, support, information and renewed energy in a sometimes hostile world, means everything. That is why we have been doing this week in and week out for over 30 years.
Ingersoll also supports the people who support Trans people. Healthy relationships are vital to healthy lives. We understand that when a transgender person transitions or comes out, everyone close to them is affected. As such Ingersoll also provides support programs for “Significant Others, Family, Friends and Allies” (SOFFA), currently through bi-monthly “break-out” meetings from our weekly Wednesday support groups.
Outreach, Development and Referral
Discrimination is so often based primarily in ignorance and invalid stereotypes. We believe that education and outreach over the long-term can have a tremendously positive impact on the lives of all transgender and gender variant people. Being a small and relatively invisible community, many people believe they have never met a transgender person and have all of their impressions formed by sensationalistic, shallow or negative media portrayals. Personal contact with a well-spoken trans or gender variant person who can speak to their own experiences can make a tremendous impression, one person and one classroom at a time. Ingersoll regularly provides trained and inspirational speakers through its speakers bureau program.
Safeguarding Rights and Dignity through Law and Public Policy
We have seen how rights and good policies once won cannot be taken for granted and assumed to always continue. Working with our partner organizations at the local and national levels, we cultivate relationships with decision makers and government officials, watchdog legislation and policy of concern to our community, and take action and advocate for our community when the need arises.
Ingersoll was founded in 1977 by Marsha Botzer as a spin-off of support programs held at Seattle Counseling Service. Over the early years, the format, focus and mission of Ingersoll was guided by emerging understandings of how personal self-discovery can be facilitated and deepened by group and community work. These ideas, energized by the past example of Ingersoll and the then current work of LGBT and Allied activists, gelled into the fundamental support format still in use today.
Ingersoll was formed when there were few resources available to people who questioned or felt uneasy with their birth assigned gender or with the strictures of gender behavior society enforces. There were few if any doctors or therapists who were trained and supportive. The early mission of Ingersoll included seeking out and training supportive professionals and educating officials about the needs and concerns of the community.
In 1984, Ingersoll formalized its organization with a non-profit status. Many generations of board members and group facilitators have kept the Ingersoll vision alive and functioning over the years. At one point in the 1990’s, Ingersoll provided multiple weekly meeting for specialized interest groups, including drop in groups, transition support groups and movie nights.
In 2005, Ingersoll’s board decided to join the Seattle LGBT Community Center as a partner program. In the process, Ingersoll undertook a community needs assessment research project culminating in 2006. Programs were condensed and revised to broaden the appeal to a wider range of ages and gender identities with the result that group attendance increased dramatically and with greater diversity. After stabilizing and revitalizing, Ingersoll once again established its 501c3 independent non-profit status in 2009.
The future of Ingersoll Gender Center
The heart of Ingersoll’s programs continues to be peer support, so continuing and expanding our support services to address the diverse needs of our community will be front and center. Increasing social programs are high on our priority list and will be pursued as resources, staffing and volunteers allow.
We will work with other individuals and organizations to cultivate and promote peer gender support, education and advocacy communities across the US and internationally. We believe that all transpeople everywhere deserve a vital support organization accessible to them.
Building mature community is an ongoing challenge that we will strive to meet. Transgender and gender variant people are no longer always in the shadows, avoiding scrutiny. We have our own literature, music, cinema and increased public awareness. There are hundreds and thousands of Internet sites offering information and expressing our life experiences in digital media. Transgender people no longer always disappear into obscurity after transition. While stigma still exits, our goal is to help build a confident and proud community core where experiences and contribution of transgender and gender variant people can be recognized and cultivated without ghettoization.
We will continue our needs assessment and research programs to ensure that the diversity and needs of our community are understood and communicated to community organizations and government bodies that can help to address these needs. Regular, high quality research will also be used to guide Ingersoll’s programming.
Economic justice and employment opportunities
Discrimination in the workplace is a major issue in the Trans and Gender Variant communities. This is a key foundational concern that has implications to mental and physical health, health care and general quality of life issue for our community. This is not an easy challenge to undertake but one that Ingersoll will continue to pursue.
*”Gender Variant” is a term used on this site to mean a person who identifies with non-polar (male/female) gender identity, a mixed or fluid identity.