Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues:
Dilemmas of the Nonprofit Tradition in LGBT Politics

October 4-5, 2013
Jerome Greene Hall, Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street | New York, NY 10027

Over the last four decades, the formal, non-profit institutional structure has come to dominate social justice work in the US, replacing prior traditions of volunteer-led organizations, membership-based organizing and other more horizontal and participatory mechanisms of civic engagement. Nonprofit organizations have grown in part because of their designation by governments as sub-contractors for the delivery of a wide range of social services.

Today, formally constituted nonprofits perform the bulk of the work of advocacy, research, litigation, service delivery and organizing on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity both in the US and around the world. But questions persist about the nature of the gains made, the agendas being promoted, whom they have benefitted and which populations they leaves behind. This conference is interested in exploring the ways in which the nonprofit form and its attendant traditions of governance, financing, staffing, organizational performance, and goal setting have affected the aspirations, organization, mobilization and vision of US LGBT politics. This two-day conference will explore the organizational, legal, decision-making, financing and leadership dilemmas, logics and structures within which US-based and/or funded queer and trans organizations operate. Our goal is to explore the ways in which the nonprofit structure and its logics inform the scope, agenda, forms, and aspiration of queer and LGBT politics, and to explore the dilemmas and contradictions created within social movements run by nonprofit based leaders and organizations. This conference will also examine alternative leadership and structural strategies that broaden participation, widen the sight of LGBT politics and center on redistribution rather than recognition.

This conference is sponsored by the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School and the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Articles and Resources

Articles and Resources List (PDF)
Please note this list is a work in progress.

We have begun to gather articles and resources that address queer and social change nonprofits and issues raised in this conference. These articles are made available on this website as well as on the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law website.

If you have additional citations to add to this list, please email the citation to the article to us at gender_sexuality_law@law.columbia.edu

Join us Thursday night, October 3, at the Women & Performance Special Issue Release Party

featuring a discussion and clips from the film Born in Flames with
Craig Willse (George Mason University), Dean Spade (Seattle University and Columbia University), Christina Heatherton (CUNY Graduate Center), Eva Hageman (New York University), Reina Gossett (http://thespiritwas.tumblr.com/), and Eric Stanley (University of California, San Diego)

Thursday, October 3, 7:00pm
83a Hester Street
New York, NY 10002
Facebook event page


Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues will take place at Columbia Law School, in Jerome Greene Hall at 116th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The street address is 435 West 116th Street.

Subway: Take the 1 train to 116th Street/Columbia University. Walk one block east through the Columbia campus to Amsterdam Avenue.

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