TransOhio cuts ties with Stonewall Columbus after years of turmoil

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Division within the LGBTQ community is Columbus is boiling over, leading to a break between two organizations dedicated to serving Columbus' marginalized communities.

TransOhio posted a two-page letter to Facebook on Monday, announcing the organization was severing ties with Stonewall Columbus, calling it a last resort.

Lena Tenney, who sits on the board of directors for TransOhio, says the contentious history between the two groups really started with the creation of TransOhio 14 years ago.

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Tenney says the group was created in response to Stonewall routinely excluding transgender people in programming. And they say Monday's decision was really a long time coming.

"I hope that this is a message of loving accountability, this is a message of justice," they said. "We have to support our most marginalized folks, and most marginalized folks speaking for themselves has not motivated Stonewall to take concrete, long-lasting action. We hope that this break, very publicly, will help bring some of that accountability to play."

In recent years, the troubled relationship was in the spotlight after the 2017 Pride parade. Protestors tried to block the parade, leading to the arrests of four people and two officers being hurt. The Pride Festival organizer later resigned.

Leaders with TransOhio felt Stonewall was not doing enough to stand with and support the protestors. And meetings held after the parade incident were often contentious.

TransOhio has felt an apology from Stonewall was needed. But, so far, that has not happened.

AJ Casey, Stonewall's executive director, said she was saddened to hear the news of TransOhio's decision, saying Stonewall was made aware of the board's decision back in August.

But Casey also points out that Stonewall will still move forward with supporting trans causes.

"Stonewall Columbus is committed to continuing this work, and anything we can do over time to have conversations with the folks at TransOhio, we certainly are open to that," Casey said. "The trans community is truly hurting, that people in the trans community are facing obstacles like no one can fully and accurately describe, and so we are redoubling our efforts. We are committing, continuing to commit, to serve the trans community using all the resources that we have and all of our partnerships throughout the city and throughout the country really."

Meanwhile, Tenney acknowledges that cutting ties with another organization that also focuses on lifting up marginalized groups may seem counter-intuitive to some. But they say a message had to be sent.

"In these political times, we need to be as united as possible, but unity consistently in Columbus is coming at the expense of our most marginalized, so the folks that are raising legitimate complaints about racism and transphobia are being told – be quiet, because we need to be unified," they said. 'But it’s not unity if we’re continually marginalizing folks."

To read the full letter TransOhio posted to Facebook, click here.