During the 2016 election cycle, we watched Meryl Streep, Beyoncé, and Madonna sing Hillary Clinton's praises, asking their fanbase to get out the vote, volunteer, and donate. Now that the dust has settled, the only positive result of one of the most polarising elections in history is that it's upped the ante with regards to the general public's sense of civic duty and political engagement: it's impossible to ignore; and everyone, including teenagers and even kids in single digits, has an opinion. Canadian indie-rock duo Tegan and Sara have been increasingly outspoken with regards to LGBTQ rights throughout their 22 year career, but their advocacy took a more solidified shape in recent months with the launch of a new foundation, which focuses on economic justice as well as health and representation for LGBTQ women and girls.
Given that the current US administration has already proven that LGBTQ rights are very likely to be under constant attack for the next four years, the existence of the Tegan and Sara Foundation is ever more crucial. We asked them a few questions about how this cause hits home for both sisters, what they've done so far, and where they see the foundation going in the future:
Noisey: What kinds of recent events and timely causes inspired you both to create this foundation?
Tegan and Sara: We have always been very invested in LGBTQ rights and activism. California's ruling against marriage equality in 2008 (Proposition 8) really shook us up. When Canada passed marriage equality, we were in our early 20's and not really thinking about things like marriage or adoption rights. By 2008, we were in serious relationships with Americans and it was palpable to see our partners be actively stripped of their rights. It activated us in a big way.
Our audience keeps us motivated to continue fighting for LGBTQ equality. We hear their questions, concerns, aspirations and hope; we share many of them. Before we launched the Foundation, we used the first half of 2016 to understand the challenges within the community and what our Foundation's role would be. The data and conversations showed us that LGBTQ girls and women are underfunded, underrepresented and under researched. We've realised in the last few years that a Foundation would allow us to raise much more money than we could ever hope to by using our standard "T-shirt drive" type fundraising. With a Foundation, we can also make sure that these funds and programs are reaching people in our community who need support! With the (at the time) possible Trump presidency looming on our minds we just had to do something to ensure we were ready to fight to protect but also prop up women and girls in our community. A Foundation allows us to be proactive rather than reactive! We can all agree that this year showed us that we need to be taking charge in shaping the kind of world we want to see.
How will the foundation look to respond to challenges LGBTQ women face in today's political and social climate, and what kinds of events/actions can we hope to see as the foundation evolves?
We want to make it so that when LGBTQ women wake up and go about their day, their lives are not any harder or different because of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means equality in economics, health and representation. To achieve this, we are seeking partnerships with LGBTQ organisations that provide services specifically for women and girls. We also want to focus on LGBTQ women of colour and transgender women because research undeniably shows they are the most marginalised and in need. The barriers we hope to address are areas that many of us don't think about or take for granted – for example the discrimination LGBTQ girls and women experience at concerts, when watching television, or trying to get an annual health exam. We want to see studios promote positive storylines and narratives for LGBTQ girls and women because there are badass LGBTQ women in history and today – let's tell those stories! We want to see every doctor in the U.S. and Canada use the correct pronouns when speaking to their patients. We want to see LGBTQ women bring their significant others to company parties without fear of losing their jobs.
What are some of the organisations the foundation will be working with as partners in fighting for economic justice, health, and representation for LGBTQ women?
This is evolving! The Foundation is two-months old formally. But, offhand we have had great success so far working with Equality NC Foundation, Astraea Foundation, Audre Lorde Project, Planned Parenthood. Last week, our Foundation brought together incredible LGBTQ women from every industry for a meeting. Everyone from comedians, to politicians and producers had a seat at the table in deciding how to make a difference for LGBTQ girls and women in 2017. Some of the initial ideas and partnerships that came out of the meeting were training LGBTQ women to run for local and state office for the first time, developing a digital mentorship program for LGBTQ girls so that geography does not limit their access to support, and building resources to connect people to LGBTQ-friendly doctors.
What platforms will the foundations use to raise awareness? (your music, brand partnerships like the Kiehl's launch, concerts, essays, podcasts, etc).
We will continue to use our platform as "Tegan and Sara" to reach as many
people as we can about the work we are doing. We're fortunate to be connected to amazing individuals and brands (like Kiehl's) who care about the world and will continue to use all our resources and connections to make a difference. And we are always searching for new partners to join the movement for LGBTQ women's equality.
Oset Babur is a writer based in Cambridge, Mass. You can follow her on Twitter.