Leadership Transition at TLDEF

Michael Silverman April 1, 2016

Dear friends,

Last week, I informed TLDEF's board of my decision to step down as Executive Director and I want to share that news with you now. More than a decade ago, I started the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund with the belief that every member of the LGBT community deserved the opportunity to live freely and authentically. The rampant discrimination that transgender people faced put that opportunity out of reach for most in the transgender community. At TLDEF’s inception, I became the organization’s first and only Executive Director.  It is now time for me to step down and usher in the next phase of TLDEF’s life-changing work.

I could not have imagined when founding this organization how powerfully TLDEF would impact the movement for transgender rights, and how vastly the world would have changed as a result of the advocacy of so many in support of transgender rights. It has been my honor to lead TLDEF’s transformative work.

I will depart with a feeling of overwhelming joy, reflecting on all we have been able to accomplish together and knowing that the organization’s work will continue to address the enormous challenges ahead. It has been an incredible journey, and I will be forever grateful to have been a part of helping the community.

Since informing the board of my decision to leave the organization, it has been working hard to ensure a smooth and seamless transition to the next Executive Director. We have new board co-chairs, and a healthy cash reserve that will enable us to take on the pressing issues facing the transgender community. The board has engaged the services of Joan Garry Consulting, who will assist it in the transition process. Joan is the former Executive Director of GLAAD and has expertise in advising non-profit leadership and boards.

Many of you will wonder why I am leaving. The time feels right. On a personal level, I am excited to take on new challenges, and hope that I can continue to play a role in the struggle for LGBT freedom and equality. On an organizational level, TLDEF is strong and has grown to become an important institution in the transgender community, serving thousands of people each year and advocating for equal rights across the nation.

We are also at an inflection point where organizationally we have the potential to make an even greater impact to address the challenges facing the transgender community. Those challenges are not in short supply, and TLDEF’s vital work feels more important than ever. One only has to look at the egregious anti-transgender legislation recently passed in North Carolina to see the threat to the transgender community. A new leader, with a new voice and a new perspective will be a great asset to TLDEF and our movement, and is a natural part of the organization’s tremendous growth over the past several years.

Leaving will not be easy. I am very attached to our staff members, board members, donors and volunteers. Some have become very close friends. As excited as I am about my own future, I am also sad to say goodbye. There’s no way around that.

I still have time left and plan to make the most of it, and I am assisting the board with this transition, raising as much money as I can, and ensuring that TLDEF is poised to take on the challenges our community faces when I depart. I will look forward to speaking to many of you in the coming days and weeks. I know that I have been fortunate beyond all measure in my tenure here. That is due to your many years of friendship, guidance and support of TLDEF. Thank you for that, and for being part of the TLDEF family.

I hope to work with many of you again.


Michael Silverman