Can you explain what Gender Justice League is and the work your organization does to those who may not know?
At the beginning, Gender Justice League was a name change clinic helping people find parity and alignment for their identity documents. This was a result of the fears many who identify as LGBTQ had about civil and human rights being held back for their community. As a member of the LGBTQ community, you want to be able to have a social security card, driver’s license, birth certificate, and passport so you can travel and not get hassled by TSA for having a mismatch. We’re trying to fix things like this for folks.
Was Gravity Payments the first processor Gender Justice League worked with?
When we drop donor letters for certain campaigns we’re working on, we pull information from a report based on credit card information from our processor. Sometimes the information pulls their old name or may be a name members of our organization don’t want to see anymore. For example, if I a send a letter saying, “Thanks Steve for donating”. Steve replies, “Actually, I’m Elizabeth now and I’m kind of triggered because you’re supposed to get this right.”
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I wanted a system to gather the preferred names of our donors, but, I had no way to tell my current processor what I needed. Furthermore, when we do things like a phone bank or a major event, and we are taking donations from folks, often they will tell us to set them up for a monthly donation, but we had no way to do recurring billing. I found knocking on the door of them to be extremely frustrating. We are small potatoes, so I couldn’t just call them.
So, why did you switch to Gravity?
I wanted something easy to look at that I can manually add in the information because your debit or credit card might say one name, but I want to give you an opportunity to tell me what name you prefer to go by. So, when I do send out donor letters, I can thank Elizabeth instead of Steve. I want to make sure Elizabeth gets acknowledged for who she is. It’s critical I make a connection between my organization Gender Justice League and the people who support us.
That’s what Gravity Payments did for us. We said here’s what we need and Gravity Payments said, “We will build you a tool.” I get to brag that my payment processor is right in my neighborhood and I can go see them if I have an issue. If I need something tweaked or added in, I can go sit down and they can help me. I can call them on the phone. The person who put everything together for us emailed me yesterday and said, “How’s everything going?” It was personal and I appreciate that.
Has your experience been better since switching?
The experience has been great. I am the director of development at Gender Justice League, and I have the confidence to engage with our supporters at the level that they want. Not everyone can go out and do what we can do. People have their jobs and their lives and they want to make a difference, but the easiest and only way they can is with a donation. I want to make that easy as possible for them.
Do you think that your current processors problem started as a values foundation? If they valued diversity and inclusion they would have thought of these issues when building out their systems.
The analogy I would use when addressing where my old credit card processor lacks, is this, months ago they started off on their journey across the ocean and there was a one degree or a less than one degree shift in the direction their boat was going. Over time, that gap became wider and wider and wider. There is a lot of evidence out there for a business case on LGBTQ equality and addressing the needs of your clients at their level, where they’re at. Instead of offering a one size fits all approach and hoping you don’t lose too many people along the way, a company should create a dynamic, versatile, approach to your clients at the beginning of the voyage. Along the way, our needs will change, I am sure of it, but you should pivot when necessary. At some point, I will be able to pivot and Gravity will be able to move with us. I don’t want to be left behind by a technology company that makes me too small to notice.
There are a lot of societal issues the LGBTQ community is working through. Often, the little things are just as important. You at Gender Justice League help your constituents through the little things, like changing their ID information. You’re combating the system that forces specific names for credit cards or social security cards. Then that system you’re fighting comes back and bites you. It is one of the ways in my mind how corporate America can change. To your point, as you said Gender Justice League is a blip on the radar of massive companies. So, the loss of you as a client is insignificant, but it could become a much larger issue down the road as times change.
I could have continued to knock on the door and eventually picked up an iron bar and banged on it loud enough and they might have helped. Maybe I was just too small of a client. Maybe I wasn’t coming in at a high enough level of business for them to say, “Ok, this is worth our time.” That was an opportunity they missed.
My old credit card processor wouldn’t give me a hug, but Gravity Payments says, “Hey!” while hugging me. I love it.
Where do you think corporate America is failing transgender or gender non-conforming people?
A lot of times, businesses only want to hear from me for two hours, but people are not willing to have me come in and help redesign things from the ground up. They don’t want a retrofit. They want a little cosmetic change. They want to change what the surface looks like. I think their angle is I want to make a difference, but they’re not willing to invest below the surface level. If we can see our customers for who they are and meet them where they are, that’s one thing. They’re not addressing that and it results in less of a comprehensive approach. It is a strategy instead of an actual business culture change.
Companies are not social institutions designed to take care of people. They’re in the market to create a product or service and to sell it. When I speak to companies, I realize they’re not there to support a community in a way that a nonprofit might be. But, companies must realize they’re part of a community and they exist everywhere. Their brand matters.
What is it important for Gender Justice League to work with companies that have a commitment to diversity and inclusion?
Gender Justice League is a social justice organization. It doesn’t make sense for us to partner or be associated with organizations that don’t have that in mind. It is antithetical. We wouldn’t bank with an organization that is discriminatory to trans people, or takes on practices that are abhorrent to society. Look at City of Seattle’s action against Wells Fargo. They said that doesn’t work for us as a community. It was a community response.
When companies move the focus off the profit and invest in their community, things happen. When you’re taking care of some of the most marginalized in the workplace, I find that it becomes a high level of investment in the community.
When a company says to their community, “We see you. We are not just going to take your money. We are a part of you and we want you to trust us.” For that, you want to be able to turn to Gravity Payments. Gravity is the business you should think of when trusting your money in someone else’s hands.
As a leader of this community, I’m driven by the desire to help other people make a difference. I want to help you make a difference in my community.
I feel very strongly that having a company that says, “Not only are we here to make a profit, but we are going to make a profit because we are excellent at what we do. But, we are also here standing next to the marginalized. We have a commitment to our community beyond when the transaction ends.”
What is the solution?
Often people don’t see the solution right in front of them. So, what I think of is the world I want to live in and how do I create that world? What steps do I need to take? What actions should I make consistent with the world I want to live in?
In business, I think of that with partnership opportunities. I don’t want to just take a check from an organization and throw my name on a banner. I want to care about the partners I work with and want them to care about my organization. Companies need to stop saying they care. They need to actually care. We don’t need a payment processor for the trans community. We need a payment processor that actually cares about people.
For example, Gravity Payments is most known for the $70K minimum wage. Why did you do that? Because it was the right thing to do. Gravity Payments does the right thing, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense, they do the right thing.