OutServe-SLDN co-chair steps down

Josh Seefried has stepped down as co-chair of OutServe-SLDN, in an effort to help the organization survive what has become a bitter – and I mean literally bitter – fight for survival.

I’ve written a few posts about this already, and key to understanding what’s going on at the nation’s lead “gays in the military” group – now LGBT in the military – is realizing that we have no idea what’s really going on.

Here’s what we do know.

1. Two “gays in the military” groups, OutServe and SLDN, merged a little less than a year ago.

2. They hired Allyson Robinson, an out transgender woman, as their new Executive Director.

3. A little over a month ago, OutServe-SLDN’s chief financial officer resigned, without a public explanation.  In his resignation letter the thanked the board, SLDN’s past Executive Directors, but not current OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson.

4. In the past few weeks, at least one board member, Sue Fulton, proposed having the board discuss whether it was time for Executive Director Allyson Robinson to leave for undisclosed reasons.

5. Fulton’s proposal was leaked.

6. Robinson’s supporters, including three board members and a number of OutServe-SLDN chapter heads, fought back and demanded the resignation of OutServe-SLDN co-chair, Josh Seefried, who is gay.  No explanation for why Seefried is singled out.

7. Robinson’s supporters continued to leak their side of the story – the board, on the other hand, refused to discuss the situation publicly (though it’s normal for boards not to make public their private deliberations).

8. Robinson’s supporters alleged that the board wanted her to go because she’s trans.  And they are now insisting that the entire board resign and be replaced by a list of names they’ve provided.

9. We discovered a few days ago that OutServe-SLDN is for all intents and purposes now bankrupt.

10. Board co-chair Josh Seefried, in an effort to help the organization survive and move past this dispute, has just resigned.

What don’t we know?

Allyson Robinson SLDN ED

Allyson Robinson,
executive director of OutServe-SLDN

We don’t know what Robinson’s role was in the current financial crisis, for starters.  Did she do a good job trying to run an organization facing a major restructuring with the merge, and a fundraising problem brought on by the fact that the organization’s main goal for the past 20 years, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, has been achieved?  Or did she do a bad job?  I’ve been told in the past that when you run a non-profit, half your time as Executive Director is spent raising money.  How did Robinson do with that half of her job?

Some have tried to suggest that “of course OutServe-SLDN is bankrupt” because of the difficulty in raising money now that DADT is gone.  Yes and no.  If “of course” the organization can no longer be viable, then it should have closed a year ago.  Clearly no one on the board or running the organization thought the organization should close – they didn’t think so last year when they merged, and they didn’t think so when they hired Robinson, nor did Robinson think it was an impossible mission, or she wouldn’t have taken the job. Clearly they all thought they could do better over the past 9 months.  They didn’t.  So the question is: why?


Josh Seefried, outgoing co-chair of OutServe-SLDN.

Back to Seefried.  I think he did the right thing by stepping down.  When you become a lightning rod, whether or not you’re really to blame, the mature thing in politics is often simply, and sadly, to resign.

Of course, Allyson Robinson, the other lightning rod, is still on the job.

As for the charges that OutServe-SLDN is now rabidly anti-trans and that’s why the board was considering asking Robinson to leave, is anti-trans bias also why the CFO quit last month and the organization is now reportedly bankrupt?

And, if the fact that Robinson is trans means that per se we should all assume that anti-trans bias it at work here, then shouldn’t we also assume that the fact that Seefried is a gay man also means he was discriminated against by those attempting to make him the fall-guy for this imbroglio? It wouldn’t be the first time anti-gay-male bias was the motivating force behind an LGBT “controversy.”  At this point, we have as much evidence to prove either claim.

In the end, we don’t know what Seefried did, we don’t know what Robinson did, we don’t know what the board did.  We just don’t know.  We do know, however, that Seefried took one for the team.  The burden now shifts to Allyson Robinson and her defenders.  The onus is on them to show that Seefried was the problem and that OutServe-SLDN has either no financial crisis, or that the crisis had nothing to do with Allyson Robinson’s leadership and that she did everything that was expected of her during her nine months on the job.

I’ve been a big defender of SLDN, and more recently OutServe, from the beginning.  I worked alongside SLDN’s predecessors in 1993, the Campaign for Military Service, trying to stop Sam Nunn from implementing DADT.  I’ve also been a big fan of Allyson Robinson.  But I no longer fully trust OutServe-SLDN.  Not because I believe that there’s some massive anti-transgender conspiracy coming from a board of directors that intentionally hired the first openly-transgender woman to run a major LGBT rights organization only nine months ago.  But rather, because it feels to me like Seefried was scapegoated by, and to, Outrage, Inc.

So I sincerely hope that Robinson’s defenders can prove their allegations that this entire story is based on nothing other than one board member’s alleged distaste for transgender people.  Because it feels like a much bigger mess.  And if the new crew taking over OutServe-SLDN, a civil rights organization, is making up claims of discrimination in order to smear a gay man that they don’t like, rather than taking responsibility for a financial mess of their own making, then I’m not sure this organization will, or should, survive.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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