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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50 Responses to “OutServe-SLDN co-chair steps down”

  1. dcinsider says:

    I don’t understand this comment. “Outrage Inc. powerplay.” Can you expound on that?

  2. dcinsider says:

    Thanks SC.

  3. Matt Smith says:

    I don’t personally subscribe to either possibility. I thought that was clear. I haven’t suggested the evidence points towards any single possibility more than another. I haven’t alleged discrimination.

    Rather, my critique is that I see you favoring some possibilities more than others, and I don’t see any justification for that.

    Sure, one possibility is everyone hates gay white men. I don’t see how this, or any other specific possibility, undermines my position.

    “you all” – You seem awfully quick to tar me with the handiest brush. I actually don’t have a position on this and haven’t “put stuff out there” as my personal theory or as fact.

  4. dave3137 says:

    I try like the blazes to avoid snark. But of course, I might have explained myself better in my first post. No harm, no foul.

  5. Okay, sorry about that, I thought you were being snarky :) We need a “no snark” emoticon, or expression – kind of link “no homo,” but not nearly as bigoted :)

    No snarko!

  6. Actually, the facts as they stand are that Sue Fulton crafted the email asking the board to meet in order get rid of Allyson, the ED. And Sue Fulton’s email made clear that “things weren’t working out” with Allyson. Sue is now trying to claim otherwise, but the “fact” is what Sue’s email actually says, not what she spins it as now.

    As for your point 2, of course no one accused the chapter leaders of anti-gay bias. Most of us are not in the business of crying discrimination every time a gay person gets fired. Sometimes gay people, like straight, just suck at their jobs. And they lose them. And other times they get fired because they’re gay. But you don’t play the discrimination card simply because the person is gay, or trans for that matter. That’s sloppy and negligent, and it sets the entire movement back.

    Like Sarah Palin, I read lots øf news sites and blogs. And you still haven’t answered any of the questions I’ve raised, nor have you alleged anything to substantiate the claim of anti-trans bias. Having people working for a civil rights organization make flippant, knee-jerk accusations of discrimination is what’s scary. You can only pull the Chicken Little card so many times before people simply stop believing, or even listening to, you. Part of what it means to be a real civil rights advocate is getting things right.

  7. Tania Dunbar says:

    “Seefried insisted the rumors of transgender bias against Robinson had no merit.

    ‘That couldn’t be further from the truth,’ Seefried said to BuzzFeed. ‘This board proudly hired the first trans ED of any organization focused on the full LGBT community.'”

    – See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/outserve-sldn-announces-it-will-choose-new-board050713#sthash.wJEiUGcG.dpuf

    Your “article” seems to be an opinion piece. You have ignored the facts as they stand: 1) Sue Fulton has publicly stated that she was trying to buy Robinson more time to fix the troubled group’s problems since the board originally wanted to force Robinson out immediately. 2) No one, not one person involved in the coalition of chapter leaders ever accused the the board of directors of having anti-gay bias.


    Perhaps your failure to read other blogs and ask the right questions of the right people is to blame, or perhaps you have your own agenda. Regardless, your inability to find the facts is rather scary.

  8. You guys seem to not understand the damage involved in concocting discrimination conspiracies out of thin air. You’re not giving actual justification, you’re just making things up now. Using your logic, it’s just as plausible that you all hate gay white men and that’s what’s actually going on here. There’s as much proof of that as your conspiracy theory. My entire post is about counteracting the made-up stuff you all have put out there. I’m not taking sides. You all however have, and publicly, with no evidence, and no plausible explanation. You do serious damage to real civil rights advocates by just making things up.

  9. Matt says:

    I think you’re awfully quick to see Seefried as a hero/martyr. You write that he “took one for the team” and describe him as a gentleman. That’s certainly plausible. But he could also be a total asshole who got out now for his own purposes, then wrote a public statement motivated only by the optics. Both these possibilities would fit the facts.

    Anti-trans bias could appear in the following form:

    1. Transwoman applies for the job of ED

    2. A few board members aren’t happy hiring a transwoman, but have no legitimate way to justify opposing her, so with a minimum of fuss they go along with the majority’s decision

    3. These board members work against her in subtle, maybe even unconscious ways, such as failing to fundraise when the org is focusing on trans rights, then blaming her for this and any other problem

    4. One board member says or does something less subtle, which draws fire and makes him the symbol of the larger problem

    Or it could be that Robinson was running the place into the ground; that Seefried was acting in good faith the whole time, and he’s as pro-trans as anyone ever. We don’t know, based on the facts you’ve listed.

    My point is, you seem to have clear sympathies, and I don’t see how that’s justified by the little we know.

  10. dave3137 says:

    John, my comment was only that your most recent post read so much like the previous one that I thought you might have missed Josh’s post. And I confess that I missed the fact that you linked to it.

    My comment was not intended in any way to suggest that there’s anything faulty with your analysis, and in fact, I think you’re right on!

    I’ve been a member of both organizations — SLDN for probably a decade or more, and OutServe since it was founded (and FB friends with “J.D.Smith” even prior to that) — and did not feel “good” about the merger (or whatever it was called). I don’t know why I didn’t feel good, but it did seem that afterward, neither one was the sort of “force” it had been.

    I noted that Josh did not mention Allyson, either positively or negatively, as just a side comment in line with your comment that others seem to have taken the same sort of “no comment” position with regard to her. I don’t know what that “means,” if anything.

    But I’ll repeat, I think your analysis is spot on.

  11. Yes I did read it, thus the reason I link to it. I’m not entirely sure I understand your point. You seem to be suggesting that because Josh did the gentlemanly thing and stepped down, and issued the appropriate polite public letter of resignation, without recriminations, for the good of the organization, that somehow that proves that there’s nothing wrong? It simply proves that Josh is a gentleman, and a rather politically mature one at that.

    My analysis above stands.

  12. dave3137 says:

    I would hope you’ve read Josh’s FB post. This post of yours seems almost unfamiliar with that. He also doesn’t mention Allyson, by the way.

  13. Ty Morgan says:

    No argument there!

  14. Ty Morgan says:

    Asinine comment by you. Where’s the lecture? And by your “logic”, if you’re not gay you can’t have an opinion on gay issues, if you’re not a woman you can’t comment on women’s issues. Not an Black American? Guess you should shut up about that too?

  15. Yes. There seems to be far more smoke than the Josh Seefried fire is capable of.

  16. pappyvet says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, Imagine the worst charge that could be made to light the villagers torches,then make it. Have we not seen this tactic used to great reward over and over again in politics? You dont need facts when you can drop an A bomb of accusation and stir the pot. If they really have 5 aces in this game,lets see the cards.

  17. Skeptical Cicada says:


  18. pappyvet says:

    Sounds like a classic powerplay. Arguing about who knocked the hole in the boat while it sinks.

    Very sad in my opinion. And the lack of concrete details as to what the problem was just makes it even more suspicious when this sort of controversy is the last thing we need.

  19. The ex-board members, and other of Robinson’s defenders, have been talking non-stop for a week, alleging that this entire thing is an anti-trans conspiracy of one. I think it’s rather important to find out if that’s true, especially since the allegations are coming from (ex)board members and/or chapter heads of a civil rights organization. It would be incredibly inappropriate for them, in their position, to be making false civil rights discrimination claims, as it would call into question the legitimacy of this organization as a civil rights organization. So they let the cat out of the bag. We need full disclosure, now. Was this some huge anti-trans conspiracy withint OutServe-SLDN, was there some other reason that the board was considering removing Robinson – as former board member Sue Fulton put it “This isn’t working out” (WHAT wasn’t working out?) – or are the people who brought up the anti-trans discrimination claims going to be resigning their positions as chapter heads etc since future claims of discrimination by OutServe-SLDN would be suspect if these people remained a part of the organization?

    It’s a very serious business being a civil rights advocate. And you do not ever claim discrimination lightly. The silence from the “it was anti-trans discrimination” crowd is deafening. Why won’t they explain their accusation, and provide proof – even a simple explanation – of its veracity? They wanted all of this public – it’s public. So now it’s time for them to explain their accusations, or do as Josh Seefried did and leave.

  20. emjayay says:

    Hmmm, sounds like you have some particular experience with this issue. More woe and intrigue!

  21. emjayay says:

    Board members, in a decision making position, shouldn’t talk. That would be manipulating and lobbying their particular position. Also they are kind of on the outside. The underlings, not in much of a decision making position but observing from the inside, are the ones who have the beans to spill. They shouldn’t either, but being a highly flawed person I was just hoping someone would. Also it’s their main way of cleverly attempting to manipulate their position, and their jobs depend on its success. And their job may also depend on whose side they appear to be on, unfortunately.

  22. emjayay says:

    Of course it’s close to gossip. You godda problem with that? It’s a good story. Conflict, woe and intrigue, unknown factors, personalities, sexuality, and eventually maybe a resolution. And as John said, the consequences are consequential. But it’s not just idle gossip, not about tsk-tsking and feeling superior, at least not completely. By observing how things work between people in a human institution maybe a bit about how things work can be learned.

  23. pappyvet says:

    It’s an important group, it is very needed. Sounds a lot like panic and confusion but without intimate details it’s difficult to sort out.

    By the way, Happy Independence Day…..from the British.

  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    The idea of anyone, especially those from oppressed sectors being part of the US military murder machine is loathsome.

    As for the rest of it, this is just Democrats betraying Democrats, instead or their usual betrayals of everyone else. Tempest in a chamber pot.

  25. I give a shit. It’s our only group working on these issues. And it’s on life support right now. And there’s suggestions that this may be part of a larger Outrage, Inc. powerplay that affects everyone who cares about our civil rights going into the future. So yes, I give a shit.

  26. nicho says:

    Gosh, who gives a shit? Other than members of the organization. Let them sort it out. There’s no need for non-involved parties to be discussing it. It comes pretty close to gossip.

  27. That Josh was gay, white and a man? Sadly, that’s where these kind of discussions often lead, and it’s often the only proof of guilt offered.

  28. What are the facts, then? Don’t come and lecture us about how we’re wrong, you’re right, but you can’t be bothered to tell us what we’re wrong about and what you’re right about. You guys raised the specter of anti-trans bias and how Seefried was the real problem – you were more than happy to talk publicly about that – but now when we’re actually discussing the “facts” that you wanted public, you’re suddenly not willing to defend those “facts,” while telling the rest of us to STFU. If you’re going to allege a civil rights violation then you’d better have more backing you up than the simple allegation, with no explanation whatsoever, and a call to everyone else to be quiet.

  29. It’s also important to be able to run an organization, and that has nothing to do with how good you are on TV. I know lots of good people who would be terrible at running large staffs and fundraising.

  30. So here’s the problem I keep having with this whole “Seefried was the problem” argument.

    1. OutServe-SLDN has/had 18 board members. We’re to believe that only one board member had a problem with the ED, but somehow that was enough for the board to call an emergency meeting to oust the ED. How does that work exactly, if only one board member is the problem?

    2. And if only Seefried was the problem, then why was it board member Sue Fulton who wrote the email calling for the board to get together and fire Robinson? And I quote:


    From: Sue Fulton
    Date: Sat, Jun 22, 2013
    Subject: Re: motion

    I propose the establishment of a Committee that we would delegate to meet with Allyson with the following proposal:

    “This isn’t working out, we’d like to work together on a transition plan that has you resigning…”


    There are a number of problems with the Fulton email. All of which suggest that Seefried wasn’t the only “problem.” Why did Fulton write the email if Seefried was the only board member concerned about Robinson? You’d think the author of the email asking the board to meet and kick Robinson out, would be Seefried. But it wasn’t. Why wasn’t Fulton involved?

    And if Fulton, as she now claims, was calling the board meeting simply to give Robinson more time to regroup and save her job, and if Seefried was the only problem, then why call the board meeting at all? Only one board member out of 18 wanted Robinson to go, under this theory, so why call a board meeting at all? Especially when we now know that 3 board members, that includes Fulton, resigned over the attempt to get rid of Robinson. So that’s 3 board members to Seefried’s one board member. Again, it’s not making sense why Robinson’s job was supposedly in jeopardy is only one board member was against Robinson and at least 3 were willing to quit for her.

    And what’s more, if Seefried’s supposed anti-trans animus was the problem, then why did Fulton write in her email that “this isn’t working out.” What isn’t working out? That certainly suggests something bigger is going on that neither Fulton, nor any of the rest of Robinson’s defenders, are telling us about.

    From the beginning, Robinson’s allies, including now Fulton, have been leaking details suggesting that Seefried was the problem and that his problem was anti-trans animus. Putting aside for a moment that they’ve offered zero proof of either allegation, the facts we do know – that the CFO resigned while showing pique at Robinson, that Fulton and not Seefried wrote the board asking them to meet to remove Robinson, and that Fulton acknowledged in her email that something larger “was not working out.” All of this contradicts the claim that Seefried was the problem.

    So why shouldn’t we be concerned when the one person who apparently was not the problem has been forced to resign, and no one is telling us what the problem actually was?

  31. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Not being gay yourself, where do you get off lecturing those of us who are about any of this?

  32. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Bitterness? Involving trans activists? You don’t say. It’s why I stopped doing anything on trans issues.

  33. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Then just fucking post them yourself. No one sitting on the facts is in any position to criticize speculation.

  34. Skeptical Cicada says:

    They won’t. Sadly, anytime any gay man ever says no to any trans person, the response is bitter shrieking about anti-trans bigotry. It has become a bullying tactic and should be completely ignored until credible evidence is offered.

  35. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I love how insiders like you attack others for speculating while you prance around refusing to discuss the matter publicly. Replace this speculative crap with some transparency, asshole.

  36. Thom Allen says:

    What are the many other data points being ignored?

  37. Tom Carpenter says:

    John and others: Please read what I wrote in response to the issue of alleged trans bias and the comments of Paula Niera. I hope our thoughts put this red herring to rest once and for all. http://www.bilerico.com/2013/06/restating_tavas_mission.php

  38. T says:

    You need some better sources. You’re connecting a few data points, ignoring many others, and drawing conclusions that are far from the truth. The truth isn’t pretty – but your conclusions aren’t even close to telling that story. I read your work every day, so I know you are a far better journalist than this. Everybody leaking info to you (on both sides of this) has an axe to grind and you’re buying the crap they’re pushing without digging in to confirm the facts or get the rest of the story. Do some digging. Talk to some of the other players. The facts aren’t that hard to find.

  39. BeccaM says:

    In other words, we still don’t know what the heck is going on in there or why.

  40. Ty Morgan says:


  41. I’d met her a few times and was very impressed with her. I have no idea how she ran the organization but she’s very impressive when you meet her, and very good on tv which is always important for any group like this.

  42. Ty Morgan says:

    Good Lord I certainly hope not. It’s a LGBT civil rights organization. What do they think the” t ” sands for, tall? P.S.,read a pervious post of yours on Robinson, you thought she was a good pick for the job.

  43. You think it’s likely that an lgbt civil rights organization would hire a trans ED only to fire her nine months later for being trans?

  44. Ty Morgan says:

    You’ve got to be kidding!

  45. Also terribly unbelievable, without further evidence (so far there’s been none – not even an explanation of the accusation, actually) that they’d hire an openly trans person to be the executive director only to realize nine months later that she’s trans.

  46. The other side is the board of directors that is doing it’s job and not litigating private employment matters in public. Though now I think they have to.

  47. Ty Morgan says:

    Not being gay or a member of any such organizations, I’m not knowledgeable as to the inner workings of many gay groups. Having said that, it would terribly ironic if the case against Robinson is based on some bias against trans gendered people. I really hope that isn’t true!

  48. emjayay says:

    This sort of woe and intrigue is always interesting, if not necessarily for the highest minded reasons. C’mon, doesn’t someone know someone who is dishing the dirt, particularly from the Josh side? I worked at a nonprofit. I woulda talked.

  49. Sorry, but the “speculative crap” as you call it began with the chapter leaders who suggested that this entire affair was due to anti-trans bias. Which doesn’t explain the fact that the CFO resigned, or the fact that the CFO clearly has some issue with the ED, and the fact that the organization is now apparently bankrupt. So, what I really love is how some people think they’re permitted to lob any unsubstantiated accusation they want, while no one else is permitted to poke holes in their unsubstantiated accusation.

    You guys decided to sling mud and go public with it. So you really have no right to attempt to silence others for simply poking holes in your mud-slinging.

  50. Concerned Chapter Leader says:

    I love how people write opinion pieces about things they don’t have all the facts on. You’re right, you don’t know what’s going on, therefore can not have an informed opinion on the situation. With a bio like yours I would have expected more than this speculative crap (for lack of a better word).

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