Our Mission and History
FORGE is a progressive organization whose mission is to support, educate and advocate for the rights and lives of transgender individuals and SOFFAs (Significant Others, Friends, Family, and Allies). FORGE is dedicated to helping move fragmented communities beyond identity politics and forge a movement that embraces and empowers our diverse complexities.
Brief History / Time line
Beginning in 1994, FORGE’s sole purpose was to connect trans-masculine folks who were living in the Midwest, since at that time very few resources were available to FTMs and SOFFAs. For the first six years, membership grew, individuals transitioned (or chose not to), partnerships were strengthened, and relationships were developed with physicians and mental health providers. In the short span of time, the Midwest trans-masculine and SOFFA community grew from a seed into a forest.
In 2000, FORGE merged with the Transgender Aging Network, which became an official program of FORGE. The addition of transgender aging issues and the energy of Loree Cook-Daniels, created linkages, partnerships, and energy in FORGE and encouraged us to better serve a wider segment of the transgender community and providers who serve transgender individuals.
Starting in 2003, FORGE still-fully-volunteer staff began noticing an alarming trend in members attending regular monthly meetings or special events. At least ½ of participants revealed (directly or indirectly) that they had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse or adult sexual assault. It was at this point that FORGE sought funding to investigate if this high rate of sexual violence was an anomaly within the FORGE member ranks, or was more widespread.
Our work with sexual violence survivors and providers who serve transgender sexual violence survivors began in full force. We conducted a national study of transgender survivors and discovered alarming results. This initial research catapulted us to pursue additional funding and devote the majority of our work to focusing on survivors of all types of violence (sexual, domestic and hate), and work diligently to find effective ways to increase the cultural competency of the providers who serve these survivors and loved ones. See anti-violence research section for more information.
FORGE hosts the largest gathering of transgender people in the Midwest at the FORGE Forward 2007 Conference.Attended by nearly 500 individuals, the conference highlighted nationally recognized keynote speakers/presenters and drew participants from across the country.
Until 2009, FORGE staff was fully volunteer-driven. (In fact, the work between 1994 and 2009 was almost completely funded by FORGE volunteer-staff, with the exception of few small grants to cover non-staff costs.) Fortunately, through diligence in grant writing, FORGE was awarded a three year grant from the Office for Victims of Crime (focusing on providers who serve transgender survivors of sexual assault) and also a three year grant from the Office of Violence Against Women (focusing on transgender survivors of sexual assault). Additional funding also allowed other projects to move forward, as well. 2009 was the first year FORGE staff (michael munson and Loree Cook-Daniels) were on payroll.
FORGE is awarded a large, 3-year grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to provide technical assistance and training nationwide to victim service agencies focusing on survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.