The Open Society Foundations & the transgender movement

by Michael Biggs

Michael Biggs is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Cross College. He researches social movements and collective protest.

The transgender movement has transformed cultural norms and social institutions at breathtaking speed. Most of us, becoming acquainted with the trans issue for the first time, are astonished to discover the extent of the gender revolution. The movement has accomplished in a few years what the movements for women’s and for gay and lesbian rights took many decades to achieve.

Part of the explanation is the amount of money behind transgenderism. The Gender Industrial Complex, as we may call it, has many components. Lucrative sponsorship comes from pharmaceutical companies and medical providers. Charities originally established to fight for homosexual rights (like Human Rights Campaign in the United States and Stonewall in Britain) wield large budgets. Last but not least, three American billionaires have bankrolled the transgender movement on a global scale: Jennifer Pritzker, whose activities were detailed in another blogpost, Jon Stryker, and George Soros.

This blogpost focuses on the Open Society Foundations (OSF), funded by Soros. This is not easy to discuss because he is vilified by right-wingers, whose criticism sometimes degenerates into anti-semitism (Williamson 2018). Therefore those of us who are liberal or progressive tend to react instinctively by dismissing any scrutiny of Soros out of hand. This is unjustified, as I will show by providing some facts about how OSF has funded the transgender movement.

OSF fully supports the objectives of transgender activists. Self-identification is “an essential legal right for trans people” (OSF 2014a). In other words, biological sex must be superseded by subjective gender identity, to include options “outside the binary categories of male and female” (OSF 2014b). Identity should not be “governed by age restrictions” (OSF 2014b). Therefore OSF funds “trans-led or LGBT organizations that promote progressive, rights-based processes for legal gender recognition” (OSF 2014a). It also advocates access to “hormonal therapy, counseling, and gender-affirming surgeries” on demand (OSF 2014a). This includes puberty blockers for youth (OSF 2013).

How much has OSF spent to promote the transgender movement? In 2011–13, it spent $3.19 million, which made it the top funder, followed by Stryker’s Arcus Foundation and Pritzker’s Tawani Foundation (Funders for LBTQ Issues 2015). OSF’s current database includes grants worth $3.07 million for 2016–17 (searching for keywords “trans” and “transgender”). The largest recipients in this current tranche are the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ($642,000), Global Action for Trans Equality ($500,000), and Transgender Europe ($500,000).

open society reception areaThree million dollars on trans issues is a tiny fraction of OSF’s total expenditure, merely 0.3% (OSF 2017). Crucially, however, this funding greatly exceeds the resources given to alternative voices. This website, for example, receives no funding. To illustrate the difference that money can make, consider the commemoration of the victims of violence.

As we saw, OSF gave $500,000 to Transgender Europe in the past two years. Transgender Europe also received $1,072,000 from the Arcus Foundation from 2010 to 2017 (Arcus Foundation 2018). The organization’s projects include the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is underpinned by a comprehensive database of victims throughout the world, Trans Murder Monitoring. This database counted 325 trans victims of violence in year from October 2016 to September 2017 (TMM 2017). The great majority of these occurred in Central and South America. There were only three in Western Europe, and thankfully none in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, perhaps, the Transgender Day of Remembrance was widely observed in Britain in November 2017. In many universities, for example, candles were lit for each of the victims, the transgender flag was raised, speakers were invited, and services held. Searching university websites (the domain, we find over 2,800 webpages containing the phrase “Transgender Day of Remembrance”.

While no transgender person was murdered in the United Kingdom in 2017, 138 women were killed by men, including murders where a man was the principal suspect (Smith 2018). These data were compiled by Karen Ingala Smith, who receives no funding for this work. She started recording such deaths in 2009, under the rubric of Counting Dead Women. This was developed into the Femicide Census—in partnership with Women’s Aid—with minimal funding and pro-bono support by two legal firms (Femicide Census 2016).

Despite the diligent research over many years, this has left barely a trace in British universities. The equivalent search on their websites yields fewer than a hundred webpages containing the phrases “Femicide Census” or “Counting Dead Women”.

To sum up, more than a hundred women are murdered each year in the United Kingdom at the hands of males, but no day has been set aside to commemorate their deaths. Transgender murders are exceedingly rare—eight in the past decade (Trans Crime UK 2017; Evening Standard 2018)—and yet they have an institutionalized day of remembrance. Even if we consider the homicide rate rather than the number of homicides, Nicola Williams demonstrates that transgender people are no more likely to become victims than are women (Fairplay for Women 2017).

The prominence of transgender victims, compared to the virtual invisibility of female victims, is partly explained by the amount of resources devoted to compiling evidence and promoting commemoration. Thus funding from large American charities like OSF—along with the Arcus and Tawani Foundations—shapes the political climate in Britain and around the world.


All but one (indicated by *) have been archived on the Internet Archive.

Arcus Foundation. Grantees in Europe, Focusing on Social Justice, Beginning with T.

Evening Standard. 2018. ‘Hounslow stabbing’, 22 March 2018. *

Fairplay for Women. 2017. How Often Are Transgender People Murdered?

Femicide Census. 2016. Profiles of Women Killed by Men: Redefining an Isolated Incident.

Funders for LBTQ Issues. 2015. TRANSformational Impact: U.S. Foundation Funding for Trans Communities. *

OSF. 2013. Transforming Health: International Rights-Based Advocacy for Trans Health.

OSF 2014a. Explainers: An Essential Legal Right for Trans People.

OSF. 2014b. License to Be Yourself: laws and Advocacy for Legal Recognition for Trans People.

OSF. 2017. Open Society Foundations 2017 Budget Overview.

Smith, Karen Ingala. 2018. 2017.

Trans Crime UK. 2017. Trans Homicides in the UK: A Closer Look at the Numbers.

Trans Murder Monitoring. 2017. TDoR 2017 Update.

Williamson, Kevin D. 2018. “An Epidemic of Dishonesty on the Right.” National Review, Feb. 22.

8-year-old “trans advocate” releases book: “It’s not something we can just switch off.”

For the former child star at the age of ten, the experience of going from a “neighborhood kid” to a famous TV personality overnight was life-altering. Cast on a hit TV series, he recalls the reaction after the show’s debut. “When I went outside the next day, my life was different . . . And the first thing that I knew, ‘Holy Toledo, I’m famous!’.” …Celebrities become accustomed to looking into a crowd and seeing the adoration in their eyes. “You know they know who you are.”

–Donna Rockwell, PhD, and David Giles, PhD. Being a Celebrity: A Phenomenology of Fame

“Who they are,” in the case of famous trans kids? Trans forever. And the message they’re selling is: That won’t change (even though decades of research studies beg to differ –and even the top pediatric gender specialists admit they don’t know which kids will persist in believing they are the opposite sex).

Celebrity Willa truly who i was

We don’t have a disorder & you can’t change us

UPDATE June 6, 2016: Commenter atranswidow tells us this:

The Maltese Commissioner for Children has joined in the official praise of Willa and Willa’s parents, but has become concerned about the effect of using a child as a transgender symbol. The Commissioner’s office has issued a statement  which calls for the general public to be sensitive to Willa when publishing their reactions, saying that the family and child are vulnerable because of the controversial aspect of the story written by Willa.

The Commissioner felt the need to add that ”there is also the possibility that future complications may arise because in later life some children may once more return to their gender at birth and it is known that some cases have happened”.

Ask Transgender Europe (TGEU, Twitter: @TGEUorg) why they are using an 8-year-old child in a PR campaign.

Like so much else related to the trans-kid/teen phenomenon, the (abundant) anecdotal and (sparse) research evidence we have about the negative impact of fame on child and teen celebrities has been utterly ignored. (Maybe not so surprising, since actually scrutinizing the effect of media attention on trans kids would require the media to scrutinize itself.)

I don’t think I need to list all the former child celebrities who have been buffeted by troubled waters as they moved into adulthood. Now we have a whole crop of famous transkids and teens. There’s Devina, the 6-year-old “trans princess” and her family’s successful reality show.  Media darling  Jazz Jennings probably cannot go out in public anywhere in the world without being recognized;  being the most-celebrated “trans teen” on the planet is parental/societal approval (quite literally) on steroids.

But while Jazz Jennings is at the mega-fame end of the spectrum, the young people being used in political ads and trans activist campaigns are in just as bright a spotlight.

Willa happy as a girl

Even the young people featured in glossy magazine features (like the 14-year-old adopted survivor of fetal alcohol syndrome whose double mastectomy was covered in the San Diego Union Tribute a couple months ago) become icons for the cause.  They are being used to promote a product—that product being: gender is innate, immutable, unchanging. No matter how young, a trans kid won’t change their mind about who they are.

The child pictured in the YouTube clips in this post is Willa Naylor, a Maltese  “trans activist” for Transgender Europe (TGEU) who was featured in a 4thWaveNow post last November. Willa was already a celebrity last year, when a gender identity law in Malta “dedicated to” Willa  was passed. The Maltese law is considered “the most comprehensive” in Europe, even allowing for gender/sex to be left undefined on birth certificates.

Willa’s fame is on the rise. Just two days ago, the child—now 8 years old—was interviewed by the Times of Malta about a self-authored storybook called “Truly Willa.” The book has been available on Amazon since March.

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli said: “I hope this book will help other children in Willa’s situation feel empowered. For adults, who can sometimes be prejudiced in their views about how life should be, this book shows that we do not choose how we’re born and opens our eyes to other realities.”

There it is: “born that way.” I wonder if Transgender Europe—or for that matter, the US State Department, one of the key funders of TGEU via the Global Equality Fund—can point me to the research proving a person is “born” transgender? They shouldn’t have too much trouble finding data suggesting an alternative outcome: That Willa, if left alone to grow, change, and explore, might grow up to be a gay man as most gender dysphoric boys do.

The Malta Times article includes a video interview with Willa and parents. In it, Willa tells us a bit about “Truly Willa,” and says she hopes it will “help a lot of kids and [that] a lot of people buy it.”

celebrity willa malta times

To their credit, the interviewers in the video do ask mom and dad about the possible impact of all this media attention: “Do you worry that this level of exposure could be difficult for a young girl?”

“I think at first, we weren’t people who wanted to jump into the media, but then it just sort of happened. She’s always wanted to share her story…I don’t worry about it too much. Obviously we’re very sensible about which media we allow her to do…It’s wonderful for her self confidence….that’s the reason she speaks publicly. She wants to be the voice for the children. She gives voice to the people who’ve gone through similar experiences whether they’re children or adults….that’s empowering for her, and now it’s not something we can just switch off because now she wants to advocate for these people.

celebrity willa parents

And indeed, Willa is advocating for quite a few of “these people,” as the Malta Times tells us.

Their fight led to the Gender Identity, Gender Expression & Sexual Characteristics Act , made law in Malta in April 2015, being dedicated to her and she was the first child invited into parliament to watch the vote as it passed into law.

Willa has a YouTube channel, is a “family outreach officer” for Gender Liberation, and is involved in several media projects for Transgender Europe, including radio, television, and Internet ad campaigns.

celebrity willa advocacy

There’s also a website featuring Willa’s new book and information about the political advocacy the whole family is involved in. The site also provides the back story on Willa’s social transition:

Meet Willa Naylor. She is an 8 year old trans advocate from Malta in Europe, and is determined to make a difference in the world. She was assigned male at birth and despite raising her as most parents would raise any male child, her parents could see she had issues with the gender that was being placed on her. Amongst preferring to play with girls, care for younger children, choosing more stereotypically girl related clothes and toys, her parents were also very concerned by her lack of socialising with other children, crippling shyness, anxiety driven temper tantrums and the trauma she seemed to experience on having to leave the family home.

Stereotypically girl related clothes and toys,” indeed. And the behavioral and psychological issues are used here to obviously promote the idea that the only solution for this child was to put him on the road to social transition (which very often leads to later medical transition).

Willa is featured on several other websites, including GLSEN , where I was struck by something s/he said about social transition:

Even the pain of having to go to school with really short hair. I felt like a girl with my hair taken from me. I know people treat people like me not very nice, and that needs to stop. People need to understand what hurts trans children and what situations they might have gone through. I think kids like me need books like mine to show them they are not alone, and society doesn’t have to win. You can be who you are, who you know you really are!
Why did Willa, as a boy, have to go to school with “really short hair”? Who said he had to? In so many of these trans kid stories, the child’s resistance to gendered expectations seems to play a major role in why they decide they are the opposite sex.  Maybe if Willa had been allowed to have long hair, he would have felt he could be who he “really was” as a gender-defiant boy.

As for Willa’s book, it’s aimed at children of all ages:

This is a journey of what it means to be an affirmed transgender child, created by a transgender child, with her parents support. The book also has simplified quotes at the top of each page for the benefit of any younger readers, with the main paragraph having more detail, so children of different reading levels can still read along.

Coincidentally, the parent-run Transgender Trend has just launched a campaign in the UK to protest the release of a new children’s story book (“for ages 0-5”) which promotes the idea that young children can be born in the wrong body. Unlike “Truly Willa,” the book (published by BloomsburyKids) “Introducing Teddy” was written by an adult, not an 8-year-old child. Indeed, who would protest a book written by a child? Maybe this will be the start of a new trend by trans activists—more books authored by trans kids themselves.

celebrity willa truly willa

Celebrity does a huge number on adults. What might the effect be on kids and teens?

In their paper Being a Celebrity: The phenomenology of fame, Rockwell & Giles describe some of the tensions famous adults have experienced:

The celebrity experiences being put on a pedestal, “and there are people who love to knock us off the pedestal.” Paradoxically, along with all the adulation—gratuitous and genuine, no matter what the celebrity does, someone, somewhere, will be disappointed. In order to create a balanced life, famous persons struggle to maintain their own perspective. [Fame makes you] extremely vulnerable. And you can really take it to heart and get your feelings tremendously hurt. I stopped reading e-mail very quickly because I couldn’t take some of the negative stuff . I wanted to write and say, “You don’t know who I am. Why are you doing this?” And it was all about who they thought I was . . . You have to be very thick-skinned.

How thick-skinned can a child be when the inevitable tumble from the pedestal takes place? How thick-skinned should anyone want them to be?

Obviously, Willa’s parents—and the parents of other celebrity trans kids–think they are doing the right thing by their kids; they likely believe they are also doing a good thing for the world at large. But do they ever wonder whether the very act of setting their children up as role models will make these kids feel they cannot ever question what they’re doing?

Celebrity aside, no one is receiving grants to study the impact of social media, peer pressure, or parental approval on the rate of persistence in trans kids’ believing they are the opposite sex—influences brought to bear on all young trans kids, not just those who are in the media spotlight. How much more intense must the pressure be for the ones who are put on pedestals as paragons and proof of Innate Gender Identity?

Celebrity Willa Gender ID bill

How could a kid who has been made a media star, who is constantly praised for their bravery in proclaiming they are the opposite sex, have an easy time switching back after all of that, no matter how much they wanted it?

Transgender activists have very cleverly, and very effectively,  pinned their cause to the coattails of the gay and lesbian liberation movements. But there is one thing the pre-trans LGB movement didn’t have: Eight-year-old proto-gay/lesbian child celebrities bought and paid for by deep-pocketed lobbying groups.  Given both the anecdotal and  research evidence that most gender dysphoric kids grow up to be gay or lesbian, the LGB movement would actually have had a pretty strong case for such a child-focused campaign.  You could take the trans activist kid videos we now see and simply replace the narration with:

“Here’s little Johnny who likes to play Barbies and dress up in fairy costumes with all the girls in his kindergarten class. Johnny is likely to grow up to be gay, and if you don’t accept this right now he’s going to kill himself.”

Or how about:

 “Here’s little Judy, always climbing trees and refusing to wear dresses and hair bows. She’ll likely be a lesbian woman—unless you force her into that dress, which will guarantee she self harms.”

In the halcyon days of the gay/lesbian liberation movement—which was and still is driven by the theory that sexual orientation is innate–it would have been seen as highly inappropriate to use young children to further a political aim. Building a PR campaign around anything remotely related to a child’s present or future sexuality, puberty, or body parts would have rightly been seen as unethical.

Why isn’t anyone outside the gender-critical blogosphere asking whether it’s appropriate to use “trans kids” as media shills for the transition-or-die transgender rights movement?


7-year-old “trans activist” used in campaign by Transgender Europe, a German NGO partially funded by US State Department

US taxpayers, did you know that some of your hard-earned money goes to a foreign NGO which uses a 7-year-old child to promote a trans activist agenda? Transgender Europe (TGEU), which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, states on its website (see bottom of page) that the US State Department is a donor.

TGEU State Dept funding

How is it that a US government agency is funding a foreign trans activist organization?

President Obama issued a directive in December 2011 to heads of executive branch agencies (which would include the US Department of State):

I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.

President Obama’s memorandum goes on to list five areas for support of foreign NGOs: Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad, Protecting Vulnerable LGBT Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Foreign Assistance to Protect Human Rights and Advance Nondiscrimination, Swift and Meaningful U.S. Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBT Persons Abroad, Engaging International Organizations in the Fight Against LGBT Discrimination.

Pursuant to the memorandum, the Global Equality Fund was established as a funding mechanism, “a collaborative effort led by the U.S. Department of State, bridging government, companies and NGOs with the objective of empowering LGBT persons to live freely and without discrimination.”

In September 2014, the US embassy in Budapest issued a statement on their website:

…Charge d’Affaires  of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, M. Andre Goodfriend, delivered opening remarks at the 5th European Transgender Council Meeting, a gathering of 200 transgender activists, allies, researchers, and funders, in Budapest, Hungary – the first such conference to take place in Central and Eastern Europe. …

He congratulated the activists on the success of their efforts thus far, and emphasized that holding the conference sent a strong signal that the human rights of transgender persons should be protected everywhere.

The Department remains committed to advancing the goals of the Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, and to expanding its support, through the Global Equality Fund, embassy and consulate outreach, partnership with like-minded governments, corporations, and private foundations, and by continuing to learn from and partner with civil society organizations – such as Transgender Europe and TransVanilla [a Hungarian trans activist organization]- to promote and protect the human rights of transgender persons.

If the US State Department was only involved in “promoting and protecting human rights” and helping people to live “freely and without discrimination;” if it were about the right to nondiscrimination in jobs, housing, education; the right to protection against violence for all LGBT people, I’d be completely on board. But organizations like TGEU are taking this further.

Production values on the 1.5 minute promo featuring the 7-year-old are high. The video was clearly made by skilled professionals, with excellent camera work, fine sound engineering, and a catchy guitar soundtrack. This is not the work of an amateur.

The child also has a “public figure” Facebook page (aka a fan page), adorned with stereotypically “feminine” trappings, and describing the child as “a 7-year-old trans activist.”

WN Facebook

What is the 7-year-old trans activist being used to promote? The “depathologisation” of trans people. On its website, TGEU “calls on the World Health Organisation and governments to ensure that gender variant children are not labelled as sick.”

So far? Sounds good. Gender nonconformity is not a pathology. Let little girls and little boys look, play, and behave any way they like.  Is this what TGEU is promoting?

The Depathologisation Resources page links to this proposal by the GATE working group, which argues for abolishing the “gender incongruence” diagnosis being considered for the next version of the international diagnosis codes (ICD-11). The group praises Argentina, which

… passed the first gender identity law in the world that recognizes the human right of trans people to access legal recognition and transition-related health care services (including hormone therapy and surgical procedures) without requiring any kind of diagnosis.

So depathologizing appears to mean dumping any “disorder” diagnosis and just giving trans-identified people whatever they want. But for children, TGEU seems to argue for a different approach:

Gender variance in childhood does not require any medical interventions such as hormone therapy or surgical procedures. Rather, children need information and support in exploring their gender identity and expression and dealing with sociocultural environments that are frequently hostile to gender variance…research indicates it is impossible to reliably distinguish between a gender-variant child who will grow up to become trans and a gender-variant child who will grow up to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but not trans. As such, by conflating gender variance and sexual orientation, the proposed GIC category amounts to a re-pathologization of homosexuality.

Later in the document, we find this:

Further, the imposition of a diagnosis of gender incongruence on a child contradicts the principle that childhood development is a process of change and exploration. Such a diagnosis, which attempts to establish a concrete definition of a child’s gender identity precisely during the phase of life when essential aspects of identity are most in flux, is likely to create the presumption that the child is transgender, whether or not that is in fact the case.

This sounds like TGEU falls squarely in the camp that would criticize labeling children as trans, doesn’t it?

Yet in the video, the 7-year-old isn’t talking about  being “gender variant.” The kid is a boy talking about living as a trans person. A girl. If TGEU believes that children should not be presumed to be transgender, why on earth are they promoting this child as a “trans activist”?

The child’s parents are also featured on the website. What are their views on the “depathologisation” question?

Bex and James are the Family Support Officers at Gender Liberation, and Willa is the youngest activist….

As parents of a trans child they were concerned that ‘gender incongruence in childhood’ is listed in the International Classification of Diseases, particularly because others could use this classification as a tool to deter them from supporting their daughter, and it could further stigmatise Willa and keep people from accepting her.

We made the choice, we made the decision that we had to listen to our child, because we love her unconditionally.”

“Trans children only need to go through social transition, and therefore having a category in the ICD-11 that pathologizes gender diversity in childhood is completely unnecessary.”

big special girl

“She’s my special big girl and always will be.”

And there we have it.  “Gender variant” children “need” to go through social transition. Yet the very document TGEU uses in their depathologisation campaign states that the majority of these kids will desist and perhaps grow up to be gay or lesbian adults. That there should not be a “presumption” that they are transgender.

In addition, there is a body of evidence, originating with and continuing to this day, from the Dutch team who pioneered pediatric transition, indicating that social transition can be harmful. It can lock a child into a transgender identity and make it more difficult for a child to “desist.” Not only that: Being a social media star and receiving plaudits from parents and other important adults for conforming to gender stereotypes is a powerful incentive and reward. And this particular child has had a law dedicated to him. Can anyone think it would be possible for him to change his mind, after all that?

So why do they “need” social transition?  Why can’t these kids just play and explore without being coddled in the notion that they are really the opposite sex? Why do they “need” to be called “trans activists” at age 7?  What does TGEU actually believe?

Watch the video and decide for yourself: Is this 7-year-old child being encouraged to “explore their gender identity and expression”? Or would you say the child is more being urged to assume a “concrete definition…precisely during the phase of life when essential aspects of identity are most in flux… likely to create the presumption that the child is transgender”?

My life having to live as a boy was very bad. Until one day I told my mum and dad that I felt I was a girl….so they let me dress as a girl indoors….they let me live as a girl…after that when they saw that this was truly who I was they let me live as a girl….Now I am very happy living as a girl… trans kids need to be listened to. We don’t have a disorder and you can’t change us. .. we should just be allowed to live as we are because we KNOW who we are.


So there’s agreement between organizations like Transgender Europe and critics like me. These kids aren’t “sick.” They don’t have a “disorder” just because they aren’t conforming to rigid gender stereotypes. But we differ radically in the conclusions we draw.

Transgender Europe operates campaigns—partially funded by me and other Americans–that promote the idea that a boy who plays with fairy dolls and wears pink dresses is actually a girl who should be “socially transitioned” before the world on YouTube and Facebook, defined as transgender, and who, at puberty, will be ready for all the medical services that money (and the taxpayer) can provide.