A Case Study
The Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico (TGRCNM) is one of the largest state-based, transgender-specific organizations in the United States, with a broad mission to provide direct services, education, and advocacy. Adrien Lawyer and Zane Stephens established the organization in 2007, which incorporated as a nonprofit in 2010. While the organization initially focused on providing the trans and nonbinary community with peer support, information, and referrals for everything from healthcare to legal name changes, TGRCNM opened a drop-in center to provide basic needs to trans individuals who were homeless in 2012.
Today, the drop-in center serves as a community resource hub with a shower, laundry facilities, open donation closet, computer lab, and lending library. The center provides prepared meals, stocks a food pantry, and helps participants access fresh food and SNAP benefits. TGRCNM also offers free and confidential HIV testing and syringe exchange, has licensed social workers, and partners with volunteer mental health therapists. “We wanted to center the most affected people,” said Lawyer. “We wanted to make it easy for anybody to come in here and get the help they need.”
Lawyer served as the organization’s first executive director, a position he said was the result of being “chief volunteer” and which he stepped down from in 2021. “I was a really typical founder and had no idea about anything [related to] a nonprofit [when I started],” he said. “I was just a person who wished someone existed to help me with my problem,” he said, referring to the difficulty of finding hormones and navigating the legal system as a trans person. Lawyer wasn’t even able to pay himself a small salary until 2013. He now serves as the Director of Education at TGRCNM and as a thought partner to the new Executive Director. While he and his co-founder always had an expansive vision for the organization, it took several years to figure out how to resource it, he said. “We were meeting people in coffee shops and answering people’s emails, and having support groups meet in people’s homes.”
Today, TGRCNM also runs an outreach program for trans and nonbinary people who are incarcerated, maintains a provider directory, and offers emergency financial assistance. In addition to direct services, TGRCNM has provided trans competency trainings to public schools, police departments, correctional professionals, judges, and public defenders across the United States for more than 15 years. The organization has also achieved several policy wins in partnership with Equality New Mexico, changing the law for how people can update their gender on birth certificates and change their names, and protecting reproductive and gender-affirming health care.
From the beginning, TGRCNM has pursued diverse revenue streams, including state contracts for HIV prevention and harm reduction (including syringe exchange), as well as foundation grants, individual donations, and fees from training programs. While the organization’s growth has been incremental, TGRCNM received a gift from MacKenzie Scott in 2022, which allowed it to purchase a house in Albuquerque to start a transitional living program for trans people. TGRCNM has grown into a fiscally stable and successful organization, but Lawyer understands that it’s still important to plan for the future. “Philanthropy is an industry, and like any other industry…it has trends, it has eras…The sun has very much risen and it’s shining very brightly on trans funding right now. But any sun that rises also has to set.”