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 In other words, biological sex must be superseded by subjective gender identity, to include options “outside the binary categories of male and female” (OSF 2014b).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.