At Sofar, we’re very lucky to partner with meaningful organizations in Sofar cities around the world. This February, in honor of LGBT+ History Month in the UK, we spoke with Matt Beard, the Executive Director of All Out, an organization protecting and elevating LGBT+ rights around the world. Matt’s been with All Out for five years now, working closely with team members and community supporters to fundraise, manage campaigns, and lead the organization to fight for LGBT+ rights. They work with a large network of frontline and grassroots organizations to support local needs in all corners of the world.
“It’s very much based on the logic that even though we have a reasonable global reach, we can’t be everywhere and we don’t assume to understand the cultural, ethical, religious, and ethnic implications of the work in all of those completely diverse contexts.” All Out runs their campaigns with local groups such as Stonewall, The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants in the UK, as well as many other groups across the globe.
“99% of our work is supporting organizations in the developing world where LGBT+ people are living in a much more hostile environment, often in a criminalized environment.” Matt says. He names a few of the global organizations that he’s most proud to have worked with including Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, where they helped organize the first Pride.
“It was an incredible moment. You can literally see people’s personal batteries being powered up by this idea that it’s the first time ever a group of LGBT+ people were coming together there.”
Other partner events don’t always have the same reception. Matt recalls working with Pride Uganda, where often police have shut down celebrations violently. He describes witnessing those shutdowns. “For me it was that moment where I really imagined the arch of history back to Stonewall in 1969 and what those folks went through, and how we stand on their shoulders now in places like the UK and the US to continue the work.” Matt goes on to mention more places and organizations where LGBT+ work is increasingly crucial, places like Kenya, where All Out is campaigning to decriminalize homosexuality, and Chechnya, where All Out funded the extraction of dozens of LGBT+people who were kept and tortured in state-run camps.
Matt is very proud of the work he’s gotten to do, and the many people and places he’s had the privilege of working with. “Five years into the job, it really feels like coming home to me.” Says Matt, citing the genuine internationalism of the role as one of his favorite parts — working with teammates who live abroad, with partnering organizations from all different cultures and environments.
His other favorite thing? Working with grassroots organizers. “As an activist, I’m attracted to the idea of change through people power. I really respect sister organizations who have other theories for change. It’s really needed.” He describes the range of work from high level advocacy and technical documentation of human rights violations to frontline rescue work, to the simple and powerful practice of just using your voice for good.
“When lots of people raise their voice, that makes a very loud noise and it changes the conversation. It changes hearts and minds and you can see that social change happening more and more.”
“People are three-dimensional beings.” Matt explains. “Sometimes in your life biography, it’s more appropriate and attractive if you want to support a cause to give your voice, to stand up in campaigns and protests and to write and call your congressperson. And at other times in your life biography, you might be a bit more time poor but cash rich, and you might want to express your solidarity with donations.” Through their Equality Champion donations, Grassroots Giving donations, and a newly developed platform to democratize the campaign work, All Out provides opportunities for people to support in many different ways. Anyone in the world can create a petition to help LGBT+ causes (You can make your own petition here), or donate directly to any of the Grassroots organizations in their network.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, All Out has pivoted to provide desperately needed support to LGBT+ communities around the world. “Our partners were literally telling us, ‘we can’t eat human rights.’” Matt explains. “There were food shortages, medicine shortages, PPE shortages. And so we pivoted.” So began All Out’s COVID-19 Response and Relief Fund.
“We learned very quickly that the LGBT+ community was being impacted more than others amid the pandemic in places where it became even harder to gain access to employment, safe housing, HIV meds, etc.”
“We didn’t know what we were doing [at the start of the pandemic], but we knew that we had this close knit relationship with these community-based organizations and that this was a moment of incredible and urgent need.” While the need for pandemic relief is urgent and ongoing, the funding often is not. All of their experiences working with crowdfunding and supporting smaller organizations paid off as they were able to build a system where 67 partnering organizations in 35 countries were given emergency grants to pay for food, HIV medicine, PPE, etc.
All Out’s work will continue working to provide emergency grants as the pandemic waxes on. As well as working to provide further pandemic relief, All Out is still working with partners worldwide to ensure the human rights of the LGBT+ community.
Of course, we had to ask Matt about the song that he thinks best describes the All Out team. After conferring with the international team, he came back to me with a stellar answer: “I'm Coming Out,” by Diana Ross. You can check out All Out’s current campaign to pass the Equality Act in Japan before the 2020 Olympics, and find more information on their other campaigns and petitions on their website.