The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), is a nonprofit primarily dedicated to opposing what it deems to be “critical race theory” in the world of classrooms and medicine. It has, however, done some work in opposing transgender rights in a similar vein.
The organization is notable for hosting webinars featuring some of its advisors, such as Abigail Shrier, and other anti-trans voices, including Lisa Littman and Kenneth Zucker. It has hosted activities promoting anti-trans groups like Do No Harm.
Gender issues have also notably been a part of an internal schism the organization has gone through since its founding, with some members and donors wanting a push towards a stronger anti-trans focus of the organization, but with other members of leadership ultimately resisting and instead wanting to keep the focus on critical race theory.
Too often when children exhibit behaviors or preferences that don’t match up with the stereotypes of their biological sex, they are told it’s a sign that they’re transgender. This risks confusing children, whose identity formation and self-understanding are still developing.
FAIR was founded in 2021 as a nonprofit following its founder and head, Bion Bartning, pulling his children out of a New York City private school due to it featuring anti-racist education. Bartning appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to discuss why he did this, and subsequently gathered up many notable anti-critical race theory figures to join his board of directors.
The organization was founded for the express purpose of opposing what Bartning and company deem to be “critical race theory” in schools. On their website, they state their purpose as the following. “We are a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all, and promoting a common culture based on fairness, understanding, and humanity.”
Not much is known publicly about FAIR’s financial situation. While they’re registered - at least in 2023 - as a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in New York City, their finances are through a separate nonprofit known as United Charitable, meaning the specific way they allocate their funds and exactly how many donations are received is up in the air.
According to the New Yorker, they have received funds from several prominent donors, including Harlan Crow and Suzy Edelman. Through donations, they have had over $358,000 in total funds. These funds were placed into the account of an I.T. worker named Michael Trollan, who had them in his possession until October, 2022.
History of Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism
FAIR’s stance on trans folk and gender identity has been outlined in clear terms on its website, with statements in opposition to the teaching of sex as a spectrum and against the supposed push for children to be transgender. They also advocate for the forced outing of trans kids to their parents.
FAIR’s primary anti-trans work is done through their branch FAIR in Medicine. Various prominent members of FAIR have made headlines, like one chapter head's opposition to the usage of preferred pronouns, or a managing director’s position that trans folk are promoting some type of “ideology.”
In May of 2023, FAIR published an open letter in support of an article on the topic of rapid-onset gender dysphoria, and in support of the editorial work of Kenneth Zucker, an infamous anti-trans conversion therapist. They held a webinar several days after featuring Michael Bailey, one of the authors of the paper.
On their website’s Substack, FAIR featured an article advocating against the usage of neo-pronouns and pronoun announcements, instead advocating to treat trans people as their “biological sex.”
FAIR has backed organizations like Blueprint for Canada and Vote Against Woke, providing them with advice on how to be “anti-woke.” This occurred specifically in Canadian elections where the organizations have put forward anti-LGBTQ+ candidates.
FAIR has done advocacy work in specific school regions opposing trans-inclusive schools, such as alleging one instance of pronoun announcements being used in classes at a school district in Evanston, Illinois was “unconstitutional.” Another similar incident happened in Winnetka, Illinois when FAIR stated that it was against students’ free speech to have to state their pronouns at the start of their classes.
The organization has featured multiple webinars that have platformed various anti-trans figures, including one in 2021 which featured Abigail Shrier and Colin Wright and one in 2022 which hosted Lisa Littman. On their YouTube, they have featured a talk with members of the anti-trans group Do No Harm.
Conservative Donors and Leadership Struggles
In spite of the work they’ve done in opposition to transgender folk, FAIR has been relatively hesitant to step into the world of anti-trans advocacy, instead aiming to focus their efforts on opposing critical race theory. However, the organization faced immense pushback from its conservative megadonors, who wanted it to branch off more heavily into the realm of anti-trans advocacy.
This pushback caused some internal issues, seen with its former head Bari Weiss. Weiss left the organization in the midst of this turmoil due to it not being “muscular enough” on transgender issues. Colin Wright said of it all, “In my experience attending welcome meetings for new FAIR members, the clear majority were primarily concerned about gender ideology over race-related issues.”
Weiss didn’t leave the group silently, however. She staged an attempted internal coup after concerns continued to rise from donors, especially that of Harlan Crow. The coup, however, failed, and Bartning remained in his position as the head, albeit with Maud Maron acting in that role much later on.