After intense public backlash, the insurance powerhouse State Farm has ended its partnership with an organization distributing LGBTQ+ books to schools, libraries, and community centers. While it backed away from an official partnership with the GenderCool Project, State Farm nevertheless vowed to keep supporting similar LGBTQ+ groups and initiatives.
State Farm's actions, which were widely interpreted as trying to straddle the fence on a controversial issue, triggered outrage from both sides of the debate.
"We will continue to explore how we can support our associates, as well as organizations that align with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, including the LGBTQ+ community," State Farm chief diversity officer Victor Terry said in a public statement.
The GenderCool Project is a self-professed “youth-led movement” that seeks to offer education on transgender and non-binary youth.
One of the central tenants behind the GenderCool Project is “writing books to help grownups and the kids in their lives understand that transgender and non-binary youth are just like all other kids.”
GenderCool Project has notable partners such as Nike, HP, Dell, Intel, and the Allstate Foundation.
State Farm got in hot water after the non-profit, Consumers’ Research, received an email in which State Farm requested its agents to assist in providing GenderCool Project books to teachers, libraries, and community centers.
“State Farm is partnering with The GenderCool Project to help diversify classroom, community center and library bookshelves with a collection of books to help bring clarity and understanding to the national conversation about Being Transgender, Inclusive and Non-Binary,” The leaked email read.
“The project’s goal is to increase representation of LGBTQ+ books and support our communities in having challenging, important and empowering conversations with children Age 5+. Agents are key to the success of this program. Nationwide, approximately 550 State Farm agents and employees will have the opportunity to donate this 3 book bundle to their local teacher, community center or library of their choice.”
The email concluded by asking participating State Farm agents to share the company’s commitment to diversity on their private social media pages.
The three-book book bundle referenced in the email is offered by the GenderCool Project and is specifically listed as being for children aged five and above. The books provide stories of transgender or non-binary children giving their stories through childhood with their particular gender identity.
In the wake of the email, Consumers’ Research released an ad campaign titled, Like a Creepy Neighbor, highlighting GenderCool and their partnership with State Farm.
Since the ad campaign, State Farm decided to break ties with GenderCool Project, releasing a statement giving their reasons.
“State Farm’s support of a philanthropic program, GenderCool, has been the subject of news and customer inquiries,” the statement read. “This program that included books about gender identity was intended to promote inclusivity. We support organizations that provide resources for parents to have conversations about gender and identity with their children at home.
“We do not support required curriculum in schools on this topic. As a result, we have made the decision we will no longer be affiliated with the organization. We will continue to explore how we can support our associates, as well as organizations that align with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, including the LGBTQ+ community. We recognize and value the diversity of all people and support a culture of respect and inclusion in the communities in which we live and work, as well as our workplace.”
The GenderCool Project website does not mention the book initiative referenced in the leaked email, possibly indicating that it was an original formulation by State Farm of their staff. The GenderCool Project does not demand or advocate for their reading lists to be required reading for any school system, leaving some wondering why State Farm made that the reason for their withdrawal of support.
The GenderCool Program subsequently released a statement on State Farm’s decision.
“Other than State Farm, no other partner has ended their relationship with us this year,” the statement said. “We are thankful to all of our current partners who have contacted us to reaffirm their commitment as they continue to work alongside us. We are grateful to continue welcoming new partners and have received an unprecedented number of donations in the last week.
“We celebrate the GenderCool collection of books written by the young transgender and non-binary people who lead our organization. These are their own stories. We know these books have become powerful conversation starters since their initial publication in 2021.
"The books are not intended to be part of any curriculum, and GenderCool does not have a school book distribution program.
“We know that powerful change happens when we choose connection and awareness over fear and division. There are hundreds of thousands of transgender and non-binary young people in this country, and they are thriving. We simply want to help people meet them. We know when this happens, opinions evolve. That’s a powerful and beautiful thing.”
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