Meet Our Director of Policy for Family Equity and Justice & Senior Policy Counsel

Everyone welcome a new member of our all-important Policy team: Ashe McGovern! Ashe is taking on a brand new role at Family Equality, and we couldn’t be more excited to have their skill & expertise dedicated to this work. 

Ashe McGovern, Director of Policy for Family Equity and Justice & Senior Policy Counsel

Ashe McGovern (they, them, theirs) is the Director of Policy for Family Justice and Equity and Senior Policy Counsel at Family Equality, where they focus on developing local, state, and federal policy solutions to create more meaningful racial, economic, and gender justice and equity for LGBTQ+ families living in poverty and LGBTQ+ BIPOC families nationwide. 

Prior to Family Equality, Ashe served as the first-ever Senior Policy Advisor for LGBTQ Initiatives in the NYC Mayor’s Office and inaugural Executive Director of the NYC Unity Project, New York’s first citywide office to support and empower LGBTQ communities through innovative policy and program change. In this role, Ashe led interagency LGBTQ policy and program efforts and developed a multi-million dollar portfolio of programs and services focused on reducing LGBTQ youth homelessness, increasing access to permanent supportive housing, creating more equitable access to healthcare and jobs, and reducing criminalization and institutional violence against BIPOC LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. 

Previously, Ashe worked as the Legislative and Policy Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, a legal and policy think tank housed in the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, and as LGBTQ Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, DC, where they developed federal policy solutions to address LGBTQ poverty and criminalization. After law school, Ashe worked as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at New York Legal Assistance Group, where they launched the LGBTQ Health and Economic Justice Initiative to provide free legal services to low-income LGBTQ communities in New York City.  

Ashe earned their B.A. from Cornell University, magna cum laude, and J.D. from Cornell Law School, where they received the Freeman Award for Civil-Human Rights. Ashe is co-author and co-editor of Intersecting Injustice: A National Call to Action Addressing LGBTQ Poverty and Economic Justice for All (2018) published by the City University of New York Graduate Center and their work has been featured in a range of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Nation, Slate, Bloomberg Law, Wired, and NPR, among others.

This is a new role for Family Equality’s policy team. Can you share a little bit about what you hope to focus on in this position?

I plan to focus on working with the entire Family Equality team to help uplift and connect key racial, economic, and gender justice initiatives across the organization to support and empower our LGBTQ families nationwide, who are living in poverty and experiencing both interpersonal and systemic racism. That will include cultivating relationships with families and organizers who aren’t yet a part of the Family Equality team so that we can better understand how to make the connection that basic survival needs like housing, jobs, safety from violence, and healthcare are key LGBTQ+ family justice and equity issues.

What drives you to do this work?

As a queer and trans person, I intimately understand many of the experiences of discrimination, harassment, violence, and marginalization so many of our community members experience. I also know how beautiful and powerful our communities are. I love being queer and trans and I want all people to be able to live life as their most full, joyful, and authentic selves. I know that possibility requires more than affirmation or individual thought work, though. It requires systems and policy change, dismantling white supremacy and the gender binary, and moving towards a world where people’s basic needs for things like housing, healthcare, bodily autonomy, safety, and financial stability are met. That’s why I do this work. To help change policies and systems so that our communities are able to live more freely and joyfully. 

What does family equality mean to you? 

To me, “family equality” means creating more possibilities for all people of all family structures, to thrive and exist as their full, authentic selves, with an unobstructable ability to have their basic needs met and to live freely with joy and purpose.

Top favorite podcasts/books:

Favorite of all time is a tough one, but right now I’m reading these books and very into all of them: 

  • Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Marie Brown
  • Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
  • Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Sadiya Hartman
  • Don’t Go Back to Sleep by Timothy Liu

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? 

This answer has changed quite a bit since the pandemic started, but at the moment, I love hiking in the woods, going to the farmer’s market, eating the most delicious foods I can find (outdoors), and swimming in any and all available bodies of water while there’s still warm sunshine outside. 

Life motto:

The words I’ve returned to most in my life are from Audre Lorde’s poem, Litany for Survival. All of her work and writing have been incredibly important to me, but this excerpt has probably been the most powerful:

“And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.”