Corporations drop from transgender youth program partners page after State Farm exit

More than 200 corporations — and five government entities — are indirectly tied to GenderCool Project through their partnerships with LGBTQ workplace group.

Published: May 25, 2022 7:55pm

Updated: May 26, 2022 10:26am

Less than a day after State Farm ended its partnership with a nonprofit that promotes "positive stories about transgender and non-binary kiddos," several more corporations and a federal agency disappeared from the nonprofit's partner page as well.

It wasn't a mass exodus, the GenderCool Project told Just the News: It was an opportunity for spring cleaning after the insurance company's hasty exit.

State Farm found itself in damage control mode after the watchdog Consumers' Research on Monday published a Jan. 18 email from Corporate Responsibility Analyst Jose Soto to the insurance company's Florida agents.

Soto, who handles Florida and Hispanic relationships, asked for volunteers to join 550 agents and employees nationwide to distribute GenderCool's books on transgender and nonbinary identity, intended for children five and older, to "their local teacher, community center or library." They would then "highlight our commitment to diversity" on social media. 

The company backtracked Tuesday after critics noted the plan could violate Florida's Parental Rights in Education law, known derisively as "Don't Say Gay," by giving schools instructional materials on gender identity for K-3 students.

"We support organizations that provide resources for parents to have conversations about gender and identity with their children at home" but not "required curriculum in schools on this topic," State Farm said, dropping its affiliation with the GenderCool Project.

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By Wednesday afternoon, nine of the remaining 22 entities on the partner page Tuesday night were gone: Capital One, NBC Universal, General Mills, Adobe, Indeed, Bank of America, Sprout Social, Oracle and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the last of which disappeared within hours of Just the News asking for an explanation of its partnership.

Most were still indirectly tied to the project by their partnership with an LGBTQ workplace nonprofit that has long partnered with GenderCool. Out and Equal Workplace Advocates counts more than 200 corporations as partners, including State Farm.

Five government entities — USDA, FDA, NSA, State Department and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago — are also listed as partners with Out and Equal. Four didn't respond to queries, and one declined to talk on the record.

John Grosshandler, founder and chairman of GenderCool, said State Farm was the only partner to leave this year and the first to leave in this way. 

"No one has reached out to us privately indicating they plan to" exit, he wrote in an email. "Importantly, none of the other corporate partners have bought books to be voluntarily distributed to libraries." 

GenderCool decided Wednesday to update the pages that listed its partners from the past four years to make them current, he said. 

Asked why several partners from late 2020 were already gone by the time the page was updated Wednesday, Grosshandler said the page never promised to be a current or even comprehensive list and that different employees made changes in different places.

"We've collaborated with some of the world's most visionary organizations," the page headline reads, which gives GenderCool wiggle room to highlight its "evolving list," he said. One of the partners removed Wednesday confirmed to Just the News it left before the State Farm controversy for unrelated reasons, while the others didn't respond.

Consumers' Research Executive Director Will Hild told the "John Solomon Reports" podcast Wednesday that the watchdog is "delivering a simple message to corporate America: They need to stop cozying up to woke politicians and woke activists and focus on serving their customers."

A whistleblower who had already "raised the alarm within the company first and was rebuffed" came to Consumers' Research with documentation that State Farm was planning to deputize its agents to purchase and distribute "transgender propaganda aimed at kindergarteners," he said. Other Florida agents confirmed they received the same email. 

"This is without any kind of notification to parents in the area or at the schools," Hild said. The email doesn't even suggest agents "ask your customers who have kids whether this is something they would like them to do."

Hild joked the company should change its name to "State Harm" because it's "acting like a creepy neighbor," Hild said, referring to State Farm's slogan and his group's name for the pressure campaign.

State Farm's own ranks are likely to continue giving it headaches.

Red State reported Wednesday it had heard from two dozen agents around the country who were "furious" about the GenderCool partnership and the blowback they could face from more conservative customers. The company's upcoming 100th anniversary convention gives them an opportunity to demand more say in philanthropic efforts.

Hild accused State Farm executives of misrepresenting their knowledge of the GenderCool partnership.

"We held back some of the evidence ... because we kind of had a feeling that this company was not honest and might lie about their involvement," he told the "John Solomon Reports" podcast. After State Farm denied the book distribution, Hild's group provided the company "literal photographic evidence" of teachers holding up GenderCool's books and thanking State Farm for the donation, he said.

State Farm did not respond to requests for comment.

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