When the DAR Said Trans Women Were Allowed, Controversy Ensued

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It’s not exactly known as DC’s most progressive institution.

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Photograph by Felix Lipov/Alamy.

The Daughters of the American Revolution has recently found itself grappling with a controversy over its admissions policies that might come as a surprise to outsiders. The DAR—a nonprofit society for women who can trace their lineage to someone who participated in the American Revolution—recently said it’s open to accepting transgender women, a move that created a stir in the right-wing press and among some members.

The DAR says it was less of a policy change than just new language in its bylaws that clarifies its existing stance against discrimination. But at a yearly conference over the summer, a member asked if this policy meant that chapters weren’t allowed to vote to exclude trans women. Pamela Rouse Wright, who runs the DAR, affirmed that doing so would amount to discrimination. “Some have asked if this means a transgender woman can join DAR or if this means that DAR chapters have previously welcomed transgender women,” Wright wrote in a subsequent newsletter. “The answer to both questions is, yes.”

That sentiment is encouraging to some advocates. “It’s a powerful statement,” says Ben Takai, who is on the board of directors of the local LGBTQ+ advocacy group Metro DC PFLAG. “The DAR is not necessarily seen as a progressive organization, but to have their president say, ‘We are going to respect these people’. . . that sends a message.”

It certainly did: Following the conference and Wright’s letter, some members left the organization, citing the inclusion of trans women as the reason. Others have stayed and proposed a formal amendment focused on creating a biological definition of gender, which is unlikely to be adopted. The DAR has 190,000 members in chapters all across the country, and the society says that only a small percentage have quit due to the policy.

Though some conservative publications have amplified the opinions of those opposing the policy, there’s also plenty of internal support, and the DAR is trying to change the idea that it’s an exclusionary organization for socially conservative women. “I know that there is a perception that DAR is a bunch of old ladies drinking tea, but that is certainly not the DAR I know,” says the group’s Bren Landon. “Like many organizations, things change over time.”

This article appears in the January 2024 issue of Washingtonian.

Editorial Fellow

Hunter is a cat-loving Coloradoan who enjoys history, Halloween and board games. He studied audio production and radio storytelling at Hofstra University before moving to DC in 2022. During his editorial fellowship with Washingtonian in the fall of 2023, he ran Halloween Hunter, a section featuring local stories for the spooky season.

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