Through the Lens of Community: Trans Inclusion in Women's and LGBT Organizations
Part Two of a Two-Part Series Exploring Perspectives on Transgender Health Access and Advocacy
June 19, 2012
Devarah "Dee" Borrego: Danielle and Tei both really captured a lot of the important points around what I think LGB organizations really should be doing, and could be doing better, to include trans people.
Maybe this is just my own personal pet peeve, but quite frequently on forms, the kind of demographic paperwork that you fill out at organizational intakes, transgender is included in the list with sexual orientation. It seems like, in a lot of these organizations, there's no comprehension that transgenderism is not a sexual orientation. It seems like an obvious statement to me, but one that bears repeating, because people don't seem to understand it, and that's reflected in their paperwork.
And just to reiterate what Danielle said, I think it's really important that, if you're holding community events; if you have consumer advisory boards; if you have any sort of community-interactive sections within your organization, to reach out actively to members of the transgender community, and invite us to actively participate. I think sometimes trans people can be a little hesitant to stake our place at the table. Being told explicitly that we're welcome could really improve representation and understanding within an LGB organization of the importance of including the T, and not letting it just remain, silently, at the end.
Danielle Castro: Our history of being at odds with, and being left off, the service spectrum increases that level of responsibility for LGB organizations to make an effort to include us.
Having the T on your label isn't good enough. I think hiring people that represent our community, and having programs that are specific to our community, and having active outreach through the community, and letting us know that we are, in fact, welcome, is vital. That level of history and background of not being included: It's been hurtful. So it's going to take some work.
Olivia Ford: And additional healing of these rifts in the community, it seems, as well.
I think that there's a sense among many people within the LGBT community, and the HIV community, that in the past several years there has been an uptick in visibility of trans people, and with it great strides in addressing issues of concern to transgender communities. On one hand, people working in trans communities and witnessing the everyday struggles of people of trans experience might beg to differ. However, I do also hear a lot of hope from all three of you, and a good bit of optimism, and the ability to actually point to programs that are working to address a lot of the barriers to health care access that we talked about in the earlier part of this conversation.
"[I]n a lot of these organizations, there's no comprehension that transgenderism is not a sexual orientation. It seems like an obvious statement to me, but one that bears repeating, because people don't seem to understand it, and that's reflected in their paperwork. " -- Dee Borrego
Before we wrap up, I want to invite each of you to reflect on your many years working in the HIV community, and with folks of trans experience; looking at where we're at now as far as health advocacy, do you feel there has been progress?
Danielle Castro: It's been a long, hard road. There were many pioneers before me that have paved the road for me to be able to do the work that I do. The fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is funding trans-specific programming is, to me, phenomenal. I feel like I want to thank CDC, because this year they have also begun to adopt our recommendation for a two-step question in data collection, which asks: "What was your sex at birth?" and "How do you identify now?" They are incorporating that into all their forms, and encouraging all of the states throughout the country to use that for their HIV surveillance data. That's a phenomenal move in the right direction.
Also, there was the court case with Mia Macy that was just won, in which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that it's illegal to discriminate against people in places of employment based on their gender identity or gender expression. That's a huge move that was supported by the Transgender Law Center.
The fact that we even have a Center of Excellence for Transgender Health is a really big deal. I'm so proud to be a part of it. That's a definite step in the right direction. There have been a lot of positive steps taken for trans community, and by trans community. And that's the other piece: that all of this movement involves us. A lot of us have been trying to knock down the doors, and get ourselves in the movement. But there has been a lot of collaboration on a national and international level with our allies to ensure that there are services available.
I'm not saying it's going to be work. For instance, with the two-step data collection recommendation: people aren't going to feel comfortable asking questions about gender when they haven't done so before. We'll really need to hash out what kind of capacity building assistance we should provide for people that are incorporating that system.
"Having the T on your label isn't good enough. I think hiring people that represent our community, and having programs that are specific to our community, and having active outreach through the community, and letting us know that we are, in fact, welcome, is vital. " -- Danielle Castro
Tei Okamoto: Our ability to find funds for the Trans* Health Clinic at APICHA Community Health Center was a huge success, in and of itself. It means that organizations and foundations outside of APICHA -- in particular, the Paul Rapoport Foundation -- acknowledged that transgender individuals have specific health needs, and it's really important to address them. We're especially grateful for this because our grant goes beyond HIV prevention, and allows us to address broader issues through primary care, mental health, group services, targeted outreach programs, all kinds of trainings with partner organizations. It's a really courageous step for the Paul Rapoport Foundation to take a risk to fund us, and to just see the need there.
I can't say enough about all these different centers, like the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia; their training for medical providers, and teaching proper protocols and medical procedures specifically for the trans community, is incredibly important. I was on the research team from 2003 to 2006 that eventually became Danielle's program, before it was the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health. I know we worked really, really hard there to create a center of excellence. There are a lot of wonderful people there.
I want to give a big shout out to the API Wellness Center in San Francisco, which also played a really big role in embracing the API trans community, and meeting the needs there.
Devarah "Dee" Borrego: Just taking a step back to look at the question of progress, even, in terms of culture: As a 28-year-old transwoman, I can recall my own experiences from the early '90s, and the lack of visibility of trans people in my own world. I do think the culture has shifted to begin to allow for our perspectives to start being heard. Through Chaz Bono, as a good example, being so openly public about his transgender status has, I think, really opened the minds of a lot of Americans who might otherwise not have thought about transgenderism, or have been able to be open to what that means.
The progress that's been made within the last decade or so around legal protections for transgender people, nationally, internationally, and on state levels, has been an amazing step forward. Here in Massachusetts, we passed the Transgender Protections Bill, the act relative to gender identity, in 2011, which certainly makes a lot of progress here in Massachusetts for protecting trans people. And I know that there are a number of other states and numerous localities around the world that are taking an active step to protect the rights of transgender people -- which include health care, and the right to receive the treatments and care that we deserve, and that we need.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
This article originally appeared in TheBody.com's Pride 2012 special section.
Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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