Arianna Lint is a transgender Latina refugee from Lima, Peru. She immigrated to the US almost 20 years ago, after graduating from law school in Peru. In 2006, when she tested HIV positive, she felt that it was a punishment for her identity and she managed in silence. But after educating herself about HIV and getting involved in her community, Arianna has emerged as a leading HIV and trans rights activist.
I had the opportunity to talk to Arianna about her work as an activist, starting her own organization, and how organizations can be more trans-affirming.
How did you get engaged as an advocate?
Transgender people have to be strong because we face so many barriers. For me, I am an immigrant, I have an accent, I am transgender, I am HIV positive, I have faced trauma. Being diagnosed with HIV was hard for me; I felt that it was a punishment for my identity. It was a very painful and lonely time for me. But after learning more about HIV, I found a job at the Florida Health Department. It was an opportunity to break through stigma and gain education. I worked as a peer education, case manager, developed curriculums -- I truly made a career in HIV.
More recently, I have had the privilege to learn from my mentor, Cecilia Chung, and others amazing Trans people around the nation and to sit on the board of Positively Trans and other groups. The community is really mobilizing together to make positive change for everyone.
Can you tell us more about how Arianna's Center came about?
Working for the health department, I realized that my community was not represented in the field and my sisters don't have access to the same services as other communities. I decided to become my own boss and opened Arianna's Center to empower, lift up, and provide education to transgender people. We are the only trans-focused and trans-led program in Fort Lauderdale.
We served three counties in south Florida and work exclusively to providing services to people who fall under the transgender umbrella, including advocacy, education and training; case management (where our goal is obtain Undetectable to a Transgender Positive comes to us), name change, immigration, and domestic violence services; street and web-based outreach; and PrEp to Trans individuals and people attracted to Trans Folks
How can service providers better serve and work with the trans community?
Many people may think they are experts in transgender issues because they have served a handful of transgender people, but that isn't enough. Organizations need to create opportunities to hire transgender people. They also need to take a step back to see if their services are accessible to trans people, and if not, modify them. Partnering with other trans-led organizations and creating space to listen to transgender people are good places to start.
What advice would you give to Trans people about being out at work?
Every person has the right to be who they are and to be happy in your workplace. It is important take the time to know who you are and be confident in your identity.
Transgender individuals are the strongest people, because they face so many barriers. It is important to be strong, as we face many stigmas. But if you successfully break those barriers, you can prove to everyone that you are more than what they think.
What advice would you give to an employer to be trans-affirming?
I would tell as employers to reflect on their experience applying for jobs: if you have been turned down for a job two or three times, a transgender person has been turned down 20 or 30 times. If you give us the chance, we can prove that we are an asset to your organization. It is important for employers to grant us that opportunity.
What is something that employers should do to be trans-affirming that may not be on their radar?
Remember that this is an ongoing learning experience for everyone. Maybe someone may make mistakes, but it is important to grant people chances to learn together. And it is important that the employer takes the time to get informed and be supportive.
What motivates you on your most challenging days?
I believe I was born to break barriers. I am very personally motivated and I do the correct thing and am on the right side of history -- this makes me work harder.
Thank you, Arianna! We can't wait to learn more from you in the upcoming webinar, Best Practices: Creating a Transgender-Affirming Organization, on February 23!
Register for the upcoming webinar, Best Practices: Creating a Transgender-Affirming Organization, to learn more!
Join us on February 23 at 1pm ET to learn practical ways to make your organization affirming to transgender people, using a social justice framework and drawing on sources from across the social science, policy and advocacy, and community organizing arenas. This webinar is intended for staff at HIV-focused and social justice organizations who want to understand and better serve people who are transgender and gender expansive in our communities.
Sarah Hashmall is communications manager at AIDS United.