By: Al Ballesteros
November is Transgender Awareness Month and a time to celebrate the existence and diversity of the Trans community. Transgender Awareness Month grew from Transgender Awareness Day that is recognized on November 20, established to mourn those in the Trans community who were victims of violence. Advocates felt much more was needed to celebrate the Trans community above and beyond an awareness day and this led to a month-long celebration of the richness and diversity of the community while at the same time maintaining the original integrity of November 20TH.
It is well-known that Transgender persons face a multitude of challenges including discrimination, emotional and psychological abuse, physical and sexual violence and employment discrimination among other things. In addition, Transgender persons are at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections, viral hepatitis and HIV.
Sadly, this year 2020 is the most violent year yet for Transgender persons and at least 30 individuals have been killed in violent attacks according to the Human Rights Campaign fund. This number is believed to be underreported. It is also true that most of those experiencing violent attacks are Transgender persons of color, with Black and Latinx persons representing most of the stats.
Enter the TransLatin@ Coalition which is a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles and was formed in 2009 by Trans Latina leaders who came together to organize and advocate for the needs of the Trans Latina community, many who are immigrants that reside in the United States. The TransLatin@ Coalition serves Trans, Gender Non-Conforming and Intersex (TGI) people in Los Angeles and West Hollywood at their location at 3055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA 90010.
I spoke with Bamby Salcedo, President & CEO and founding member of the TransLatin@ Coalition about the coalitions work and the on-going issues affecting the Transgender community.
According to Ms. Salcedo, The TransLatin@ Coalition provides a drop-in space where people can come together and socialize. It provides free lunches, clothing and hygiene kits, regular activities, re-entry services and immigration services. It also provides workforce development support, antiviolence programs, legal services and HIV prevention including linkage to medical services and PrEP.
The TransLatin@ Coalition also involves itself in Public Policy Work and was successful in pushing forward AB 2218 to create the first Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund. Its efforts were a first of its kind in California history where Trans people wrote and pushed forward legislation for its community. AB 2218 will support Trans Lives and services by and for Trans people and was sponsored by Assembly member Miguel Santiago. The Coalition was also supportive of Senate Bill 132 signed by the Governor that provides Trans people many protections when involved in the State of California incarcerated system, including recognition of the individuals gender identity, use of proper gender pronouns and various options of where to serve sentences. These were big wins for the TransLatin@ Coalition.
In 2015, The TransLatin@ Coalition identified the need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born. Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County. TLCs primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resources and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.
Ms. Salcedo says more Trans-led organizations have been started in the last five years. She says the Trans community is 40 years behind that of the gay and lesbian community with respect to economics, stature, its organizations, its acceptance. She says as the larger gay and lesbian community progressed and moved forward, Trans people were largely left behind and that this is still happening today. One just has to compare where Trans people are in relation to the larger LGB community to see the disparities.
Over the years, Trans people have been part of multiple movements with respect to the LGBT community. Salcedo and other activists feel the larger gay and lesbian community never really advocated for the true needs of Trans people. This is perhaps how interpersonal violence has been portrayed against the Trans community. Salcedo says, thats how we end up on the streets, having to work for sex; have highest incidence of HIV etc. Many public health departments lump us in together with males who have sex with men for their data analysis and planning. Accordingly, Salcedo says this has led to a lack of dedicated resources needed to address the specific prevention and health needs of Transgender persons.
Salcedo says the roots of discrimination and violence against the trans community stems from very far back. Indigenous people did not see differences in gender. In fact, those that were two-spirited were considered sacred people, many were healers, says Salcedo. Then the Europeans came and started introducing religion and at that time, the notion of two-spirited gender people had to be erased.
Adelante: What transgender programming is needed?
Salcedo: Intentional investments to address social determinates of health that affect Trans persons. For the first time during the homeless count they identified about 1,000 Trans persons. We need investments in housing. Also, workforce needs and figuring out broader health care needs of Trans Latinx people in Southern California.
Adelante: What can be done to curve the violence against Trans people?
Salcedo: Substantial investments in public education needs to happen. The public needs to understand that Trans people are coming into their own power. They can organize and design programs to address our needs. We need programs that support people to stay in school, from K-Academia. This is a big problem because many Trans youth leave school because of bullying and discrimination they experience. Institutions also need to move away from religious influences.
Adelante: How helpful is law enforcement to these issues?
Salcedo: Law enforcement is horrible. They are supposed to serve and protect but there is a lot of institutional racism there. We are calling for defunding of enforcement; we are not saying we dont want police. LAPD gets $9 billion for the police department and we dont believe they need all that money to run that department. Rather, put some of it into public services, such as housing and workforce development, etc.
Adelante: Law enforcement does not help with logging in crimes and seeking to bring those that commit those against Trans persons to justice?
Salcedo: The majority of the times, no. When Trans women are attacked, law enforcement or police often time, blame the Trans people for the things that may have happened. They have actually said, if you were not like you are, you would not get attacked. So, they dont take the cases serious and dont understand the violence we experience. That our lives are not valued or valuable. Most times than not, crimes portrayed are hate crimes and police dont even see that. District attorneys use a frame of what the crime was and so a lot of times crimes betrayed against trans people are hard to prove, especially if there are no witnesses.
Adelante: How has Covid-19 affected the Trans community?
Salcedo: Largely, our community has not benefited from Stimulus funds put out to the general community; many have lost their employment and it will be difficult to regain; many Trans people we serve are not able to access unemployment. Many are losing their residences and we anticipate that there will be more homeless Trans people in Los Angeles County. Food insecurity is another big problem.
Although there are three Trans-led organizations in the County, we are the only agency that has built and an infrastructure that is Trans-run. Others might lose funding and volunteers during this difficult time. We have also put systems in place to help the community at the same time being mindful of what we need to do to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Adelante: How can the community help?
Salcedo: Most important are donations so we can support Trans people. We need funds to support those inside of immigration detention, for whom we send commissary money. The donations we get we give directly to the people so even as little as $30 per month would help. We give support to those that are incarcerated as well. There are also other ways to support us, such as needed volunteers with skills to write grants, help with policy work and clerical work. We are also looking for donations of clothes and supplies in good condition. You can let us know your interest at: email@example.com or follow us on social media platforms from our website.
The TLC encourages interested persons to call to make an appointment at 1-833-TG-SAFE-1 (1-833-847-2331) and indicates walk-ins are also welcome. Be aware that Facemasks, and body temperature measures and brief verbal health questionnaire are required to enter their facilities at 3055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 350 Los Angeles, CA 90010.
The Coalition has implemented telehealth, social distancing, and other safety measures to ensure that both (TGI) people accessing its services and its staff are safe. During this time their Drop-in space has restricted access, however, the center continues to provide daily warm meals from 12:30 to 2 pm.