In recognition of Trans Awareness Week, which begins on Nov. 15 and runs through Nov. 20, GALAEI’s Trans Equity Project will address issues plaguing the community including homelessness, poverty and the threat of violence and harm.
“No matter where you go in the country, it’s the same script but a different cast when it comes to issues affecting the trans community,” said Milan Sherry, coordinator of the Trans Equity Project. “It seems like some people in the city may have become stagnant when it comes to certain trans causes because of how progressive Philadelphia is, but we should continually be aware of the fact that the work is far from done.”
Trans Awareness Week is a weeklong celebration leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20. The week brings awareness to the challenges trans, gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people face in living their lives. GALAEI’s Trans Equity Project will host a week of events to “remind people what we’re still fighting for,” said Sherry.
The Human Rights Campaign reported last year that at least 102 transgender people were victims of fatal violence. Eighty-seven of them were transgender people of color. In 2017, 28 trans murders were reported, making it the deadliest year recorded by HRC since it began tracking the death tolls in 2013. This year, at least 22 trans murders nationwide have been reported so far.
The Trans Equity Project is a peer-based support program for trans-identified people ages 16 and older. The program — formally known as the Trans Health Information Project before the name and mission changed in 2017 — was created in 2003 as the only program in the city managed by trans people and specifically for trans people. The work, Sherry said, was geared towards individuals living and impacted by HIV. The program now focuses on social-justice advocacy for the trans community.
In May, the program’s funding was cut. In January, GALAEI received a $25,000 grant from the Walter E. Hearing Fund. GALAEI posted on its Facebook page May 25 that “due to the change of scope from the primary funder, our sustaining support for the Trans Equity Project was cut in half. The GALAEI Board’s spirited efforts thus far have fallen short of the amount needed to avoid the reduction of hours and accessibility of the Trans Equity Project.” Cortes was able to secure immediate funds to assure the program's coordinators remained in their full-time positions and still received their benefits.
Sherry said when the Trans Equity Project lost its funding, the community stepped in with donations from fundraisers to help with the loss of funds. She added that, fortunately, the budget cut did not affect the services and events the program provides to the community.
“For us, this isn’t just a job. As a black, trans woman, I’m not exempt from being targeted, assaulted or murdered. Our work isn’t done when we leave for the day. We are very intentional about how we mobilize and organize. We’re in tune with the community and what they really need to live their full lives,” she added.
Christian Lovehall recently stepped down as a coordinator of the TEP to work as a community liaison for Councilwoman Helen Gym. Francisco Cortes, GALAEI’s executive director, said it’s important for City Council members to work with trans people and advocates who have “direct experience working in the community mobilizing and organizing and seeing firsthand what are the needs of the people. There are folks that get involved in the politics and policies without knowing the direct impact that it will have for the most marginalized people.”
The week begins with an opening reception dinner followed by a trans-youth panel 5-8 p.m. Nov. 15. Sherry noted the importance of starting off the week with hearing about the experiences of trans-identifying youth living in the city. She said the goal of the panel is to help bridge the generational gap between older and younger trans people.
“Oftentimes, youth feel like they’re silenced by older members of the community. I know that trans youth are more than capable of knowing what their needs are and be able to communicate those needs. It’s very important, especially during a time like this in our current political climate, that we center and support our trans youth because a lot of these policies that are trying to be implemented are going to affect them in the long run,” Sherry said.
The week continues with trans cinema movie screening of “Holiday Heart” on Nov. 16 from 5-8 p.m.; “Everything Starts with a Dream” dreamcatcher-making party Nov. 18 from 5-8 p.m.; a clothing drive on Nov. 19 for 5-8 p.m. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Trans Equity Project will host a silent march from Dilworth Park to the William Way LGBT Community Center where participants can take part in the center’s TDOR memorial service.