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Op-Ed: Time for New York City to Properly Fund Trans Initiatives

6.8.2018

By Cecilia Gentili
Managing Director, Policy and Public Affairs
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)

(New York, NY) June 8, 2018—“I came to this country from Colombia at age 14. As a queer/trans person, I didn't feel safe there. I was able to obtain a legal status in this country thanks to the hard work of lawyers that were sensitive around my transness and my history.” These remarks were delivered by Mateo Guerrero, a Popular Education Coordinator at Make the Road NY, at a rally in New York City’s Foley Square on June 6. He continued to explain, “[There are] many TGNC and non-binary folks in that same situation, and the City of New York should make sure they can access the same services I did. It is unfortunate that transgender immigrants in the city have to be on waiting lists for years before a non-profit is able to take their case because they are overwhelmed and at capacity.”

Mateo was one of the many TGNC and non-binary folks who took the mic to express concern about the lack of commitment from the city government to fund trans-specific, trans-led organizations and projects.

Starting in 2015, community advocates in the TGNC Solutions Coalition, alongside transgender community members, organized five town hall forums to identify trans-specific needs and generate responsive policy solutions. These town hall forums led to the creation of a white paper brief and, most recently, an ask from the city through the Mayor’s Office. Simultaneously, the Transgender Equity Coalition of New York was formed and began working with the City Council to advocate for policies to help TGNC folks flourish in New York.

To further this progress and to make good on the City’s pledge to support TGNC people across the five boroughs, the Transgender Equity Coalition of New York and TGNC Solutions Coalition have come together to ask the City Council for $3.48 million to fund their TGNC-centered initiatives. In a budget of about $89 billion, our ask represents 0.0039% of the total budget. This is not too much to ask—indeed, this is virtually nothing in the scheme of things. But it would make a huge difference in our lives.

We seek the Council’s support to develop services in healthcare, immigration, affordable housing, employment, and education to end trans-specific barriers and better the lives of TGNC people living in New York City. Our proposal will expand access to competent legal services, regardless of income or immigration status, create TGNC Healthcare Navigators to serve as case managers and client advocates for individuals seeking health services, and uplift TGNC communities with job training and housing assistance.

Now, more than ever, the City of New York must stand in solidarity with our TGNC communities. The hostile political conversation and the unwavering number of hate crimes and homicides against transgender individuals nationwide put their lives in constant danger; just last week, two trans women were attacked on the street in Jackson Heights. This also comes at a time when transgender individuals continue to face barriers to securing basic social rights like shelter, education, and employment.

“As a trans person who is 40 years old, there is not an adequate place for me to search for housing. Non-sensitive, binary shelters can become dangerous to us, and the trauma that we face within them, and the systems designed to allegedly help us, make it impossible to complete the housing process,” said Viviana R., a New York City-based trans woman.

Recently, we’ve seen a large push in funding for LGBTQ youth through First Lady Chirlane McCray’s Unity Project, which has had tremendous support from LGBTQ community organizations and individuals. The amount of thought placed into the various aspects of each LGBTQ life and how they need to be supported has been incredible, and this is truly setting a new standard for the country.

While our organizations in no way wish to take away from this victory and success, or divert funding, we do want to raise our concerns that the Unity Project does not assist all of our LGBTQ young adults. Some folks come out at age 25, and they have no services and no resources. There is also a huge gap in services for young trans adults after the age of 25, and those are young members of our community who need to be protected. Too often do our trans siblings suddenly age out of youth programs and find themselves without any support; they are faced with a lack of resources unless they can find another program for which they qualify based on another marginalized identity.

As members of the City Council rush to pass laws to reflect openness and sensitivity to the trans community during Pride month, these initiatives come across as meaningless due to the lack of commitment in terms of dollars allocated to trans-led initiatives. It is time for the City of New York to invest in the TGNC community, and to move from intentionality policies to tangible financial support. We are asking for $3.48 million to fund our TGNC-centered initiatives, and to help TGNC individuals not only live, but thrive past the age of 25. The average life expectancy for members of our community sits in the early 30s, and we deserve more years in a city that prides itself on diversity and inclusion. Helping the TGNC community meet our needs would be a historic step that as we make New York City a place where TGNC people can flourish.

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)
Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 13,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include: testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit www.gmhc.org.