July 19, 2014 - openDemocracy.
by Cecilia Chung
For the first time the transgender community is hosting a Transgender Networking Zone in the Global Village at the International AIDS Conference opening this weekend in Melbourne. Titled "Trans People Step Forward!", the zone is coordinated by a consortium of organizations including the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, the Global Network of People Living with HIV, RED Trans and local transgender advocates, to name just a few. The first of the four day programme is dedicated to trans people living with HIV with two of the three panels focusing on trans women living with HIV: "Voices from the Global South: Life of trans women living with HIV", "Intersection of Violence and HIV: Stories of Resilience" and "The Cultral Context of Stigma, Gender, Sex and HIV".
It feels like two lifetimes ago when I found myself living on the margins and at the brink of despair. I had just come out as trans to my parents who, through no fault of their own, could not accept the news and effectively turned their back on me. Being a college graduate did not prepare me for all the rejections, discriminations and traumas that life had instore for me. The immediate three years after I embraced my true self are not the type of experiences that I would wish on my worst enemy. There is no adjective that can adequately describe the agonizing path on which I embarked: I went from a fresh-out-of-college six-figure income earner in an investment company to unemployed due to my own internalized stigma and the lack of employment discrimination protections in California at that time, from a renter to the edge of homelessness, from being someone with a middle-class upbringing to being someone who relied on the street economy to survive, constantly exposed to the power dynamics that fuel stigma, ignorance and violence. In a span of thirty six months, I was introduced to police abuse, and physical and sexual violence; none of which was a singular episode. Continue reading…