As we move into the 4th decade in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the USA and the World, we must come to realize that the standards for prevention and outreach have failed to include, reach communities and sub-communities other than the Gay community. We must come to terms, to recognize that for “LGBT”, no longer can we afford to ignore other communities that have not being reached correctly. The protocol has to change, has to be inclusive of the population that has been left behind. We no longer need to concentrate ALL efforts on this community alone, expecting it will trickle down to the sub-communities under the shadows.
It is time the Federal, State and local governments and all funders and people with power or influence recognize and validated grass roots moments springing out of the necessity for outreach/prevention. Sub-groups that, according to the CDC fall under the MSM umbrella, do not get the adequate education for prevention or services. The established organizations are not prepared, do not have the knowledge on how to provide outreach to this population. The State of Florida, where I live, has become number one in HIV/AIDS infections. The large majority of these sub-groups are not being reached adequately for lack of knowledge and trust.
As a woman of transgender experience, I urge all those who are in a position for grant funding to look at organizations who are working with the transgender community, organizations that have women of transgender experience organizing the outreach to the community. Only a woman of transgender experience can generate the trust of this community; the trust and understanding that is needed to perform the best outreach and prevention education. Organizations that are working for the LGBT community are not prepared, nor do they have the capacity to understand the transgender community in order to deliver a successful outreach. Some have made an effort by employing women of transgender experience, but this is not enough. They’re felt on the GAP SALARY for transgender. Although few have tried, and we recognized their efforts, like “Bienestar” in LA where the Trans employees feel free, happy and with a future, their happy employees and delivery of the best work for the transgender community in the LA area, but they have not been successful, nor will they be until they recognize the need for women in the community to be in leadership positions to create and implement adequate outreach.
In South Florida we have more than one organization that have received funding for a transgender department that they do not have. Many of these agencies refuse to employ women of transgender experience regardless of their qualifications (sometimes they prefer Transgender with no qualifications just to cover the T part). Many qualified women of transgender experience, with connections to the community had applied for employment with this organization, yet the organization refuses to even interview them, recruiting young gay boys to run the supposed transgender department because they felt it was easy or they put us in the MSM category.
It is time the CDC, as well as other grantors take a closer look at their criteria and come to realize that LGBT is not inclusive and equal. It is time organizations created and run by Women and Men of Transgender experience, especially women of color are recognized and funded adequately in order to implement the services, to reach a larger population, transgender and their partners. Only Trans folk working in this community will have the understanding, the awareness of the needs of the transgender population. Trans-led agencies cannot still get small financial grants for all these grassroots trans agencies.
At this time, when the transgender community has become more visible, has come out of the darkness, it is your responsibility to help, encourage those who are working for this community. We have activists and advocates that have successfully organized programs, leaders, pioneers, like Casa Ruby in Washington DC, which has great women that worked hard to get some level of equality for the transgender community including prevention and outreach. Women groups of women of transgender experience that had being working for their communities in prevention and outreach met in a conference we called Positively Trans last year. This Coalition worked on a survey to gather information about the Trans community and those who are living with HIV/AIDS. These statistics helped us to create services and education as well as know the greater needs of the Trans community locally.