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AIDS United First-Ever Trans Leadership Initiative Grantees Make Big Waves in their Communities

This summer marked the conclusion of AIDS United’s inaugural round of Transgender Leadership Initiative (TLI) grants. Over the past year, eight organizations funded through TLI developed and ran community-driven projects to solidify transgender power in our society and respond to the dire affects of the HIV epidemic experienced by transgender communities. In that brief time, our amazing cohort of grantees have accomplished some incredible things. Collectively the eight TLI grantees:
  • Provided training and mentorship to 57 trans people
  • Supported 5 people in gaining new leadership positions on jurisdictional HIV planning boards, non-profit boards, and consumer advisory boards
  • Supported the direct employment of 11 individuals

AIDS United is deeply proud of the work accomplished by all the inaugural Transgender Leadership Initiative grantees. Check out some key program highlights from these amazing leaders below!  We look forward to making a second round of TLI grants early this fall.
Positive Impact Health Centers (PIHC) launched the TRANSitioning to Leaders (T2L) advocacy academy in Atlanta, designed and lead by local transgender women. The twelve trainees were deeply enthusiastic and dedicated because of the program’s uniqueness. As one of the academy designers explained, “They were so happy to be a part of something that wasn’t about condom practice.” 

Program graduates have already had success. One participant gained so much confidence and so many skills that she has opened her own non-profit organization! Two program alums joined jurisdictional HIV planning boards or consumer advisory boards. Other graduates gained full-time employment (two at PIHC itself), participated in the Georgia State Legislator Advocacy Day, became a participant in NMAC’s Building Leaders of Color program, started transgender-specific social support groups, and became the co-host of a radio show.

Participants and staff at Centro Ararat in Ponce, PR, were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and María right after the grant period began. Under incredibly difficult circumstances, the staff made herculean efforts to support the leaders in its Translucent Leadership Development Institute (LDI), including driving to participants’ homes to ensure they had their medications. Translucent LDI training took off in the winter with enthusiastic participation from transgender women. The program was so inspiring that the group decided to work with a lawyer to draft a bill allowing an “other” gender designation on some identity documents. 

The participants themselves have had many successes as a direct result of the grant. One graduate now works at Centro Ararat and was featured in a local newspaper article for National Transgender HIV Testing Day. Another graduate is on the board of a Puerto Rican LGBT organization and participated in a court case that resulted in an order to ease the process to change gender markers on birth certificates. Relatedly, a third graduate participated in this year’s AIDSWatch, advocating with members of Congress for faster name and sex marker changes on Puerto Rico identity documents.

Arianna’s Center mentored three trans leaders in South Florida. Through the program, the mentees assisted trans individuals dealing with rejection, HIV stigma, accessing PrEP, and the name change process; participated in monthly Ryan White Planning Council meetings; and attended AIDSWatch. The mentorship program had a massive impact on the personal lives of three trainees as well. One woman went from living on the streets to having a formal job working in the community. The group’s trainee-leader recently moved to Washington, DC, for a job at a major HIV organization. And the organization’s trainees were profiled in both English- and Spanish-language media (e.g., this article).

Project Weber/RENEW increased the hours of their first transgender staff member so that she could hone her leadership skills. In the 8-month project period, she received over 150 hours of mentoring through job-shadowing a transgender man at a local health clinic. She took on responsibilities such as facilitating the parts of his trainings around transgender women of color and transgender people living with HIV. She also became both a sought-after public speaker and a role model for other trans women of color living with HIV. 

When meeting with other trans leaders in the state, she often found herself the only transgender woman of color in a room filled with white trans men. As a result, she worked hard to reach back and support the leadership development of others like her in her community. For instance, she invited two participants of the support group she runs to attend a state transgender health conference earlier this year and is hoping to bring at least one back to present with her in 2019.

The Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico was able to offer a paid internship and provide intensive mentorship to a transgender woman of color living with HIV. This guidance was provided by their HIV Services Program Coordinator. This position allowed the intern to gain new job skills, including learning community-based data collection methods, and to maintain stable housing for the first time in fifteen years. The HIV Services Program Coordinator, herself a transgender woman of color, gained significant leadership, mentorship, and supervisory experience. In the process, she has developed independent networks outside of TGRCNM, which has assisted her with referring clients to other resources and has increased her contact with individuals looking for HIV testing and care. Additionally, the broad-ranging support from TGRCNM allowed her to stabilize her housing for the first time in fifteen years and start to reach other life goals. 

Posted By: Shannon Wyss, Program Manager - Friday, August 17, 2018

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