The global pandemic known as COVID-19 or coronavirus, has been referred to as “the ultimate equalizer,” affecting people regardless of their background. But people who existed at the intersections of oppression prior to the pandemic are still living under those same (if not worse) conditions. For example, transgender people in DC have found that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit them particularly hard.
Transgender adults and youth have especially been impacted by COVID-19 because of pre-existing situations such as homelessness, addictions, rejection from biological family and society, and more. Those who were already experiencing a lot of hardship continue to experience those hardships and, in many cases, those hardships are getting worse.
Additionally, while many in the United States are receiving a $1200 stimulus check from the federal government, undocumented trans people and mixed-status families have been excluded from these benefits. And since clinics are not accepting new patients, newly migrated trans people are having trouble acquiring health services and becoming clients.
While people in the trans community has been supporting each other via mutual aid since time immemorial, many mutual aid efforts outside of the community have not been inclusive, due to the fact that not all members have trans-competency or experience with the transgender community. When transgender community members try to participate in providing mutual aid organized outside of the community, cisgender people often bring along misgendering, misnaming, and other forms of transantagonism. Many trans people have felt left out, excluded, or burnt out by these mutual aid efforts with cisgender people. Despite this, transgender people have been heavily involved in the DC Mutual Aid Network, through moderating, mask-making, language justice, phone banking, and so much more!
There are resources created by trans community members to support the transgender community during this time, because #WeKeepUsSafe. In addition to their ongoing work, No Justice No Pride (NJNP) has created a sex worker grant to support sex workers who have reduced access to safe work. They’ve also been making and distributing hand sanitizer and wipes to the community at large.
Trans-Latinx DMV created the UndocuTrans Fund, which supported 150 undcumented trans individuals across the United States and five grassroots organizations supporting UndocuTrans people. They also host weekly chats between transgender women who speak Spanish.
HIPS has closed their dropoff center for showers, laundry, computer lab, clothing closet, in-person meetings, and support groups. However, they are still providing mobile services such as syringe exchange, naloxone, safe sex supplies, and more!
DC Area Transmasculine Society (DCATS) has been hosting chats rooms for transgender people on a weekly basis. They/Them Collective has been providing hot Filipinx food to trans BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) living across DC’s Wards, and has been providing free cloth masks for all, centering the transgender community. gc2b has partnered with the DC Mutual Aid Network, and others, and has made face masks made from discontinued and repurposed XXS chest binders. Casa BITS (Black & Indigenous Transgender Safehaus) has raised funds for undocumented transgender women across the DC Metro Area who have reached out for rent support and food. The transgender community continues to lead the community in mutual aid.
There are also resources that are specific to transgender youth available in the city. SMYAL is providing online meetings, access to free foods, supplies, and physical, mental, and sexual health resources; and is providing grant support for LGBTQIA+ Homeless Youth in DC. SMYAL has also partnered with the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) to make these same resources accessible to Spanish-speaking trans youth. The NJNP Housing Collective has been housing trans youth and training trans youth to be active participants in DC’s community work. Casa BITS has been hosting virtual gatherings and leadership training for trans youth who are monolingual Spanish-speakers.
And, looking forward in preparation for Pride Month (and in honor of trans pride celebrations), Angel Rose Artist Collective has been working on a fundraiser to pay transgender intepreters of color to provide language justice at Pride Events, such as They/Them Collective’s PRIDE FOR US, the DC Dyke March, trans-Latinx DMV live stream workshops, and others; because we believe that community work can not happen if the whole community is not given access to participate in the way that is most affirming to them. Our communities have released this Open Letter to DC’s Pride Organizers to be sure to center language justice at the 2020 Pride Celebrations and to include our multiply-marginalized trans communities.
Conservative accounts of DC’s trans population puts us at 3 percent of the total population, but the number is mostly likely much higher. Our community members often make their presence known in the mutual aid work being done across the city, and the trans community continues to push for inclusion and access for all of our community. The trans community is part of the DC community: nothing about us, without us.