Whether it is Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Taja DeJesus, Yazmin Vash Payne, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard, or Lamar Edwards. We have seen an alarming, fatal epidemic of violence against transgender and gender nonconforming women, specifically transgender women of color in the United States.
Amongst all of this loss, it is the Leelah Alcorn and Blake Brockington cases, and others like theirs, that I can’t seem to get out of my head.
There is a larger educational point that needs to be said loud and clear for the benefit of transgender or gender nonconforming youth and their families. That message is simple: For transgender youth, access to supportive health care services and resources saves lives.
At Zebra Coalition, our multidisciplinary team is committed to working with gender nonconforming or transgender youth and their families. In many instances these individuals are not familiar with sources of support in the community or options related to medical therapies and interventions.
Youth across Central Florida come to Zebra Coalition because our team and coalition partners provide culturally competent and affirming mental health counseling, case management, support groups, and support for transition needs such as hormone blocking and hormone replacement therapy.
We work with parents and families of children that do not initially support these medical interventions— often due to a denial about the child’s authentic gender identity, a lack of education about the safety of potential medical interventions or a deeply rooted personal, religious or cultural objection. In the overwhelming majority of these cases (but certainly not all), our team can work effectively with families and individuals to find a common path moving forward, or at the very least, a path that ensures the safety and well-being of the child or adolescent.
Homelessness is also a critical issue for transgender people. One in five transgender individuals have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, social service and homeless shelters that work with this population often fail to culturally and appropriately serve transgender homeless people, including denying them shelter based on their gender identity; inappropriately housing them in a gendered space they do not identify with; and failing to address co-occurring issues facing transgender homeless adults and youth.
Zebra Coalition offers a residential program in the Central Florida area that can provide appropriate housing options for transgender youth experiencing homelessness. We are able to meet the specialized housing needs of gender nonconforming and transgender youth where we make room assignments and housing decisions based on the well-being of individual youth versus sex-segregated housing.
While it remains true that too many transgender youth are the victims of hate crimes, become homeless or contemplate suicide, this spectrum of dysfunction does not capture the strength, perseverance, pride and resilience that, in my opinion, more accurately captures the spirit of the young transgender people our team sees each and every day.
For many individuals, access to an organization like Zebra Coalition that cares for gender nonconforming youth could literally be a lifeline to a future as their authentic selves.
Dexter Foxworth, Zebra Coalition Director