HRC Observes National Transgender HIV Testing Day

Post submitted by HRC HIV & Health Equity Program Coordinator Dimetri O’Brien

National Transgender HIV Testing Day (April 18) recognizes the importance of HIV testing and the continued focus on HIV prevention and treatment efforts among trans people. 

Black and Latinx trans women have disproportionately high HIV rates and less access to culturally competent care. HIV testing is an effective prevention tool that can actively engage trans people and communities in their sexual health and wellness while empowering them to make healthy choices that improve their lives. HIV testing also allows health care providers to identify those who are living with HIV and to start treatment efforts sooner allowing them to attain viral suppression. 

The goals of NTHTD are: 

  • Increasing status awareness among all groups of trans and non-binary people; 
  • Increasing capacity of local health jurisdictions to meet the HIV testing;
  • Addressing the prevention and treatment needs of trans people; 
  • Reducing HIV and other health-related disparities experienced by trans and non-binary people, with a specific focus on trans women of color. 

In the spirit of community, HRC spoke with Tori Cooper, HRC’s Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative. 

1. Why is National Transgender HIV Testing Day important to you? 

NTHTD is important to me because there is no group of people in the United States more impacted by HIV than the transgender community, particularly Black and Brown trans women. In some places, our numbers are similar to Black and Brown cis men who have sex with men, but estimates are much higher in communities across the Deep South. And while experts say Black cis men who have sex with men have a 1 in 2 chance of acquiring HIV in their lifetimes if things don’t change, the reality is for Black trans women, estimates already have 50 percent of us living with HIV. We are a smaller group of people, so our community is impacted even more greatly in terms of life expectancy, household income and overall health outcomes.

2. How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the trans experience? 

Current news cycles are highlighting that Black, Latinx and LGBTQ people are faring far worse during the pandemic. Trans folks have historically had less access to health care and resources than the rest of the queer community. With this in mind, trans folks are more often employed in lower-wage jobs that perhaps ended early because of COVID-19. We are even more disadvantaged during a pandemic.

3. How can people engage in advocacy under the current stay at home order, specifically trans people? 

We can all engage in advocacy by reaching out to our friends and support systems, safely sharing our resources and staying sheltered whenever possible, if possible. For trans and non-binary folks who are deemed essential workers and service workers, we must support their health and livelihoods by following the rules that are in place to protect us all.

This NTHTD and the rest of the year, we can engage with national and local resources that help people of trans experience and support those communities. Helpful resources include:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Act Against AIDS
Doing It Campaign
AIDS.gov 
Center of Excellence for Transgender Health

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HRC Sits Down with Parents for Trans Equality Council’s Chris Williams

Post submitted by Sula Malina, HRC Children, Youth and Families Program Coordinator

HRC recently sat down with Chris Williams, a member of HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, to learn more about his family’s story.

Williams and his partner Joel Sekuta live in Seattle, and they are the proud parents of two great kids, both of whom are transgender. Williams is a longtime strategic communications professional and is actively involved with HRC at both the local and national levels. He has worked with LGBTQ employee resource groups at his places of employment to build greater visibility for LGBTQ individuals in the workplace.

What inspired you to join HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council?

I became involved with the council, in part, because I am a gay parent, but also so that I could act as a bit of a bridge within the community and enlist my friends into being the fierce advocates for trans youth that our kids need. When my younger child came out as trans in 2015-16, I realized how disconnected I was from trans issues, even though I was a part of the same community. I wanted to do more than just support my kid; I wanted to work to be an advocate for trans youth within the LGBT community, as well as in the broader community. Those of us who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual may not understand what it’s like to be trans or non-binary, but we absolutely understand what it’s like to be different, to come out, to navigate a world that isn’t always supportive and understanding.

What’s been one highlight of your experience as a council member?

Getting to know the other parents and drawing from them the inspiration to be an advocate for trans youth. It’s easy to fight for your own kids, but the camaraderie that I feel with the other parents on the council makes it easy to fight for other people’s kids as well. They all inspire me — and so do their children.

What part of HRC’s work do you connect with the most?

I was an active member of HRC before I joined the council. What drew me to the organization then draws me to it now: smart strategic advocacy that places the needs of real people front and center. Harvey Milk told us that the most important thing we can do as gay people is come out. HRC has harnessed the power of the individual act of coming out and turned it into an awesome force for change, in part through powerful storytelling, and this council of parents helps HRC do it even better by bravely telling the stories of their children and their families.

What’s one message you have for other parents of transgender children?

Love your child, just as they are. Acceptance of my two trans children didn’t come easily, even though I had walked the walk of coming out and then advocating for equality. I have struggled at times to reconcile the hopes and dreams I had for my children as I thought them to be with the reality of who they are. But this, I think, is one of the most natural struggles of parenting, whether your child is straight or gay, cis or trans. We can’t help but tell ourselves stories of who we think our children are and who they will become. But they are who they are, and we should celebrate each of them for being just themselves and having the bravery to walk through the world as as they choose to be.

HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council is a coalition of some of the nation’s leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people. To learn more about HRC Foundation’s work with transgender youth and their families, visit our Children, Youth and Families Program.

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Bermuda’s Government Must Recognize That Marriage Equality is Settled, Advocates Say

Bermuda’s LGBTQ community won a crucial victory for marriage equality in November, when the island’s highest court dismissed the government’s latest appeal to strike down same-sex marriage.

Despite the high court ruling, the government of Bermuda is weighing whether to appeal this ruling to the Privy Council in the U.K. — a desperate attempt to block the path to equality for Bermuda. The deadline for the appeal is December 14.

HRC asked OUTBermuda’s directors, Chen Foley and Zakiya Johnson Lord, what this means for the LGBTQ community.

Is the court’s November 23 decision the final word for LGBTQ Bermudians, and is marriage equality the law of the land?

We hope so. However, the government again is leaving Bermuda and the world in suspense until December 14. We strenuously believe that this is a both a waste of time and an absurd taxpayer expense. The Bermuda courts consistently embrace justice and marriage equality.

If this decision is appealed, what are your chances in the Privy Council?

While we can’t predict the outcome, our attorneys believe this is likely to be our most favorable venue, with a remarkable potential for impacting the work of marriage equality advocates throughout Commonwealth nations, including the Caribbean. If that occurs, the ripples of equality might be quite powerful beyond the borders of Bermuda.

To be clear, can Bermudian same-sex couples marry today?

Yes. The Supreme Court ruled back in 2017 that Bermudians can secure marriage licenses and have their marriages recognized. We are still fighting to make that basic right permanent and lasting for all. Furthermore, two subsequent court decisions have upheld that ruling.

What message do you wish to send to your global allies and advocates?

First, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for standing by Bermudian’s LGBTQ community. We are indebted for the financial, emotional and spiritual support throughout this costly and demanding court process.  We are so close now!

All Bermudians look forward to the day that we reconcile our differences, we redeem our blessings and we reward each other with full equality under the law and within our own loving marriages.

“Another Appeal is Not In Bermuda’s Best Interests,” says #OUTBermuda and all fair-minded Bermudians. Read on: https://t.co/jaKvPZ52d5 pic.twitter.com/M9GuYKOqJH

— OUTBermuda (@OUTBermuda) December 4, 2018

For more information about the ongoing work to support LGBTQ equality in Bermuda, check out  www.OUTBermuda.org and share support on social media. For more about HRC’s work to support LGBTQ equality worldwide, go to hrc.org/Global.

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