Op-Ed, Opinion

OP-ED: Trans Emergency Fund is doing good work

Op-Eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author(s). The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the Trans Emergency Fund

Becks Loo (CAS’22) is a rising senior at Boston University majoring in Psychology with a focus in social work.

Pride Month came and went, but the work required for true trans liberation is not even close to being over. The corporatization of pride — the merchandising of queer identity — has obfuscated the very real need for resources for the community.

Housing insecurity is an incredibly prominent and dire issue for the trans community. Across the United States, one in five trans people will face housing insecurity at some point in their lifetime. One in 10 will be forced out of their home due to housing discrimination due to their identity.

Yvonne Tang / DFP Staff

According to a 2018 report from Boston Indicators and The Fenway Institute, members of the LGBTQ+ community are more vulnerable to enduring homelessness and food insecurity.

This crisis is all the more magnified for Black trans people. A 2017 survey by the Human Rights Campaign found that Black transgender people are 42% more likely to experience homelessness compared to 30% of the overall sampled population. A study from 2019 found that Black people make up 40% of the US homeless population, despite being only 13% of the American population.

This only worsened during COVID-19, which has hit Black and Latinx communities the hardest. Moreover, Black trans people are more likely to be incarcerated than other trans individuals, leading to further instability and displacement within the community.

Housing insecurity makes an already targeted population all the more vulnerable to violence. The Human Rights Campaign marked 2020 to be the most violent year on record since 2013 in terms of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people.

These statistics are not abstract. They haven’t popped up from nowhere, but rather, are the result of centuries of racist and transphobic government policies which have made stable housing a luxury few have access to.

Structural racism and transphobia render many housing aid services unusable. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, housing shelters 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.”

This is a human rights crisis occurring all across the nation, including Boston, and action is necessary.

The best way to address these issues is to provide support — both financial and, if asked for, physical — to trans activists of color who have been doing the work of supporting their own communities for centuries.

I came out as trans this past year while living in Boston, and I know how incredibly important and dire this issue is. I wanted to find a way to give back to the Boston LGBTQ+ community because this city was where I was able to explore and grow in my identity.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to intern with the Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts. While this Op-Ed is not an official statement from TEF of Massachusetts, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the incredible work my coworkers are doing and have done in Boston. I have been working as a case management intern at TEF for the past month and it has been an incredible experience.

The TEF of Massachusetts began in 2008 with the purpose of providing financial resources and support to low-income transgender people in the greater Massachusetts area. It is the only organization in this entire state dedicated to addressing the issue of homelessness in the transgender community. Recently, TEF partnered with the Trans Resistance March to organize the 2021 March and Vigil supports the Black Trans Lives Matter Campaign, to highlight the structural inequities and violence with corporatized pride celebrations.

The issue of housing insecurity extends beyond the concept of a physical home. It also includes the relationships and support systems that enable one to feel safe and protected. TEF also provides medical assistance to trans people, from nutrition to prescription co-pay assistance, to transportation and escort to medical appointments.

Chastity Bowick, TEF’s current executive director, was a recipient of TEF from 2012 to 2013. “After being homeless and resorting to survival sex work and survival drug use, TEF took me off the street and gave me another chance at life. I was inspired and wanted to give back to the community. Since then, I have fought to empower and uplift people in the trans community to not only become social justice warriors and advocates but also lawyers, doctors, and other service professionals. When trans people seek services, we should be able to see individuals like us who understand where we come from,” Bowick said in an interview with the Rainbow Times.

The only way any of this work can continue to happen is with donations. TEF is a nonprofit that runs entirely on donations. TEF’s goal is to raise $250,000 with 80% going towards TEF’s Transitional Housing Initiative. This initiative will purchase a residence that will permanently house transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people in Massachusetts.

It’s important and essential to continue to support the trans community. Donate to TEF here.

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