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April 30, 2024

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Trans Women of Color Healing Project

by Toi Washington-Reynolds

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners, who are at the forefront of organizing and creating solutions that improve people’s lives and bring us closer to achieving a true democracy. The insight and perspective they provide is invaluable. The Q&A below was generated by Trans Women of Color Healing Project Director Toi Washington-Reynolds.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to raise public awareness about sexual violence and promote preventive measures within communities. The stark reality is that an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, affecting individuals across all gender identities. Transgender and gender-diverse individuals, especially those of color, are disproportionately impacted, experiencing higher rates of sexual violence and more complex, often unmet, service needs post-assault. 

As this month comes to a close, we’re lifting up the work of the Trans Women of Color Healing Project, a Ms. South grantee partner aiming to combat the erasure of trans peoples’ lives, narratives, and contributions to society. They speak truth to power and uplift stories that center trans women of color, their families, their communities, and their movement. The organization has also created programs that support Black trans women who are survivors or at risk of sexual assault. 

What brought you to this work? 

Over 20 years ago, I found solace, refuge, and family within the LGBTQIA+ community, which embraced me with love, support, and acceptance. This profound experience transformed what some might call work into my life’s mission. Motivated by the care, love, and support I received, I’ve dedicated myself to advocating for, fighting for, and protecting my community, ensuring others can also experience the profound sense of belonging and support that has greatly impacted my life.

How do you connect/collaborate in your community? Who are your key partners? 

I believe that success in life comes from collaboration, recognizing that no one individual or organization can accomplish everything alone. This philosophy drives my commitment to forming partnerships within the community. Key partners include Game Changing Men, POWER ATL Inc, Vision 4 Hope, and the Georgia District 4 Health Department. These collaborations are vital in leveraging diverse strengths and resources to better serve and impact our community effectively.

What are you learning or what are you teaching?

I learn daily from those around me about the importance of giving voice and visibility to others by allowing them to share their own stories. As a leader, I use these lessons and experiences to better equip, educate, and empower others. This principle teaches me to trust their experiences, recognize that I am not the expert of their lives, and to always use my position and platform to improve my community.

Tell us about a recent victory or something you’re proud of.

On March 30, 2024, we celebrated Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) by gathering over 300 queer, TGNC, and LGBTQIA+ youth, families, and allies. The 2024 legislation session ended days before TDOV, during which we successfully defeated all anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, stopping nearly 20 proposed bills. This victory was a significant highlight of a week filled with love and support from allies, comrades, family, friends, and local representatives who stand with the queer, TGNC, and LGBTQIA+ community.

We’re also particularly proud of our “Healing Through Sexual Assault” program. This initiative addresses the unique challenges faced by Black transgender women, both survivors and those at risk of sexual assault, by bridging rural care barriers and linking them to trans-specific services. The program also tackles medical mistrust and discrimination stemming from the intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and social class. By understanding these intersectionalities, the program has created a state-of-the-art therapeutic space and essential resources to support the healing of survivors.

The goal of the project is to support Black trans women who are survivors or at risk of sexual assault by providing culturally-specific support through in-person and virtual events, retreats, transportation, personal care packages, emergency crisis support, and educational and healing sessions. It aims to assist those in rural areas with difficulties accessing care by improving transportation and telehealth options, and enhancing direct access to trans-inclusive care. Additionally, the project focuses on increasing linkage to transgender services through the creation of a Health Access Resource Guide specifically designed for Black trans women, which will be available in 2025.

What can philanthropy do better and/or how can individuals be helpful allies?

Philanthropy can enhance its effectiveness by establishing partnerships that support the operational capacities of organizations, rather than traditional hierarchical relationships. This includes providing volunteers, coaches, or consultants to aid in scaling and innovation. Offering unrestricted funding allows organizations to allocate resources as needed, and investing in grassroots organizations with strong community ties, alongside providing multi-year funding, ensures long-term stability and development. Together with individual allies acting as catalysts for change, these strategies foster a more equitable and just society.

What gives you hope? 

Knowing that we are intelligent, strong, resilient, beautiful, and chosen people with an innate duty to transform our communities, the globe, and the people who inhabit it gives me hope. I have hope that when the LGBTQIA, TGNC, and queer communities fight, we will win!