• Nghĩa Nguyên

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

On August 10th, the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund Bill (AB2218) was up for the Senate Committee on Public Health vote. My fellow trans activist and sibling, Ebony and I, went to the Capitol in the historical Senate Galleria to give our testimony in support of the bill. We both reside in Senator Pan's district, who would be leading the Senate meeting that day. We wanted to give our experiences of being trans and under supported while working in trans-serving organizations. A “TGI-serving organization” is an organization with a mission statement that centers around serving transgender, gender nonconforming, and intersex people, and where at least 65 percent of the clients of the organization are TGI." The bill was penned by Assembly member Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles County District 53; there are more facts about the bill in later passages.

Over this weekend, AB 2218 passed the Senate floor with a majority vote and now the bill will be moved on Governors Desk for Newsom to sign, and it would allocate funding to the few transgender serving organizations in California to assist our marginalized community: folks that are transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex and gender variant. The Bill mainly focuses on the COVID 19 Relief money to be allocated to a community like ours that has been historically shunned by most institutions. It would help the most marginalized during these harsh and brutal times. 

Gender Health Center honoring our trans siblings lost to violence at Souls of the City, Sol Collective's Dia De Los Muertos celebration.

Since these ongoing attacks against transgender people by Trump's administration and the federal government, it is imperative to support trans serving organizations. Ben Carson recently proposed a rule that is circulating among law makers in DC that discriminates against transgender people in homeless shelters on the basis of "biological sex." We already know that trans people face some of the most horrendous discrimination seeking adaquate housing. Trump-nominated HUD director, Ben Carson, is going to make it nearly impossible for trans people to gain access to housing in shelters. Carson bringing this proposed rule is violence and it will deteriorate transgender people's ability and accessiblity to thrive. This could be one major reason many trans people in other parts of the country are migrating to California where there are slightly more resources for transgender people to live.

Our community was already impacted by systemic administrative violence. Transgender people, and most specifically, Black transgender women, face the highest disparities from mulitple directions of the state.

Ben Carson’s rule is one example that is indicative of how administrative violence pushes our community away from getting care and resources, and when you add this global pandemic to the mix, it reveals why our community has been hit extremely hard. There are many difficulties in getting back on our feet that can be remedied by administrative intervention such as AB 2218. 

When I got to the main entrance of the Capitol where they checked your bags, the double doors were shut but they had a big white canopy outside. There were about 10 people waiting outside and most of them were wearing black t-shirts with big bold Arial font in the front, ‘CHANGED,’ and on the back, ‘EX-GAYS.’ They gave me a careful greeting as I made my way up the steps and I acknowledged them in the same way.

Usually, when a Californian comes to testify or show support for any supposed bill that is presented to the legislators, they allow you into the Capitol building. However, due to the pandemic, and the United States being a country that has the highest rates of COVID infection and COVID deaths in the Western world, the state has us waiting outside under a tent until we are called into the legislative meetings. The 8 of those folks that were there to oppose the bill that would help transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people during these trying times were there for their misguided Faith. They had given me an Evangelical greeting and I can tell that they tried hard to be civil while we shared the same space. There would be another woman who arrived after me that didn’t care to be civil but kept to herself. 

The first one that came to introduce himself was Christian, who I thought had a genuinely nice smile. He asked, “are you some kind of musician?” He followed by asking me  if I played some kind of strings, like the violin. I didn’t know if he was trying to connect but to me, but he made a racially coded inquiry; you don’t ask a stranger, who you read as Asian, if they play the strings like the violin. I let him know that, “no, I’m not a musician. But it is a common question that I get as an Asian person.” He claimed that he’s never heard of that before. And I told him that it was definitely a trope amongst Asian folks to be racialized in that way. He may seem innocuous but it replicates the model minority myth and further perpetuates anti-blackness in turn. The conversation ended right after that and he awkwardly stepped away from me and back to his group under the big white tent.

Then one of his colleagues came up to me and introduced herself as Becky. She made a nice gesture to let me know that she thought my dress was pretty. I was cordial with her and talked about the hot weather and so on. Eventually, the conversation did turn to why she thought that her life was better now that she was an ex-gay person and I returned by saying that I’m glad to have been able to live authentically. That it took a long time for me to come to this sense of freedom for myself. This was when her other colleague joined in, who introduced herself to be Laura Perry. 

We didn’t stand outside that much long before the session started and the security called us into the building. We were all escorted into the Capitol, one by one, and we were directly to our seats above on the 2nd floor of the Galleria. The Senate meeting was already starting and Ebony and I sat about 10 seats from each other while we waited hours to give our testimony. You can see the entire video here

Like the time I testified during the California Board of Education hearing for the inclusion of LGBT history in the curriculum, I sat in the room to listen to a barrage of misguided people of the faith speak horrible things about transgender people.

During the Senate Hearing for AB 2218, we heard call after call of many angry hateful Christians, some calling from outside California, to oppose this Californian Bill that would so desperately help my community. Without transgender serving organizations like Gender Health Center, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It was transgender affirming organizations such as GHC that helped me get back on my feet after constant discrimination in the work force. All of those times in the course of 10 months that I lost 9 jobs, I became so low and dejected that my depression brought upon suicidal ideation. 

I moved to Sacramento to begin anew and I began to get counseling services at the Gender Health Center. I was able to get my name and gender marker changed through the organization, so I wouldn’t be marginalized while looking for work. It was Gender Health Center that helped me advocate and nagivate how I wanted to continue with my medical transition; being one of the only orgs that had a team of people that were transgender like me, there were barriers that they didn’t have to cross because they understood my struggle.

I found community of other queer and trans people that have brough so much joy, purpose and love to my life bceause of organizations like Gender Health Center. There aren’t many organizations in California that do the critical work that a transgender serving organization can do that is to reach our community in a way that no other cisgender organization can. We need AB 2218 to survive for our orgs to survive. 

Trudi going through supplies at Danelle's Place, Gender Health Center's Respite Program.

How can you help?

  • We will need people who support transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex  and gender variant people to call our California Governor to ask him to sign bill AB 2218.

  • We need folks to write letters of support for the bill.

  • We need folks to mobilize with us.

  • We will have a press conference to speak more on future mobilizations, please watch out for them on our social media, our website, and other trans-serving organizations in your area. Tuesday morning on September 8th.

AB 2218 (By Assemblymember Miguel Santiago)

Transgender Wellness & Equity Fund 

Bill Summary

The goal of Assembly Bill 2218 is to create the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund within the CA Department of Public Health which would includet $15,000,000 from the General Fund to fund grants that create programs or fund existing programs, focused on coordinating inclusive health care for individuals who identify as transgender, gender nonconforming, or intersex.

Need for AB 2218

This bill is necessary. Historic lack of access to healthcare often leads TGI people, especially transgender women of color to rely on unregulated underground resources as their primary source of transition related care. While California has undoubtedly provided funding for LGBTQI+ programs, there hasn’t been funding specifically for TGI-serving organizations, programs, or healthcare. It’s imperative that California acknowledges that TGI people have health needs that differ from our cisgender lesbian, gay and bisexual counterparts.

AB 2218 would:

  • Fund the creation of the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund within the Department of Public Health and allocate 15 million dollars to TGI-serving organizations and groups across CA.

  • Be the first time a funding allocation of this magnitude be provided to the TGI community by a state government.

  • Change the landscape for the TGI community and provide wellness, health, and safety.

Gender Health Center's Harm Reduction Counter


Will these funds solely be able to be utilized to assist TGI people with medically transitioning?

No. We are looking at healthcare in a holistic way, so this funding would be able to be utilized for programs that address the holistic health needs of TGI people, such as mental, physical, and spiritual health.

How can organizations get access to these funds?

These funds would be provided as grants through the CA Department of Public Health. To our understanding, these would require an application process in which TGI-serving organizations and groups can apply.

Do I have to be a part of a non-profit organization to have access to TWEF funds?

No, but there must be some tie to a non-profit organization to qualify. This means that if a group does not have 501c(3) status, they must work collaboratively with an organization that does, as a fiscal sponsor to have access to TWEF funds.

How does this affect underage kids (or children) who identify as TGI?

This bill does not specifically focus on children nor are they the goal population of this bill. This bill is for ALL TGI people, young people included. Overall, it would increase the accessibility of TGI-inclusive services.

How do we define a TGI serving organization or program?

Adapted from the Trans Justice Funding Project: A TGI-serving organization is defined as an organization in which the President, CEO, and/or Executive Director drives the direction of the organization and identifies as transgender, gender non-conforming, and/or intersex (TGI). The majority (at least 75%) of people employed by the organization must also identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, and/or intersex to be categorized as a TGITrans-serving organization. Alternatively, if there is a board, a collective, or an advisory committee, the majority of staff, collective or committee members must identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, and/or intersex. If a non-TGI-serving organization will serve as a fiscal sponsor to a TGI-led group, collective, or volunteer-run organization, the fiscally sponsored group, collective or volunteer-run organization must be TGI-serving and be free from fiscal sponsor control or ownership of its mission, vision and work.

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“I was a radical, a revolutionist. I am still a revolutionist. I was proud to make the road and help change laws and what-not. I was very proud of doing that and proud of what I’m still doing, no matter what it takes.” - Silvia Rivera 

Nghia waving the trans flag at the top of Dolores Park for SF Pride 2020

These past two months have been heavy on the heart and soul for many people, especially Black and Brown folks in the United States of America; we have been protesting and struggling to topple a brutal system. It was only two months ago, after being on lockdown since March 10th because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, that George Floyd - yet another unarmed Black man - was publicly executed by police officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, live on someone’s phone camera for anyone in the world to see. That same week, a Black transgender man named Tony McDade was attacked by  transphobes and then shot and killed in his own apartment by a police officer. The public execution of George Floyd ignited the people of Minneapolis to rise up against the police state and take justice for an unarmed Black man who lost his life over an allegedly “fake” 20 dollar bill. 

For weeks, cities across the United States have taken to the streets to resist police violence and brutality; other cities around the world have also risen up to show their solidarity with their American siblings. One city close to my heart, Portland, Oregon has been protesting for 60 consecutive days and nights. In response to this solidarity, the federal administration has sent agents to the scene, agents most likely privately contracted by Erik Prince, a figure known for his dealings with the military industrial complex through his mercenary and intelligence groups assisting in US occupations all over the world. We are seeing the connections between our oppressors, connections that can only be dismantled by our own collective solidarity. And so, yet again, the People received the Call for Divine Justice - we hit the streets and looked to do whatever we could within our hands and capacity to destroy this old world and build a new one in its place.  

We are at the beginning stages of a pivotal moment in history, we are building a world in which the binary is broken into a million little pieces. The world that we are building makes room for organizing, as Audre Lorde said, through difference. It’s a world in which difference is not policed by normative power structures but by an ethic of care for our world and for each other. With the current state of the world, this transformation is ever more urgent. To say 2020 has been one hell of a roller coaster is an understatement; each month of 2020 has felt like a decade with a constant flood of large-scale events: war, famine, pandemic, civil unrest, genocide, just to name a few. There is no going back to “normal” and we have to acknowledge that. 

This is why it is important for us, the transgender community, to continue to follow and uplift the work of our revolutionary ancestors, to take the words of Silvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy into all of the spaces we organize, haunt, and occupy. With everything that has happened in the past decade, we owe it to ourselves to topple this system and create something new and more equitable for us all.

To do that, we cannot use the Master’s oppressive tools, to repeat the cycle of co-optation from yesteryear. We have to recognize that there is no reforming and working to bring back the way things were. The way things were have been deadly to our community, particularly at their most vulnerable intersections. The status quo has killed Black and Brown trans folks, it has put many ecological communities on the brink of extinction, and has damaged the world we live in for generations to come. We must look within ourselves and harvest the Revolutionary Spirit that this capitalist, neoliberal consumer society tried to erase and use it to build another world. 

Jennicet and Nghia at Dolores Park preparing to March at the SF Pride 2020

You may have heard the phrase, “Stonewall was a Riot” tossed around every summer as a reminder to newer generations that our Queer history is constantly under attack by a gentrification of the mind. This gentrification, this erasure of our historical struggle, is an attempt to eliminate the connection between our past Revolutionary Spirit and the struggle we continue to face today. I’ve experienced this erasure myself. As a queer youth born in the 1980s I constantly struggled against this organized forgetting of our modern Queer history. I grew up in the midst of the Clinton years and the AIDS pandemic of the late 80s and early 90s; I was a visibly queer kid in the suburban city east of Downtown Los Angeles and I was constantly policed by my own community of very devout, but hypocritical, neighbors who hated my queerness so much that they showed it through verbal and physical assaults. Through all of this trauma, I didn’t have access to my own queer history and ancestors because there weren’t any queer folks around. At 16 years old, I finally broke free of my self-policed mentality, it was this step out of the closet that made me acknowledge that cis-hetereonormative people hated queer people - but in particular they abhorred queerness that was loud and proud of itself and its history of struggle. 

Because of this realization I began to look for elders in West Hollywood - or any LGBT spaces in LA County - and much to my confusion, I only found gay and lesbian history in these places. I didn’t know that transgender history existed, though I saw trans elders on occasion. It wasn’t until organizations such as APAIT (Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team)  and Gender Justice LA pulled me into their history program that I began to learn about Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. I learned about what happened the night they fought back against the police and organized around their political power.

Since the day I came out of the closet (which was basically acknowledging my own queerness and transness because everyone else knew it), I have been on a journey to understand how queer people have simultaneously existed within and been hidden by this society. I learned that our history of resistance and struggle is ongoing, because this system that we currently live in is adamant in our erasure and extermination. This is a world built for others, for rich men, for white men, for straight and cis men.

To unearth the history of queer people in this nation, of  queer people in this world, has been a long journey for me. It’s a project I’m sure that it will continue long past my time on this earth. This is why I choose to be a part of an organization like Gender Health Center, an organization that helps uplift the history of Black, Brown, Trans and Queer liberation struggles.

My promise to my community is that I will labor and toil to continue unearthing our historical queer and trans paths while building the foundations for newer generations to come. I don’t ever want a queer or trans child to be isolated in a space without knowing that there are so many great, beautiful, legendary, hilarious, full of life humans like them out in the world. I want that child to know that there will always be a space for them in this world. 

This is why I fight, this is why Marsha, Silvia, Miss Major, and so many others have invoked a revolutionary spirit in me; I carry their words within me, to pass on to those who follow me in the struggle. I urge y’all to join me and carry on the work of our elders, to build a better world for the youth who follow us.

By Nghia Nguyen

Editors: BB, Ilma’Shallah Aleem Syed

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Updated COVID-19

Statewide Shutdown Hours

Reception/Front Desk

Monday - Friday 9 - 5

Open Remotely 

Danelle's Place Respite Center

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Monday - Friday 10 - 8

Phone + Video Sessions

Harm Reduction

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Gender Health Center 

2020 29th Street, Suite 201 
Sacramento, CA 95817 


Ph 916.455.2391

Fax 916.455.2393 

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