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
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.