A reflection on AIDS United’s 2022-23 Transgender Leadership Initiative

About Transgender Leadership Initiative

AIDS United launched the Transgender Leadership Initiative in 2017 to support the ability of transgender and gender-nonconforming leaders to respond to HIV-related stigma and transgender-specific needs in their communities. Today, AIDS United continues the Transgender Leadership Initiative Leadership Development Program utilizing a social justice framework by funding and supporting trans and gender-nonconforming leaders of color under two major domains: professional development and community service.

With funding from Johnson & Johnson, the 2022-2023 Leadership Development Program awarded $110,000 to five trans leaders of color and their organizations. Additionally, the program saw the introduction of an e-learning course launched via AIDS United University. This e-learning course provided self-paced learning modules on leadership-related topics (e.g., strategical goal setting, healing justice, grant writing, etc.) and was co-developed alongside Alexis Stratton and Nathalie Nia Faulk of the Southern Organizer Academy.

Grantee Profiles

Each Transgender Leadership Initiative grantee delivered a service-learning project with a focus on health disparities within their local trans and gender-nonconforming communities. Collectively, the 2022-23 cohort delivered support and outreach services to 777 community members. These projects utilized Transgender Leadership Initiative funds to develop and support HIV advisory groups, creative arts programs, housing relocation services, and gender-affirming care for local trans and gender-nonconforming communities across the United States.

AIDS United is deeply proud of the work accomplished by all the grantee organizations. Please refer to the grantee profiles below for highlights of each grantee organization and their service-learning project.

The Aliveness Project

The Aliveness Project utilized their award to continue their Tea Time program. Tea Time is a peer‐led support group for trans women and transfeminine people in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The group offers gender-affirming and transition resources, such as access to hormone replacement therapy injection supplies and name change clinics. They also offer meetings to discuss issues related to medical transition, peer and familial support, and sexual and reproductive health. Tea Time offers critical peer connections, in which group leaders help other trans women and transfeminine people in their community take crucial steps in their medical, social and legal gender transitions. Over the past year, Tea Time leaders have helped community members start hormone replacement therapy, change their legal names, shop for gender-affirming clothing and navigate the medical system for gender-affirming health care services.

Baltimore Safe Haven

The Transgender Leadership Initiative supported Baltimore Safe Haven’s City to City Network of Care for the 2022-23 grant year. City to City provides disenfranchised TLGBQ people in the in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area with opportunities to thrive by “swapping” them into a different city and environment. With this swap, Baltimore Safe Haven provides the resources necessary for these individuals to build and rebuild their lives. Specifically, City to City offers transitional housing, food, health care navigation, vocational training and other services and resources needed to interrupt recurring cycles of trauma in a person’s life. Baltimore Safe Haven has reached 150 TLGBQ+ individuals living in survival mode across the region via their City to City relocation and housing programs.

House of Rebirth

The House of Rebirth, based in Dallas, Texas, created the Closer to My Dreams initiative utilizing their Transgender Leadership Initiative award. Closer to My Dreams is a creative arts program for trans and gender-nonconforming people in the South. During the grant year, House of Rebirth enrolled 10 Black trans creatives into the initiative and provided virtual courses and workshops on artistic development, self care, mental health and leadership skills. Program participants pursued art classes, guitar lessons, and sewing and fashion design courses. Some participants received tangible resources to develop their craft, like sewing machines and art supplies. Through the program, participants were able to achieve their artistic dreams and even develop new streams of revenue.

TRANScending Barriers

The Transgender Leadership Initiative supported TRANScending Barriers’ Trans Peer Empowerment Group during the 2022-23 grant year. The group is a grassroots organizing effort to end mass incarceration and abolish the prison industrial complex in the Atlanta, Georgia, metropolitan area. The group consists of Black trans femmes who are formerly incarcerated, living with HIV, housing, food, and employment insecure, disabled, and actively engaged in sex work. As a coalition, the group addressed mistreatment of trans and gender-nonconforming people living with HIV in confinement, HIV-related stigma and socioeconomic inequity through the delivery of educational campaigns. The 23 members were engaged in local educational campaigns with colleges, universities, media and community centers on topics such as U-U, the disproportionate impact of HIV on marginalized communities, HIV criminalization laws and HIV stigma.

Transinclusive Group

Transinclusive Group utilized Transgender Leadership Initiative funds to support their ongoing U-MATTER — an acronym from making a transition to explore resiliency — project. U-MATTER bridges gaps in HIV prevention and care knowledge and engagement among both transgender and cisgender women/femme individuals of color living in South Florida. During the grant year, Transinclusive Group recruited two transgender women of color and two cisgender women of color living with or vulnerable to HIV to participate in a leadership council. In collaboration with community partners, Transinclusive Group and the leadership council hosted a community resource fair for National Transgender HIV Testing Day, organized a panel discussion on engaging communities in HIV prevention and care, and developed a community engagement and marketing plan. Through community events, the group was able to reach over 400 community members — both cis and trans — to increase awareness of PrEP and PEP (preexposure prophylaxis and postexposure prophylaxis, medicines that prevent HIV), dismantle HIV stigma, and institute new systems of support that promote holistic wellness in South Florida.