Diamond Collier, an HIV advocate and public health leader, is making a difference in the lives of other Black transgender women in Houston and across the United States. She serves as the executive director of Black Transwomen, Inc., an organization that “works to lift the voice, heart and soul of all trans women.”
Collier is a part of AIDS United’s first-ever cohort of the Fund for Resilience, Equity and Engagement and the Transgender Leadership Initiative Leadership Development Program. These leaders were chosen through AIDS United’s grantee partner organizations as representatives of transgender and gender-nonconforming people and Black gay, bisexual, queer and same-gender-loving men — populations in our communities most disproportionately impacted by HIV.
We caught up with Collier to learn more about her story and how she works to mobilize her community to stop HIV together.
How did you get into this field?
I have been in the work for about 12 years. Because I started to encounter so many people in my personal life affected by HIV and AIDS, I was inspired to make more of an impact in my community in the work that I do.
How do we start to reduce the barriers preventing transgender women of color from accessing care?
I think the fear of not knowing how you will be treated in health care facilities deters trans people from getting care and education. Health care is also sometimes not an economic priority. When your basic needs like food and shelter are in limbo, it’s easy to put health care needs on the back burner.
I also think accessibility to education on PrEP and care options are also barriers to accessing care. I talked to elder organizers in San Francisco to get some advice on how they helped overcome in the earlier days. One suggestion was to have a small focus group of community members, with five to 10 people coming to one location and leaning about medications and care. These groups would have food and music and a person leading the group. I think we can do this and utilize social media tools to have virtual and in-person groups, which would provide community-based safety and comfort while giving the information in a controlled environment.
What are some of the challenges preventing trans women of color from being in executive leadership roles? What are some of the solutions to addressing those challenges?
Education needs to be accessible. Many of us are coming from places where our parents couldn’t afford college, so it was never a viable option. Some of us are kicked out of our homes with no family support financially. I think we should be investing money in education and training leaders in our community.
Leadership can be measured and valued outside of traditional indicators like degrees. There are many people already doing the work you need done. The solution is to hire trans people and train them to do what you want them to do. Allies must be intentional about employing us and not just looking at us as clients. I think being creative and flexible in how and where we approach care is key.