Transformations' New Vision & Regional Direction!
We're thrilled to embrace a new vision and direction for Transformations. As we remain committed to serving transgender, nonbinary, gender-expansive, and gender nonconforming (TGNC) young people, we’re explicitly centering transgender young women of color, and trans and nonbinary young people in survival mode and without traditional systems of support, in their experiences, resiliency, leadership, and wisdom. We’re also expanding our outreach to now include a three-state region, specifically focusing on Missouri, Kansas, and Ozark Mountain region in Northern Arkansas.
Transformations is innovative and brave in our vision for safer TGNC communities. We have always been committed to addressing the epidemic of violence and murders of Black and Brown trans women of color in Kansas City. During the past two years, we have focused specifically on moving from operating from our anti-oppression framework to being an anti-racist organization. Part of our anti-racist practice is leading our board and youth advisory team through training and accountability work led by Black women racial justice leaders. We have developed new policies and refocused our programming to center the most marginalized voices within trans youth communities, especially young trans girls of color.
We’ve also learned that when we offered resources to all TGNC young people, often those with the most family and community support and access used us first and often. When we opened up our group and offered programs to everyone with a general one size fits all model, youth who are used to being denied services and not affirmed by communities were least likely to show up or retain interest.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd last summer prompted us to move our programming online. More trans girls of color started to access our programs. Many shared virtual programs are safer and more preferred options than in person activities. Many young trans girls of color do not feel affirmed, supported or safe going to drop-in programs because they often don’t see women like themselves or those programs continue to harm these girls. When they go back to their communities, they often experience active harassment and violence at the intersections of citizenship, racism, misogyny, transphobia, classism, access to transportation, housing instability, neglect and lack of full family support.
Many transgender women of color learn about themselves online, including tips on transition and meeting other trans sisters. While self-awareness starts early, many are often not allowed to even start their transitional journey until later adolescent years because of outside barriers and the risk of violence. In Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas, many trans young women of color are still kicked out of their homes or disowned, have to maintain financial independence from family, navigate the street economy and survival sex work to stay alive, and are at much higher risk of experiencing violence from the child welfare and foster care systems, emergency shelters, first responders, law enforcement and the criminal injustice systems. As they are learning to thrive, they also need to save up enough money to have housing, food, and pay for expensive laser hair removal and electrolysis procedures, hair care and wigs, makeup and beauty supplies, clothes, as well as pay for medical and surgical gender-affirming procedures.
Therefore, we are launching a new chapter for Transformations in order to center the leadership, wisdom, and experiences of trans young women of color and trans young people in survival mode and without traditional systems of support. Our new programming will include a micro-grant cycle (grants up to 1k) to support these young people twice a year, as well as a general monthly emergency fund program. We will prioritize funding for these groups of trans and nonbinary youth seeking support with housing stability, educational and leadership development, gender-affirming medical costs and leading community programs.
We will also offer virtual workshops and training online, as well as be available as an organization to help other agencies build TGNC programs. With this new focus, we can expand our outreach to now include a three-state area, specifically focusing on the Ozark region and Midwest, i.e. Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. We will no longer operate drop-in groups, but instead hold quarterly pop-up field trips and gatherings that prioritize TGNC youth and are open to our larger TGNC community for connection, mentorship and support. We will continue to embrace using social media and our website as a hub for resources, and move viral educational content to Tik Tok to reach young people further, and use Instagram for deep-dive conversations. Our leadership will also prioritize the voices and wisdom of transgender women of color, and we will kick-off these new changes with a two-day virtual summit focused on Transgender Women of Color leaders and influencers on August 11-12, 2021.
We continue to depend on community financial support in order to serve TGNC youth. We need to raise funds for our micro grant programs, hiring staff, building multimedia content, while continuing to pay stipends to transgender people of color who help lead virtual content. This investment of funds allows us to prioritize virtual content that is free and accessible for young people across our region.