Sharron Cooks on What the U.S. Transgender Survey Means for Philly

Sharron Cooks

Sharron Cooks

On December 8th, the National Center for Transgender Equality held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to release and review the findings in the latest U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS). More than 28,000 trans-identifying Americans participated in the largest-ever national study on transgender experiences, which covered issues including discrimination in employment, education, health, housing, and family life, and the criminal-justice system.

G Philly spoke with Philadelphia trans advocate Sharron Cooks, who had the opportunity during the press conference to share her personal experiences with discrimination as a black trans woman.

What would you describe as the key factors shaping the recent U.S. Transgender Survey?
Discrimination exists in many areas of my life and has throughout my lifetime. The U.S Transgender Survey is a data report that discusses the pervasive mistreatment and discrimination of transgender people in America. The U.S. Transgender Survey is the largest data report of its kind. Violence, sexual assault, unemployment, sex work, lack of medical treatment, homelessness, poverty, and racial bias are examples of some of the areas that were examined.

What stood out to you?
As a black transgender woman who is an advocate, community organizer, and consultant, the U.S. Transgender Survey acknowledges and affirms my experiences of discrimination as well as provides statistical data from nearly 30,000 transgender Americans who have shared similar experiences with discrimination. The finding in the report show that transgender women of color tend to experience higher levels of racial bias, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, harassment, violence, HIV/AIDS rates, inadequate healthcare, and run-ins with law enforcement than respondents who were not of color.

What was it like being one of the few trans people of color speaking at the press conference?
During the U.S Transgender Survey press conference, I shared very personal examples of discrimination that connected my experiences to the numbers in the report. In order to advocate, educate and policy-make, it is important to have both data and personal experiences to help people understand the high levels of inequality and lack of opportunities people in the trans community face, especially trans people of color. The U.S. Transgender Survey also includes findings of the discrimination non-binary people experience, which I think is great and ground-breaking for those who identify as non-binary. The U.S. Transgender Survey data report is a very useful tool that I will be utilizing in my business and community work, and I would strongly encourage all people, businesses, and organizations to read and use the U.S. Transgender Survey in a positive and transformative way for the betterment of all our community members.

What are some motivating factors in your life that keep you optimistic despite many of these statistics?
My life was enriched greatly with the support of my family, friends, and community. I have a B.A. in philosophy with a focus on ethics from Arcadia University. I created my own company, Making Our Lives Easier LLC, that is a consulting firm that provides quality resources and information to underrepresented communities, particularly trans women of color.

What is your advice to other transgender Americans facing the issues highlighted in the report?
I know what it’s like to feel rejected and unsupported as well as the feeling of being respected, accepted, and supported, so in my role as a visible member of the transgender community it is my responsibility to bring awareness and attention to the overwhelming rates of discrimination members of our community deal with daily. I firmly believe that transformative change begins with self, but it is our job as a community and the responsibility of people in leadership to relentlessly and persistently advocate for diversity, inclusion, economic empowerment, and equality in all areas of public life for all people. Using the USTS is a great starting point.

LGBTQ&A: Reggie Shuford

Reggie Shuford, Esq.

Reggie Shuford, Esq.

Reggie Shuford, Esq., is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. We chatted with the civil rights leader on working for social justice for LGBTQ individuals statewide and what we can do in the Gayborhood to combat racial discrimination. Read more »

It’s Trans Awareness Week: Here Are 5 Major Issues the Community Faces

transgender

November 14th through 20th marks National Trans Awareness Week in America. Since 1998, members of the trans community and their allies have gathered annually to raise consciousness and advocacy in light of the disproportionate systemic barriers they face nationwide and within the LGBTQ community. The week leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20th), which reflects on the transphobic deaths countless members of the community have suffered.

And while there has been an increase in trans advocacy work and visibility across political, social, and media platforms, states like Pennsylvania still have more work to do toward ensuring the equal protection and security of trans individuals. Here are five major issues that are still affecting the trans community. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Sharron Cooks

Sharron Cooks

Sharron Cooks

Sharron Cooks is a trans woman activist of color and the founder and CEO of Making Our Lives Easier LLC. We chatted with her about her community-building and being the only trans woman of color delegate participating in the Democratic National Convention.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I have a B.A in philosophy from Arcadia University, with a focus on ethics. I’m the founder and CEO of Making Our Lives Easier LLC, which is a consulting firm that provides quality resources and information to underrepresented communities through activism, advocacy, community organizing, and political advising. I work in community relations at the Educational Justice Charter School, which is an initiative that aims to provide an accepting, safe educational environment for students and an interdisciplinary learning experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, math, and community service. It was my years of volunteerism at the William Way LGBT Community Center that helped me realize and understand the strong impact that giving back to the community has on both the giver and the receiver. Read more »

NATIONAL NEWS: Trans Murder Victim Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds Remembered

Dee Dee Dodds, courtesy of Facebook.

Dee Dee Dodds, via Facebook.

Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds’s murder brings this year’s toll of reported trans women’s deaths to 15.

On Saturday, friends and family paid their respects to the life of black trans woman Deeiquia “Dee Dee” Dodds who was murdered in Washington, D.C. Dodds, 22, was shot on July 4th near her home and died after spending nine days on life support. “This is Dee Dee neighborhood … everyone knew her,” Janiyah Littman, one of Dodd’s friends, told the press during the vigil. “Like, she always went somewhere, like she didn’t go too far.” It was also made known during the vigil that Dodd was a sex worker, a common occupation for working-class trans women who face employment discrimination. It is currently unknown whether her profession was connected to her murder; no suspects have been announced. Police are still investigating what exactly happened and whether she was the victim of a hate crime. The rate of murders of trans women has risen alarmingly this year. Even more disturbing is that there seems to be a particular trend of them being of color, with many of the reported 15 murdered so far have been identified as either black or Latina. Read more »

NATIONAL NEWS: A Transgender Bathroom Ad Causes Big Buzz

Screenshot from the controversial bathroom ad.

Screenshot from the controversial bathroom ad.

A national TV ad depicting transgender bathroom discrimination will premiere during the Republican National Convention.

A new ad spotlighting the bathroom discrimination struggles faced by transgender people will make its national television debut on the FOX News channel on Thursday, July 21st, during the final night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The 60-second ad, now available to watch at www.FairnessUSA.org, features a transgender woman from North Carolina, where HB2 passed earlier this year, discussing how the lack of state and federal nondiscrimination protections affects her every day. HB2 makes it illegal for transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings that match the gender they live, making them susceptible to even higher levels of harassment and violence. The ad has had thousands of views since its online release on Monday. After the RNC, the ad will run again run nationally on MSNBC during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia the following week. Read more »

LOCAL NEWS: Lower Merion School Board Unanimously Passes Trans-Affirmative Policy

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

Lower Merion schools now have a transgender-inclusive student policy.

On Monday, the Lower Merion school board unanimously passed a transgender-inclusive policy that respects students’ names, pronouns, and personal identification in records and academic documents. The new policy also aims to ensure trans students are included in sex-segregated events and public spaces. “This policy is the icing on the cake,” Bruno Reiver, a trans student at Lower Merion, told the press. “As a graduating senior, I cannot express how grateful I am to have attended such a progressive, open-minded institution.” The Pennsylvania Youth Congress and local student groups helped to get the policy passed. Lower Merion is now one of five districts in Pennsylvania — Great Valley, Springfield, Upper Dublin, and Cheltenham are the others — to officially enforce a trans-affirmative policy. The Pittsburgh Public School Board plans to vote on a transgender student policy in June, while the School District of Philadelphia is currently reviewing a policy expected to reach the School Reform Commission this summer. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Deja Lynn Alvarez

Deja Lynn Alvarez

Deja Lynn Alvarez

Deja Lynn Alvarez is a trans woman who has provided LGBTQ youth wellness and service training throughout Philadelphia for years. She previously worked at GALAEI pursuing trans activism within the larger community, and later became director of the Divine Light LGBTQ Wellness Center. Alvarez was recently hired as the assistant prevention navigator for the city’s Department of Public Health, where she addresses HIV/AIDS prevention for LGBTQ youth of color. Read more »

NATIONAL NEWS: Pope Francis Disappoints With Trans Comments

Pope Francis blesses baby  while in Philadelphia.

Pope Francis blesses a baby during his Philadelphia trip in September 2015.

Pope Francis makes discouraging remarks about trans youth identity and same-sex marriage.

Pope Francis has disappointed members of the Catholic church on matters pertaining to LGBTQ relations in his recent letter Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), which covers marriage and the family. In his writing, he supports the College of Pediatriciansrecent claims that “conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.” “The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,” Pope Francis states. He further asserts that if individuals believe they have “absolute power over our own bodies,” it could potentially imply that “we enjoy absolute power over creation.” The 261-page document also included statements that there are “absolutely no grounds” for sincerely acknowledging “homosexual unions.” All of this comes as another reminder that Pope Francis is not as socially progressive as many followers had initially hoped. Read more »

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