QTIBIPOC Lives Matter: The Urgency of Accessible Healthcare in Suicide Prevention

by Alex Moody, Project Care Manager

Envisioning a holistic and accessible healthcare set-up for suicide prevention among Queer, Transgender, and Intersex Black and Indigenous People of Color (QTIBIPOC) involves a stark acknowledgment: Mental healthcare is healthcare. It is equally as important as our physical health and necessitates the same level of attention and care – acknowledging this is the starting point of our journey to combat healthcare disparities faced by the Trans community.

The discriminatory practices within the healthcare system towards QTIBIPOC range from subtle microaggressions to explicit acts of racism and transphobia. This complex interaction of systemic oppression results in increased healthcare disparities and contributes significantly to declining mental health and a higher inclination towards suicidal ideation. The negative experiences in healthcare settings also act as a barrier, discouraging QTIBIPOC from seeking necessary, often life-saving treatment.

There’s an undeniable urgency for accessible mental healthcare for Two-Spirit, Trans, Intersex, and Gender-expansive (2TIGE) individuals, with a particular need to provide  better care for QTIBIPOC. A study by the Williams Institute highlights this urgency: an alarming statistic reveals that 51% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide. That number is something that we can and must reduce by providing quality, affordable, equitable, and accessible mental healthcare for all.

The disparities faced by QTIBIPOC compared to white LGBTQ+ individuals are particularly apparent in the realm of health. Research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows QTIBIPOC experience a higher rate of HIV infections and diabetes – just the tip of the iceberg in a sea of inequities.

Nevertheless, we have the power to remodel the healthcare system to better serve our community, and create a more affirming environment for QTIBIPOC. The process begins with healthcare providers holding themselves accountable in their patient interactions. Regular clinic surveys to gather patient feedback, followed by thoughtful reflections on the feedback, can significantly enhance patient-provider interactions.

Investing in quality education resources and periodic training for healthcare staff can provide invaluable insights into providing quality care for 2TIGE and QTIBIPOC individuals. Furthermore, combating white supremacy in the workplace begins with self-awareness, necessitating the use of resources to learn, unlearn, and confront inherent biases.

Organizations like Trans Empowerment Project (TEP) play an integral role in easing this transition by supplying these pivotal resources for healthcare providers. TEP’s program, Project Care, focuses on educating providers and patients on what quality Trans care looks like and can be. Covering topics such as white supremacy, discrimination, biases, and defining reliable care for QTIBIPOC and the Trans community, Project Care pledges to aid in the transformation of healthcare systems into spaces where all lives aren’t merely said to matter, but are treated like they do.

Unlocking Effective Allyship: How Cis Women Can Support the Trans Community During Suicide Prevention Month

By COO & Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood Coordinator Heather Knoxville

This month, Trans Empowerment Project (TEP) is holding space to talk about Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention, specifically about the alarmingly high suicide rates in the Trans community and what can be done to reduce them. I’m Heather Knoxville, COO of TEP and the creator/manager of our Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood program. 

As cis women, it’s essential to recognize our role in providing support and allyship for our Trans sisters. True allies go beyond token gestures and demand consistent effort to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. 

As an ally myself, it’s important to me that we make it very clear that we are a sisterhood, and we will not allow for continued harm of our Trans sisters, or any of our siblings in the Trans community. Keep reading to discover a roadmap of actionable measures that we can undertake to help the Trans community during Suicide Prevention Month and beyond.

Suicide and Self-Harm in the Trans Community

Personally, one of the things that upset me the most is hearing how alone and isolated my sisters feel. I know that feeling all too well – I spent 15 years with my abuser, who kept me as isolated as possible. (Because we’re easier to control that way, you know.) 

Studies have shown that around 77% of Trans women have attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. The situations that lead to these mental health struggles include discrimination, lack of acceptance, violence, and sexual assault/harassment. As cis women, acknowledging and addressing these issues in our spheres of influence can make a significant difference in helping our Trans sisters.

How You Can Help

Here are some practical steps that cis women can take to show support for Trans women:

  1. Use correct pronouns and names: Be mindful of using the correct pronouns and names chosen by your Trans siblings. This simple act validates and shows respect for their identity.
  2. Challenge Transphobia: Speak out against Transphobic comments and behaviors in daily life, social settings, and online spaces. You don’t have to say the “perfect” thing, just say something!
  3. Advocate for Trans-inclusive policies: Promote and support policies in the workplace and community that accommodate the needs, rights, and well-being of Trans folks.
  4. Amplify Trans voices: Raise awareness about the experiences and perspectives of the Trans community through social media, activism, and engaging in conversations with others.
  5. Don’t use language that isn’t inclusive! (e.g.,  saying that women should be able to “create life” or that men can’t.) 
  6. Use the buddy system: If you have Trans friends or loved ones, do things together! Not only will that give you both the joy of strengthening your relationship, but it can also lessen the odds that our Trans sisters will end up victims of harassment or violence.

It’s Called “Sisterhood”, Not “Cisterhood”

Womanhood has nothing to do with physical characteristics or the clothes someone wears, it’s just who we are. No one should get to gatekeep your access to it, and we shouldn’t get to gatekeep others. 

The Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood program aims to bridge the gap between cis women and Trans women by fostering education and community, building a network of femme-led support across the country. Participating in and promoting programs like this empowers Trans women and helps create a safe space for them. 

Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood offers workshops, monthly virtual meet-ups, and friendship-building opportunities, ultimately helping to reduce instances of suicide and self-harm in the Trans community, especially among Trans women. 

Ally Is a Verb

Allyship is not a pin or sticker you wear to indicate that you’re a “safe” person to be around, being an ally is a lifelong journey that involves continual education and personal growth. It’s important to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them, to be open to change, and to actively seek resources to better understand the Trans community. 

Listen, I know it can be hard to hear that you’ve made a mistake or said the wrong thing, especially when you had good intentions. But how will we ever learn how to be better allies if we can’t handle being corrected? 

Instead, thank the person for their labor, be grateful they felt safe enough around you to correct your mistakes, tuck that new bit of knowledge away where you can find it next time, and move on. 

Maintain a growth mindset and consistently strive to create a better world for everyone, because we all deserve to thrive!

You Can Make a Difference

Collective efforts and intentional practices are vital in addressing the mental health crisis in the Trans community. As cis women and allies, it’s our responsibility to show solidarity with our Trans sisters and foster an environment of inclusivity. This Suicide Prevention Month, let’s commit to unlocking effective allyship and making a tangible difference in the lives of Trans folks. 

Every conscious effort we make, no matter how small you think it is, creates an impact in our quest for a world where everyone thrives as their authentic self. 

Need help knowing where to start? Check out the main Sisterhood, Not Cisterhood page, or come find me at TEP. ([email protected])


Celebrating Black Business Month: Uplifting Disabled Black Trans Freelancers & Entrepreneurs

By Mo Viviane (they/them), Program Manager for Trans Employment Project

The month of August is about celebrating Black Business Month! It’s essential to recognize and uplift the incredible contributions of Black Trans businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs in the business world. As the Program Manager for Trans Employment Project, I am connected with many talented Black business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs leaning into the world of meaningful work. It’s important to highlight these stories and successes of Black Trans, Intersex, and Gender-Expansive folks. We consistently foster a more inclusive and equitable business environment, one that celebrates diversity and empowers Black Trans people in all areas of the workplace and business environments!

The Intersection of Identity
Being a Black Trans person from the South, I face many unique challenges arising from the intersections of my race, gender identity, and disability. Relatedly, many in my community face similar issues, such as discrimination and systemic barriers that have hindered our access to opportunities despite our immense talent and creativity. By acknowledging and addressing these issues, WE CAN ALL create a more supportive ecosystem that allows Black Trans business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to thrive.

Breaking Barriers in Entrepreneurship
Historically, entrepreneurship and business management have offered me a promising path to gain financial independence and pursue my passions, especially as a Black Queer Trans Disabled person. In 2021, I went from being completely unemployed, with no means or access to employment opportunities, not only because we were living through the COVID pandemic, but because I had left a previous workplace rooted in white supremacy.

During this time, I sought free educational tools online to boost myself in the social media content sector – where I had no previous knowledge aside from doom-scrolling and content interactions with folks within my small community of followers. As I was in the learning phases, I wondered where the QTIPOC content creators were and found it harder to hear perspectives from folks who looked and identified like me. This catapulted me to be conscious and intentional about the kinds of clients that I wanted to attract.

In a year, I utilized what I had learned and began searching for clients who valued uplifting QTIPOC voices in their work. I landed three clients, two of which I still work for as a freelancer today. I went from having no income to having nearly $25,000 in revenue in my first year. To some, that may not seem like a lot, but it took a chance on myself and my values to find the meaningful work I sought.

So, Mo – what are you getting at here? Bridging the gap between the experiences of Black Trans freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners starts with the education and training of our white counterparts. If you are consistently underrepresenting in your collaborations with Black Trans folks, are you honestly taking steps to invest in our future?

Ways to Collaborate

1. Procurement & Partnership:
Make a conscious effort to support Disabled Black TIGE owned businesses by sourcing our products and services or collaborating on projects. Creating sustainable business relationships uplifts the landscape or equitable business practices. 

  1. Mentorship & Education: Offer mentorship programs, workshops or webinars that provide valuable business insights to Black Trans entrepreneurs. Sharing knowledge and expertise can assist us in navigating challenges, developing new skills, and growing our businesses. 
  2. Networking Opportunities: Host events or create platforms for networking where Black Trans business owners can connect with potential clients, partners, and investors. Facilitating these connections can open doors and expand our reach. 
  3. Financial Support: Consider creating a scholarship or grants specifically for Black Trans individuals pursuing entrepreneurship or seeking to grow our businesses. Financial support can be a game-changer and empower us to achieve our goals. 
  4. Marketing & Promotion: Use your platform to promote and amplify the work of Black Trans business owners. Share our success stories, highlight our products or services, and showcase our contributions to the community!
  5. Advocacy & Policy Support: Advocate for policies promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in business. Support initiatives that create equal opportunities for everyone and explicitly uplift Disabled Black Trans folks. 
  6. Feedback & Collaboration: Seek feedback from Black Trans business owners on how your organization can better support us. Collaborate on initiatives that align with our needs and aspirations.

    Black Business Month provides an opportunity to celebrate and implement better processes to work with creative and innovative Black Trans freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners. By fostering an equitable, collaborative landscape, you open up better pathways that continuously shape a future where all voices are heard and all talents are celebrated.

    Also, remember creating lasting change requires continuous effort and dedication. By collaborating with Disabled Black Trans business owners all year round, you implement our empowerment and create a more inclusive and vibrant business ecosystem!

Building Inclusive Workspaces: Supporting Disabled QTIBIPOC Employees

by Mo Viviane

In today’s rapidly evolving workspaces, it’s  essential for employers to prioritize diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Fostering a supportive and equitable workspace for all employees, including disabled queer, trans, and intersex people of color (QTIBIPOC), leads to an environment that enables everyone to succeed.

You can implement policies and support systems that specifically address the needs of disabled QTIBIPOC employees, and create a solid foundation for a thriving, accessible workplace. 

Here are three strategies your organization can consider to build equity for disabled QTIBIPOC employees:

1. Comprehensive Training & Education for All Staff

To create a culture of inclusion, it’s important to educate ALL staff on the unique perspectives and experiences of disabled QTIBIPOC workers. Implement training programs that cover:

  • Understanding intersectionality and its impact on disabled QTIBIPOC employees
  • Unconscious bias and how it affects disabled QTIBIPOC in the workplace
  • Effective communication and allyship methods for supporting disabled QTIBIPOC co-workers

2. Implement Inclusive & Accessible Hiring Practices

Your organization’s hiring practices greatly impact the diversity of your team. Foster an inclusive recruiting process by:

  • Actively seeking and recruiting disabled QTIBIPOC candidates
  • Providing accessible formats for job applications and interviews, such as large print, video interviews, and sign language interpreters
  • Encouraging the inclusion of disabled QTIPOC individuals in recruitment materials, emphasizing that they are valued and welcome

3. Develop Supportive Policies & Benefits

Ensure that your organizational policies and benefits cater to the needs of disabled QTIBIPOC employees:

  • Offering flexible work schedules and remote work options, accommodating various conditions and disabilities
  • Providing comprehensive health insurance that covers both physical and mental health needs, including gender-affirming procedures when applicable
  • Establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) specifically focused on supporting disabled QTIBIPOC employees, fostering a community where they feel heard, understood, and respected

By implementing these strategies, organizations can create more inclusive workspaces for disabled QTIBIPOC employees, promoting diversity and equity within the workplace and beyond.

Take Back the Narrative: The Work of K Pontuti

A narrative on identity and art by artist, filmmaker, and professor K Pontuti

 I grew up in a small farm town in Ohio at a time where there wasn’t any language around queerness or transness—at least nothing positive. It was also a time without the internet so information wasn’t as easily available. I remember hearing phrases like “he’s really sensitive,” ”…so creative,” “…so sweet,” “…really insecure,” which  later gave way to “he’s a momma’s boy,” “needs toughening up,” “has to learn what is to be a man,” “must be a queer.”

I was quite sensitive, and I could feel my difference although I didn’t quite understand it. I was also creative and became immersed in my imagination through making things. I taught myself to draw by copying my favorite comics – Charlie Brown and Snoopy were top billed in my cast of characters – and some of my fondest childhood memories are of sewing and crafting with my mom. Soon, though, I was steered towards building model cars and airplanes…“boy stuff.” (My sisters’) Barbies were replaced with G.I. Joes.

Like I think many do, I managed by burying it all, and through determination, desperation, and the privileges of a “straight cisgendered man,” I was able to carve out a “good life” for myself as an adult. At least for a while.

Over the years and in hindsight, I remember sensing glimpses of my yet-to-be-recognized queerness through tinglings and fuzzy feelings but mostly just moments of seeing other people living and experiencing life outside of the cisgendered binary and thinking, “Huh…” and sometimes, “That’s beautiful.”

But life’s responsibilities and gendered pathways and norms didn’t leave a lot of room for me to pose these bigger questions to myself. Even though there was an unrecognizable emptiness, anxiety, depression, and

dysphoria  manifesting as eating disorders, self-medication, over exercising, and an insatiable drive to prove that I was worth something, I must have known subconsciously that someday this this slimy, hairy, shitball-of-a-person inside of me would be exposed—and I’d have to come to terms with it all.

A few years ago, as I was wrapping up post production on our film, The Yellow Wallpaper (not ever imagining that I may have been the tragic story’s trapped woman), I fell into a mental health crisis that landed me in the emergency room. I was fortunate to have checked myself in, and even more fortunate to have a supportive partner and family to get me there and back. I started therapy and a long process of excavating the why’s, how’s, and now what’s of why I had forever felt this way (and, of course, this was all happening through the start of the pandemic).

I also started drawing again which was the other thing that saved me. Immersed in the simple act of putting pencil to paper, the ideas started flowing, the dexterity came back, and then it just exploded and everything poured out.

Since then, I’ve been going all in exploring my identity, trauma, and past. Making new drawings and scouring through old ones. Doing more therapy…and lots of shopping.

As might be expected, my artwork explores themes of gender identity, bodily autonomy, mental health, queerness, and trans rights, all from a very personal perspective. The work is very autobiographical and chronicles my transition as it unfolds, in real time. 

This past September, I had my first gallery show in ages and titled it Pray And Be Thankful 4 Everything. For me it was a title that walked a line between irony and authenticity. I was so very thankful for everything, but I was also sick and tired of being told that I should be. The exhibition was amazing on so many levels; personally, professionally, and in an incredibly affirming way. I did as many presentations as I could, especially once I saw the impact it was making.

The show provided a platform to start direct conversations about important topics, but definitely raised a lot of eyebrows at the university. Through it all, I’ve received many notes, read student and faculty-written reflections, and had conversations that have brought me to tears. I’ve also felt the ostracization and distancing that many queer and trans people experience. But the good absolutely outweighs the bad, and the joy and satisfaction of realizing who I am, and why I am, has made it one of the most amazing years I could ever imagine.

When I look back at my younger self, that sweet kid that liked to sew with mom, who had no idea what was coming their way, no language or support for what was happening to them…I get really sad and feel an incredible loss. The loss of a childhood. And to think it was all spun so well that I thought something was terribly wrong with me. 

Now, that sadness turns to anger as I watch people, corporations, even my home state of Ohio, wage war on trans rights (as well as the rights of many others). That sadness turns to rage as I watch the stripping away of the tools, education, and medical care that kids and their families need in order to comprehend who they are and survive. 

I’m sure it’s not easy to be a trans kid today, but I never had the chance to find out for myself, and the alternative wasn’t so easy for me, either. I’m still doing my daily drawing practice, and I funnel all of my sadness and anger and rage and grief into my art where I can turn it into strength, hope, and self-affirmation. Deep down, I know

these are the things that I need, and I’m now receiving, so that I can continue my journey, and hopefully help others continue theirs.

So yeah, in that sense I am truly thankful.

 See more of K’s work on their website: https://www.kpontuti.com/

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