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Transvestigator: Transgender Town Hall

by Victoria Michaels

South Florida Gay News

Thursday November 17, 2011

The Pride Center hosted the first "Transgender Town Hall Meeting" on Friday Nov. 4, which had an overwhelming attendance of Transgender people and offered an open dialog to help better address the needs of the local T-Community here in Broward County.

T- House Coordinator, Jodi Ihme, of the Broward County Health Department spoke passionately to the packed room which included a host of local transgender brothers and sisters, LGBT activists, and local celebrities including Tiffany Arieagus who also works for The Broward House.

"We need your participation because without you we can not begin to make a difference addressing the health needs within the transgender community," Jodi Ihmes said.

She went on to stress the importance and need for critical data collection throughout our transgender community. The goal of a needs assessment is to gather information accurately in order to understand, compare, report, and apply it to enhancing and improving services, or inspire new efforts.

The CATCH program (Coalition in Action for Transgender Community Health) was introduced at the meeting by Community Mobilization Specialist, Danielle Castro of San Fransisco. In a nutshell, this meeting was a collaborated effort between, T.H.I.A.( Transgender Health In Action) a program of the Broward County Health Department-- and CATCH which labels itself the "Center of Excellence for Transgender Health." Their mission is to protect and promote the health of all transgender residents and visitors in Broward County.

Co-founder of T.E.R.I. (Transgender Equality Rights Initiative) and LGBT community activist Michael Rajner was in attendance and offered his support for the coming together of the Trans-Community.

"It was very pleasing to finally see so many transgender's at one table voicing their concerns and needs," Rajner said. Although the group originally expected to meet to discuss health issues, it grew into a much bigger conversation.

Tiffany Arieagus shed some light and attention towards the need for housing for the transgendered homeless within Broward County.

"It wasn't that long ago when there were a group of homeless T-girls living under a bridge here in Fort Lauderdale because there was no place for them to go," she said.

She went on to suggest that the time has come for us to reach out to homeless shelters and other housing programs and organizations to educate them on the need for the T-community so that we can eliminate this problem.

It was a true blessing to see so many members of our community come together and meet for the town hall as each individual that attended came prepared, and it was refreshing to see that we all had something unique and valuable to bring to the table. We united as a community and agreed to work feverishly to bring profound changes to the T-Community in education, health care, advocacy, legislative policies, and economic justice aimed at working with Work Force One.

I am working on a list to identify "trans-friendly" health care providers in Broward County, and as a group we hope to bring positive changes to health care, suicidal prevention, employment, housing, community assistance programs, and to work on laws and amendments so they include "transgenders."

Just A Trans-Friendly Reminder: The Sunshine Cathedral in Ft Lauderdale will be honoring Transgender Remembrance Day 2011 on Saturday Nov. 19 starting at 6 p.m. with guest speaker (D) Congressman Alcee Hastings in which I'd like to extend the invitation to our community.

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