When I transitioned at fourteen when I was out on the street fighting for my survival, I know for a fact that most of the trans women that I grew up around, that were part of my survival network, all those people are gone. every single one of them is no longer on this earth. And I think that that’s what…I always think of that. I had a really good friend that…I had a really good friend that she and I had a very similar path and we were roommates and she died of HIV, and she died alone. She died in a room, a single room occupancy unit in Chicago by herself, off of hormones because her doctor told her that he could not / treat her for her HIV and give her hormones. And so, she died in a room by herself, alone and without the dignity that she deserved. And she’s been one of my inspirations.
We’ve come a long way that’s true, and we have a community of trans women who are empowered today. We don’t have to live in the shadows anymore and that we can actually come together to support one another, there is more that unites us than keeps us apart. And so I think we’re understanding more about how to work together as a community to achieve our common goals and that is inspiring to me and gives me a lot of hope.
We live in a society that unfortunately really is pervasive in terms of transphobia and the stigma that many people experience merely for being who they are and for living their lives in the gender that feels comfortable to them. We know that consistently transgender women are among the highest of—or among the populations at highest risk for HIV. We know that because they show up in care. We know that because they show up in emergency rooms seeking care.
The fact is that our lives are on the line every day. Every day when we step out the door, our lives are on the line. Trans people are not able to kind of disappear, and disappear into safety.
How do we integrate like gender-affirming care and services in addition to PrEP, where transgender women will feel empowered, respected, welcomed, and that is the key, I think, is if we’re going to really truly engage with healthcare, the healthcare system has to engage with us.
JoAnne speaks out about the need for better health care for transgender women. While the health care system has come a long way, there’s much left to be done, so that trans persons can receive the care that they need and deserve.