Transgender Health Empowerment Facing Severe Budget Cuts; DCTC Urges Council to Reconsider

Today we discovered that Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc is facing an imminent funding cut in next year’s budget proposal. DCTC submitted written testimony to the DC Council, urging them to restore this funding. THE provides invaluable health and social services to some of the most marginalized communities in the District, and would be forced to close offices, layoff staff and cut important programs. The impact on DC’s trans and gender nonconforming communities would be a tremendous loss.

[Our written testimony for tomorrow’s budget hearing]

Please find enclosed testimony for the record for the Committee of the Whole’s consideration regarding closing the budget gaps for fiscal year 2010.  We urge the committee to continue to support vital service organizations that work for members of the District of Columbia’s transgender, transsexual, and gender non-conforming community.  The Mayor’s proposal before the committee puts such services at risk, and jeopardizes the health and well-being of a key part of the District community.

Representatives of the DC Trans Coalition are available to speak with members of the DC Council and other District officials about this matter, and can be reached via email at dctranscoalition@gmail.com.

[Letter follows cut]

Cc:       Brian Watson, Director of Programs, Transgender Health Empowerment

Christopher Dyer, Director, Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs

Members of the Council of the District of Columbia

DC Trans Coalition

Testimony before the DC Council Committee of the Whole regarding

Proposed Budget Cuts for Fiscal Year 2010

July 23, 2009

Chairman Gray and members of the DC Council, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a grassroots, community organization of transgender people and their allies, dedicated to the protection and advancement of the rights of the entire transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming community of the District of Columbia.  We have recently learned that the Mayor’s revised budget for fiscal year 2010 calls for a number of cuts to vital direct service organizations in the District, including those who work diligently to meet the needs of the District’s trans community.  In particular, it has come to our attention that Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc. (THE), is facing the loss of a $90,000 grant from the District.  This proposed cut will have grave consequences for the health and well-being of the District’s trans and gender non-conforming population.

Transgender Health Empowerment is the District’s only full-service provider of valuable resources to DC’s trans and gender non-conforming community.  THE is the only drop-in center in the District that is open five-six days each week, offering support services and safe space to members of the trans community from counseling and medical services to basics like laundry facilities and showers.  THE provides comprehensive housing support programs, including emergency housing for homeless individuals in immediate need.  In addition, THE offers a range of outreach services, including confidential HIV testing and counseling, health education seminars, and referrals to medical care providers, mental health services, and education and employment opportunities.

Should Transgender Health Empowerment lose this vital grant, the organization will be faced with a major reduction in staff, many of whom are trans and gender non-conforming, as well as having to move from their current facility at 1711 North Capitol Street.  These are setbacks that the District’s only trans-specific service provider can ill afford, particularly when so many members of our community are being negatively impacted by the current economic downturn. Furthermore, the loss of THE would jeopardize the well being of the District’s trans and gender non-conforming community, who currently encounter substantial obstacles to accessing appropriate health and social services.

We recognize that the District is facing a major revenue shortfall and must close a substantial budget gap.  However, cutting funding for essential social services is poor policy.  Organizations like Transgender Health Empowerment and myriad others that serve the LGBT community depend on government support to provide unique services not available elsewhere in the District.  The work that organizations like THE engage in every day to promote the health and welfare of ordinary individuals is absolutely vital to promoting economic recovery.  By failing to provide adequate health and social services to what is already one of the District’s most underserved communities in the short term, the District government will continue and exacerbate the economic, political and social disempowerment that trans and gender non-conforming individuals face on a daily basis, and will hamper the trans community’s abilities to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship promised under the District’s visionary Human Rights Act.  There are already far too many barriers for trans people attempting to access basic health and social services, and the District government must not play a role in building additional such barriers.

For these reasons, the DC Trans Coalition urges the full restoration of the originally proposed $90,000 grant to Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc.  In addition, we advise the Council to exercise extreme caution when considering cuts to other direct service providers that work with and for the LGBT community.  In times of economic uncertainty, it is essential that the District continue to invest in the health and well-being of its residents.  Failure to do so would be a serious disservice to our community.

Thank you for your consideration.

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