TransLife: Supporting and empowering our trans community

For several years, TransLife has supported and empowered group members through whatever they are going through. The brainchild of Ms. Billie Cooper and coordinated by TransLife Program Manager, Tanesh Nutall, the group has offered a refuge for both transgender folks and their allies.

As we commemorate the Trans Day of Visibility, we spoke with the foundation’s new Director of Community Engagement, Ro Yoon, on how San Francisco AIDS Foundation supports the transgender community, why safe spaces are important, and what the future holds.

We know you’re relatively new to the foundation, but can you start by giving us a little bit of background on TransLife?

A few years ago, the founder of TransLife, Ms. Billie Cooper, saw that there was a need at the foundation for a group that served the transgender community – particularly trans women of color. As you know, trans women of color are victims of a lot of violence, and there are a great deal of disparities as a result of discrimination. So providing a safe space for all trans people is incredibly meaningful.

The groups has really thrived under Tanesh’s leadership and I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm and engagement from participants.

Why are these type of safe spaces important for the trans community?

At the end of the day, we live in a society that does not afford a lot of safe spaces to transgender and non-binary people. The world can be cruel and San Francisco isn’t immune to that reality. As a trans woman, regardless of my role at the foundation, I endure that discrimination on a daily basis as well – so even for me, I appreciate the opportunity to access a safe space.

Simply having access to spaces is something that a lot of people take for granted, but trans people definitely do not take it for granted. And it’s good to see the foundation carving out that space and recognize how it can help reduce overall health disparities among this population.

Can you tell us more about TransLife itself and how it supports its members?

TransLife is a drop-in group that meets every Wednesday from 3pm to 5pm. One of the first things I noticed when I joined the foundation is that the space – 1035 Market – really comes alive on Wednesdays. Besides TransLife, Black Brothers Esteems (BBE) meets and so does Stonewall. This intersection is important because it creates visibility for our community members – and that visibility changes both our clients and the people around them. Asa result, we’ve seen solidarity among our trans allies who have joined the group to show their support and learn more.

We also have a very active community advisory board that raise topics regularly and raise up topics that they want to see discussed during our weekly meetings. They range from HIV and nutrition to relationship-building activities. So one thing that I think is unique is that the group really takes a sense of ownership over the group and its content – and they’re definitely not afraid to speak up!

As you look towards the future of community engagement at the foundation for trans people, what are you excited for?

There are a lot of interesting ventures on the horizon which I’m very excited about! Of course TransLife will continue to grow under Tanesh’s leadership, and I know she’s been looking at increasing employment skills and training for the group. We’re also going to begin working with community partners around outreach for PrEP initiation in the trans community.

That’s something important to understand: although this is a small population, trans folks face many health disparities.  One organization cannot address all of them; and therefore we need to maximize our network of trans-inclusive services throughout the City for all trans folks. So addressing all of them cannot be undertaken by just one organization, and instead, we need to develop a system that maximize the touchpoints of trans people throughout the City. And some of these upcoming collaborations will support this comprehensive network.

Well we will definitely want to connect with you later this year to hear more!

TransLife supports and empowers group members during whatever they are going through. The group understand that life as a trans woman, trans man, gender fluid individual, or queer person can be tough. We’ve all gone through challenging times when we’ve struggled with who we are as a person and how to express that to the outside world. TransLife is a place where group members come together and learn from each other’s personal journeys. People in TransLife meet weekly to talk about and problem solve issues related to gender identity, health, hormone therapy, sex work, and other issues. In this group, many people find community, friendship and family.

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