Trans Resilience & Resistance in Changing Times

November 18, 2016: Transgender Day of Remembrance—or Transgender Day of Resilience, to give full credit to the power, strength, creativity and determination our brothers and sisters of trans experience have shown in the face of relentless persecution—is observed November 20 of each year.

On this solemn but critically important day, and every day, Positive Women’s Network – USA commits to hold and uplift our transgender siblings and to do all within our power to protect them from the outpouring of hate, encircle them in love and give a platform to their voices.

This year, TDOR falls just 12 days after an election that threatens to roll back decades of progress for many communities—immigrants, LGBTQ, people of color and women—but which is particularly foreboding for the transgender community. As people of trans experience have increased their visibility in a struggle for equal rights and protection under the law, they have also faced hate crimes, including murders. Far too often, our trans family are further brutalized even in death, misgendered in the news. In fact, pervasive misgendering by police departments and media sources make it difficult to keep an accurate count of murders of transgender individuals, and can also impede investigation of incidents as hate crimes.

Separately from threats of physical violence, simply accessing health care, housing, education and employment opportunities can be like navigating a minefield for people of trans experience.

Please read the following statement from Jada Cardona, a Latinx woman of trans experience living in New Orleans, Louisiana, which was written prior to last week’s election.

Transgender People in the South Need Meaningful Change

by Jada Cardona, Executive Director of Transitions Louisiana

dsc_0013Being transgender in the Southern United States has its unique set of challenges. We can consider it positive movement when we haven’t lost any footing but unfortunately, there is not much forward progress. Despite last week’s election, we refuse to go backward.

We demand:

1. Affordable access to gender-affirming, non-discriminatory health care.

Since the adoption of the Medicaid expansion, we have been left out of the loop, as none of the states in the Deep South has expanded their Medicaid programs to be in line with ACA recommendations. More and more, young transgender women are resorting to underground silicone to have their bodies feminized. Hormones are super expensive and are not available to young transgender women. In fact, if you are living with HIV and are not adherent to the HIV meds, in some areas you risk being cut off of hormone treatment. There are no gender care clinics or after care clinics here in Louisiana. Getting gender reassignment is dangerous whenever you have to travel out of state (closest in Georgia) and have to recover in cheap motels instead of at home. Gender affirming care is still a dream on the horizon and not available in the South.

In a needs assessment survey of transgender Americans released by Positively Trans this spring, only 67% of Latinx respondents and 75% of African American respondents reported having health care coverage. Just 70% of respondents earning less than $12,000 a year had coverage. And 53-82% of respondents who reported having possibly or certainly been denied care because of their gender identity or HIV status had gone six months or longer without health care since their HIV diagnosis. Given the South’s failure to expand Medicaid, it is highly likely that the numbers in the South are even higher than these figures.

Further, 8% of respondents to the survey living in the South had never had an HIV viral load test. Viral suppression was also a full 10% lower among respondents in the South than elsewhere (71% compared with 81%).

These grim numbers highlight the urgent need for access to health care that is affirming for people of all genders and affordable.

2. Inclusion of gender identity in non-discrimination and equal opportunity laws and policies.

The Positively Trans needs assessment survey shows that 65% of respondents earned $23,000 or less annually, with a full 43% earning less than $12,000. Extreme poverty related to discrimination in education and employment settings forces some transgender people to resort to survival sex work or other survival strategies as they worry about where they will be sleeping and what are they going to eat.

This marginalization also increases risk of HIV acquisition for people of trans experience. Homelessness, lack of socially acceptable employment opportunities, and mental health challenges resulting from internalized oppression are killing our transgender sisters and brothers. The suicide rate is alarming and no one seems to be addressing the root causes of the problems.

Employment may grant an unprecedented level of self-efficacy necessary to build better lives. Non-discrimination laws must include protections for gender identity, and employers must be trained to comply with these laws both in the employment process and on the job.

Housing discrimination also remains an enormous barrier to stable employment and health care.. Homelessness can make it all but impossible to secure or hold down a job, as well as making it much more difficult for people of trans experience living with HIV to stay engaged in care. Non-discrimination laws and policies around housing must protect gender identity and must be enforced. Additionally, transgender individuals should have equal access to affordable housing opportunities.

Despite these challenges, I must point out that there is some growth that has been happening in our lives. For instance, we are more visible than we have ever been. People are now listening to our stories, and some organizations like PWN have embraced us. It is wonderful to know that there are some people who are committed to changing the political climate to one of inclusion and love. As we continue to change hearts and minds by sharing our truths, we demand that our neighbors, public and private institutions, and policymakers put down their prejudgments and recognize us as equal, so that we can finally get the respect that we need to thrive and supersede all that is against us in this world.

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I (Still) Believe that We Will Win.

November 15, 2016: Today, we grieve. Tomorrow, we fight.

Resistance in the face of terror is nothing new for our communities.

Our bodies are transgressive: Black, brown, and otherwise pigmented; queer; HIV-containing; border-crossing.

Our bodies and those of our ancestors have mostly migrated – some by choice but many by force – to a country that does not love us. 60 million people told us that last week. But our ancestors have been organizing in the face of hate, bigotry, terror, and loss for hundreds of years. We will not stop now.

Combatting racism, misogyny, xenophobia, transphobia, and patriarchy is an everyday reality for women living with HIV in the U.S. We are not strangers to living in fear or to having our rights violated. We know full well that justice has always been a fantasy for many of our members because Lady Justice’s blindfold is just for show; the heavy fingers of bigotry and resentment have weighed on the scales of justice throughout American history.

Regardless of the election’s outcome, we would have had to continue to fight vociferously for the safety, health, dignity and equality of ourselves and our loved ones. With a different outcome, our work likely would have been defined by an offensive strategy: pushing for progress and accountability to campaign promises. What transpired with last week’s election sets us back on the defensive, threatening decades of progress for women, people of color, those of us living with chronic health conditions and disabilities, queer and trans people—that is, just about everyone in this country who is not a white male.

For now, we commit to encircle and uplift those who will be increasingly targeted in the face of a Trump administration – for being brown, Black, queer, Muslim, immigrant, indigenous, non-English-speaking, womyn, and trans and gender non-conforming. Our next steps cannot be a reform agenda. Our tactics must be radical, revolutionary, and intersectional – building and centering leadership and strategic investment where it is most needed. Civil rights were not granted through an election; they were won in the streets.

Still, it is not enough to protest in the streets while we allow the institutions we work for and that purport to serve us to perpetuate the same oppressions we are fighting in our governmental institutions. We must actively work to combat racist, misogynistic and patriarchal practices within institutions and organizations, while we fight state-sanctioned violence.

And at the same time, we commit to radical self-care, because our preservation, health and dignity itself is revolutionary. As the great Audre Lorde said: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Elections have consequences, and we fear the worst from this one; but that only means we must fight harder, smarter and more relentlessly than ever before. In the coming weeks, months, and years, we must work intersectionally and in solidarity. We cannot work narrowly on one issue; more than ever, we need to fight for a broad progressive agenda, inclusive of ensuring that our very rights to healthcare, food, housing, land, movement, migration, and even to participate in democracy are protected. Our fates are intertwined. Only through fierce solidarity will we be strong enough to withstand the attacks on our communities and our very right to exist.

We will fight as if our life depends on it, because it does. In the meantime, love each other fiercely and hold each other tight.

See you in the streets and in the halls of Congress.

In sisterhood and solidarity ~
Positive Women’s Network – USA

Read PWN-USA Communications Director Jennie Smith-Camejo’s call to white people to engage in this moment:

“White friends, I understand your grief, and I know it’s real. I am living with it too. We are grieving together-mostly for the death of a rosy vision that many of the people around us, people we know and love, never had the privilege of believing in. Now it’s time for us to stand in that discomfort and feel it. Really feel it. And think about it. And talk about it. Not just to each other, but to everyone. To other white people specifically.” Read more here.

Rest in Power, Patricia Williams

patricia_williamsNovember 7, 2016: Positive Women’s Network – USA is devastated by the sudden loss of our sister, PWN-USA Philadelphia co-chair Patricia Williams, who passed away unexpectedly Friday, November 4.

Patricia, better known to many of her friends as Pattie, is mourned by her devoted mother, for whom she was named, three brothers, one sister, several aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, as well as many friends and the community. (Please consider helping her family bury her by contributing whatever you can here.)

Patricia lived her life giving to the community, training and advocating for a better world, free from stigma and discrimination.

“I helped mentor and train her myself, and I can attest that she was eager to learn and eager to apply all she learned toward helping to shape a better world for all marginalized people,” says Waheedah Shabazz-El, PWN-USA Regional Organizing Director.

Diagnosed in 1992, Patricia lived proudly and openly with HIV as a way of eliminating HIV-related stigma. Patricia had extensive connections with the faith community and was a member of the Helping Hands Ministry in her church, helping to feed and clothe the homeless.

She was a graduate of several of Philadelphia FIGHT’s Project Teach Programs. She was also a graduate of a women’s trauma support group called “Still Rising.”

Patricia’s hard work as a peer educator for Philadelphia FIGHT was to educate communities living with and vulnerable to HIV. She provided motivation and encouraged others to build their own capacity to be a part of the fight to eradicate HIV in our lifetime. She was a specialist in teaching HIV prevention and about other sexually transmitted illnesses to disproportionately impacted communities.

Patricia had a keen focus on treatment of HIV education issues. She was also a steadfast member of a 12-step fellowship and was a regular speaker and presenter for We The People, a former community-based organization for people in recovery and with various other social needs. She was a strong advocate and a firm believer that you must fight for your human rights, “because no one is going to hand them to you on a silver platter.”

Patricia recently was a co-coordinator of a funded project by PWN-USA Philadelphia to address stigmatizing language in HIV and graduated herself and a dozen other community members as Stand Up to Stigma Champions. She led the PWN-USA Philly chapter–one of PWN-USA’s most successful regional chapters–with consistency and integrity since 2014.

She will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Please consider contributing whatever you can to help her family give her the burial and tribute she deserves. Click here to contribute. Every little bit helps.

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Women Around the Nation Speak Up for the Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV

doa-soc-media-graphicOctober 24, 2016: With community events around the country happening from last week through the first week of November; a vibrant radio show on the theme hosted by PWN-USA Colorado member Pozitively Dee on Saturday; a Twitter chat scheduled for 2 PM ET today with special guest co-hosts from Christie’s Place, Futures Without Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, The Well Project and the Women’s HIV Program at UCSF (follow using the hashtags #EndVAWHIV and #pwnspeaks!); and at least two cities (Philadelphia and Houston) issuing proclamations for the Day of Action, our third annual Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV is shaping up to be another success.

Friday, we released a new factsheet examining criminalization as a perilous form of structural violence against women living with HIV. This factsheet contains invaluable information you will find useful in fighting criminalization and other forms of structural violence.

Be sure to read these powerful blog posts written for the Day of Action: a very raw, personal story of coping with violence from member Angel (trigger warning), and a beautiful tribute to the power of PWN and our members from Bruce Richman, executive director of Prevention Access Campaign. Also, be sure to check out the incredibly powerful blog posts from last year’s Day of Action.

And check out some photos of our members in action for the Day of Action below!

On Third Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, PWN-USA Demands End to Criminalization & Other Forms of Structural Violence

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OCTOBER 21: Women with HIV simultaneously live with the effects of trauma resulting from interpersonal, community, and institutional violence. Studies have shown that the lifelong and compounding effects of these different forms of violence may have consequences far deadlier than the virus itself. October 23, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), along with dozens of endorsing organizations, will observe our third Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, releasing a factsheet highlighting the many forms of violence impacting women living with HIV and their communities, with a special focus on criminalization, discriminatory law enforcement practices and other forms of

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Teresa Sullivan, PWN-USA Philadelphia Senior Member, displays city proclamation

structural violence, and to offer solutions and ways that government, institutions and organizations can help prevent and mitigate violence and trauma. We will also be hosting a Twitter chat Monday, Oct. 24, at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT to look at the promise of trauma-informed care for women living with HIV as a means to healing the trauma that is far too often a barrier to retention in care (follow the hashtags #pwnspeaks and #EndVAWHIV). Community events are also being held in various cities, and members in Philadelphia and Houston secured proclamations from their cities declaring October 23 the Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV.

Laws criminalizing people living with HIV (PLHIV) disproportionately affect over-policed communities, including women of color (who make up 80% of the epidemic among women) and women of trans* experience. Harassment and brutality by police and law enforcement create hostile environments that perpetuate trauma in communities of color and other communities significantly impacted by HIV. Consequently, for the 2016 National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, PWN-USA demands:
  • Repeal and reform of laws criminalizing HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission
  • An end to law enforcement practices that target communities disproportionately impacted by HIV, including people of trans and gender nonconforming experience (TGNC), sex workers, people who use drugs, immigrants, people who are unstably housed, people with mental illness, and communities of color
  • An end to stigmatizing and discriminatory interactions, methods of surveillance and brutalization of PLHIV and communities impacted by HIV at the hands of law enforcement
  • Elimination of barriers to safe, stable, and meaningful reintegration into the community for those returning home from jail and prison, those with criminal convictions, and the loved ones who support them.
PWN-USA called for the first Day of Action in 2014 in response to several high-profile murders of women following disclosure of their HIV status. Last year, community events were held in at least 18 cities, as well as a Twitter chat with 228 participants that reached 1.6 million people. 18 blog posts and statements were submitted by individuals and organizations in honor of the Day of Action. PWN-USA hopes this year’s day of action will continue to raise awareness, put forward solutions and mobilize advocates to push for meaningful change to end structural and institutional violence in the form of criminalization of our communities.
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SPEAK UP! 2016 Unites, Energizes & Mobilizes New & Seasoned Advocates

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Months of planning and preparation from PWN-USA’s Summit Planning Committee, Board, staff and presenters paid off last month, as 250 women living with HIV from 29 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Canada came together in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, for SPEAK UP! 2016 National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV.

The theme of this year’s Summit was Organizing for Power. With 6 plenaries and 7 breakout session blocks, the schedule was chock full of information and opportunities for learning, discussion and hands-on practice. Workshops and affinity sessions, the vast majority of which were presented or facilitated by women living with HIV, fell into the following five tracks: Policy & Advocacy; Effective Leadership Skills; Advancing HIV Research, Care & Prevention Agenda; Rights, Power & Justice; and Media & Strategic Communications. Sessions received overwhelmingly positive evaluations from participants. Plenary sessions, all with powerhouse speakers, tackled urgent topics ranging from federal HIV policy to trans-centered reproductive health care to intergenerational leadership. (Check out the full program here!)

But the busy schedule did not stop participants (and presenters) from making new friends and/or catching up with old ones, finding some inner peace and just letting loose and having fun. From yoga and meditation sessions on the beach in the mornings, to film screenings to crafting to karaoke at night, the Summit offered something for everyone. (Check out photos on Facebook!)

Don’t just take it from us. Here is what just a few of our participants have said about SPEAK UP! 2016:

“After much time spent learning with my sisters, I have to say being a princess is nothing without true solidarity in sisterhood. I had a wonderful time at the Summit 2016 with PWN and ALL my sisters…I am using my call to action challenge to use the information to reach others, and be the change I wish to see. Standing up and using my voice not only helps me; it helps those not fully ready or unaware of just how powerful our voice can be. When we speak up for ourselves, we empower others to do the same. I am now fully aware of what I need to do to move forward. I am prepared to speak up and ask those tough questions. I will not back down; instead, I will call on the power of my sisters. Together, we will make the difference and we will be heard…I am so touched with love, I forgot I had any problems. I only feel love, refreshed, joy, inner peace and hope for a restoration from those who tried to take me down. I am just where I need to be right now…I will see you all on the conference calls , webinars and in person at the next event.” – Angel S., Florida

“I am so glad I came! This is my first time coming and I love it. I met a lot of women and heard their stories. I can’t wait for the next one. When I get back to New York, I will pass on the information to other women.” – M. Hunt, New York

“I am so proud to be a part of the Summit. I have met some strong, powerful women, and I’m learning a lot to take back to Houston.” – Tana Pradia, PWN-USA Greater Houston Area

“They told us we will not live past 10 years. But here we are. PWN Summit. We are still here. Speak Up: gathering of powerful women. We are the experts.” – Tammy Kinney, PWN-USA Georgia

“This year the Summit was amazing! Louisiana ladies came out in force. In 2014 we had 8 women; this year we brought 12, and we are planning on 20 for the next Summit.” – Meta Smith-Davis, PWN-USA Louisiana

Were you at SPEAK UP! 2016? Would you like to share your experience with others? Submit a blog post for our #PWNspeaks blog! Click here to get started!

Thank you so much to our Summit Planning Committee, our Board of Directors, our sponsors, our fabulous presenters and moderators, and everyone who participated in SPEAK UP! 2016 for your crucial contributions in making the Summit a success.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this beautiful, powerful video produced by Pozitively Dee of Colorado during and after the Summit:

 

250 Women from 29 States, DC, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico & Canada SPEAK UP!

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Regional Organizing Institute, Tuesday, September 27

September 28, 2016: After many months and countless hours of planning, organizing and collaborating on a common vision by our Summit Planning Committee of over 20 women living with HIV, SPEAK UP! 2016–the only national leadership summit for women living with HIV–is finally here!

The Summit kicked off Tuesday with three special Institutes: one for leaders of PWN-USA’s eleven official affiliated regional chapters; one for women of trans* experience, led by Positively Trans; and one for young women living with HIV. The full-day institutes gave participants an opportunity to connect, prioritize issues and strategize around how to elevate those issues and reach their goals.

Tuesday evening, the full Summit opened with the plenary State of the Movement featuring 5 fierce panelists: Khafre Abif, Cecilia Chung, Grissel Granados, Vanessa Johnson and Andy Spieldenner, who discussed what the HIV movement is today, what is working, what is not, what needs to change and how intersectional issues affect people living with and vulnerable to HIV. The plenary was followed by a special screening of the documentary co-directed by and featuring Grissel Granados, We’re Still Here, following young people who were born with HIV and the unique challenges they face.

Wednesday morning started with an all-star panel discussing federal policy around HIV, women’s health, health care access and reproductive rights, featuring Dr. Amy Lansky, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy; Marty Bond, Senior Public Health Advisor for the Office on Women’s Health; Bill McColl, Esq., Director of Health Policy for AIDS United; and Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong. And much, much more is still in store as SPEAK UP! 2016 continues!

To keep up with the latest, follow the hashtag #pwnspeaks on Twitter (and follow us @uspwn), and check our Facebook page for updates–and of course our Facebook photo album!

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Young Women’s Institute, Tuesday, September 27
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Institute for Women of Trans Experience, Tuesday, September 27

PWN-USA Gets Ready to SPEAK UP!

PrintSeptember 19, 2016 – It’s hard to believe, but we’re only about a week away from SPEAK UP! 2016 National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV. We’d like to thank our dedicated Summit Planning Committee for their many hours of time and energy spent planning this Summit to be the best yet!

We look forward to welcoming over 250 women living with HIV to Fort Walton Beach next week. Some are seasoned advocates who have long been involved with PWN-USA and who attended SPEAK UP! 2014; for others, this may be the first conference ever, and an introduction to advocacy. We welcome both and everyone in between, regardless of your experience with advocacy.

To help orient participants to the Summit, we have scheduled two special orientation webinars for registered participants for this week! Click on a day/time below to register for that webinar. If you cannot participate in either webinar, a recording will be available on our website by the end of the week.

Tuesday, September 20, 6 PM EDT/5 PM CDT/4 PM MDT/3 PM PDT

Thursday, September 22, 12 PM EDT/11 AM CDT/10 AM MDT/9 AM PDT

cover-art-final-2We also have the complete program available right here on our website now! Check it out here.

We have put together some travel tips for you as well! Questions about what you should bring? What your registration fee does and doesn’t cover? Find answers here.

We would love to hear your thoughts, feelings and expectations as you get ready for the Summit and throughout the Summit! Write a blog for us! Get started here.

We look forward to seeing you next week!

 

 

PWN-USA Seeks Experienced Facilitators for Butterfly Rising Program

 

September 8, 2016 – We are seeking experienced facilitators and trainers in the San Francisco Bay Area who want to become certified on Butterfly Rising, a trauma-informed peer leadership development curriculum for women living with HIV, including women of trans experience. This curriculum was created with the understanding that being able to understand the impact of and heal from past trauma (including child and adult physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; neglect; loss; community violence; structural violence; etc.) is empowering and key to developing one’s leadership potential. This is a paid opportunity. See complete packet for more information on compensation and requirements.

By the end of the training, participants will:

  1. Increase knowledge and understanding of trauma and its impact on individuals, families, and health-related behaviors.
  2. Learn to competently deliver the first two days (six modules) of a trauma-informed leadership intervention course to trauma- experienced women living with HIV affiliated with UCSF’s Women’s HIV Program.

 APPLICATION PROCESS

 Submit the following three items:

  1. A 1-2 page cover letter telling us about yourself, why you are interested in working with women living with HIV, what your experience is with facilitation and training, and why you are a good fit for this position.
  2. A resume or curriculum vitae
  3. TOT Application form on page 4 of packet

All parts of the application should be submitted via email to naina.khanna.work@gmail.com with the subject line TOT Application no later than October 1, 2016.

Incomplete applications will not be considered. Applicants who submit complete applications and meet all requirements will be contacted for interviews.

No phone calls please.

Download the application packet here.

SPEAK UP! 2016 – Registration Closed

August 2: Are YOU ready to speak up? SPEAK UP! 2016, the ONLY national leadership summit created by and for women living with HIV, is happening next month in Fort Walton Beach, Florida–and everyone is talking about it!

 

Registration is now closed, as we have reached capacity. If you would like to be added to our waitlist, please email your contact info (name, location, phone number and email) to pwnsummit@gmail.com.

For more information about the Summit, click here.
Registered for the Summit but have not submitted our questionnaire with important participant information yet? Click here.
Attending the Summit and have questions? We have answers. Check here.
Want to support the leadership of women living with HIV by sponsoring the Summit? We are still working to meet our fundraising goal! Learn more here.