Seeing the 'T' in GLBT

D.C. marks the first-ever Transgender Awareness Month

If you haven’t been to Unity Fellowship Church in Northwest in the past two weeks, you might not know that it’s Transgender Awareness Month. But for those in the know, including local transgender activist Toni Collins, , it’s a positive effort to bring the GLBT community closer together by building awareness about its transgender members.

”It’s really still a very marginalized community and we’re just trying to strengthen our bond between the [GLBT] community by making the community aware that we have a voice,” says Collins, a board member of Transgender Health Empowerment (THE).

The awareness month events at Unity Fellowship, organized by THE and a planning committee, mark the first Transgender Awareness Month in Washington, Collins says.

So far, attendance for the five-week-long series, based on the theme, ”Let the T be Magnified,” has been less than hoped for, Collins admits.

”It’s kind of hard to get people to come to church,” she says with a laugh, adding that she is hoping more people, including those who are not transgender, attend the church’s Sunday services at 3 p.m. with Rev. Dyan Abena McCray, followed by discussion meetings on the following Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

”We’re trying to build awareness, but it’s kind of difficult for us if the community doesn’t come out and support us,” Collins says. ”It just seems like this is just another series of events that the transgender community has tried to build awareness [with], but we really haven’t had a lot of participation from the L, the G, or the B community.”

The series was designed to address several topics within the transgender community, including religion and spirituality, health, ways to improve the transgender community’s bond with others in the GLBT community, and the state of transgender youth in metropolitan Washington.

Collins says the focus on youth is about giving and receiving information.

”[It’s] what they see as pertinent to them as youth in the LGBT community, certain issues that surround the transgender and LGBT youth, [so] that we can just get a broadened idea of exactly what they need,” she says. ”We’re trying to…find out specifically what their needs are, and how we can help them.”

The last week of the series, which focuses on the theme of the month, will feature a service delivered by McCray, followed by an awards presentation honoring activists, humanitarians and other leaders who have done positive things for the transgender community, as well as the gay community as a whole, Collins says.

Collins says organizers decided to hold the events at Unity, because ”it’s a spiritual part of everything we’re trying to do as far as strengthening our community, and we can’t do it with the continued separation that’s existing now.”

Transgender Awareness Month wraps up with a Town Hall discussion, ”Where Do We Go From Here?” on Tuesday, July 31, at Unity Fellowship Church.

Transgender Awareness Month events will be held at Unity Fellowship Church, 1226 Vermont Ave., NW, every Sunday at 3 p.m., and Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. during July. For more information visit www.ufcdc.net, or call 202-246-6299.

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