Metro Weekly

Richmond Clinic Offers Self-Defense Kits for Trans Community

Health Brigade aims to raise awareness and help trans and nonbinary community members become safer.

Cristina Kincaid of Health Brigade, McConnell of Allen & Allen, Cotman of Health Brigade – Photo: Patricia Munford

A clinic in Richmond, Va. will soon offer self-defense kits to its trans clients.

Trans people face an elevated risk of violence, so Health Brigade — a clinic serving low-income and uninsured people — wants to help them protect themselves, according to Trans Health Services Case Manager and Outreach Advocate Jordin Cotman.

“Black and Brown transgender women are the most targeted when it comes to ‘hate crimes’ just for existing. So, this kit will allow us to feel more secure and protected in everyday life,” Cotman said in an August 17 news release.

The kits will become available in mid-September, according to ABC 8News. They’ll contain items like alarms, whistles, and personal defense items. Though the kits cost about $25 to assemble, interested trans and nonbinary clients will receive them free of charge.

SNaPCo, a group in Atlanta, Ga. that distributes similar packages, inspired Health Brigade’s kits. Law firm Allen & Allen provided the funding for the new program. Malcolm P. McConnell, III, a medical malpractice lawyer at the firm, said in the release that the donation was intended to support marginalized communities.

“The Allen Law Firm dedicates its entire practice to protecting and defending those who have been hurt or rendered unsafe through no fault of their own,” he said. “We have also dedicated ourselves to the safety and well-being of our community. We are proud to make this targeted donation to help TGNC people, just as we support the community at large.”

According to a 2021 study by University of California Los Angeles’ Williams Institute, trans people are four times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than cisgender people. Moreover, the study found that one in four trans women who experienced violence thought the incident was a hate crime, compared to less than one in ten cisgender women who thought the same.

Cotman and Health Brigade Executive Director Karen A. Legato both expressed hope that the self-defense kits will increase awareness of the heightened violence faced by trans people.

“We have an opportunity to raise awareness of the safety challenges among TGNC [transgender and gender non-conforming] individuals while also helping them to have some basic tools of protection,” Legato said in the release. “It is my hope that the day will come when no one in our diverse society feels unsafe for existing as a human being. Health Brigade is committed to doing all we can to make that a reality.”

Health Brigade, formerly Fan Free Clinic, has served the Richmond community since 1970. Per the organization’s website, it was the first free clinic in the state when it opened. It offers a variety of medical care options, including trans-specific healthcare services.

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