The Trans Wellness Center (TWC) officially opened its doors in Los Angeles this week as a first-of-its-kind first facility that brings together comprehensive services and resources for transgender and non-binary people under one roof.
“It’s not only historic for our city, it’s historic for our nation,” Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean said during an April 24 press conference at the 3,000-square-foot space near the city’s Koreatown and Wilshire Center neighborhoods.
“People always feel most comfortable going to a place where people are like them,” Jean added. “That’s what going to happen here at the Trans Wellness Center. It’s run by transgender people and it’s a space that’s been created by transgender people.”
TWC will offer HIV testing and care, mental health services, sexual health education, hormone therapy and transition resources, employment services, cultural competency trainings, youth services, healthcare and benefit enrollment, peer mentoring, and workshops.. There are also general legal services lending support with such issues as immigration, discrimination, and name changes, among others.
“We have been telling our stories, educating ourselves, marching along with others fighting for our rights and it was about time to have our own center,” said TWC Program Manager Mariana Marroquin. “The health and well-being of trans and non-binary people goes beyond learning how to use a condom and getting tested. How are you going to get tested if you are hungry? How are you not going to engage in survivor sex work if you cannot get a job where you are respected for who you are? How are you going to take medication if you feel that your life doesn’t matter? How are you going to leave an abusive relationship if you are going to end up homeless?”
TWC is a community-based partnership between the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which is leading the management and operations support, and five other local community organizations: APAIT (Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team); Bienestar; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Friends Community Center; and TransLatin@ Coalition.
“We are trying to get wellness to people,” explained Bienstar Health Educator Lesley Monroy. “Now is the time to recover our dignity and respect. This is the place for all of us.”
The ambitious new facility has been made possible by a $1 million annual grant for three to five years from the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Mario Perez, director of the Division of HIV and STD Programs for the County, reflected on the 10-year journey to make TWC a reality and applauded the “tireless exertions and tireless concern of dedicated individuals” who have made it happen.
Perez called the opening “the culmination of thousands of days of visioning, deliberating, debating, planning, and negotiating – a lot of negotiating..”
TWC’s services are guided by an eight-member Community Advisory Board (CAB) made up of people who identify as trans or non-binary. The board works together to ensure TWC truly reflects what the community needs.
“I’m excited because we are finally taking back the power from a society that doesn’t really have time for us and sees us a lot of times as third and fourth class citizens,” CAB member Thea Eskey said after the press conference.
“This day is saying that we’re no longer accepting crumbs from under a table. We’re making our own.”
CAB member Kery Ramirez added: “I don’t think in the United States there’s a center like this one where it’s managed and operated by professional trans individuals who are going to provide services for trans people like me. This is another advancement in our community. This defines who we are. We’re resilient and we’re strong and we know how to work together.”
For more information visit mytranswellness.org.