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New center in Santa Ana helps hard-hit transgender people during coronavirus pandemic

When Monde Nolasco lost her job as soon as the coronavirus pandemic hit, there were few places she could go to for help.

Nolasco, 42, of Anaheim is a transgender woman who used to work as a costume designer for showgirls,. When she lost her job, she found herself struggling to make rent and buy food.

“As a transgender woman, it is also very difficult to find a job,” she said. “It’s really adding to my stress.”

Nolasco and other transgender women who have been struggling through this pandemic have found some respite at Alianza Translatinx, a new center for transgender people that opened May 1 in Santa Ana, and is entirely run by transgender Latino women.

COVID-19 and the transgender community

The coronavirus pandemic, which devastated the transgender community, most of whom work in salons or in show business, hastened the start of this nonprofit, said Khloe Rios, one of four founders.

“The pandemic has definitely amplified the needs of the transgender community, which has already been so vulnerable,” she said. “Beauty salons have shut down. A lot of trans women were also driving Uber vehicles. Others had warehouse jobs and their hours were reduced. Restaurant workers have also suffered. So, we have a lot of people in need who have nowhere to go because they still face a lot of stigma.”

Alianza Translatinx provides food every Wednesday afternoon in its Santa Ana office space, Rios said. And the center helps community members with paperwork for changing names and gender markers, which tend to be complicated and costly. The cost of filing for a name change alone could be nearly $500, Rios said.

“But name change and changing one’s gender marker is such an important step for transgender people,” she said. “We tell them how to qualify for a fee waiver. If they are undocumented, they don’t qualify for a fee waiver. So, we help them pay for it.”

Right now, the women who are running the center say they are paying expenses out of pocket. But, they hope to raise money through crowdfunding and want to expand services to include helping transgender women find ways to get hormone treatments and other health services, Rios said. While there are several organizations in Orange County that serve the LGBTQ community, there is almost no one group that exclusively focuses on transgender people.

Desperate times

Co-founder Rachel Pozos said transgender people have had to resort to sex work because many places that currently have jobs available are not ready to hire transgender people.

“There is still a strong negative perception of the community,” Pozos said. “That affects us not just economically, but also psychologically.”

Diana Salazar, a frequent visitor to the center, said she comes for the food and the help she is receiving with her name change application and unemployment process.

“There’s very little help in Orange County for transgender people,” she said. “I began my transition four years ago. The name change is such an important step because it’s hard when people see you are a woman and your ID still says you are a man. It’s hard when people don’t respect you. I want to change my name so no one can disrespect me anymore.”

Salazar says she sees transgender women resorting to sex work out of sheer desperation and drug abuse out of depression.

The struggle for services

Cinthya Espinosa, one of the group’s co-founders, said she has known trans women who have tried to get their name and gender changed for nearly 30 years. The center already provides health and psychological referrals for clients.

“We’re here fighting for the older generation of trans people who did not have the opportunity to receive services and the younger generations who do, but are still struggling,” Espinosa said.

Rios said a vast majority, about 99%, are Latinx, a gender-neutral term to describe people of Latin origin. But, the organization is there for all transgender people, she said.

“Our main goal with this center was to have trans women come in and feel comfortable in a county that is still very conservative,” Rios said. “We’re trying to eliminate barriers for trans women so they can have the name and gender that represents them correctly.”

Source: Orange County Register

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