Streetwork Project’s transgender support group “What’s The T?” provides a safe, judgement-free space for homeless transgender and gender non-conforming youth to be themselves.
Leaders of the Transgender Support Group: Program Assistant Alahna Brown, Youth Advocate Brenda Duran, and Manager of Mpowerment Ivan Monforte
At Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project, we help homeless youth and teens by providing basic necessities and access to the essential services they need to survive.
Unfortunately, many of these young people become homeless or suffer abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including being transgender. According to National Coalition for the Homeless, 40% of homeless or at-risk youth identify as gay or transgender. To better serve the transgender community at Streetwork, two staff members created a support group called “What’s the T?”
Streetwork’s Manager of Mpowerment Ivan Monforte and Youth Advocate Brenda Duran named the transgender support group “What’s the T?” which is a pun of “what’s the gossip.” Established around 2007, the monthly support group meets at Streetwork’s Harlem Drop-in Center and provides a safe, judgement-free space where transgender and gender non-conforming homeless youth can feel free to be themselves.
“We let each individual define who they are, ” Ivan explains. “We tell them not to let society tell them who they are regardless of presentation.”
In addition to community building and emotional support, the group assists young people with their transitions by providing items to help them present in their preferred gender, and in turn avoid harassment and discrimination. Some of the items available include: binders and packers for transgender men, and wigs and make up for transgender women, as well as clothing that matches their identity. A Streetwork Youth Advocate, Kathleen Cash, has even lent her skills as a makeup artist to help transgender women present in a way that aligns more with the way they feel inside, and help build their self-esteem and self-worth.
Streetwork support groups like “What’s the T?” create an inclusive, nurturing environment for homeless teens no matter what their gender identification. We are proud to support these young people as they seek refuge from the stark realities of life on the streets.