I was really shocked, confused and appalled when I saw this. Queen Emily was trying to find trans friendly health care services in Louisiana. Believe me, this is not an easy task even in regions that haven’t been economically devastated by disasters and disastrous government. I have risked my own health more than once because it’s so hard to know if walking into a random doctor’s office is going to result in some kind of problem just due to being trans.
It should have been a relief when she found the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic, which is partly operated by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. INCITE! is an amazing organization. We’ve written about them before, a couple times. I have personally been very grateful for the materials they’ve developed about dealing with violence in our communities without getting the police involved, for their huge wealth of resources for women and communities coping with and confronting violent abuse. I don’t really know what I’d do without them. I even helped write one chapter of their book, The Color of Violence — the chapter about the trans POC movement’s struggle here in New York, which was our statement that launched the Trans Day of Action.
That’s why I was so shocked that they are apparently turning trans women away from health care services. I still don’t understand what could be at work here; I certainly don’t WANT to believe that a chapter of INCITE! is deliberately turning a cold shoulder on some women because they’re trans. Their anti-violence materials that I’ve read are close to what I’d call a model for trans-inclusivity. So I can’t figure it out. It should be said that INCITE! chapters are pretty independent; there is a national umbrella organization but I don’t believe it is run in a top-down fashion. But they definitely are influenced by each other, I would think. So it could be a local problem, it could be related to their partner organization or who knows what. But it clearly needs to be addressed, and clearly there needs to be some transparency and community accountability about how these decisions were made.
I’m not part of the trans community in New Orleans. I don’t know how much an impact this policy is having on the ground, or what people who are most affected there think about it. I do know that New Orleans is still recovering and that if resources are scarce for health care, then that scarcity is probably hitting some people really hard, especially trans people who are low-income, trans people of color, trans people at the intersections of many oppressions. Even though I’m many miles away, I want to know how folks can get the health care they deserve, the health care that the government has been so damn awful at giving people. I’m glad that INCITE! stepped into this breach and made a partnership, but I want to know what the heck this is all about.
The “women and trans” formulation of inclusion, when it specifically is drawn to exclude trans women, is rarely if ever justifiable, in my experience. That kind of grouping has been used to force trans women out of spaces any deny services for a long time, and it’s not a just way to put “trans” in your mission statement or website.
As a trans woman of color who has the privilege of speaking out through this blog, it’s my duty to add my voice to those asking for accountability on this. I call for answers: is this policy in effect? Is NOWHC turning trans women away? For all services, or just some? Why? Why does NOWHC’s languge include some trans people and not others? How was the policy arrived at, what was the process? If NOWHC feels it is necessary for some reason, why? What are the difficulties involved? How could they be addressed through community support or calls for more resources? What is the problem with providing mammograms and STD screenings and basic physicals and referrals to other clinics or programs or partner organizations for services that NOWHC can’t provide?
I want Queen Emily and other trans women in the NOLA area to have access to affirming, trans-positive health-care that’s as high quality and comprehensive as possible. If that’s not possible because the government doesn’t care and resources are strapped, I want to help find a way for that to happen.
There have been a bunch of conversations in progress about this. There have been a lot of words around trans women’s justifiable anger and cis women’s defensiveness around an organization that pretty much everyone seems to agree has done a lot of good — done good for trans women, even — but can’t just be let off the hook when something seems so wrong. Here are links:
Finally, this issue has sparked a project: Voz is determined to do a media project about trans women’s experiences with health care. I hope to be able to participate too. I know some people have had clashes with Voz, and I hope it’s not necessary to start in on that — but whatever you think of the author, this project is a very good idea, and very needed.
UPDATE: Apparently this whole matter is being discussed privately between Queen Emily and the NOWHC. Although I still stand by my call for transparency, since I can’t see how it’s a bad thing especially in the face of the concerns this has kicked up, I really do believe that the most affected women — trans women who struggle to find access to decent women’s health care in New Orleans — are the most important ones here. Around here that means Emily, so I hope they work something out.
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