Young, Trans & Unified will host Revived! from 7:15-8:30 p.m. April 8 at The Attic, 255 S. 16th St., a free celebration with pizza and music for participants ages 13-23, to mark the program’s new direction and leadership.
Damon Constantinides, who is also a social worker at Mazzoni Center, has overseen the program for about a year and will now be joined by co-facilitators Qui Alexander and Kyra Cordova, both of whom who were connected to the program through other leaders in the local trans community.
Constantinides said he wanted to bring in extra hands to help him refocus the group on the needs of the community it serves.
“I’ve really loved doing this, but I thought it’d be great if we could bring in some new people who were even more hooked into what was actually going on in the trans youth community,” he said. “They both have so much energy and so many good ideas, and the best thing about this is having people working with me so we can all say, ‘What do you think about this?’ and work together.”
Cordova said she’s eager to utilize her experiences to guide the youth in their own journeys.
“I’m really excited for the chance to give back to the community,” she said. “One of my big things with this has been that if I could save one young trans person from doing the things I did or making the same mistakes I did when I was younger, then I’m happy. I just want to make sure these youth are happy with their transitions.”
Young, Trans & Unified is the only program specifically serving trans youth in the city, and Constantinides said it offers more diversity than other trans groups.
“It’s a pretty unique group; a lot of groups tend to be identity-based by those in the female spectrum or in the male spectrum, but with this we really wanted to give a safe space for trans folks of all identities, including questioning or gender-queer or gender-variant,” he said.
Alexander said he wants the program to provide youth an outlet through which they can discuss their feelings — an opportunity he said is often lacking in schools or family settings.
“The big thing I want out of this is for youth to know that even if they don’t identify as trans or don’t know if they belong in transition, they can have a space to question those things,” he said.
Cordova noted that trans youth face a host of stresses that young LGBs often don’t encounter.
“There’s a lot of competition about who’s more passable, and boys and girls feel pressured to go get surgery or silicone injections, and these are things that aren’t necessary,” she said. “Your transformation can be anything you want it to be; there doesn’t need to be that pressure.”
The facilitators said this notion of living up to gender stereotypes often varies among cultures, with those of different racial or ethnic backgrounds holding men and women to different standards.
All three coordinators are from different racial backgrounds, which will allow the diverse group of members to relate to them and fuel dialogue on the tangential issues the trans community faces.
“Growing up, I would see how Caucasian women carry themselves and how black women carry themselves, and I’m a little bit of everything — Brazilian, black and white — so I was so confused,” Cordova said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do the Prada with the poodle or go ’hood and get out of a Hummer. I just didn’t know what was right.”
Alexander said the facilitators want to use their own diversity to demonstrate that the youth can decide for themselves the type of people they want to be.
“There are different kinds of men and different kinds of women, and we want to make sure the youth saw someone who looked like them,” he said. “Growing up, I was told that being gay was a white thing or being trans was a white thing. We want these youth to see that they don’t have to live up to any kind of stereotype.”
While the group will talk about the complex intersections of gender, sexual orientation and race, it will also be a place for fun, Constantinides said, citing parties, movie nights and other festive events that will allow the youth to socialize in a safe and comfortable environment.
Tim Reynolds, 20, who’s been involved on and off with Young, Trans & Unified for about two years, said the group provides a rare outlet for trans youth to just be themselves.
“It didn’t matter where I was in my transition, but they recognized me the way I needed to be recognized and respected that,” he said. “This is one of the few places that totally respect my pronouns, my name, everything, and there’s no question that I am who I am. It’s definitely exciting to see the group grow and change and be an even better space.”
Young, Trans & Unified meets Thursdays from 7:15-8:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Young, Trans & Unified page on Facebook or call (215) 545-4331.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.