TIP, launched in 2003 by the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative and Prevention Point, is closed for two weeks and will reopen April 19 at its new location, 21 S. 12th St., 10th floor.
Rick Feely, who began as a TIP outreach worker in 2003 and two years later became the agency’s program director, will serve as the executive director of the newly rebranded organization.
Feely said he will work with Prevention Point executive director Jose Benitez to recruit a board of directors and, later this year, will begin the process of having the agency certified as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit.
TIP has seen significant growth over the past seven years, Feely said, and has been able to establish itself firmly enough in the community to stand on its own.
“I think that as TIP has grown and matured, it’s become evident that we’re now in a position to take the lead on trans issues in Philly.”
Feely noted that while the organization has accumulated a long list of accomplishments over the past few years — such as becoming one of the first programs in the nation to receive Centers for Disease Control funding for a trans youth of color project in 2006 and, also that year, developing training curriculum for the city’s Office of Supportive Housing to educate employees at city housing shelters on trans issues — the transgender community itself has flourished.
“Philadelphia really is the vanguard in terms of trans health right now,” Feely said. “A lot of people relocate here to transition. It’s a much more affordable city than, say, San Francisco or New York, but also a lot of the work Mazzoni Center’s done around the [Trans-Health] Conference and offering clinic services for the community has brought a lot of trans people here in the past few years. I think this is a really good time for this, and a good time for trans people to start taking the lead in trans issues and in representing our community.”
Feely said he moved to Philadelphia in 2001 to embark on his own transition and has seen the visibility of the trans community expand rapidly ever since — to the point where he is, to the best of his knowledge, the first out trans executive director of a Philadelphia nonprofit organization.
“In the past 10 years, the amount of community-building that has taken place and the number of services and LGBT organizations that have become more trans-inclusive is really incredible,” he said. “More trans people are coming into leadership roles and speaking out about the issues that are specific to us.”
Elicia Gonzalez, executive director of GALAEI, commended TIP’s new development.
“I’m very, very proud that TIP is transitioning and becoming its own agency,” she said. “I think it speaks to the great work TIP has been able to do with the support of GALAEI and Prevention Point, but also to the need in the community to have an agency that will provide services to the transgender community, which continues to be disproportionately impacted by HIV, among a number of other issues.”
Feely, along with the other four staffers at TIP, will continue to provide a series of weekly discussion groups, such as TIP’s Trans Masculine Advocacy Network, and hold workshops on such issues as hormone-injection safety, as well as HIV-testing services.
Feely said he’s heard from members of the transgender community that they’d be interested in participating in more community-development opportunities, such as workshops on education, job training or advocacy, which TIP will look to implement in the future.
“We’re just taking everything one step at a time right now,” he said. “It’s not all going to be able to happen overnight, but now that we’re going to have our own trans-centered space, I think it’s really going to provide a lot of role-modeling opportunities for people who don’t often see themselves represented in mainstream culture.”
For more information about TIP, visit www.tiptakesphilly.org.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.