Trans aging made a little easier

The lives of transgender folks can be difficult. But if you are trans, Philadelphia is arguably the place to be. The city, through the Fair Practices Ordinance, provides legal protections that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, orientation and gender identity or presentation. In most other parts of Pennsylvania, it is still legal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

On the bright side, 34 municipalities in the state have in place transgender protections. A broad, LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination bill is under consideration in the General Assembly.

A key example of support for the trans community is Mazzoni Center’s Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. In 2013, there were more than 3,400 attendees from around the world.

This year’s conference, the 13th, is scheduled from June 12-14 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Many programs and workshops specifically for trans older adults are on the schedule. One such program is a panel discussion hosted by the LGBT Elder Initiative. This discussion about navigating the aging-services network will be followed by a resource fair. Representatives of many of the area’s aging-services providers will be available to discuss their services and your concerns, one-on-one, with you.

One of the most basic needs for trans people, and older trans people in particular, is housing. Housing assistance is available through many service and advocacy organizations. The Office of Supportive Housing (215-686-7147) is one source of assistance. Another is the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. You can call the CARIE LINE at 215-545-5728 for advice on housing and many other resources. If they can’t answer your questions, they can tell you who can find answers.

Comprehensive primary health care and trans-related services are available at Mazzoni Center. These services include mental health and legal services. Mazzoni Center produces a directory of services that are of particular help to those looking to identify physicians, therapists, fitness centers and more.

The Trans Wellness program, a service provided by Transwomen for Transwomen, is available at Mazzoni’s Washington West facility. The Sisterly Love program, supported by the True Care Clinic, is also at Wash West. The program provides outreach services for sex workers. Contact the folks at Mazzoni at 215-563-0652 ext. 232 or call the medical clinic at 215-563-0658.

Equally important, but less well known, are the services available through TPAC and John F. Kennedy Behavioral Health Center. TPAC provides HIV/HCV counseling and testing, referrals for primary and HIV care, a clothing and food bank, and a weekly support group open to anyone in the trans community. JFK provides mental-health and alcohol and other drug counseling to people covered by medical assistance. People who are uninsured and eligible for Behavioral Health Special Initiative funding or who are homeless, in a shelter or live in the Center City/lower North Philadelphia areas are also eligible. TPAC can be reached at 215-988-9970 and JFK at 215-568-0860.

Free, anonymous HIV testing is available in many locations: Washington West, GALAEI, Philadelphia FIGHT and ActionAIDS are just a few.

Philadelphia has three hospitals that have a reputation for providing caring, competent and non-judgmental care for trans patients: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Hahnemann University Hospital. The greater Philadelphia area also has three renowned surgeons providing services to the trans community.

Community Legal Services provides free legal assistance, representing people who have legal problems including obtaining Medical Assistance (MA or Medicaid). Free legal services for people living with HIV/AIDS are available at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania at 215-587-9377. You can reach CLS at 215-981-3700 or 215-227-2400.

The William Way Community Center is the spiritual home for many in the LGBT community and much of WWCC’s social programing is trans-inclusive. You can reach WWCC at 215-732-2220.

Philadelphia is becoming a truly trans- and age-friendly city. These and other resources and services are available to support the trans communities as we age. A more complete list of resources is available from the LGBT Elder Initiative. You can get a copy of this list by contacting the LGBTEI at 267-546-3448 or at [email protected] or by attending our workshop and resource fair June 12 at PTHC.

Dawn Munro is a transgender activist and a volunteer with the LGBT Elder Initiative. The LGBTEI fosters and advocates for services, resources and institutions that are competent, culturally sensitive, inclusive and responsive to the needs of LGBT elders. You can contact the Elder Initiative at [email protected] or call 267-546-3448.