William Way opens new trans resource center


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The Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center, a new resource hub providing services including health care and therapy referrals, job services and help enrolling in insurance and food assistance programs, will open Thursday at the William Way LGBT Community Center. 

The project, which has been in the works for a year, will centralize information and services available across the city for trans people. Located in a newly-renovated space on the fourth floor of the building at 1315 Spruce St., the site will offer computers and access to William Way staff who can link trans folks to relevant programs both at the community center and with external organizations. The initiative stemmed from an “urgent need” for focused services for the city’s trans population, said Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way LGBT Community Center. 

“[It’s] so that trans folks can plug into our services and to those at other agencies and have a safe place that’s their own,” he added. “We felt that at a time with increasing hostility from both the federal government and from other political figures, it was really important for us as the community center to say that we wanted to stand behind our trans communities and provide the best resources to them.”

The new programming venue is the namesake of two late, crucial leaders in the trans movement in Philadelphia: Charlene Arcila, who founded the Mazzoni Center’s Philadelphia Trans Health Conference and filed a groundbreaking discrimination suit against SEPTA regarding the gender markers the transportation company once issued on transportation passes, and Jaci Adams, a pioneering LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activist who mentored dozens of young trans women.

Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni’s Room, one of the first LGBTQ bookstores in the country, provided the bulk of funding for the resource hub, Bartlett said. 

“We want to be a visible supporter of the trans communities of the Delaware Valley, who have contributed so much to our communities’ strength,” Michael Byrne, president of nonprofit Philly AIDS Thrift’s board of directors, told PGN. “We’re glad that the trans resource center will be a safe, central sanctuary for trans people at a time when they face hostility and violence on so many levels.”

Part of the trans resource center’s mission is to strengthen a sense of community among trans folks by offering a safe space for them to connect to services, as well as each other, said Celena Morrison, director of programs at Wiliam Way LGBT Community Center. 

“One of the most important things that happens within our community is the forming of chosen families and things of that nature,” she said. “That’s more important now than ever before because we see so much violence directed toward the folks in our community, particularly trans women of color. So having a safe space to look for jobs, to apply for benefits and get connected to all the different resources [is important].”

Morrison told PGN the trans resource center will also collaborate with TransWork, an employment program for trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people that launched this fall out of the Independence Business Alliance, Philadelphia’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. The initiative held its second job fair Monday in partnership with health insurance organization Independence Blue Cross, coming on the heels of its inaugural September career event produced with Philadelphia International Airport. 

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found the trans unemployment rate was three times higher than that of the general population at the time of the study. It also states that 27 percent of trans folks who held or applied for a job reported being fired, denied a promotion or not hired due to their gender identity or expression.

The project is part of a dedicated effort at William Way to step away from a reputation of historically “catering to cis gay white men,” Morrison said, adding she hopes the new resource center can spur similar trans-specific programming across the city and state.

“I hope that leading by example, that William Way can show other organizations … what needs to be done or what we could do differently and just start implementing [services],” Morrison said. 

Bartlett envisions a similar ripple effect in resources for the trans community across the country. 

“It’s a city, state and national example for how at this key time when trans people need safe spaces to come together and work together to build communities, that the center’s providing a model that can be used by many other spaces and organizations to provide that safe, empowering space,” he said.