By Cassie Miller
Each year, March 31 marks International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day some celebrate with joy, while others observe with quiet reverence for those lost and for the adversity transgender and non-binary individuals face.
In a statement issued Wednesday, President Joe Biden officially proclaimed March 31 Transgender Visibility Day in the United States, calling on Americans to “join us in lifting up the lives and voices of transgender people throughout our Nation and to work toward eliminating discrimination against all transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary people — and all people.”
Below are two Pennsylvania-based LGBTQ centers putting in the work to eliminate discrimination and support transgender and non-binary individuals through resources and programming.
LGBT Center of Central PA, Harrisburg
Located in Pennsylvania’s capital city, the LGBT Center hosts a number of different programs for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.
Since 1993, before the center was founded, the Common Roads Program has provided a drop-in space for LGBTQ youth and young adults. The group currently meets in a hybrid format three days a week.
The center also offers transgender- and non-binary-specific programs, such as the Passageways Program, which started in 2018 for individuals 16 and older.
There’s also the Arts of PA Program, which was founded in 2017 to support transgender and non-binary individuals who cannot afford transition-related items, such as clothes, prosthetics, chest binders and make up kits.
Last year, the Arts of PA Program fulfilled 43 requests for gender-affirming items, the center’s executive director, Amanda Arbour, told the Capital-Star in an email.
Grant funds from PHFA pay for the first three months of rent in the program, Arbour said. Then over a nine-month period, the responsibility transfers to the individual with the help of a caseworker, to ensure the individual’s long-term success.
In addition to resources and support services for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, the center also offers inclusive education training for schools, businesses, social service organizations and health care providers.
“We always need more resources than we have,” Arbour said. “Having these spaces and having these resources are absolutely vital.”
Arbour and the rest of the LGBT Center’s team works around the clock to make sure individuals have access to the resources they need.
It’s the work that keeps them going, she said.
“We see everyday how critical the work that we are doing is,” Arbour told the Capital-Star. “We don’t have the option to stop, right? We have to keep going.”
How to Help
The center also welcomes donations, which go to support all of its programming. The Arts of PA Program can be supported by shopping its online store.
Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Allentown
The Bradbury-Sullivan Center, which serves the Lehigh Valley’s LGBTQ community, offers a variety of programming and resources to transgender individuals, which includes safe spaces such as the center’s transmasculine and transfeminine groups, referrals to doctors, therapists and LGBTQ-friendly businesses, gender-affirming services, and a name-changing legal clinic to help transgender individuals navigate the process.
Robin Gow, the center’s Cultural and Community Building Programs Manager, told the Capital-Star that the center has been running support groups since it opened seven years ago, while the trans-specific groups began about five years ago.
While most programming went virtual during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, most groups now operate in a hybrid format to accommodate those without transportation, Gow said.
Increased visibility of the transgender community has been a double-edged sword for individuals, according to Gow.
“Increased visibility in the public space has led to this backlash,” Gow said, adding that more visibility in the news and in politics can be “traumatic” for transgender individuals and youth, which, in turn, creates more need “for support and community services.”
“There’s always a growing need,” they said, adding that the ever-growing need for community support and resources has “fueled” their work.
“Those moments fuel me,” Gow said. ”I feel very privileged to be able to do the work that I do.”
How to Help
While Gow encourages people to support their local LGBTQ organizations through donations, they also urge people to start talking with their friends, family and loved ones about LGBTQ issues, adding that “having uncomfortable conversations” is important.
“Some of those most impactful conversations happen on a smaller level,” Gow said, adding that cisgender individuals – those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth – should “stay educated, follow, and listen to trans advocates.”
Cassie Miller is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this article first appeared.