Being transgender in Birmingham isn’t easy. Harassment, bullying, and misgendering—referring to a transgender person with a word, especially a pronoun, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify—are just a few of the challenges. Add skin color as a factor, and things can be even worse for trans women.
Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, founder and executive director of Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering (TAKE), is working to change all of that for transgender women of color.
What started out as a peer group in 2013 formed into a nonprofit that now features a drop-in center with peer-support groups, the T Girls Boutique Clothing Closet for interview looks, and a place where trans women can find anything to help meet their basic daily needs.
“We have toiletry kits, clothes, hair weaves, shoes, undergarments,” she said. “We do job-readiness training, help with job searches, host movie nights. Everything is done here. It’s a one-stop shop.”
Located at 8246 2nd Ave. South, TAKE has been housed in the East Birmingham community since June 2017. It is fiscally sponsored by Trans United, a national organization based in Washington, D.C., that supports transgender communities around the U.S.
Boyd said TAKE would like to partner with the city of Birmingham, as well, especially after Mayor Randall Woodfin, while a candidate, campaigned at the 2017 Transgender Day of Visibility.
Boyd said she has seen the mayor in passing but has not yet had a sit-down conversation with him. Some of the questions Boyd would like to ask Woodfin: “What’s going to be done for trans women? What are next steps for the city around sensitivity training when it comes to trans women, specifically trans women of color? How can a relationship be built with the community?”
Boyd said she was encouraged to see the city hire a new lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) liaison. Woodfin named Josh Coleman to the position in June 2018, but Boyd believes people in such positions should also reflect the community, particularly in Birmingham.
“So many people in the city are on the front line fighting for LGBTQ rights, … and black folks are doing some real critical work,” she said. “Just because you’re in office now, you can’t erase our existence in Birmingham. We were the same ones who, when [Woodfin was] out there campaigning, [were part of] the conversation to [get voters to the polls.]”
Boyd is determined to ensure that the trans community gets fair treatment in Birmingham.
“The most important thing people have to realize is that we do exist and we do live here,” she said. “They’d rather support more closeted, undercover cisgender men around here on all different levels than support people authentically living in their truth. It’s OK for gay men to go around and live out and loud, and nobody could know what they have going on. But [things are different] if a trans woman is out and loud, demanding respect and support from a community that doesn’t even feel like [she] should exist.”