The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners proclaimed this Friday, March 31st, 2023, as Transgender Day of Visibility in Multnomah County.
The proclamation, sponsored by Commissioner Sharon Meieran, marks International Transgender Day of Visibility and celebrates the voices and contributions of transgender, Two Spirit, non-binary, intersex and gender-expansive communities in Multnomah County.
“This proclamation is personal to me, as the proud mom of two queer, transgender, non-conforming young adults,” said Commissioner Meieran.
The annual event, started in 2010 by Michigan Transgender Activist Rachel Crandall, is intended to bring awareness to the lives and contributions of transgender people and the level of violence and discrimination experienced by many.
“It is also a call to action for the work we must do to confront and repair harm — and prevent future harm — to the transgender, non-binary community, “ said Commissioner Meieran.
Joelle Kim, a Multnomah County Employee Resource Group (ERG) Event Coordinator and Mental Health Consultant with the County’s Behavioral Health Division, was among the invited guests. As a Korean-American transgender woman, she spoke directly about the discrimination and attacks transgender people experience today.
Kim said the attacks are primarily targeting transgender youth’s rights, with over 400 anti-transgender legislative bills introduced across the country — including in Oregon, where there are currently seven anti-lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) bills proposed.
“How many of you wake up each morning emotionally and mentally preparing yourself for the worst case scenario? How many of you turn on your TV or open your social media apps to find another call for your eradication?” asked Kim.
“All I’m asking is to exist without the threat of violence or harm,” she said.
Kim said transgender people are at a higher risk of experiencing violence and harassment, with a disproportionate number of hate crimes being committed against Black, Two Spirit and transgender people of color.
“Despite these challenges, transgender folks have continued to thrive and make meaningful contributions to their communities as a whole,” she said.
Kim shared a number of ways to celebrate and support the transgender community.
“This should not be the work of only queer and trans people of color. This is your work and the work of those in positions of power,” she said, calling on the Board of Commissioners to advocate for policies that protect the rights of transgender people.
“The queer and trans employees and residents of Multnomah County need their Commissioners to commit to create a resolution that details all sustainable actions to create policies,” said Kim, recommending concrete actions for the County:
- Establish longterm positions, specifically for transgender women of color.
- Establish long term training and consultation positions across the departments and divisions.
- Allocate funding for queer and transgender staff to be leaders and consultants for these actions.
- Invest in the implementation of gender affirming care for staff and all public serving parts of Multnomah County.
- Make a commitment to the safety of transgender and queer communities in Multnomah County.
Mikki Gillette, the major gifts officer with Basic Rights Oregon, who works to ensure that all LGBTQ2SIA+ Oregonians experience legal and lived equality, spoke about the impact anti-transgender state legislature across the country is having in Oregon.
Gillette said recently, there have been transgender adults and parents of transgender youth who have moved to Oregon in hopes of finding safety and acceptance as other state legislation enact anti-transgender bills.
“Multnomah County is becoming a home for people fleeing their previous homes where they didn’t feel safe,” she said.
Gillette said lawmakers and politicians across the country are questioning the validity of transgender people and called upon local leaders to speak up and, “say what is true: that trans people are part of our communities.”
Basic Rights Oregon introduced House Bill 2002 in February. This bill is intended to require any insurance policy sold in Oregon, as well as the Oregon Health Plan, to cover medically necessary gender-affirming care and would provide protections to gender-affirming care providers such as doctors.
Gillette called on the Board of Commissioners to support this House bill.
“The trans people of Multnomah County, as well as employees, would love to know that you support this measure,” she said.
Ariana Rosales, a member of the transgender community, shared their story about recently losing their home and ongoing struggle to find housing resources in Multnomah County.
On an early morning in January, a house fire started in Rosales’ home. Rosales, their cat and their housemates made it out, and soon after Portland Fire and Rescue arrived.
Despite a quick response, the home was left with an estimated $90,000 in damages, leaving the property uninhabitable.
“All of us were left houseless over night,” said Rosales.
Rosales said the PDX Trans Housing Coalition, which helps transgender and non-binary people facing eviction or experiencing homelessness and housing instability, did not have the resources to help.
“Here I am, at age 40, a social worker, couch surfing until I can find a place to stay.”
Rosales said the transgender community does not have the adequate and deserving housing resources in the county.
“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that 45% of houseless people under the age of 25 in the streets of Multnomah County are members of the queer community,” they said.
Rosales addressed the board, “please make these housing resources a secure budget item for the County, as it’s desperately needed.”
Following the testimonies, Kim read the proclamation.
“Multnomah County will continue to translate our values into action, lifting up and prioritizing the needs of our gender expansive community as we seek to ensure every community member has access to the services and resources they need.”
Board members each expressed their gratitude to Commissioner Meieran for bringing the proclamation forward and to Kim, Gillette and Rosales for sharing their personal stories.
Commissioner Meieran gave thanks to the Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) ERG as well as Prism, the ERG focusing on equity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ County employees.
“I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you did in making this proclamation so meaningful.”
“We need to commit to action and a long term plan,” said Commissioner Meieran about Kim’s proposed actions.
“It is personal to me as well as the mom of a queer, South Asian daughter and the aunt of a trans, South Asian niece,” shared Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.
She shared her support for HB 2002 and committed to dedicating resources specifically to housing for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“That’s such a doable thing and we’ll make sure that happens as well,” she said.
“It speaks volumes to have so many people here,” said Commissioner Diane Rosenbaum, addressing the audience members who waved the light blue, light pink and white transgender flag as the proclamation was read.
“I’m certainly happy to sign on to the legislation and fully support this,” she said about HB 2002.
Commissioner Lori Stegmann said she had already signed on in support of the bill and added the concerns she has for the lack of culturally specific housing resources.
“When we talk about many of our services, they have to be culturally specific,” she said.
Chair Jessica Vega Pederson acknowledged the intentional destructive laws and actions taking place across the country against the transgender community and expressed support and efforts to help protect and expand rights for the transgender community.
“You have the commitment of me and this Board in that work,” she said, “and being partners and fighters, and using our voice as we go through this.”