Resilience and Pride: Reflecting with Thriving Transmen of Color

by Guest Contributors

This blog entry was written by Symon “Mel” Howard, executive director of Thriving Transmen of Color, a grassroots nonprofit organization based in Virginia and a 2023 HRC Foundation Trans Justice Initiative small grants recipient.

The vision of Thriving Transmen of Color (TTMOC) is to create opportunities for success throughout the community while building individuals to meet their end goals. With the grant provided by the HRC Foundation, we were able to do just that while providing a safe space. We had each participant set goals for themselves while ensuring they executed them to the fullest while elevating themselves through our programs.

Being chosen as a small grant recipient validated our organization's work and mission, enhanced the nonprofit’s credibility within the LGBTQ+ community and among potential donors, partners and stakeholders, boosted the morale of staff and volunteers, reaffirmed that our hard work is making a difference and is appreciated, and motivated us to continue and expand the organization's mission. The grant also provided essential financial support that was used to fund specific projects while helping the organization scale a small program and increase its overall impact.

Our Thrive Wellness Project was a complete success and was a transformative experience! The program was conducted as a virtual six-week program that included teachings around self-care, meal preparation, health goals, and health tips, both physical and mental. The demographic that attended the program were transmen/transmasculine individuals from ages 20-29 who earn an income ranging up to $29k.

Aside from the teachings, the program is designed to bring positivity and encouragement to some of the most negatively impacted and marginalized demographics around. One of the participants said something that really resonated with me, which was: “We have to be the change we want to see.” To know our wellness program contributed to the participants' wellness and physical growth was the most rewarding confirmation of it all!

The proudest moment for us during the Thrive Wellness program was the “I AM ME” photo shoot. We took professional pictures to showcase the love and confidence that was built as they learned different methods to better take care of themselves and one another, including starting toted eat healthy and working out. Being able to see the smiles on everyone's faces and the confidence that was gained throughout the course was exactly what the program aimed to do.

Programs like our Thrive Wellness program are but one way that we and many other trans-led organizations are fighting back against the invisibility and bringing positive insight to our trans communities. Visibility, in the context of the transgender BIPOC community and advocacy space, focuses on issues, contributions, and recognizing and acknowledging the silent representation in society, especially transmasculine depiction. Visibility involves actively promoting and affirming trans-of-color identities and experiences, aiming to combat invisibility and marginalization.

Throughout the entire year, TTMOC aims to focus our services in underserved and rural areas, ensuring that more LGBT individuals have access to vital resources and support. We have developed diverse programs that cater to the specific needs of different subgroups within the LGBT community, including seniors, people of color, and individuals with disabilities.

Our program OGs is a Peer 50+ Person of Color Trans-Masculine and Non-binary A-Fab monthly support group. Our Thrive Marathon Program is a weekly empowerment session exclusively dedicated to BIPOC transmasculine individuals. We are implementing anti-bullying programs and inclusive curricula, creating safer and more supportive environments for LGBT students through our youth program. We will continue to build the capacity of our organization and other grassroots LGBT groups through training, mentorship, and resource sharing. We have created inclusive and safe spaces where Trans individuals of color can connect, share experiences, and find support. We look forward to strengthening our advocacy efforts and mobilizing our community around comprehensive policy changes at local, state, and national levels to protect and advance LGBT rights.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with HRC Foundation’s Trans Justice Initiative to achieve even greater advancements in equality, justice, and inclusion in the future.