Socorro Moreland has been a great asset to our collective work, and strategy planning as a member of the BTAN Bay Area executive committee. Check out his recent feature in Black AIDS Weekly, as he shares his thoughts on ways we can better serve the Black Trans community and what he’s currently working on.
Transgender men and women are a key population identified as particularly vulnerable to acquiring and/or transmitting HIV.
Here, BTAN (Black Treatment Advocates Network) Bay Area – Patient Navigation chair Socorro “Cori” Moreland—who coordinates programming and support services for transgender people of color within the Bay Area and works for APEB (AIDS Project of the East Bay) and Asian Health Services—responds to our questions about how the movement to end HIV and AIDS can better serve trans communities and support them in mobilizing to end the HIV epidemic.
What is your role as committee chair?
I make sure to have a strong and unapologetic presence within BTAN. It’s important to make space for Black people not only living with HIV/AIDS, but also to show that there is resilience within the Black transgender community when speaking about HIV care and prevention.
Why is the work you do with the transgender community important to you?
When I transitioned over 12 years ago, there were no resources for transgender people of color. It was unheard of to do so, especially at the age of 19. I had to figure out my transition on my own with no support from family, friends and community. I told myself that I wouldn’t let other Black and Brown transgender people go through the same chaotic experiences that I encountered.
What specific issues does the transgender community face?
There are syndemics to being Black in this world. Now amplify those syndemics times a hundred when we mention transgender people of color, specifically Black transgender people.
Transgender Black people face issues with poverty, safety, erasure of culture, systemic employment discrimination, disproportionate HIV/AIDS diagnosis, murder, violence, fetishism, and the list goes on and on. Black trans women are being killed; however, society only sees them as disposable, and their deaths are a way to gain “likes” or popularity online or within communities.
How does this play out in the provision of HIV/AIDS services?
In the HIV field, we speak about access and inclusion; however, transgender Black people are not reached until it’s time for [organizations] to satisfy grant specifics and collect money. Black transgender men are completely forgotten within HIV prevention and continuously told that they are “low risk” when it comes to resources such as PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis] or PEP [postexposure prophylaxis] or other sexual-health services. The only time transgender Black men are mentioned is when they are fetishized by other members of the cisgender community, gay and straight alike.
You recently got selected for the Human Rights Campaign HIV° 360 fellowship. What do you hope to do with the resources and skills you’ll gain from that experience?
I am currently working on a transgender case-management program with APEB Oakland called Project Transcend, and I will be implementing three retreats specifically catered to transgender men and women of color here in the Bay Area. Oakland will also be hosting the first Black Trans Advocacy regional conference here in mid-October 2017.
How can BTAN address the issues the transgender community faces?
I expect BTAN to inspire and create space for transgender Black people who work in the field, as well as those who are advocates. BTAN has been a great way for me to meet other Black people who truly love and care for community. I would love to see more workshops and committees dedicated to understanding and educating our allies about transgender Black people and our historical context. Finally, I would love to see Black transgender people on promotional materials and included in PrEP- and PEP-centered events and conversations.
Marie-Fatima Hyacinthe is a mobilization coordinator for the Black AIDS Institute.