During our July edition we introduced you to Keke Grayson and as part of that profile we learned about an organization that is making a difference in the Trans Black/PoC community, The Gender Phluid Collective. During Keke’s interview she mentioned her Angel, Angelle Maua, the founder of the Collective. Angelle’s story is just as important to share, and hopefully that will encourage the community to help keep this organization that is doing the essential work of supporting Trans folks and their families. This is a story of motherly love and the discovery of a lack of resources for her Trans son and their family in the Black/PoC community.
Tell us how you came to create The Gender Phluid Collective?
The GPC was created in 2018, my son came out as trans in Fall of 2017 at 15 years old. The latter part of 2017 we were trying to find spaces that looked like us, providers that looked like us who were familiar with transgender patients. Unfortunately, North County San Diego is very white and very privileged and spaces like these were nonexistent at the time. Fast forward to January 2018, I was able to get him in to see a trans competent provider. His first visit he felt confident about his care moving forward and he was able to start testosterone that same month. February was a struggle with mental health, but he persevered and by May of 2018 he felt and looked like himself. August of 2018 I officially started the support groups for families like us and by January of 2019 we were officially called the Gender Phluid Collective.
What Challenges did you face throw the journey?
As a parent processing this new journey with my son, I had to get out of my head and get with the program and support him. Once I was able to understand that this was happening with or without me, I got with it. The scariest challenge is getting approved for hormones and surgery. Most insurances, at that time, required a certain time period of evaluation from a licensed mental health provider to validate your identity, and then with this validation you go on to hormones and surgery if the person elects to have surgery. The fear of rejection and having to fight the system for my son to be recognized as his true self. Fortunately, we did not have any issues with our insurance paying for coverage of hormones and were approved for surgery shortly after starting hormones.
The obvious challenge was BIPOC/QTPOC support. For most Black/African American families sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression are not discussed openly and are taboo. We are so deeply rooted in our religious beliefs we do not speak upon these subjects and if we do act out, we are cast out most of the time. Not all the time. So, you can imagine, trying to find a Black Queer or Trans support group in Rancho Penasquitos. Not happening. Didn’t exist. Navigating the emotions around his transition was hard for both of us, but we had each other and talked a lot, shared a lot and I think because of this we bonded even more.
What does The Gender Phluid Collective offer?
The Gender Phluid Collective at this time, 2021, offers items to help with those transitioning or who have already transitioned and just need maintenance.
- Transitional items: binders, gaffs, STPs, makeup, trans tape, etc.
- 1:1 family consultation
- Individual consultation
- Housing referrals
- Mental health referrals
- Medical referrals
- Trainings: developed around the particular need
- Support groups: starting Fall of 2021
Everything is free and paid for via donations received and if those funds run out, I pay for the items myself. We are not a non-profit on purpose as I don’t like being told what to do with money. 100% of all the donations go directly to the community, no overhead, as it should be.
Support groups stopped in Fall of 2020, but I do refer to other local agencies doing the same work. Shout out to The San Diego Black LGBT Coalition, The San Diego LGBT Community Center, Hillcrest Youth Center, Our Safe Place/Tay Center at the YMCA Escondido, Breaking Down Barriers, PFLAG San Diego, San Diego Youth Services, and South Bay Youth Services. My chosen family of teachers, advocates, and activists. Shane Parmely, Mama Stacy Dyson, Tracie Jada O’Brien, a.t. Furaya, and my families that give me life: Constance Carter and Keke Grayson, Dann Howard, Savion Glover and so many, many more families. If I missed anyone, so sorry.
This collective was not created to maintain my lifestyle, but to maintain the community. I don’t agree with using any of the funds for anything other than what the donations are for. This is my opinion; I don’t really care what others think of that.
What would you tell other Parents of Trans kids?
This journey you are on or about to begin will be hard, you will want to just give up; it’s confusing to understand. It does get easier, trust. We have resources to help you with your journey. There are options and many resources now for families, specifically BIPOC/QTPOC. Many emotions to navigate and validate but you are not alone, you have a village to support you.
Use their preferred name and pronouns, make a practice of it. You will slip up, just apologize, and move on. Over time, it will come naturally, but be intentional on the choice of words you use with them. Make time to talk to your child (not by text, in person), this helps, they will help answer a lot of questions, but you have to meet them where they are at and do your research. Don’t give them the burden of educating you, that is too much. They will let you know what is triggering so that you know how to navigate difficult conversations with other family members moving forward.
Just remember, it is not for you to understand, but to respect. Please respect your child’s choice. It is not a phase; it is who they are and 50% of the battle is getting parents to support their children. If not supported, it can become a mental health issue if it hasn’t already. From my lived experience supporting my son, it became a mental health issue, and I was supporting him. I almost lost my son to gender dysphoria/gender noise. Imagine if I was not supporting him? This would be a totally different conversation.
What special challenges do Black/PoC Trans individuals face?
Besides the typically living while Black/PoC, everything, all the securities and privileges that white folks or non-PoC folks have we have to fight for and prove we are worthy every single day. Job security that is the base of the rest: food, housing, transportation, healthcare, the list is endless. We need allies that can help create change systemically, the systems in place now are not made or designed for BIPOC folks. Change is happening now but slowly, there are folks out there now struggling to get and keep jobs, myself included. BIPOC/QTPOC folks’ pain is not taken seriously, Black women dying while giving birth or pregnant the death rates are exponentially higher because the system denies their humanity. Black Elders, same experience, doctors don’t treat them the same as their white patients. I have experienced the same bias in my family. You have to damn near get belligerent for anyone to actually listen. This is not right.
Now layer that with being transgender.
Try googling “Black transgender mental health provider in California” or something similar. I’ll wait.
Not being seen is killing us, all of us.
How can our readers get involved?
Donate, donate, donate to The Gender Phluid Collective
Phone: (858) 255-0279
Email: [email protected]
Volunteer: (seasonal but inquire if interested) to [email protected]