“The Transgender Health and Wellness Center received a certificate of recognition from the City of San Diego’s Mayor Todd Gloria’s office”
I have always been so proud to live in a community that tackles the concerns and prosperity of fellow human beings that we share our environment with. In saying this, I also believe we still have a lot of responsibility to educate each other on our history and appreciate those shoulders we all stand upon. History then and now will always affect our feelings and struggles. Sometimes, unfortunately, we just do not listen to each other, and our conversations become invalid instead of helpful. Overall, I still believe in my heart that our community is so full of compassion and love to show that we do care about each other’s way of life. My goal with this article is to try and allow all of us to be more aware, caring, educated and exhibit how any of us can get involved with a group of our Transgender and Non-Binary siblings whose lives are attacked daily.
My dear friend Miss Naya Marie Velazco (she/her) is the Director of Programs at Transgender Health and Wellness Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Transgender Health and Wellness Center was established in 2018 in the Inland Empire, which is a metropolitan area in the inland region adjacent to coastal Southern California, centering on the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside, and bordering Los Angeles County to the west. Since its conception, the wellness center has grown substantially and is now taking over the southern region of California with locations in Palm Springs, Riverside, and San Diego.
The great things that the Center provides and specializes in are permanent hair removal with electrolysis and lasers, resurfacing, and rejuvenation. The agency is recognized by California to be known as the largest employer of Transgender people. They are also well known for their employment program by sponsoring more than six Transgender and Non-Binary people while they attend school to become California Licensed Electrologists, and then providing a promising career within the wellness center with a $70-$80k annual salary.
The Transgender Health and Wellness Center provides FREE behavioral health services and specializes in individual, group, couples, youth, adults, and seniors, while promising long-term therapy. The behavioral health team writes letters of necessity for those seeking to acquire gender affirmation surgery and other lifesaving treatments and it does not stop there. The Center also provides a variety of robust programs that include The Transgender Non-Binary and Intersex Employment Taskforce, which is a network of employers in California that prioritize hiring the gender diverse and Intersex community.
Those who are seeking to improve their LGBTQ+ cultural sensitivity and take a deeper dive into learning more about Transgender and Non-Binary people can benefit greatly from the agency’s newly enhanced Training Institute. Other services include legal aid services, case management, peer support and advocacy, support groups and socials, and a new Valued Volunteer Program with over 86 participants.
Naya was kind enough to invite me to join their Trans and Non-Binary Tuesday, a recurring social event facilitated every Tuesday night from 6-9pm at the Fair@44 Venue Located at 4350 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92105. It is called The Transgender Health and Wellness Center in collaboration with the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association.
It made my heart happy to see so many people in attendance even with the humidity at its peak, the venue had an attendance full of friends and new acquaintances. The Fair@44 Venue hosted 80 or more community members on September 6, 2022. The venue space hosted nine local Transgender, Non-Binary, and Queer vendors and artists that were selling their creativity to the guests. I was able to meet the MC for the evening, Chastity St. Dionne (she/her), local Trans Latina performer and influencer, Valued Volunteer, and Brand Ambassador of the Transgender Health and Wellness Center – San Diego location. She was welcoming and she kept the flow of the evening uplifting and positive. The music was fun and very upbeat thanks to DJ Yassin (he/they), a local Non-Binary entertainer, who has been the event’s musical director and responsible for creating a fun and synergetic environment.
Now, who does not enjoy complimentary food and beverages, thanks to Tranquillo Dojo Café, a local business managed by Tootie (all pronouns) and Mike Piceno (he/him)? – Tranquillo Dojo Café is “a coffee shop built to embrace and support diverse cultures and communities.” The food was quite delicious if I do say so myself.
To make events like these become a reality, we need help and support for continued success. Thank you to the sponsorships for this weekly social event, which are generously provided by AHF – San Diego. It is so wonderful that we do live in a community that consistently supports our diverse LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations. Stakeholders and community partners are also welcome into the communal space, as are those who offer programs and services available to the gender diverse community.
Miss Naya Marie Velazco (she/her), Director of Programs at Transgender Health and Wellness Center and the vison of Tootie (she/her), Manager of the Fair@44 Venue are two community pillars who are able to cultivate a weekly safe space for San Diego’s most underrepresented and underserved community members. The Transgender, Non-Binary, and Intersex community has a handful of awareness weeks and days, but we need more cultivated spaces in our cities and rural areas where we are most importantly safe and able to express ourselves freely without harassment and judgment.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that everyone is in love with this social event, and I am even more excited to learn that there’s more community involvement each week”, said Naya, “So many creatives have come to share their art and talents with us, and I couldn’t be prouder of what this space has turned into.” Naya added, “Earlier this week, the Transgender Health and Wellness Center met with the representatives of Councilmember Stephen Whitburn’s office (he/him) and spoke on the importance of safety concerns for our community! But most importantly to help us fund a Trans, Non-Binary, and Intersex Community Center with wrap-around services that is operated and led by the gender diverse community. They are looking and ideally need offices and a board room where they can strategically plan and conduct business in San Diego, so we can focus on serving the Transgendered siblings and youth.” On their bucket list, they are also asking for their own banquet and communal spaces to host important events for our people while having autonomy individually and collectively will help improve our overall equity. Naya explained, “We are not asking for a handout; we are asking for a hand up.”
Most recently the Transgender Health and Wellness Center received a certificate of recognition from the City of San Diego’s Mayor Todd Gloria’s office for the services provided to the Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming Individuals in our city and county. San Diego is truly very fortunate to have in existence a life changing organization that provides incredible services and compassion they give every day.
Remember that we all need kindness, and we all need to share kindness to one another. Let us listen better to each other and let us never forget the shoulders we stand upon. Let us embrace each other as we talk about our past to learn about the new stories being told as recently as today. Congratulations on what you are doing to enrich the lives of so many and I look forward to watching this organization grow to help even more people while coming together as a community, family, and as caring human beings.
I encourage anyone who is interested in giving their social talents, time, or even money to please contact: Miss Naya Marie Velazco (she/her), Director of Programs. [email protected].