Oregon Live reported in 2016 that, in Oregon, an estimated .65 percent of the population are transgender – this is the seventh highest percent in the country. Transgender individuals face immense disparities in the areas of health, economics, safety, and civil rights, according to the funding network, Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
The transgender community faces startling rates of HIV infection, a lack of access to primary care, high rates of attempted suicide, poverty, unemployment, education discrimination, and homelessness, as well as extreme levels of physical violence and a lack of recognition and respect when it comes to civil rights. These issues are heightened for transgender people of color: Latinx transgender people deal with three-and-a-half times the poverty rate of the general U.S. population, while Black transgender people face three times the poverty rate and are especially targeted with physical violence, many being murdered with little intervention by law enforcement.
Chelsea Shay, who works with the local youth LGBTQ+ support group Out N’ About, provided more specific statistics about these issues for the year of 2018.
- The attempted suicide rate of transgender people over their lifetime was 40 percent, which was nine times the national average.
- 77 percent of trans individuals in K-12 reported verbal or physical harassment, with 52 percent not being allowed to dress accordingly to their gender identity.
- 15 percent of respondents in the study reported being unemployed, which was three times the national average.
- 30 percent reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lifetime.
For these reasons and more, transgender people in the Corvallis community not only deserve help and support from local resources, but are in great need of them.
Corvallis Transgender Support Group
The Corvallis Transgender Support Group is a resource for transgender and questioning individuals and their families to “share information regarding transitioning, coming out, therapists, physicians, and other aspects of our journey.” This support group usually holds meetings on the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up for their newsletter.
Out N’ About
Out N’ About is a social/support group dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ high-school aged youth of Benton and Linn Counties. Founded in 1995 and restarted in 2005, this organization seeks to support local youth of varying sexualities and identities, whether it’s through hanging out, playing games, watching movies, doing crafts, or having guest speakers.
This group also serves as an educational tool for LGBTQ+ youth on topics including consensual sex, queer history, and LGBTQ+ news and media. Pre-COVID, Out N’ About met every Thursday night at the First United Methodist Church from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. During the pandemic, the group has stayed active on their Facebook page and sometimes holds Zoom meetings, but has found it hard to do so considering it’s unsafe for some members to attend while at home.
Out N’ About is still working to figure out how to better serve Corvallis’ LGBTQ+ youth community during COVID-19.
PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) was originally founded in Los Angeles in 1973, and the Corvallis/Albany chapter was founded in 1994. Corvallis/Albany PFLAG supports not only members of the LGBTQ+ community, but also their families and friends.
PFLAG is currently referring members to the Portland chapter for virtual meetings and support as they cannot meet physically due to COVID-19.
OSU Pride Center
The Oregon State University Pride Center provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual students who attend the university. Through “education, outreach, program support, consultation, community development, visibility, and advocacy,” the Pride Center seeks to be a safe space for a diverse community. OSU is ranked in the top 20 LGBT-friendly campuses from Campus Pride’s LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index.
The Pride Center itself includes a kitchen, computers, TV, lounge, study space, quiet room, library of books on queer history, and gender-inclusive bathrooms for students to utilize. They also host events every year to further promote and support the local LGBTQ+ community.
Mid Willamette Trans Support Network
The Mid Willamette Trans Support Network is a source for local transgender, nonbinary, gender diverse, gender nonconforming, and questioning people and their families. This group acts as a resource for those who are seeking support, assistance, and education about topics related to living as a trans, nonbinary, gender diverse, gender nonconforming, or questioning person.
The Mid Willamette Trans Support Network is very active on their Facebook and posts a multitude of events for locals to join – coming up, there will be a Transmasculine Support Group over Zoom on August 14.
Valley AIDS Information Network (VAIN)
The Valley AIDS Information Network (VAIN) is an organization focused on preventing the spread of HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections through community education and support. VAIN distributes condoms around the area to promote sexual responsibility and safety, has a program in which HIV positive people are invited to speak, and does information tabling for Benton and Linn Counties. VAIN’s website provides information on HIV and AIDS, as well as local testing sites, and have volunteer and internship programs for interested community members to become involved.
There’s More to do
Shay from Out N’ About asserted that Corvallis is in need of more support and resources for local trans folks.
“For example, health care providers that are well educated in trans health care. As well as counselors who have actual training in working with trans clients,” she explained. “There are also parents of trans youth that are looking for more support in how they cope with their child coming out as trans and also how to best support their child. While the Corvallis School District is trying to do better for trans students – last year they passed a document stating trans student rights – there is still a long way to go. Teachers need more training and education in this area. There are also no local stores that sell things like binders.
“Resources are immensely important for trans youth and adults.”
Elijah Stucki, the president of the board of directors at the Mid Willamette Trans Support Network also highlighted the importance of these resources.
“Resources are incredibly important for trans people because we experience discrimination and violence,” they said.
Stucki also highlighted the need for resources for those who are trans and have a disability, “A large portion of my community here are disabled. It takes years to get on disability so many of my community who are trans and disabled are experiencing homelessness. Getting on a housing list takes years here, 3 at the least. So, many people in my community are experiencing homelessness, and there’s not much support to help them. Many feel that going to a local shelter isn’t an option because of the violence they’d face or the mental harm by having to hide who they are, as many shelters are divided by gender and often enforced by people without experience working with trans folks.”
Stucki believes that the local area does not have enough resources for the trans population despite the great need for them.
They asserted, “Resources keep people alive.”
By Cara Nixon