June is Pride Month in the US. It’s the perfect time to embrace our LGBTQIA friends and communities. We were delighted to speak with Roz Keith, the founder of Stand with Trans an organization dedicated to developing programs educational events, and support groups to serve transgender youth. Their mission is to provide the tools transgender youth need to be empowered, supported, and validated as they transition to their authentic life.
A lightly edited version of our conversation follows.
Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF): Can you tells us about Stand with Trans and the mission behind it?
Roz Keth, founder, Stand with Trans, “I’d love to. Stand With Trans is dedicated to helping trans youth not just survive, but to thrive, and to have a future in today’s world. We provide life-saving support to transgender youth and their families. There are quite a few resources on our website and we’re constantly educating and training.”
CRF: Are there any big trends in how people or organizations are approaching trans issues and rights?
“Yes, we’re doing a lot of work with businesses and corporations now, which is really exciting. Companies are realizing how important it is to be inclusive and to support employees coming out at work. They also need to support employees who have trans children.”
CRF: What are you seeing demand for right now?
“One of the biggest demands is for education, which encompasses training as well. Then we have direct support, which is all of our support groups and one-on-one conversations, and then our social and community focus.
That’s trickier to do, now that we’re all virtual. We’ve gotten really good at moving everything we do to a virtual platform. We just held a virtual college fair for LGBTQ+ high school students who are looking to go off to college. We had 11 schools participate and approximately 80 people attended.
One parent told us that prior to the event her child would not even talk about going to college, and that afterwards, they couldn’t wait to make appointments to tour a couple of the schools that were at the fair.
We just want to keep showing them that they can do that, that they are definitely not alone, there are resources and people who support them, and that however they identify, that’s valid, so this fair was a way to do that.”
CRF: What would you say are the most important issues or obstacles that trans youth face right now?
“There’s a dramatic rise in anti-trans bills across the country, perhaps balanced by the federal government’s Health and Human Services Department, who just put out a statement regarding Title IX, that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, stating that youth cannot be discriminated against in those areas.
Also, many schools are still not back, and teens have been isolated. They haven’t had the same kind of peer support. Yes, they can be online, talking to their friends at night, or gaming, but it’s not the same as being able to sit at the lunch table in the middle of the day, or play catch, or hang out after school, or be on a sports team. Also, most if not all of the after school activities were sidelined due to the pandemic.
And then, many of those youth who really need mental health support can’t get access to it. They either don’t have insurance that covers it, or their insurance doesn’t cover the right kind of therapy or therapist. They may not need a therapist who specializes in gender stuff, but they do need someone who can help them with whatever else they’re dealing with, whether it’s anxiety, depression, or something else.”
CRF: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects working with trans youth?
“We’re just starting a project now that is funded by the Tegan and Sara Foundation. We have youth from all over the US, two from Australia, and one teen from Mexico who are part of this project. We are talking to trans and non-binary teens everywhere, and parents, as well.
We have parents from all over who are attending support groups. While our legal address is here in Michigan, because we’ve gotten really good at delivering virtual support and virtual programming, we’re touching people everywhere.
We quickly moved to virtual support groups due to the pandemic, and that’s been a blessing for us, and for people who really need that support. Interestingly enough, many of the families who were attending our local in-person groups are not necessarily the families who are coming to the online groups.”
CRF: Can you tell us a little more about your work with us to help you secure PPP financing for Stand with Trans?
“It was really a shining light. We had been looking into applying for a PPP loan, and at the time, it was to cover one full-time employee. Our bank, the bank that we used for our business account, did not have their system set up to even process applications, let alone help us through that process.
Fortunately, we got connected to CRF. Every step of the way was so well organized, and really, I was so pleased and relieved with how they handled it. Even when we went through the application for the loan forgiveness, they were on top of that, and the communication was really great.
We just were very grateful that we had that access.”
CRF: How are you using the funding to support Stand with Trans?
“It meant we had no problem continuing to make that payroll. We were fortunate, too, because we didn’t have to pay rent to a building that had no foot traffic. It was a great kick start to the year, so we knew we could keep going. We were fortunate that donations still came in, and we got a couple of grants. I think we were one of the lucky organizations. We didn’t have to lay off staff, so that was a big win.”
CRF: Excellent! Would you like to highlight anything else about your website where people can find more information?
“You can find the Stand with Trans website here.
I’d also point people to our ‘Ally Parents’ program. This is a group of over 200 volunteers across the US who are parents of trans individuals. They’ve been trained and have gone through background checks and are available for any trans youth or parent via text or phone. This service is really love at the other end of the phone.”
We are very pleased to support Stand with Trans, and we celebrate them for the excellent work they’re doing. Find out more about how they’re helping trans youth by visiting their website.