Kat immigrated to the U.S. in 1992 as a refugee from Vietnam. For decades she worked to support herself by cleaning hotel rooms – a job in which she faced regular harassment and discrimination from co-workers based on her perceived sexual orientation. Kat was doing her best to fit in and stay safe, presenting herself as a gay man.
Kat was also managing HIV and other health conditions, which forced her to miss work on occasion. With an employer hostile to her health situation, she eventually faced termination.
Losing her job was a blessing and a curse. She relied on her health insurance but was too weak to continue working. Yet, no longer forced to hide her true self, Kat embraced her identity as a transgender woman. And as a longtime patient and client of Whitman-Walker Health in DC, she began working with their Transgender Legal Services Project – a DC Bar Foundation grantee partner.
Our grantee helped Kat apply for disability benefits. With their support, she persevered through several levels of appeals and finally prevailed. The Project also helped her obtain accurate identity documents, apply for naturalization, update her immigration records, and take the next step in her immigration case – becoming a U.S. citizen.
For DC residents like Kat, the Transgender Legal Services Project combats discrimination with life-changing access to legal resources and advocacy. Kat’s story is what this month – Pride Month – is all about.
And Kat is far from alone. DC is home to the nation’s highest percentage of trans-identified adults in the nation. A leading research institute report estimates that .03% of DC’s adult residents identify as transgender. That’s more than 17,000 of our neighbors.
At the DC Bar Foundation, we’re proud to partner with Whitman-Walker Health, one of the oldest medical-legal partnerships. Their holistic care coordinates health and legal needs. The Transgender Legal Services Project we fund provides advocacy specific to emerging transgender law issues, as well as access to all legal services, to this fast-growing segment of our community.
Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, our funding for this grantee ensures that DC’s trans residents get accurate identity documents for safely navigating everyday life, access to life-saving and gender-affirming health care, are not discriminatorily denied insurance coverage, can obtain disability benefits, can pursue lawful immigration status, and can secure basic needs. The Project holds employers accountable and helps clients stay employed in welcoming environments. They are truly advancing equal access to justice in the District.
Thousands of DC neighbors like Kat are counting on us to take a stand against discrimination. Thank you for joining us in that work during this Pride Month, and every month.
Kirra L. Jarratt Executive Director