Trans Health Panel Breaks Down Why Trans Workers of Color Are a Necessity

By Sameer Rao Mar 14, 2017

Diana Feliz Oliva has a message for any hospital or care facility that wishes to improve health outcomes for trans patients of color: hire trans and gender-nonconforming caregivers of color.

Oliva sat on the Bridging the Transgender Healthcare Gap panel at South by Southwest (SxSW) today (March 14). She’s the program manager for the Transgender Health Program at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in South Central Los Angeles, a predominantly Black and Latinx working-class neighborhood. The majority of her staff identifies as trans.

"When you actually have trans-identified people administering the program, that really speaks volumes to the investment of your agency," she explained. "So if you are a healthcare provider [or] work at a healthcare agency and are contemplating building a transgender health or medical program, I would implore you to hire trans people." 

She went on to describe the necessity of any program reflecting the community it serves. In the case of St. John’s, that means having Black and Brown employees. "All of my team are people of color, we’re all bilingual and some of us are multilingual," she said. "So when trans people of color come to our agency who are unemployed or underemployed, homeless, battling substance abuse or dealing with hate or personal violence crimes, my staff can relate. We’ve been there, we’ve done that and now, we’re on the other side of the desk providing service."

The Transgender Health Program is one of only a few trans community-focused health providers in the United States that offer wraparound services—not just physical healthcare, but behavioral wellness resources, housing and employment assistance services, among others—via workers who are predominantly trans people of color.

The panel also included the center’s director, Lyle Coo,k and associate director of programs and grant management, Felix Tunador. Learn more about their work here.

Culture Reporter Sameer Rao is in Austin this week covering race- and people of color-focused panels and events at South by Southwest. Check back for more posts throughout the week.