Alianza Translatinx the first transgender-led organization in Orange County, California.
Attendees at the at Miércoles de Comida pose for a birthday photo with Dennys Diaz. From left, top row: Jesika Villa, Mariana A. Flores, Ruby Troncoso, Viana Maktub Serrano, Estrella Maganda; second row: Cinthya Espinosa, Khloe Rios-Wyatt, Kiara Castillo, Estephany Alday, Hillary Lierberman, Barbara Guerra,Nayla Lucia Hernandez, Leslie Salas, Rachel Pozos; third row: Brisa Mendoza, Nicole Lopez, Michelle Cano, Dennys Diaz, Chiquis Martinez and Leslie Jimenez. Photo Credit: ANDREA NIETO and EMILIANNA VAZQUEZ, Voice of OC
OUR ORIGIN BOOMS DURNG A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
Alianza Translatinx was born out of the necessity to create and promote inclusiveness for the transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) community in the conservative Orange County (OC) in California. Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated the challenges and needs of the TGNC community, Alianza Translatinx was founded by four transgender Latinx women: Khloe Rios-Wyatt, Cinthya Espinosa, Rachel Pozos, and Leslie Jimenez. Its leadership, which is representative of the people they serve, works voluntarily to improve the quality of life for transgender and gender- nonconforming people of color in OC.
Through education, community empowerment, and social justice the newly established organization advocates to uplift the TGNC community members to ensure and foster community inclusion and unity. The organization began by assisting the houseless TGNC community in Santa Ana through distributing hot plates of food on a weekly basis during the highest peak of the COVID19 pandemic in 2020. Even before COVID-19 however, the TGNC community in OC was already in a state of crisis and with the arrival of the pandemic Alianza Translatinx began to focus on areas that needed urgent attention, such as: access to comprehensive, culturally, and linguistically competent sexual health education and HIV prevention information as well as the provision of other basic services. Within the first two months of being established Alianza Translatinx began to curate services and programs that respond and pivot to community needs and which provide an array of services to TGNC people of color including health education, linkage to care, gender marker and name change supporting services, and referrals to medical services.
Alianza Translatinx founders: from left, Cinthya Espinosa, Khloe Rios-Wyatt (president/CEO) and Rachel Pozos. (Not pictured: Leslie Jimenez) Photo Credit: ANDREA NIETO and EMILIANNA VAZQUEZ, Voice of OC
MIERCOLES DE COMIDA (FOOD ON WEDNESDAYS)
Every Wednesday, Alianza Tanslatinx provides hot plates of food in the afternoons. Currently, over 50 people receive food emergency services at Alianza Translatinx on a monthly basis. This emergency food service alleviates some of the struggles our community faces with the dramatic rise of food prices and unemployment levels.
For Latinx people sharing food means building community. And for Alianza Translatinx, Miercoles de Comida is an opportunity to bring in TGNC community together and share a safe space. From its beginnings, Alianza Translatinx has provided an estimated $7,850 hot meals to TGNC people across OC. Their team has been working tirelessly in volunteer roles to continue to prepare and distribute hot meals once a week.
Editor’s note: In a survey of 23 Orange County TGNC individuals conducted by Alianza Traslatinx in June of 2020, 21.7% reported using condom during sexual intercourse almost always. And 34.8% reported getting tested for HIV once a year. During the survey, we also collected information about basic needs within the community, 26.1% of the participants responded having been hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. And 78.3% of those surveyed reported having lost their income due to the pandemic.
Miercoles de comida’s purpose is for participants to share resources and learn about important information regarding our community. It also helps the organization collect data about the demographics of the TGNC local community to expand and design services specifically tailored to the TGNC community. For decades, in Orange County there has been disregard from local organizations in collecting demographic and statistical data for trans issues. For Alianza Translatinx collecting data helps not only to assess the community needs so that people can petition for specific support but to also ensure the TGNC community claims space and visibility. Miercoles de comida at Alianza Translatinx is a “way to obtain information that will improve the quality of our lives,” as Rios-Wyatt, Alianza Translatinx’s CEO puts it.
Soon after, members of the Transgender and gender-non conforming community in Orange County CA, learned about what Alianza Translatinx offers, the organization found the need to open a drop-in center in Santa Ana as a result of the demand in services. Obtaining the organization’s 501 (c) (3) status was only the first step and one of the obstacles in having a physical space to offer to the TGNC community.
Many requests for office space leases were ignored by several landlords before Alianza Translatinx could find their home at the Spurgeon Building in Santa Ana. The months of struggle was the result of the invisible discrimination TGNC people face in OC when looking for housing, leasing an office space or even finding a job. Neither covert racism or a pandemic stopped Alianza Translatinx in establishing the first ever transgender drop-in center in this county. Through the organization those seeking help can find support with name and gender marker changes, medical services, unemployment applications and advocacy in specific issues like the disproportionate police harassment and trivialization of assault cases in Orange County.
Members of Alianza Translatinx pose for photos at Miércoles de Comida. Left photo: from left, Brisa Mendoza, Estrella Maganda and Mariana A. Flores. Right photo: Ruby Troncoso. Photo Credit: ANDREA NIETO and EMILIANNA VAZQUEZ, Voice of OC
IT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING
For the transgender and gender non-conforming community in Orange County, it is only the beginning of a long-awaited battle to obtain basic services and proper health care.
Alianza Translatinx has been calling for things like housing assistance for TGNC people, proper trans-specific health care and job security. Issues that continue to plague the transgender and gender non-conforming community across the nation. Alianza Translatinx continues to pave the way for many local transgender and gender non-conforming people in Orange County who have lived in the county for over 30 years. And who have also not received the necessary care to begin and continue transitioning. The organization hopes other local public health offices, researchers and larger direct service organizations focus on helping improve the livelihood of the TGNC community as well.
The COVID-19 global pandemic might be winding down, but for the grass roots organization Alianza Translatinx the work to eliminate barriers for the local transgender and gender non-conforming community in Orange County CA, is just beginning.
Community organizers rallied outside the Santa Ana City Council meeting chambers on June 15, 2021 as the panel was set to finalize this year's new budget. Credit: Courtesy of Hairo Cortes
“For decades the transgender and gender non-conforming community was invisible in Orange County, CA. The Transgender Strategy Center grant represented a beam of light for the local TGNC community that was already in a state of crisis prior to the COVID19 pandemic. And it helped encourage the local TGNC community to organize and advocate for equitable access to basic needs.”
President/CEO and co-founder
Khloe Rios is an immigrant transgender woman, activist, and community organizer. Currently, Khloe serves as the President/CEO and is one of the co-founders of Alianza Translatinx, the first and only transgender-led organization in Orange County, CA