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Ten questions with Dorothy Awards Honoree CT TransAdvocacy Coalition (Executive Director Diana Lombardi)

Diana Lombardi is the new executive director of the CT TransAdvocacy Coalition, which has been a major part of the important strides taken in improving conditions for the trans community here in Connecticut and beyond. Lombardi talks with former Center co-president Tom Donato about their accomplishments, the Transgender Lives conference, which celebrates its 10th anniversary soon, and her advice for youth who are still facing challenges today. 

  1. The list of accomplishments of the CT TransAdvocacy Coalition is long; what are you most proud to have been involved with? CTAC is proud to have worked with the coalition that passed the hate crime, non-discrimination legislations and just last year the birth certificate legislation. We are also proud of our work with other non-profits and HUD to train homeless shelter staff and 211 operators on the needs of trans people and on what they have to do follow the law.
  2. What prompted your own involvement with the Coalition? What prompted my involvement with CTAC was when I was attending support group meetings and hearing all the discrimination and violence that we face every day, and I just wanted to do something to end the discrimination and violence.
  3. Tell us about the Transgender Lives conference. This will be the tenth year of the conference, which will be held on April 30th. The conference came about as a Master’s project for Linda Estabrook who is the executive director of the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective. Our founder and president at the time, Jerimarie Liesegang, was one of her advisors for the project. After the first conference was a success, Linda entrusted the conference to CTAC and we have been coordinating it ever since. Each year it has grown and approximately five years ago we started offering continuing education credits for social workers. The theme of the conference is the intersection between healthcare and legal professionals and the trans community. Most conferences cater to either the trans community or professionals; we believe by bringing both together both groups, we will gain a greater knowledge than if the conferences were held separately.
  4. Describe the state of the national transgender community today. On the national level, we need to pass the Equality Act to bring employment, housing, and public accommodation protections for the LGBT community. It will be hard, if not impossible, to pass with our opponents, but we need to keep up the pressure on Congress. We also need to be vigilant to make sure that Congress does not expand religious exemptions. We must work together to prevent states from making it a crime for trans people to go the bathroom and from also expanding their religious exemptions. In addition, we must also work to end the violence that is directed toward the trans community and to end the suicides that take so many of our brother and sisters.
  5. The level of visibility of transgender people and issues has certainly increased over the last 18 months. Have the key issues and challenges changed because of this? The key issues still have not changed; we need protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations, not just for trans people but for all lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Only eighteen states have protections for trans people and only twenty-one states have protections for gays and lesbians. We must ensure that we can travel across the United States and not have to worry about where to go the bathroom or where we can go to eat.
  6. Is there a down side or negative benefit to this increased level of visibility? Our opponents are getting scared and feel like they are backed into a corner and they are going to do anything to protect their beliefs.
  7. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? That if you don’t get criticized, you must not be doing anything.
  8. What words of wisdom do you have for young trans people? Be safe. We have come a long way, but there are still people out there that want to do us harm. We need to make sure that before they come out, they have a safe place if they need it.
  9. How can people get involved with the Coalition? We are on the web at www.transadvocacy.org; our website has our contact information.
  10. Where do you hope that the organization will be in five years? (I hope that) in five years we will not be needed any more, but I don’t think that will happen. I hope that the conference continues to expand and we continue to be a major force in ending discrimination not only for trans people, but also for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and pansexual folks.
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