Queens elected officials urge governor to establish $15 million transgender wellness fund

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz rallies with colleagues and transgender advocates in Albany to urge the establishment of a statewide transgender wellness and equity fund. (Courtesy of Cruz’s office)

Queens lawmakers rallied on the Million Dollar Staircase at the Capitol building in Albany on March 24 with transgender advocates and their allies. The group called on Governor Kathy Hochul and legislative leadership to establish a $15 million Statewide Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund in the 2023 budget.

The fund would enable an unprecedented investment in New York’s transgender and gender-expansive communities by providing tailored services, expanding organizational capacities and resourcing tangible initiatives geared toward empowering the transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) community and improving health and wellness outcomes.

“Our TGNC community is being attacked nationwide. They are often the first to experience discrimination resulting in homelessness, lack of proper healthcare and workplace harassment,” Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz said. “Yet, by the time current funding makes it to the groups providing services, it is woefully insufficient. It’s time for New York state to prioritize funding specifically for the needs of TGNC folks and create a dedicated fund to service their needs.”

A 2018 report by Funders for LGBTQ Issues found that the TGNC community only receives $0.04 of every $100 awarded to LGBTQ causes. Meanwhile, the economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has had an especially adverse impact on TGNC individuals who were already struggling before the pandemic.

Cruz explained that racism, transphobia and xenophobia are public health crises that continue to deepen economic disparities among those communities and perpetuate cycles of criminalization, unemployment, mental and physical health disparities and homelessness.

“Across systems and issues, we see the disparities that exist for our transgender and gender-nonconforming community,” Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas said. “While I am glad that we have appropriated money in our budget resolutions for LGBT services and programming it is time that we prioritize the T in the LGBT community. Transgender New Yorkers deserve a separate allocation of resources that is for them and decided by them. We urge our leadership to include a $15 million allocation for a Transgender Equity and Wellness Fund in the enacted state budget.”

A report by the National Center for Transgender Equity conducted in 2015, determined that 18% of transgender respondents in New York were unemployed and 37% were living in poverty.

“As states across the country pass laws that make trans people and their families less safe, New York state can use this budget to reject that bigotry,” state Senator Jessica Ramos said. “Funding the TGNC Wellness & Equity Fund is a commitment that puts a dollar amount to our values and recognizes that TGNC people are the experts in building their own solutions. We were able to get $1 million in the Senate one-house budget, which is historic, but still insufficient. I urge our leaders to expand the funding.”