Caitlyn Jenner was in Phoenix to talk transgender awareness, not Trump

Caitlyn Jenner did not want to focus on her newfound dislike of President Donald Trump while she was in Phoenix on Friday to give out more than $60,000 to the transgender community.

The 69-year-old Olympic gold medalist and former reality television star-turned-transgender rights activist visited the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, which is one of four recipients of newly-awarded grant money from the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation.

Jenner wrote an Oct. 25 opinion piece in the Washington Post criticizing Trump, whom she’d once supported.  But while in Phoenix, Jenner said she wanted to focus on “bringing light” to the organizations her foundation supports, not political issues.

Seeing how appreciative the organizations are for the extra funding “is everything to me,” Jenner said.

“I’m here for the foundation and to support the groups here in the Scottsdale-Phoenix area,” she told reporters. “I’ve always liked the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, love the area. I have a lot of friends here.”

Transgender people are part of society, she said, “but we’re also one of the most misunderstood, most discriminated against … and terribly underfunded.”

Jenner awarded the Southwest Center $20,000 for a new program called TRANS — Transgender Resource and Navigation Service — that aims to help transgender and gender nonconforming people to better navigate the health system, and to better access services such as hormone therapy.

Transgender people face numerous, serious health challenges — about 25 percent of transgender people are HIV positive, said Sophia Hutchins, the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation’s executive director. They also have behavioral health challenges, with suicide rates that are much higher than the general population, she said.

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Other local foundation awards:

— $20,000 to GLSEN Phoenix, which works to ensure safe and affirming schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students.

Organization board member Madelaine Adelman said many Phoenix area trans and gender nonconforming students face barriers from being their true selves at school — and the discrimination comes from staff and from other students.

Adelman said those students are often not able to use the name, pronoun, locker room or bathroom that aligns with their true gender identity. The money from Jenner’s foundation will go toward developing student leaders to so that kids can be who they are at school, she said.

— $15,000 to the Arizona Trans Youth and Parent Organization, AZTYPO, an all-volunteer group that plans to use the money to support families of transgender kids, including giving them financial help to change children’s names to conform with their identities.

— An undisclosed amount to Mulligan’s Manor, a Phoenix-area group home dedicated to at-risk gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and heterosexual adolescents 12 to 17 years old.

Hutchins said the 18-month-old foundation worked with the Phoenix-based Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation to understand the struggles and needs of LGBTQ people in Phoenix.

“We wanted to bring not only funding to these organizations, but we also wanted to bring awareness,” Hutchins said. “I think these gifts are just the beginning of our relationship with these Arizona organizations. The foundation is only 18 months old. We are looking to build a network of donors and organizations we support while focusing on our own programming.”

‘Trans people aren’t going anywhere’

Jenner said that when she came out as transgender she’d never met another trans person before and that she “knew nothing about the community and the challenges of the community.”

She started the foundation so that she could control where fundraising money goes and said it’s a growing process. She’s particularly concerned now about trans women of color, because they are so marginalized, she said.

“My role is exposure, for people to realize that trans people are here,” Jenner said. “Trans people aren’t going anywhere.”

Though she didn’t want to talk about her Washington Post opinion piece, Jenner said she would keep fighting for the transgender community.

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“We need equality in this country and sometimes we don’t see that, so that’s what I’m working on,” she said. 

The organization GLAAD says “transgender” is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity and some undergo surgery, but a transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures, GLAAD says.

In the Washington Post piece, Jenner wrote about a reportedly leaked U.S. Department of Health and Human Services memo that, according to the New York Times, says the Trump administration is considering a narrow definition of gender, tying it to one’s genitalia at birth. The memo “is just one more example in a pattern of political attacks” on the trans community, Jenner wrote. “The reality is that the trans community is being relentlessly attacked by this president. The leader of our nation has shown no regard for an already marginalized and struggling community.”

The Department of Health and Human Services would not comment on the leaked memo. The department does not comment on “alleged, leaked documents that purport to indicate the status of deliberations or focus of the department,” national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said. “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and HHS’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to vigorously enforce all laws as written and passed by Congress, prohibiting discrimination in healthcare on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, and disability.”

 

 

 

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