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Florida organization advocates for transgender women with HIV, immigrants

Arianna Lint founded Arianna’s Center in 2015

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Arianna’s Center staff and supporters attend their organization’s lobby day at the Florida State Capitol on Jan. 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Tony Lima)

The founder of a South Florida organization that serves transgender women says her goal remains to change her clients’ lives “in a good way.”

Arianna’s Center CEO Arianna Lint during an interview with the Washington Blade last month at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference in Dallas said her organization is “the first resource for transgender” people in Florida who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and once they are released.

Lint said a combination of grants and private donations allows Arianna’s Center to purchase bus tickets to Florida for trans women after ICE releases them from their custody. Arianna’s Center also provides them with housing, monthly bus passes and access to free health care and English classes so “they can continue their lives.”

“We have to provide everything,” said Lint. “We don’t pay them, but we give them transportation … we put them in school. We try to find them stable housing. We find them a free doctor.”

Lint moved to U.S. to complete transition

Lint, 47, was a lawyer in her native Peru before she moved to the U.S. in order to complete her transition. Lint opened an escort service when she was living in New York.

“It gave me the financial life to continue my life, pay my bills,” Lint told the Blade.

Lint moved to Florida after Sept. 11 and opened a construction company in Orlando. Lint told the Blade she “had a relationship and everything, and then” she tested HIV positive.

“It was a very big shock for me,” she said. “I left my own business and everything.”

Lint was a volunteer at an Orlando HIV clinic before she became a full-time employee. Lint worked for the Florida Department of Health before Sunserve, a Fort Lauderdale-based LGBTQ organization, in 2013 hired her as its trans director.

Lint founded Arianna’s Center in 2015.

“I decided to step out and open my organization because I saw in South Florida there were no trans-led agencies,” Lint told the Blade.

Arianna’s Center, which is based in Wilton Manors, offers a variety of programs to its trans clients. These include home testing and linkage to care for those who test positive.

Lint told the Blade her group conducts needs assessment, and encourages clients who are negative to go on PrEP. Lint also said many of Arianna’s Center’s clients are homeless, sex workers and survivors of domestic violence.

“They don’t go to the office,” she said. “We go to where they are.”

Arianna’s Center partnered with Human Rights Watch on its report about trans women of color who live in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Arianna’s Center also worked with the Transgender Law Center on a Florida and national survey about trans issues.

Lint is a board member of the Trans [email protected] Coalition, a California-based group that advocates for trans immigrants and other groups around the country.

Arianna’s Center opened Puerto Rico office in 2019

Puerto Ricans with HIV are among the vulnerable groups that Hurricane Maria left even more at-risk after it devastated the U.S. commonwealth in September 2017. Arianna’s Center began to work in Puerto Rico a few months later.

Lint told the Blade many Puerto Ricans with HIV come to Florida to receive treatments that are not available on the island. AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Borealis, Gilead Sciences, AIDS United, the Elton John Foundation, the Southern HIV Impact Fund and Miami Dolphins: Football Unites are among the organizations that have given Arianna’s Center funds to expand its work.

Arianna’s Center is working with the University of Puerto Rico to conduct the first needs assessment for people with HIV on the island. Arianna’s Center opened an office in Puerto Rico in 2019.

“They tell us what’s happened in Puerto Rico, so that was of interest for us to go to Puerto Rico and start working over here,” said Lint, referring to Puerto Ricans with HIV with whom Arianna’s Center works.

Arianna’s Center’s staff now includes COO Tony Lima. Lint herself only began to receive a salary late last year.

From left: Arianna’s Center COO Tony Lima and Arianna’s Center founder and CEO Arianna Innuritegui-Lint at Arianna’s Center lobby day at the Florida State Capitol on Jan. 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Tony Lima)

Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado is among those who Lint considers a “mentor.”

Corado in a statement to the Blade said Lint’s “hard work and perseverance has evolved in building a center that is the life-saving key for many Florida and Caribbean trans people.”

“Her work is priceless,” said Corado.

Trans [email protected] Coalition President Bamby Salcedo echoed Corado.

“Arianna Lint is an example of possibility in the trans community,” Salcedo told the Blade. “Through hard work and determination, Arianna has been able to build a great center and be one of the leaders of the trans community in Florida and across the nation.”

Lima said Lint “inspires me on a daily basis.”

“She is the consummate advocate, who goes above and beyond to ensure that trans women of color are represented, included, protected and empowered to fight the discrimination they face daily,” Lima told the Blade. “She leads with passion, dedication and love and for this reason she is not only respected throughout Florida but also across the country.”

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In a historic first, Colorado now has a 1st gentleman as Gov. Polis marries

The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date

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Governor Jared Polis and 1st Gentleman Marlon Reis exchange vows (Screenshot via CBS News Denver)

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis married his longtime partner Marlon Reis in a ceremony that marked the first same-sex marriage of a sitting Out governor in the United States.

The couple was married Wednesday in a small traditional Jewish ceremony at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Reis had matriculated and graduated from. The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date.

“We met online and went out on a date and we went to the Boulder bookstore and then went to dinner,” Polis told KCFR-FM, Colorado Public Radio (CPR).

In addition to family and close friends in attendance, the couple’s two children participated with their 7-year-old daughter serving as the flower girl and their 9-year-old son as the ring bearer.

The governor joked that their daughter was probably more thrilled than anyone about the wedding. “She was all in on being a flower girl. She’s been prancing around. She got a great dress. She’s terrific,” he said CPR reported.

Their son was also happy, but more ambivalent about it all according to Reis. “Kids are so modern that their responses to things are sometimes funny. Our son honestly asked us, ‘Why do people get married?”

Colorado’s chief executive, sworn in as the 43rd governor of Colorado in January 2019, over the course of nearly 20 years as a political activist and following in public service as an elected official has had several ‘firsts’ to his credit.

In 2008 Polis is one of the few people to be openly Out when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as being the first gay parent to serve in the Congress. Then on November 6, 2018, he was the first openly gay governor elected in Colorado and in the United States.

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Gov. Jared Polis And First Gentleman Marlon Reis Are Newlyweds

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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality

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More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Bridgeport, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick

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An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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