2020 First Half In Review – The Resilience of Trans Communities Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published September 1, 2020
Language English

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Dear Friends of APTN,

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the lives of trans and gender diverse communities, and the critical advocacy work that our community partners do. In the past months since the pandemic started, groups, organisations and agencies around the world have had to reimagine how to support communities most in need of financial, health and peer support, and we continue to ask ourselves how we can do better to alleviate the hardships that communities are experiencing right now.

As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, trans and gender diverse organisations and communities across Asia and the Pacific rallied to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable. In consultation with these groups, APTN began a series of projects in March 2020 to support COVID-19 response initiatives. This included the development of the APTN COVID-19 Community Support Fund which provided grants to community groups and trans human rights defenders across Asia and the Pacific.

This fund was developed after analysing findings from the rapid assessment that documented the challenges faced by trans and gender diverse people during this COVID-19 health crisis. The fund has been distributed to 21 trans-led programmes, groups, organisations and partners in 13 countries, and has been used, amongst other things, to support community members’ survival with essential supplies such as food rations or personal protective equipment (PPE), or to sustain their organisations.

In collaboration with other organisations, COVID-19 resources including the following were created:

COVID-19 has shifted the way trans organising is happening, and as a trans-led organisation firmly rooted to movement building, we knew that quick strategic pivoting was necessary to address the inequities and injustice our trans communities continue to experience. While we have actively taken steps to protect the well-being of our partners, staff, and the communities in which we all work, we know too that we must not be distracted and we continue to advance and advocate for the progression of trans rights in national, regional, and international spaces.

In January, alongside over 150 healthcare providers in Hanoi, Vietnam, we attended the WPATH Global Education Initiative Conference (GEI). While there, APTN developed an interactive session, engaging the local healthcare providers on their current knowledge and understanding of trans issues. The Executive Director also sat on two panels regarding mental health, ensuring that a community perspective was included.

For supporting the GEI and improving access to trans healthcare worldwide through education, WPATH also awarded APTN with a ‘Recognition of Collaboration’.

In March, two members of the team attended the Global Equality Fund Stakeholders Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, alongside Jonathan “Lady Gaga” Wala from Hetura NCD LGBT Group in Papua New Guinea. In their sessions, they shared about global trends in the trans movement, safety, security and well-being, challenges being faced by communities, and how these challenges are being addressed.

In July, APTN presented 4 abstracts as part of their AIDS2020: Virtual online poster exhibition. These e-posters encompassed projects subjects like barriers to accessing HIV, gender-affirming and other healthcare services, in 11 countries around Asia and the Pacific – one of which is a trans-led and driven research on the availability, accessibility, and barriers to HIV, gender-affirming and other healthcare services for trans people.

With the addition of a Human Rights and Advocacy Officer this year, our advocacy work has been further amplified, especially in the face of COVID-19 where it is more important than ever. We supported partners in Nepal and Singapore in their engagement with the UN mechanisms by providing technical support in the drafting of reports for the Universal Periodic Review; contributed to the first ever position paper of LGBTI Stakeholder Group and highlighted the gaps in the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goals as part of the drafting team; and made a written submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women about how current penal laws address rape against transgender persons.

The Second Half of 2020

As we move into the second half of 2020, we have embarked on a number of exciting initiatives. Here is a selection of some of them.

APTN x YouthLead Collaboration  – Dignity Amidst COVID-19: Trans Youth Leading The Response

With the support of UNAIDS, the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) and Youth LEAD have worked together to increase the visibility and voices of trans and gender diverse youth leaders throughout Asia and the Pacific, through a project titled Dignity Amidst COVID-19: Trans Youth Leading The Response.

This series will run every Friday from 31 July to 8 September 2020. Read the first post in the series, about Amar from Indonesia, here.

Amplifying Trans Advocacy Fellowship

This fellowship programme will train trans and gender diverse human rights defenders to utilise the international human rights accountability mechanisms, such as UPR and treaty monitoring bodies, to amplify their existing advocacy work around trans rights at national and international levels.

This fellowship will be held online between 15 September – 20 October 2020. Applications for the Fellowship are now closed.

Public Campaigning for Advocacy and Social Change

A series of online workshops were launched enhance the skills of trans and gender diverse people for public campaigning for advocacy, titled #SkillsForChange: Public Campaigning For Advocacy & Social Change.

These workshops, held every Friday starting 31 July 2020, were conducted in collaboration with queer advocates and campaigners from across Asia and the Pacific, including Alok Vaid-MenonIndu HarikumarJac sm KeePhylesha Brown-ActonPoint Of ViewThe Queer Muslim ProjectShh…Diam!Smita, and Vincy Chan.

Read more about these workshops at bit.ly/aptn-public-campaign.

APTN has initiated an organisational assessment and development process with 22 trans-led and trans-inclusive partner groups and organisations in the movement, This process started in Jan and is expected to conclude in Sep 2020. 

Through the Organisational Capacity Assessment Tool (OCAT), which is an inward-looking reflective tool for groups to facilitate a self-assessment on their capacity and identify areas where they may want to focus on strengthening. The tool is based on review of regional and global tools and best practices, and based on APTN’s ‘Finding Our Voice, Finding Our Place’ report, where most groups wanted organisational sustainability such as funding and strong organising and mobilisation.

The regional organisational assessment and capacity development report will serve as a baseline for the continuing organisational development support for partner groups, as enshrined in one of APTN’s pillars of work.

On September 18th, APTN will co-moderate a webinar on Transgender Health and HIV in Asia alongside Tangerine Community Health Clinic by Institute of HIV Research and Innovation (IHRI). This webinar features advocates, doctors, and other experts from organisations around the region and beyond, such as LoveYourself in the Philippines and Blue Diamond Society in Nepal, and will provide updates on transgender health and HIV and aims to shape the agenda for collaboration on these issues as we move into the future.

Sign up to attend at this link

APTN will host a webinar on Transgender Health and COVID-19 along with the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM). The webinar will share examples from medical and community experts on the state of health practices, policies and laws that deprive or enable trans people in accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender affirming care, general healthcare, and to live authentically as themselves in times of COVID-19. 

In light of these barriers to the trans community’s health and well-being, we will hear how communities and health services are still working to improve the healthcare landscape during COVID-19 times.

In these times, it is more important than ever to stand in solidarity with those most vulnerable, including transgender persons, and prioritise the healthcare and social protection of these communities.

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