The first Trans Leadership Academy (TLA) cohort celebrated graduation this past July, marking a momentous achievement for the program graduates and for trans leadership in Massachusetts! The TLA is a leadership and job-skills development program designed for BIPOC, low-income, and/or formerly incarcerated transgender and nonbinary adults with the overarching goals to build trans power and advance lived equity.
When MTPC conducted our Working for Lived Equity (W4LE) Community Needs Assessment in 2019, at least half of all respondents identified employment, housing stability and homelessness, and paying bills and emergency funds, as among their top 3 concerns regarding basic needs. Based on this report, we got to work to develop a program to create pathways to sustainable power-building.
Through the guidance and input from our Community Advisory Board, MTPC launched the three-month pilot program in Boston this past April with a 10-person cohort instructed by Kay Martinez, TLA Curriculum Developer, and MG Xiong, MTPC’s Director of Programs. Through relevant workshops and genuine connections, the TLA cultivated an educational environment that centers trans experiences and acknowledges lived inequities for transgender people right here in Massachusetts.
At the heart of the TLA is a holistic approach to empowerment. True social mobility involves addressing a range of needs, from professional growth to personal well-being. So in designing and operating this program, MTPC aimed to provide comprehensive support through weekly programming with learning sessions on employment readiness topics over group dinner, mentorship connections, and material/financial resources, fostering meaningful relationships at each turn. Included below are experiences from people involved in the Trans Leadership Academy Spring 2023 session and data points from our TLA 2023 Impact Assessment. These reflections will inform how we build up our program to prepare for the next Trans Leadership Academy that will tentatively launch in February 2024!
– A TLA graduate shared, “TLA has helped me grasp my skills and build confidence in those skills. Although I haven’t gotten a position during the program, I believe I have all the skills to ensure I can shift from [my current position] to more creative [and desired] work. I am super excited for the next chapter in my life.”
– Another program member wrote, “Working with TLA has provided me with the courage, knowledge, and resources to take action and work towards a better life that is lived for myself and my community, instead of resigning myself to a life of struggle and misery. Were it not for the tools provided to me by this program I don’t know if I’d have the confidence to continue pursuing a career that won’t drain me of my joy, and to work towards my long term goals.”
– “The TLA was t4t (trans-for-trans) through and through. There’s an incredibly relieving and uplifting feeling that you get when you’re in a room full of people who you don’t have to explain yourself to, who get it… so much of trans joy is being with other trans people,” says Director of Programs, MG Xiong who co-instructed the Spring session. “Before content and materials and logistics and limitations, my priority was in making this space a generator for trans joy, to connect community members to one another, to meet lifelong friends and professional connections. And I think we did just that.”
– A program mentor shared, “It was obvious that an intentional community was built for the mentees that was really nourishing and energizing.”
Education and Career Growth
– Of the participants who want to advance their education, 40% took initial steps towards advancing their education, mainly researching programs to apply to and compiling application materials.
– Of the participants who completed the final survey, 50% started a new job or internship during the program. Participants’ average employment satisfaction score increased from 2.33/4 to 2.67/4 by the end of the program.
Basic Needs through Financial and Material Empowerment
– At the beginning of the program, 70% of participants thought it was very difficult for them to pay for usual expenses within the last 30 days, including food, rent/mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, student loans etc. This financial instability decreased significantly to only 17% of participants at the end of the program.
– On a financial security scale of 1 being very difficult to pay for usual expenses and 4 being not at all difficult, participants’ average financial security at baseline was 1.3/4, which increased to 2/4 by the end of the program.
– 50% of participants at baseline were very worried that they would run out of food before having money to find more within the last 2 weeks. This percentage remained the same at the end of the program.
– On a food security scale of 1 being very worried about running out of food and 4 being not worried at all, participants’ average food security at baseline was 1.8/4, which increased to 2/4 by the end of the program.
– 30% of participants at the beginning of the program noted they did not have a steady place to live within the past 30 days, which decreased to 17% of participants at the end of the program.
– The financial stipend provided to participants allowed participants to partially cover their rent, bridge the income gap between job changes, and pay off previous debts. These actions both supported participants’ financial security as well as their mental health, knowing they had some steady income for several months.
– The provided bus pass allowed participants to easily access the program and previously set aside transportation money to be used for other expenses such as food.
– The provided laptop allowed one participant to take a job they otherwise would not have been able to take due to the need to provide one’s own technology.
Mental Health and Connection
– 22% of participants at baseline reported poor mental health in the last 30 days. Of those who completed the final survey, zero participants reported poor mental health within the last 30 days of the program. On a mental health scale of 1 being poor mental health and 4 being excellent mental health, participants’ average mental health at baseline was 1.88/4, which increased to 2.17/4 by the end of the program.
– Two participants who completed the final survey reported contacting new health care providers because of the financial, technological, or logistical resources provided by TLA.
– One participant noted “I really appreciated being around other trans people… I have not found a place I felt comfortable in more than one identity facet since college.”
– The assessment found mentor-participant meetings covered a wide range of topics. Common topics included discussing the intricacies of one’s identities; career development and growth, especially current workplace challenges or long-term goals; and personal life challenges, such as participants’ mental health struggles. Mentors also directly helped participants fill out forms or applications to access community resources or apply for jobs.
– One participant noted, “I feel that [my mentor] took the time to listen to me and fully understand my goals before offering [their] own knowledge. That created an ambiance of equality that made me feel safe to learn and also be curious and unapologetic.”
To learn how you can become involved with the Trans Leadership Academy, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in providing financial support for the Trans Leadership Academy, please contact Kelsey at email@example.com.