April 3, 2023

Transgender Resource Center is expanding its services

The Transgender Resource Center will expand into opening a transitional housing model.

The new executive director, Michael Trimm, said he is looking at properties and that the goal is to be able to offer transitional housing to three-to-four individuals by the end of 2024.

Trimm said this is a long cherished dream of TGRC. He called it coming “full circle.”

“Our founders envisioned a housing program. I’m happy to be the person who gets us over the finish line,” he said.

Trimm said the goal, for now, is to start small.

“When there is so much need, it feels so awful to say. But we want to be sustainable. We want to do the very best to provide the options to choose to get to the next chapter in their life. Three to four is the sweet spot to start and to grow from there,” he said.

Adrian Lawyer, co-founder of TGRC, said opening transitional housing is “fulfilling plans we started so long ago.”

“It’s one thing Zane [Stephens, also cofounder] and I dreamed of, transitional housing. Michael is making it come true,” Lawyer said.

Lawyer, who along with Stephens started TGRC in 2007, intended to step away from TGRC last year and stepped down from his position as executive director. Trimm, who began as operations manager in 2020, replaced Lawyer in that role last July, Trimm said. But Lawyer came back to TGRC in the fall to continue the training work he began in the early days of the organization. 

Lawyer said one of the biggest culture shifts he’s seen over the last 16 years has been the trainings themselves.

He said he always asks, at the beginning of the training, for a show of hands from the class if the trainees know a transgender person. He said in the early days of the trainings, the number of hands was “always less than a third.”

“Now it’s more than two-thirds. That’s a big cultural marker,” he said.

Lawyer said that he started TGRC in 2007 because he transitioned in 2005. He called it a “dark and isolated transition.”

“I couldn’t find what I needed. It was hard to find the doctor who treated me. I thought, if I’m having this much trouble, then others must really be getting lost. People like me are not the most affected. My situation felt really scary,” Lawyer said.

His goal from the beginning was to center the organization’s impact on those most affected. 

“If we’re centering the most impacted people, we’re not leaving anybody out,” he said. 

Now the organization has become something of a regional hub for transgender individuals, particularly in the wake of anti-trans rhetoric and legislation taking place in neighboring states. Utah passed and signed the first anti-LGBTQ bill of 2023 with a law that bans gender-affirming healthcare in that state. Texas passed a law in 2021 banning transgender youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Lawyer said TGRC gets calls from individuals in surrounding states because the organization is the only one of its kind in the region. 

“We get calls from people moving here. We don’t mean to be the regional center but we are. We’re very much a New Mexico organization. But we serve people in El Paso and Durango, [Colorado]. We travel outside the state when we’re invited,” he said.

Lawyer said the reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare bills that passed the New Mexico Legislature this session are landmark bills and he said it’s imperative to TGRC that “we hold onto our political climate here.”

“Some [anti-trans] bills are introduced here but they can’t get out of committee. We don’t have to fight those dangerous things,” Lawyer said. 

Lawyer said the next legislative frontier is passing legislation to help incarcerated transgender individuals. He said California passed legislation in recent years that allows people to be housed in pods based on gender identity rather than genitals. 

He said he’d like to see similar legislation passed in New Mexico, but he said it likely won’t happen next year, which is a 30-day legislative session. 

Trimm, whose background before coming to TGRC was in the corporate hospitality industry, called the work “not easy” and he cited the deaths of individuals the organization serves as well as the death of a staff person as part of what makes the work “mentally and emotionally draining.”

But, he said that because of the legislative wins this year “New Mexico is definitely winning.” He said his long-term goal is for the organization to hold multiple properties to provide immediate shelter but also to provide a more intermediary type of shelter with more space and then an independent living space as a last stop for individuals almost ready to move into their own housing.

But for now, the transitional housing model will provide a bed and an opportunity for what he called “more deeply engaged case management to get to that next chapter of their life.”

He said the space will also help individuals with untreated or undiagnosed challenges they have never gotten under control. He said TGRC has received mentorship and support from other trans-led organizations.  

“This is sorely needed in New Mexico and all across the country,” Trimm said. 

Lawyer said the organization has expanded its reach over the years. It started its first drop-in center in 2012. The drop-in center helps individuals to legally change their name, helps individuals to update their identification documents, helps with employment assistance, offers referrals and a provider directory and also offers showers, laundry facilities, a permanent mailing address, permanent storage, prepared meals and nonperishable food, computer access, rapid HIV testing and nonmedical case management. TGRC also partners with other organizations that provide other outreach services. 

Since TGRC began, Lawyer estimates the organization has provided 3,500 trainings “for every conceivable group,” and through those trainings, he said he estimates he has trained tens of thousands of individuals.

He said one place where he is seeing the impact is in healthcare. 

“People are still having tons of trouble in healthcare offices,” he said. “But now we’re hearing the right pronouns. We’re moving the culture along in our state.”