By Meghan K. Donovan
“I would come to the Center, and they never had anything for trans* people,” Tamika “Devinity” Jones, HIV Prevention and Trans* Wellness Program Coordinator, said of the beginning of her involvement with the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Jones served as a volunteer for two years and then became a Public Opinion Leader.
“I always thought about having my own trans wellness business,” Jones said. When she was offered her current position, it was initially unpaid. “I told Phyllis [Seven Harris, executive director] I didn’t care about the money,” she said. Jones created the program, which offers transgender and non-binary individuals education, support, and fellowship in a group setting.
Trans* Wellness is a core program of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland that affords an opportunity for transgender and non-binary individuals to discuss different aspects of our journeys, share resources, celebrate success, and support each other as we overcome challenges in a group setting!
This program is designed to spread more information and awareness on the subject of HIV & AIDS and the prevention and treatment of them. These individuals take part in a 10 week training that equips them with all of the skills, knowledge, and information they will need when going out into the community to talk to their peers. Some of their responsibilities are below:
- Conduct at least 20 outreach visits per month to local bars, community centers, businesses, and entertainment venues
- Give at least 50 PrEP referrals per month
- Have at least 50 conversations per month with individuals about PrEP, getting tested, and knowing their status
- Distribute at least 500 items of promotional materials per month (condoms, lube, chap sticks, pill containers, etc.)
- Keep track of these in an organized log to be turned in at the end of each month
- Meet with direct supervisor once per week
Jones’ coming out journey was a difficult one. Her parents kicked her out of their house, and she was later evicted from an apartment complex for being transgender. “My utilities would be shut off and my parking spot would be blocked,” she said. Today, she owns her own home, and it is her favorite place to decompress.
Jones is grateful for the allies that she has encountered. “Allies are what got me through… True allies love you and want you to be your best, without judgment,” she said.
In these difficult times, Jones nonetheless stays inspired. “It’s not about me. It’s about the next generation of trans* people,” she said. Her advice for transgender, non-binary, and questioning people is to “Never regret the things that you’ve experienced because that’s getting you ready for what’s to come.”