Myles Brady, a Chicago native from Hyde Park, has been named Howard Brown Health Center's first-ever Transgender Outreach Coordinator. He has taken those first steps to make Howard Brown his home and to reach out to an often marginalized cross-section of the LGBT community.
Windy City Times: As a trans man, when did you first know that you were trans? Is there a "coming out" process for transgender individuals? To those who do not understand what transgenderism is, how would you explain it to them?
Myles Brady:As a very young child, I knew that there was something uniquely different about me. I realized that I wasn't 100-percent male like my brother or female like my sister. I didn't know what "trans" was when I was younger, so I had to learned how to love and accept myself as that third sex.
I lived as a gender-nonconforming child. My parents gave me a lot of freedom and even though they didn't understand it they gave me the space to dress and express myself as I pleased. Coming out as trans is a different process for everyone. I cherish the fact that I got to explore aspects of my transness as a young child and that my parents were supportive in this way. Transgender is not identifying with the sex that you are assigned at birth, and ultimately making a decision and steps to live as the sex that you authentically know that you are.
WCT: What are your duties as the transgender outreach coordinator? Where would you like to see trans relations and outreach go in the future?
Myles Brady:The transgender outreach coordinator at Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC ) is a new position that HBHC created this year. It's distinctly geared to engage transpeople into three programs that our team runs: our monthly Drop-In called After Hours, and our transgender specific support groups TYRA and T-Time. While I am excited to be collaborating with other organizations on the issues of trans health, my goal is to reach the folks who have never set foot into an LGBTQ medical center due to the years of transphobia and oppression our community has had to endure.
In my time in the field, I have seen a lack of representation and visibility of trans men of color and I felt that I had something more to offer the community in a full-time capacity. I've been mentoring young people in an unofficial capacity for years and definitely see the great need for strong mentors, community outreach on the South and West [sides] of Chicago, [and] HIV prevention and life skills.
My job as the transgender outreach coordinator operates twofold. I oversee community outreach for HBHC Trans services and I also coordinate the TYRA programming at the BYC. I have a passionate approach for working with youth and I also believe in grassroots organizing and community collaboration. I'm excited to use my connections to extend Howard Brown's reach to other parts of the city that are in need of community based resources.
WCT: How large of a population does the Howard Brown transgender outreach program reach? Do you think people of color and other minorities have insufficient access to the kind of health and psychological care necessary to make a safe transition from one gender to another? How do you think Howard Brown can help satisfy that void?
Myles Brady:Our team has set a goal of reaching 175 trans people a month with the hope that of those 175, 100 will be trans women of color. While our programs serve all trans and gender non-conforming people, our goal is to engage as many transwomen of color because they are the most at risk to be living with HIV. Historically in this country, minorities have had insufficient access to health and mental services and care. And even though no agency is without its flaws, Howard Brown's very existence has always been to eliminate the disparities in health care experience through research, education, and the provision of services.
WCT: The trans community, as a whole, is an "at-risk" population, seeing higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide as well as higher rates of hate crime and bullying. But within the sphere of transgender people, do you think there is a particular group that is even more marginalized or at risk? Why?
Myles Brady:I feel all trans people are a part of the "at-risk" population. I could talk about all the times I have been made to feel unwelcome, physically unsafe, or the constant risk of automatic criminalization just for being Black and male.
However, trans women of color have it particularly rough, they experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault, more likely to be discriminated against during hiring. They are more likely to be fired and denied promotions, are more often affected by HIV. They are also more likely to have a court stop or limit their relationship with their children, are at increased risk of incarceration, serve more time and experience greater physical and sexualized assault from law enforcement and while incarcerated.
WCT: Where do you see yourself in the future?
Myles Brady:I see myself still on the front line doing the work! My community has gain a lot of momentum but we still have a long way to go. And in the next 10 years I see my partner, Precious Davis, and I starting a family and working as spiritual healers and philanthropist within the trans and African-American communities.