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Activist Demands Studies on Trans Bodies

Octavia Lewis

Trans activiists led an ACT-UP style protest at the 2017 United Conference on AIDS.

"It's sad that in 2017 we have ask you to acknowledge our existence." That  was trans activist Octavia Lewis, who helped lead a protest at this year's United States Conference on AIDS, says, “The protest came about because we had been sitting in the lunch plenary when we saw the information on the main screen that excluded us from the data.  The doctor at the time came through with wonderful information regarding the MSM community of color — but it’s 2017 and there’s some data that he could have used to highlight our disparities.”

The data that was shown at USCA 2017 lumped trans women of color in with the MSM (men who have sex with men) community, which for starters, doesn't take into account the vast physiological changes that occur when individuals undergo HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).

For many trans activists like Lewis and Achim Howard [WATCH: Our interview with Howard here], the frustration they feel stems from, “being left out and told to wait our turn and that people will return for us like we are incapable of taking care of ourselves.  All we need is access to funds so that we can continue to do the work within our own communities", says Lewis. "Many of us have been doing the work for years and understand what the disparities are because we have faced them or are currently living within them.  I would like to see those bigger organizations distribute some of their funds to local grassroot organizations who do not have the same capacity and structure but are still committed to doing the work.”

Among the studies that could be getting more attention, is a national survey that Positvely Trans did about a year ago, “that I would like to see get more coverage.” Says Lewis, “I know that Washington, D.C. also did a transgender study that came out in 2015. I think that if people took the time to merely google some things, that they would find more than enough information about our community from reputable sources.”

People often ask what the trans community hopes is the outcome of their protest, to the pharmaceutical companies that are listening, and anyone else.  About this Lewis is clear.  “I would like for them to know that we are tired of being used for your funding sources and window dressing.  We are highly capable of engaging in dialogue about issues that pertain to our community.  I would also like for them to understand that we are not interested in residing within problems but would like to present our own solutions to the disparities that plague our community.”



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