When Chanel Haley transitioned more than two decades ago, resources to navigate her life as a black transgender woman who sometimes faced homelessness were scarce. It’s why she now dedicates so much time to training cops, businesses and other trans people.
“When it came to living in the South, living as a person of color and being trans, advocating for oneself is really important,” Haley said in a new episode of Podcast Q.
“Everything that I had to do, I had to learn on my own to be able to navigate through the systems to be able to survive and make it to where I am today,” she added. “It’s an important skill that people need to understand and learn.”
Haley, the gender policy manager for Georgia Equality and the first Black trans person to work for the Georgia House, turned those experiences into training programs. Armed with a $200,000 grant from the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, a leadership academy was created to help trans people learn how to advocate for themselves.
The latest version of the academy – now in its third year – was going to provide a year-long training cohort with college credit, an internship and stipend, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed its launch. Instead, Haley pivoted to shorter trainings that are a mix of virtual and in-person sessions.
The training focuses on more than just trans people. Haley also works with businesses, prisons and law enforcement agencies, including the Atlanta Police Department, to provide trans humility training. Haley said it’s critically important to change the culture within law enforcement agencies, something that’s gained more attention during the racial justice movement.
“It actually depends on what organization I’m working for, whether it is in housing, or it’s in law enforcement or a corporation,” Haley said. “All of them are about education, pronoun usage, terminology around the community, and then I cater and be more specific.”
“What’s added to law enforcement is more about messaging and how to be able to interact with the community,” she added.
Podcast Q’s wide-ranging interview with Haley also discussed her selection as one of several LGBTQ delegates from Georgia to the Democratic National Convention, voter suppression and its impact on transgender people, trans visibility in the racial justice movement, and turning the energy of protests into lasting political change.
“Protesting is great, speaking out – your voice is great, but it needs to be a call to action with that. And so there’s more to just saying what you don’t like or what you think should be. It needs to be written down, and it needs to be presented to the right people,” Haley said.
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