SF Weekly Letters: Web Extra

(1) AMA House of Delegates Resolution 122 (A-08) "Removing Financial Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients." Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/16/a08_hod_resolutions.pdf

(2) American Psychological Association. (2008, August). Resolution on transgender, gender identity, and gender expression nondiscrimination. Available at: http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/policy/transgender.html.

(3) Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report. Retrieved November 26, 2008 from: http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?sid=175

Rebecca Allison, MD

Stephanie Brill

Gender Spectrum Education and Training

Laura S. Brown, Ph.D. ABPP, Seattle

Past President, Divisions 35 and 44 of APA, President-Elect, 2009, Division of Trauma Psychology of APA

Rea Carey

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Sand Chang, PhD

Clinical Psychologist, LaGuardia Community College, Queens, NY

Randall Ehrbar, PsyD

New Leaf Services for Our Community

Lisa K. Fowler, PsyD

Jamison Green

Author, Educator, Policy Consultant

Peter Goldblum, PhD, MPH

Professor and Director of Center for LGBTQ Evidence-based Applied Research (CLEAR), Pacific Graduate School of Psychology

R. Nick Gorton, MD

Lyon-Martin Health Services

Dawn Harbatkin, MD

Medical Director Lyon-Martin Health Services

Ann Harrison, MA

Executive Director, New Leaf Services for our Community

William A. Henkin, PhD

Dan Karasic, MD

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCSF

JoAnne Keatley, MSW

Lori Kohler, MD

Lisette Lahana, MSW, LCSW

Arlene Istar Lev LCSW, CASAC

Family Therapist and Educator

Teri McGinnis

Executive Director Lyon-Martin Health Services

Carol F. Milazzo, MD

Transgender Health Alliance

John H. Otto, MLIS

Transgender Activist

Julia Serano, PhD

Author and Transgender Activist

Anne Vitale PhD

Licensed Psychologist

Michael Williams, MSW

Jay Wilson, MSW/MDIV

Assistant Director, The Welcome Ministry

Kelley Winters, PhD

Medical Policy Advocate

Disapointed: I am writing this letter with great sadness because I feel our community has been betrayed by Lauren Smiley in her article. I was approached by Smiley to participate in this story when she came to our agency, a nonprofit HIV prevention organization called El/La Program Para Translatinas, located in the Mission District. We are a support group which provides HIV prevention services in a safe environment where many trans-Latinas are able to participate in our workshops about how to improve themselves personally and professionally.

Smiley mentioned to me the subject of her story; I was reluctant to contribute because during our conversation about the article she told me she thought that "Translatinas are coming to San Francisco seeking asylum" and "Translatinas are prostitutes who learned that even a lengthy rap sheet in this country won't seriously threaten their chances of receiving protected immigration status."

I was very honest with Smiley when I told her that this was not necessarily the truth. In fact, most transgender refugees do not have any kind of criminal record and are law-abiding people like everyone else.

In my two years of experience as a program coordinator for the El/La Program, I have seen the hardship, the pain, and the suffering caused by the violence and rejection most of the Translatinas have endured in their home countries and in the U.S. as well. Smiley has chosen to write a story that shows only one side of what some Translatinas must face, due to the stereotyping and stigma that this community has endured throughout their lives.

It is unfortunate that Smiley has written a partial and sensationalist story, and not the whole story of the experiences transgender Latinas face. Nowhere in the article does she address any of the issues that I, as a health provider, discussed with her — such as discrimination, lack of housing and employment, and violence Translatinas confront every day while struggling to make a life here in San Francisco.

Her story is not only anti-immigrant; it also dehumanizes Translatinas and promotes hate. That was one of my main concerns during my conversation with Smiley, and I wonder why she did not write about our conversation. Instead, she chose to sensationalize and abuse the people that trusted her with their stories.

She has not only betrayed me as an individual; she has also betrayed the people involved in her story. She has placed at risk a group of people who face discrimination, violence, and hate on a daily basis.

Alexandra Byerly

Program Coordinator/Health Educator

El/La Transgender Latina HIV Prevention Program

Lauren Smiley responds: While I thank Ms. Byerly for talking with me, I disagree with her take on our interaction. I first spoke to her early on in the reporting process after another source told me about trans-Latinas seeking asylum. I'd be lying if I claimed to remember exactly what I told her at the time, but I do recall asking her whether some of the women worked as sex workers, and asked her about her program's outreach to them.

I know I never said, "Translatinas are prostitutes who learned that even a lengthy rap sheet in this country won't seriously threaten their chances of receiving protected immigration status." Even when I interviewed Ms. Byerly for the second time, I had still talked only briefly with two women working on Post Street who were seeking asylum, and I still had no knowledge of how that would affect their asylum cases. So it makes no sense that I would have said something definitive like that.

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