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Roanoke activists ask community to support transgender, gender non-conforming people as danger rises

In 2021, officials say at least 28 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been murdered

There's a push here in Virginia for the entire community to support a minority.

ROANOKE, Va. – While June is all about celebrating pride, local activists say it is also a time to recognize how much work still needs to be done.

“It still is scary to be trans here,” said author and associate professor of history at Roanoke College Dr. Samantha Rosenthal. “So, we need all of the support we can get.”

So far in 2021, at least 28 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been murdered, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has been tracking trans deaths since 2013. Most are Black or Latin-x and most in the Southeastern United States, which includes Virginia.

“For centuries people have been living genders that they weren’t given at birth. That’s not a new thing,” commented Rosenthal.

As Rosenthal writes her book Living Queer History, she discovered Roanoke has a deep trans history with support groups dating back to the 1980s.

Here are local support groups for those in need:

  • Trans Parent, a support group that provides a safe space for parents and families in the trans community.
  • Roanoke Diversity Center (Ladies and Gents of the Blue Ridge, House of Expression, and more)
  • Youth SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance), a peer-based support group for LGBTQ+ youth and allies.

“In our area, I think we have this little bubble,” stated Wesley Cook.

In the 80s, Rosenthal said the support group consisted exclusively of middle-class white trans women. While things have changed, Roanoke Diversity Center Board member Wesley Cook says there is room to grow.

“We’re already under a different kind of stressor that we already have to deal with on top of everyone else’s everyday stressor,” added Cook.

A recent survey by The Trevor Project found more than half of transgender and non-binary youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

“Our youth are very aware of that and it affects their sense of stress and safety in the world,” commented Licensed Professional Counselor Dr. Laura Farmer, who also leads Youth Saga.


About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.