Participants hope training will help reduce discrimination against transgender people

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FARMINGTON — State government employees and advocates at a local nonprofit organization participated in training Wednesday afternoon to become more informed and educated about transgender people to help promote inclusiveness at their place of employment.

The co-directors of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque gave a nearly two-hour presentation titled Transgender 101: Cultural Humility Training at Identity Inc., a Farmington-based LGBTQ community center.

Dale Leedy, grant manager at Identity Inc., said the center started presenting the training sessions last year and that Wednesday's session was the third one.

He said it is important for the center to foster education and knowledge about LGTBQ topics to promote better understanding with community members.

Local organizations including Sexual Assault Services of Northwest Mexico and Childhaven have had employees attend the past training events with the Transgender Resource Center, Leedy said.

In the audience at Wednesday's session were juvenile probation officers from the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department and advocates from the Navajo United Methodist Center New Beginnings program.

Zane Stephens and Adrien Lawyer, the co-directors of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, went over a variety of topics, including discussing the definitions of transgender, transgender man and transgender woman, along with discussing gender and sexual orientation.

Stephens said the work of the center was important to create a greater understanding of transgender people, and he encouraged attendees to ask questions they might otherwise feel embarrassed to ask.

Both Lawyer and Stephens are transgender men.

They spent parts of the training talking about their personal experiences to inform the attendees on some of the discrimination they and other transgender people have encountered in their lives.

During one section, Lawyer shared 12 things he identifies as, including being a parent, transgender, a southerner and a New Orleans Saints fan. He stressed that identifying as transgender was just one part of his life.

The speakers also discussed how a person's assigned sex at birth, their sexual orientation and their gender are three separate things.

Lawyer said a transgender person can identify with any sexual orientation they chose, including being straight or bisexual.

Toward the end of the training, Lawyer and Stephens spoke cited statistics related to issues many transgender people face, including suicide, homelessness and employment.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey shows about 40 percent of respondents have attempted suicide in their lifetime, about nine times the nationwide rate of 4.6 percent, according to the report's executive summary.

About 54 percent of people who are transgender or perceived as transgender in grade school reported being verbally harassed, about 24 percent reported being physically assaulted and 13 percent reported being sexually assaulted because of being transgender, according to the report.

Nearly 30 percent of the respondents reported being homeless at some point in their life, according to the report.

Toni Begay and Beverly Maxwell of the New Beginnings program were two of the people who attended the training.

The program provides long-term housing and support services for victims of domestic violence.

Begay described an interaction during which she struggled to find the preferred pronouns to address a client. She wanted to attend the training because she didn't want to dehumanize any clients in the program.

"If they do come in, they are already suffering from domestic violence," Begay said.

Maxwell said it is important to be informed, and she hoped the training would help her avoid stereotyping people.

"We want to make sure we don't discriminate," Maxwell said.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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