June 2012 – NCTE would like to highlight the Trans Youth Support Network in Minnesota as a part of out Trans Advocate Spotlight series.
As the leading organization advocating for transgender people at the federal level, NCTE is very visible, and sometimes we’re looked to as the leader on all work for trans equality. The truth is that most of the work being done for trans equality is being done by organizations at the state and local level, as well as by other national civil rights and LGBT organizations. This work doesn’t just happen through working on federal policy, it also happens through local and state level education, lobbying and grassroots organizing. We’ve decided to highlight some of that work by identifying trans advocates and organizations who are doing great work around the country.
NCTE recognizes the remarkable work of Minnesota’s Trans Youth Support Network (TYSN). Founded in 2004 in response to a rash of violence targeting young trans women of color, TYSN works to promote racial, social, and economic justice for trans youth. TYSN’s activities include creating social, cultural, and leadership development opportunities for youth; educating and training service providers and others who work with you about trans issues; and advocating for change through public policy and other venues.
Katie Burgess, the Executive Director of TYSN said, “it’s just about connecting us to each other” and that creating these connections while providing resources for trans people is extremely powerful. Burgess commented that when she first arrived in Minnesota after many years of struggling with homelessness and drug addiction, “the resources were very accessible and really allowed me to take my life to the next level.” She has since been able to provide phenomenal resources for the youth in the Twin Cities, truly giving back to the community that helped her get to where she is today.
TYSN has been a key player in the Free Cece Support Committee, the coalition leading public education efforts around Cece McDonald’s case. Cece, a survivor of an anti-racist and anti-trans attack last summer, accepted a plea deal in the self-defense killing of one of her assailants. NCTE and TYSN have coordinated media efforts to elevate her story and highlight the problems facing trans people in jails and prison.
TYSN’s other programs include their Network Collaborative, which ties together community organizations committed to supporting trans youth and holding each other mutually accountable for doing so. It even gives youth members the opportunity to be compensated for facilitating informative trainings for different organizations. Together with the Minnesota Trans Health Coalition and Rare Productions, they opened a community space called The Exchange in 2011.