Welcome to The Dean’s List! The Dean’s List will profile up-and-comers in Memphis who are certain to be the next group of leaders in the nonprofit, corporate, government, and faith communities. The Dean’s List is curated by Kevin Dean, the Executive Director of Literacy Mid-South.
One in five transgender people in the United States have experienced homelessness in their lives. As a trans woman, Kayla Gore saw the impact homelessness had on transgender people in Memphis through her work with H.O.P.E. and Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. This led her to the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, where she now serves as the Transgender Services Specialist to assist trans people like her who are desperate for equality, peace, and an inclusive environment. Kayla, who has lived as a trans woman for the last six years, is a native of Memphis and is working on her degree in sociology while also working at the center.
Kayla’s work runs the gamut, from leading social groups for the center to supporting the transgender services provided by a recent grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Kayla started Bold & Beautiful, a group for transgender women of color, at the MGLCC, and she also serves as a board member of CLERB (Civilian Law Enforcement Review Bureau), as the tense relationship with law enforcement is a constant source of anxiety for the trans community in Memphis. Kayla also works to ensure that transgender people have the supportive services they need, from affirming healthcare providers to inclusive landlords. Kayla’s passion is to reduce the stigma of being transgender and ensure that “transgender people feel worthy.”
We salute Kayla for working for a better community for trans people in Memphis. As one of the key voices in the trans rights movement in Memphis, we expect to see great things in the future from this hardworking advocate for equal rights.
Name three people in Memphis that you view as mentors.
Paul Garner, Reneka Evans, Tajuana Gore
Trans people face a lot of adversity. What is the MGLCC doing to help reduce stigma and increase the rights of trans people in Memphis?
Firstly, they created my position, Transgender Services Specialist, which will bring the gay and lesbian community closer to the transgender community. We also have the Trans ID Workshop which will assist our transgender consumers in the complete process of changing their names and gender markers with various government agencies.
Transphobia exists even in the gay and lesbian community. Why do you think this is still the case?
People tend to fear the unknown and different. And we are very different and unique.
You started Bold & Beautiful, a support group for trans women of color. What’s the most positive outcome of the group so far?
The group provides a neutral platform for trans women of color to meet, socialize, and dine together. So far B&B has formed relationships between trans women who otherwise would not have met. We talk about healthcare issues, social issues, employment opportunities for the trans community, etc.
The trans community is disproportionately represented in the homeless population nationwide. As an activist fighting for an end to homelessness and transphobia, what will it take in Memphis to ensure that trans teens and adults don’t end up on the street?
HUD already has strict guidelines that must be followed in regards to the LGBT community. However, private entities and landlords are not held to those standards. I believe this is going to take many people of the city to come to the realization that transgender people deserve the same standard of housing.
Healthcare has historically been a source of great anxiety for the trans community. What struggles do trans men and woman face at the doctor or in the emergency room that cisgender people might not be aware of?
Transphobic hospital personnel. i.e. patient transport, nurses, doctors, food service staff, case workers who aren’t familiar with the transgender people.
You became a board member of CLERB (Civilian Law Enforcement Review Bureau). Why did you feel that the trans community needed representation on that board?
Transgender people are just as likely to be victimized by MPD and other local authorities. Having a transgender board member would adequately represent Memphis which should be the makeup of every organization who commits to making Memphis a better city for all of its residents.
How can Memphians be better allies of the trans community?
Live and allow to live and we can all flourish together in prosperity.
What is the one myth about being trans that you want to dispel the most?
I had to research on this question. I asked the ladies of Bold & Beautiful this question and the constant answer I received was “sex worker” and being characterized as being violent.
What is one thing you’re most excited about for Memphis?
I’m excited about our new leadership and the hope that possibly he can eliminate crime in the city and most definitely continue to fight blight.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to shed much needed light on the transgender movement here in Memphis. For a long period, we weren’t being counted. It feels good to be apart of the count.