In Wilton Manors, Florida, one woman’s dream to see more intersectional LGBTQIA activism blossomed into a community hub dedicated to serving the needs of trans folks across the state. TransLatin@ Coalition/ Arianna’s Center provides education, employment, immigration, and healthcare opportunities and establishes support networks to develop leadership and advocacy skills. Here, founder Arianna Lint tells me about building her organization, tackling anti-blackness, and mobilizing her community.
Where are you from?
I’m from Lima, Peru originally. I was born in Lima, November 21st, 1972. But my entire life when I was growing up I was in Chimbote, which is like six hours from Lima. It’s a beautiful, beautiful small puerto pesquero (fishing port).
What does your current work life consist of?
Well, now I work for myself with the organization I created. I’m helping the most marginalized community in South Florida and also in Florida generally because now we’ve started services in Orlando. So really in two years we can take all of Florida. We provide consultation in Orlando to a few agencies that want to open or run transgender programs. I was just in Orlando conducting the first name-change clinic for one of the groups up there. They have a group of transgender individuals in Orlando that they provide with leadership tools, so I provide consultations to those kinds of groups that want to start activities.
Tell me a little bit about Arianna’s Center and the services you provide.
Arianna’s Center’s mission is rooted in my own experience as a trans woman of color, living with HIV and navigating transphobia, misogyny, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment. [I] had a strong conviction to not just survive but to build an organization capable of helping others. I built Arianna’s Center as the vehicle to achieve that vision – with and for the help of other trans people – mostly trans women of color facing the same obstacles. Through a combination of support from mentors, leaders and volunteers and through the support of Trans Latin@ Coalition and Trans United, I was able to formalize [my] organization, structure and strategy and to acquire fiscal sponsorship and strategic support. The same core group of trans women of color – now expanded – continues to power Arianna’s Center on the ground but they have also built new relationships and new key allies with coalitions and partners in S. Florida, so we have also been able to play a mentorship and leadership role for others working to build the movement and provide services.
What’s been the biggest challenge in opening the center?
Southern Florida has some of the highest rates of HIV in general and in particular among trans women of color in all of the U.S. Although there are large numbers of Latinx people living in southern Florida, the state itself is very conservative and anti-immigrant bias is pervasive. This reality has only increased after the recent set of elections. Because of a series of conservative administrations, the already threadbare patchwork of services for people to survive have become even less robustly funded. This has dramatically impacted all marginalized people in southern Florida but has had a particularly negative and dramatic impact on transgender people and in particular transgender people of color.
What’s been your favorite part?
I always knew that my community was full of leaders, brilliance, wisdom and tenacity.
What do you think is an issue within the Latinx community that we need to address?
To be very specific, in southern Florida, there is tension across race. Even as a majority Latinx people, we see the way in which colorism plays out. As part of our ongoing education efforts, we are working to center education and practices that root out and counter anti-blackness – externalized and internalized. We believe this will be crucial in our efforts to build power – not just within Latinx trans communities – but with the increasing numbers of non-Latinx black immigrants and other racial groups.
We approach our work from an intersectional perspective because we live and die as a result of our intersections. We are targets because of the color of our skin, the way we present our gender, the languages we do and do not speak, our class status, the work we do, the documents we do and do not carry, the money and educational experiences we lack. We do not pause to examine if the discrimination we experience or the violence that threatens us centers one marginalized identity over another. And so we know that to develop into effective organizing and advocacy strategy, we must learn to love and accept our full selves and to learn about and advocate in a way that addresses those root causes that create the conditions where we first learned to not love ourselves and that animate so much of the hate, violence, discrimination and oppression we face every day.
What makes you feel strong?
Centering trans leadership is the definition of who we are as an organization. Arianna’s Center is not about me. It is about a core team of marginalized trans people – mostly trans women of color – coming together and redefining our lives. We are constantly working to recruit and develop new leaders, even as we work to help people stabilize their lives. These things are linked for us because they are linked for our community.
Why do you think it’s important to give a voice to the Latina experience of being a Southern woman?
We also want to build our organization to continue to center the most marginalized but to do so in a manner that all trans people – of any race, gender expression, or lived experience – are welcome and supported fully.
*This is a part of an ongoing series featuring Latinas and Latinx in the South by Isabella Gomez.
Isabella Gomez is a third-year Journalism student at Georgia State University. She is also pursuing a double minor in Film & Video and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. A native of Venezuela, she will probably speak faster than you can understand in either English or Spanish, but will happily oblige if you ask her to slow down. Apart from going to school, Isabella enjoys fighting the stigmas surrounding menstruation, binge-watching movies and TV shows, awkwardly dancing at concerts, and hula-hooping. Follow her on twitter @isabellephant