Gender-Affirming Programs in Eugene During COVID-19

From mini-grants to reading groups, Eugene organizations are providing mental health and gender-affirming support during the pandemic

TransPonder, a nonprofit organization serving transgender residents, sent out a survey early in the pandemic to identify its clients’ most significant needs. “The biggest things that people were seeking were mental health support and community connection,” says TransPonder’s Oblio Stroyman. “We expected it to be more about housing and stuff, but actually what people are looking for is connection and having places to process with people who understand them.”

Stroyman says community support of the kind TransPonder facilitates through social groups and other programs is critical to individual wellness, particularly during the pandemic. 

Liz Byrne from Point of Pride, a Eugene-based nonprofit that helps fund gender-affirming surgeries, says trans organizations are integral to networks of mutual support. “We are part of this really beautiful history of trans resilience and people coming together who have been historically marginalized and excluded,” Byrne says. “Out of that has come a wonderful testament to resilience and community building.”

TransPonder and Point of Pride have shifted their operations during the COVID-19 shutdown. Despite the challenges posed by the evolving health crisis, both organizations are still offering a wide variety of support services.

TransPonder facilitates support groups and social get-togethers. The transgender-led nonprofit has run anti-oppression trainings for agencies and businesses, cooking classes, swim groups, clothing swaps and professional trainings for transgender community members. Unofficially, TransPonder also does community advocacy.

 During the pandemic, TransPonder has taken many programs online and limited in-person services. A remote book club and three new virtual support groups, including a transgender Black, Indigenous and people of color support group, have been added to its list of programs. TransPonder is also dropping off books, art kits and hormone products to clients directly and has partnered with local businesses to provide other supplies.

“The community is supporting each other and showing up for each other and making sure people have what they need,” Stroyman says.

Point of Pride is providing a different kind of mutual support during the pandemic. The volunteer-run organization created a COVID-19 mini-grant program for trans and gender expansive people to help pay for hormone replacement therapy medical supplies and mental health support. The grants range from $50 to $75 and are distributed on a rolling basis. As of this writing, the program has distributed $17,425 to 238 recipients.

Byrne says the grants are needed, but that $75 doesn’t address the systemic discrimination their clients face.

“It’s a little bit like drinking from a water hydrant,” Byrne says. “There’s just so much needed given how systemically the community has been underserved for so long or even outright targeted.”

 Both Byrne and Stroyman agree that showing up and doing what they can for their community is essential.  

 “We have to fight for the things that we have, or we don’t have them,” Stroyman says.

 This year’s Aug. 8 Pride parade takes that fight to the streets of Eugene. Rather than a party in the park, Stroyman says Eugene Pride will be a march organized by TransPonder, Black Unity and a number of other organizations for Black trans lives.  

“This year is just about as close to the original incident that inspired Pride as it’s ever been,” Stroyman says. Stroyman is referencing the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which in part sparked the gay liberation movement and were supposed to have been started by Black transgender women. Stroyman says, “This year it’s people coming together to fight a force rather than rainbow capitalism.”

Byrne says 2020 Pride is returning to its historic roots. “It’s about fighting against systemic oppression, uplifting the most marginalized members of the community, separating out corporate entities from pride and really having the focus be on perseverance through the struggle.”

The march for Black Trans Lives is at noon Aug. 8 at the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse. To apply for Point of Pride’s COVID-19 mini-grant program, visit Access TransPonder’s programs through Transponder.Commmunity.