I’m a transgender business owner — the pandemic has hit me hard. Here’s why:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made many small businesses suffer, forcing them to shut their doors, lay off employees, and look to the government for relief. If you’re transgender, survival before the pandemic was difficult as is, making the economic effects of COVID even harsher for trans-led businesses.

According to a 2020 study, transgender Americans have a 31% poverty rate, in comparison to 17% for cisgender individuals. Due to transphobia, many trans people are discriminated against during job interviews or in the workplace itself, making it incredibly difficult to find employment.

When you combine these already grave statistics for trans Americans with the economic devastation of the pandemic, it’s a disaster recipe for trans business owners. Trans-led businesses and organizations are suffering more during the pandemic, leading to increased petitions for government support and relief. Below, three transgender business owners detail how and why the pandemic has affected them, and how you can help.

Iya Dammons
She/her/hers
Executive Director
Baltimore Safe Haven
Baltimore, MD

1.) Do you think the pandemic has affected trans people at higher rates?

I think that the pandemic has affected trans people and trans-led businesses at higher rates. Many trans people are left homeless, whether it is because of discrimination or family rejection. Even before the pandemic, the trans population has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, homelessness, violence, and murder. The pandemic has only exacerbated these problems for trans people as many couldn’t even find employment before COVID.

2.) How has your organization adapted to the pandemic?

During the pandemic, we’re the only trans-led organization in Baltimore and the only mobile outreach unit for trans people. We’re providing lunch and dinner for our youth. Our mobile outreach unit works with sex workers, providing hand sanitizers, safer sex kits, naloxone trainings, hot meals, and hygiene supplies. We’ve been offering mental health services via zoom and a delivery program for people with compromised immune systems and the elderly population. We have quarantine options for our homeless youth, including on-site showers and laundry services.

3.) How can people support your organization?

You can find out more about Baltimore Safe Haven online at: https://www.baltimoresafehaven.org/. We accept donations directly through our website.

Dezjorn Gauthier
He/him/his
President
Dezjorn International LLC
Muskego, WI

1.) How has the pandemic affected you as a trans business owner?

Each branch of Dezjorn International has been affected, whether through a decrease in sales, cancellation of contracts, or high demand for necessities within the trans community. The majority of our services are provided online or remote, but our greatest impact was seen in the foundation. We have been working rigorously to get food and toiletries to community members, especially those of black trans and gender nonconforming experience. Overall, we have found it difficult to gain funding. We are not just trans-owned, but also black-owned, making us “the last pick” when it comes to lending.

2.) Do you think trans people face more financial difficulties in this pandemic than cis people?

Indeed, the transgender community was already impacted financially prior to COVID-19 due to lack of healthcare/insurance, employment, and housing. All three key areas of living are now threatened, placing more stress and hardship on the transgender community more than ever.

3.) How can people support your business and foundation?

We ask that you support any of our brands, as we work to push those funds back into the community. To learn more about Dezjorn International, you can visit www.dezjorn.com. Nonprofits and community organizations have been hit hard due to the global pandemic. We have been pushing to feed, house, and support the trans community. Any gift will make a profound impact! You can make a donation and support us by visiting: www.thedifinc.org

Addison Rose Vincent
They/them
Founder
Break the Binary
Los Angeles, CA

1.) How has the pandemic affected you?

Due to COVID social distancing and stay-at-home orders, we’ve lost many speaking and training opportunities that would have been hosted in-person. Some of our clients have also (understandably) readjusted their budgets away from capacity building training and toward emergency support for their staff. This has resulted in fewer contracts for my company.

2.) Do you think trans-led businesses are suffering more?

Although many people face overwhelming financial challenges during COVID-19, it’s clear that many trans and non-binary people, those who live with disabilities, and/or living with dependents face even greater financial challenges. I know many trans and non-binary people who have relied on creative and/or informal forms of income due to employment discrimination, and as a result are having trouble filing and receiving unemployment insurance payments or their stimulus checks.

3.) How can people support your business?

If you and your team are interested in LGBTQ+ related training and workshops to build more affirming and empowering spaces for both staff and clients, please reach out to us! While we all practice social distancing for our collective safety and wellbeing, let’s use this time to increase our social awareness to better understand and empower the LGBTQ+ community! You can reach us at: www.breakthebinaryllc.com

About the author: Tony Zosherafatain is a film director, producer, and writer living in New York City. He is the Director of Trans in Trumpland, a forthcoming documentary about being transgender in the Trump administration era. To learn more about Trans in Trumpland, visit: https://www.transintrumpland.com/.

Filmmaker. Writer. Director of Trans in Trumpland. Find me online at: www.tonyzsite.com

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