Help Save the Gender Identity Center of Colorado

My local GIC helped keep me alive and now I’m returning the favor.

Photo courtesy of the GIC website.

On August 15, 2016, I stepped inside the Gender Identity Center of Colorado for the first time. It was a Monday afternoon and I made a last-minute decision to stop there on my way home from work. It was the same decision I’d made twice in the past month, but this time I finally found the courage to leave my car and walk up to the door.

It was an old building in a bad neighborhood with a small sign in the front window. When I passed the threshold, it felt like I was entering somebody’s grandparents’ house. The front room looked like a converted kitchen, with a large living room attached and a hallway leading to bedrooms/offices. At the front desk was a young woman who gave me a cheery, “Hi. Good afternoon.”

“Um… hi,” I told her, looking around nervously. There were two other people hanging out in the kitchen area, both of whom I assumed were transgender. I’d never (knowingly) seen a trans person in real life before, and it was hard not to stare.

“I, uh, don’t really know what I’m doing here.”

Although my first visit to the GIC was brief and awkward (I left after 10 minutes, convinced I didn’t fit in), it was a vital step in my journey. When I was ready, three months later, I would return for a counseling session, where I received a referral to doctors who could provide hormone therapy. Another six months after that I started regularly attending support groups at their new, larger, less residential-looking building, and am now a regular at the Tuesday night group. Soon I hope to begin volunteering so I can return some of the goodwill I’ve received over the past two years.

I am far from the only person who has wandered aimlessly through those doors, completely lost and not even sure what they were looking for, only to find support in a welcoming community. At my very first support group, somebody mentioned casually that they would be dead today if they hadn’t found this place, and several heads nodded in agreement. I’ve heard that sentiment repeated by many other people since then.

There are few explicitly transgender resources in Denver, despite it being probably the most trans-friendly city in the entire Mountain time zone.

Healthcare, though it does exist, is not always easy to find. If you’re confused, questioning, or closeted, it’s hard to identify and connect with people willing to offer support. Organizations like the Gender Identity Center fill a vital role of being the front door of the trans community for people like me who don’t even know where to start looking for help.

While more generic LGBT organizations are able to attract larger donations and public aid, transgender-specific ones still struggle. The GIC is underfunded, staffed almost exclusively by volunteers and interns, and relies on Medicaid-assisted counseling sessions and small donations from support group attendees, many of whom are themselves struggling and unemployed.

Unfortunately, the Colorado GIC recently lost its clinical director, and is therefore no longer legally allowed to provide counselling services.

It was a devastating loss not only to those who were given only about a week’s notice that they could no longer receiving counseling, several of whom I know personally, but it now threatens a major source of funding for the organization. Like so much of the community it supports, the GIC exists with little financial security to survive a sudden loss of income.

A fundraiser has been set up to help weather the storm.

It has the modest goal of providing 3 months of operating expenses until a new director can be hired. I’ve contributed — it’s the least I can do to support an organization that’s given me so much support — but there is only so much a small, under-privileged community can provide out of its own pockets.

While I can’t give more than a modest amount of money, I do have this small platform to help raise awareness. If you consider yourself an ally of the transgender community, here is a way you can provide direct aid:

Like those people I met at my first support group, I can now say that without the Gender Identity Center, I would be in a much worse place than I am today. They helped keep me alive, and now this is my chance to return the favor. Will you help do the same?