It’s election season, and many of us are feeling the heat of political battles happening across the country. Most relevant to our community, we recently learned of the current federal administration’s plans to establish an inaccurate definition of sex which disregards gender or the nonbinary nature of assigned sex, and will further the marginalization of transgender and intersex people. Although I believe this is the latest in a series of abusive tactics used by the current administration to rile us up, this action is not to be taken lightly and could cause irreparable damage to a group of people who are already routinely ostracized. Here in the mayor’s office, we found it important to emphasize our city’s commitment to stand with the transgender and intersex community, regardless of what happens on a federal level.

Our mayor has several key areas of focus for making our city better: reducing violence, investing in and strengthening our neighborhoods, empowering youth, creating jobs, and ensuring government resources are accessible and extended to all citizens of Baltimore. These areas of focus inherently touch the LGBTQ community. Many of us live in one of the many distinct neighborhoods in Baltimore City. We know much of the violence in our city – whether it be hate crimes, theft or murder – is experienced by members of our community. LGBTQ youth continue to be at risk – in our schools and in our streets. Employment discrimination and housing instability make finding jobs difficult, particularly for transgender people, and it’s often difficult for the most in-need and at-risk members of our community to navigate systems to receive all of the services our city has to offer. I am prepared and excited to work with our mayor and city agencies to ensure these priorities are visible and successful in our community.

Recently, Mayor Pugh, along with the Department of Housing and Community Development, launched the Community Catalyst Grants Program, which provides funding for locally-driven community and neighborhood revitalization efforts. Community- and neighborhood-based organizations are eligible to apply. The mayor’s office, in partnership with the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, is collecting applications for the Baltimore City Community Grants Program. The program provides $10,000 in operating support to organizations providing direct services to low-income people and families in Baltimore City. As part of the mayor’s Violence Reduction Initiative, weekly meetings and neighborhood walks are scheduled to monitor the plan’s effectiveness. I plan to join our mayor on an upcoming crime walk.

The city government is interested in learning as much as possible about extending necessary, culturally competent services to our community. I am proud to have organized the first-ever LGBTQ Community Town Hall hosted by city government. In partnership with the Office of the City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, we will have a chance to hear directly from the community about how the city can more effectively meet the needs of LGBTQ people. Did you know: the offices of the mayor, city council president, state’s attorney, and Baltimore City police department, all have LGBTQ liaisons. We have initiated a standing monthly meeting to collaborate and communicate on our separate and joint efforts for the community. I’ve recently began attending neighborhood and community association meetings across the city to introduce myself as a resource.

Lastly, the first cohort of LGBTQ commissioners has been officially sworn in at City Hall. These members were elected by their respective committees to lead the mayor’s LGBTQ Commission. The commission has elected Danielle Scott, a research nurse and program coordinator at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, to lead the commission as chairperson. The general body of the LGBTQ Commission will meet again in January 2019. Please get in touch if you would like more information about potentially joining the group.

November is Transgender Awareness Month, with November 20th being the annual observation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience. The Baltimore Transgender Alliance has a number of activities and events planned for the weekend of November 17th, including a Queer Bash, a panel series, fundraisers, and more.

Holidays are quickly approaching, which can be some of the most joyous times, or most isolating times for members of our community. Be sure to follow the Baltimore City LGBTQ Affairs Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for news and announcements of events and initiatives you can be involved with.

As always, I can be reached via email at jabari.lyles@baltimorecity.gov.

Long-time community leader Jabari Lyles discusses his new role as the LGBTQ Affairs Liaison in the Baltimore City mayor’s office.

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