HAMPTON, Va. — Who do you turn to if you are transgender and need help? A Hampton woman is gearing up to provide the resources the LGBTQ and transgender community may need.
Although doors open on December 4, customers are already registering.
Nyonna Byers, Founder/CEO of Empowering Transgender Services, said, “The transgender community, we are underserved all across the board.
Empowering Transgender Services has been helping people in need since 2019, but Byers, a transgender woman, said opening the center was personal to her.
“My sister and I came out in 1994. We had no services or resources to help us; we had to do things outside of sex work. We had no role model to tell us, ‘Hey. , you should ‘don’t do that’ or ‘Hey, you shouldn’t go that way,'” Byers said.
After Byers’ sister was murdered in 2001, she said she wanted to create a safe haven for the transgender community that would provide them with services.
Dr Matthew Rosario, Deputy Director of Empowering Transgender Services, said: “One of the things we did was partner with the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk. There are a lot of things that are going to help us with that, like housing assistance, plus we partner with them to help with hormone therapy.
ETS leaders said they will also partner with the Virginia Department of Health to provide free HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing to the entire community.
“A lot of these people don’t have family support. They don’t have that community support where they are, and we really want this center to be a community support center,” Rosario said.
Leaders said while they are doing their part to protect the transgender community, they have also reached out to the Newport News Police Department for a helping hand.
“We’ve had conversations with Chief Drew at Newport News about how we can combine our services to reduce the hate crime rate here in Hampton Roads but across the peninsula and one of the things we’ve decided to do was create hate crime prevention support here at ETS,” Rosario said.
“I just want the community to enjoy the services, and I want the community to support the services because that’s how we’re going to have longevity within our agency,” Byers said.
ETS plans to work with Hampton delegates to develop laws that can protect the transgender community, while contacting Hampton police on ways to prevent hate crimes.
Related: Local Nonprofit Launches Free Online Clothing Store to Support Virginia’s Transgender Community