Few communities in Washington have as many burdens to bear as the transgender community. From violence to bigotry to health issues, this community has dealt with more than its share.
There are, however, a handful of organizations in the district that try to lessen that burden. "We're not doing as much as we could be doing," says local transgender activist Earline Budd. "Different Avenues, Us Helping Us, Whitman-Walker Clinic, [Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League] and others are doing as best they can, but currently there's not enough funding or attention given to this community."
Budd's own organization, Transgender Health Empowerment (THE), which she founded in 1996 "to unify, empower and advocate on behalf of its clients," is also in that mix. And as her group works to support the transgender community, a group of a different sort has stepped up to help them.
On Sunday, May 15, Mascara, a fledgling performance group, will present its first annual Spirit of Light Awards show to benefit THE. The group, which features drag performances primarily, will be recognizing eight recipients for "lighting a path for the greater Gay, Lesbian and Transgender community of Washington, D.C., to follow." A ninth recipient will receive the Wanda Alston Lifetime Achievement Award. Alston, Mayor Anthony Williams's liaison to the LGBT community, was murdered in March.
"I know Earline Budd very well. We're hoping to keep a relationship with her," says Tony Nelson, a volunteer with Mascara and one of the awards show's two hosts. "Half our cast is transgender women, and a lot of our audience is transgender women, so we thought that [THE] would be a great place to start."
Admission to the awards show is $15, a third of which will go to THE, Nelson says. Tickets are available at the venue, Lulu's Club Mardi Gras, 1217 22nd St., NW. Doors open at 7 p.m., while the show is scheduled to begin at 8.