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Dallas is in top GEAR for transgender community

by Renee Baker
Contributor
Thursday Aug 28, 2008
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Far from the starting line, the Gender, Education, Advocacy & Resources program (GEAR) is now in overdrive. The Resource Center of Dallas program began in March of 2006, with just a handful of transgender individuals sharing the desire to provide support to the greater gender community. In just a couple of short years, they have skyrocketed into brand new gender zones.

Marla Compton is an Evening Center Services Coordinator at RCD, one of the largest LGBT centers in the nation. She is one of the founding members of GEAR and now serves as the GEAR Coordinator. Compton, who is very active in the gender community, says "There was not a cohesive program for the transgender community in Dallas. There have been other groups, but none with the backing of a strong non-profit organization like the Resource Center."

The GEAR program has two major components - Transgender Health Night and Transgender Services. Transgender Health Night is held monthly at the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic and provides health services to any transgender individual. These services include low-cost hormone replacement therapy lab work and access to medical staff in an accepting environment. Lab work is especially critical for those transitioning from one gender to another, as hormone levels must be closely monitored. Tests often can run from several hundred dollars to well over $1,000 and the clinic has been able to keep costs to just $80.

The Transgender Health Night program is managed by Michael Marr and staffed by Dr. Jaime Vasquez, both of whom have been presented with the Henry Ramirez Ally Award for their leadership and dedication to the transgender community. "Denise", a transgender woman who prefers not to be identified, said she found the clinic staff and Vasquez so understanding and helpful, that she dropped her other full-time doctor. She said the GEAR program, including the Transgender Health Night program, gave her the impetus needed to begin her journey on becoming Denise.
Compton also credits Jessica Davis for the success of the Transgender Health Night. She said Davis also received an award, the Katherine Walton Award, for her services. "If it were not for her outreach and leadership, there would be no trans health night," said Compton. Compton also credits the 15 volunteers, transgendered and allied, that make the GEAR program successful.

"GEAR...is a tool to build a new life. It is available to anyone." Marla Compton

The Transgender Services of GEAR has several elements including a monthly mixer, which may bring in anywhere from 15 to 80 individuals. Mixers are held at restaurants, clubs and the Center itself. The goal of the mixer is to provide community among transgender individuals, friends, family and allies.

Tori Van Fleet, a Forensic Scientist for the Fort Worth Police Department, is very grateful for the GEAR program and drives to Dallas to attend mixers regularly. Van Fleet says that GEAR "helped me to get out of my house and into the public as Tori...if it had not been for GEAR in those days, I don’t think I would have had the courage to walk through the doors at work." Van Fleet has now had her gender-related surgeries and says she feels complete, thanks to her friends at GEAR.

GEAR’s Transgender Services also include diversity training for the general public and corporations. Michael "Mo" Snow, who has been attending GEAR since its beginning, feels the educational aspects of GEAR are its most important part. Snow says that education and advocacy go hand-in-hand and GEAR is fostering a better understanding of the transgender community.
Snow says, "It is human nature for people to fear what they don’t understand," and GEAR bridges that gap of the unknown. As an example, he said GEAR called a town-hall meeting with the Dallas HRC Chapter to discuss the impact of changes to the well-known ENDA bill, which dropped protection for gender variant individuals. He said this meeting alone brought an understanding of the need for equality when it comes to health care, jobs, fair workplace treatment and freedom from harassment.
GEAR’s Transgender Services also include a helpline, which serves up to 20 callers per week, and a support group called GEAR Rap.

Overall, Compton says, "I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish in such a short space of time." She says, "GEAR is a tool. It is a tool to build a new life. It is available to anyone. There are simply no requirements to reap the benefits of this program."
The GEAR program is now putting out a call to the gender community, to help assess what its needs are.

If you would like to participate in the assessment, would like to volunteer for GEAR, or would like to learn more about the GEAR program, please see the Resource Center website at www.rcdallas.org.

Dr. Renee Baker is a massage therapist, transgender consultant and board member of Youth First Texas. She may be reached on her website at www.renee-baker.com

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2008-08-28 20:14:09

    Funny how this article suddenly pops up shortly after the directors of the Resource Center recieved alleged anonymous letters describing how some in the community are unhappy with the GEAR group. Ms. Baker, how much did Mike McKay, CeCe Cox, Jessica Davis and Henry Ramirez influence you to write such an evident example of Resource Center propaganda to help save the slowly declining credibility of the Resource Center ??? Yes, the health program is a good thing, however no one ever talks about how some transgender folks were excluded from attending Marla’s "coming-out" social get-togethers and subtly kept out of volunteering and leading the group because they didn’t agree with the corrupt corporate and political palm greasing agenda that is occurring there where I’m sure a certain Arizona trans political activist is helping to run the show. Lastly, you self-appointed corporate "Leaders" are in no way spokespeople for all transgender people nor is anyone in this article a credible expert in the field of diversity or corporate HR policy. I would highly encourage all of these corporate "experts" to reconsider influencing corporations to their own way of thinking at the expense of disenfranchising other trans employees who happen to work for the same companies who these people try and influence, as was evident by a certain airline debacle where a trans employee was horribly discriminated against because you "spokespeople" couldn’t keep your noses out of her affairs. GEAR is not an advocacy group. It is a small clique of corporate and political opportunists who send a clear message to other trans folks who disagree with their agenda. KEEP OUT. Please remember that when receiving your next community "award". cc.RW P.C.


  • Anonymous, 2008-08-28 21:01:57

    FYI here. There were a few more people than just a handful who had helped and advocated for GEAR from the beginning and had shared a forward vision. So horrible and rather selfish that this author never mentioned them but only praised her friends.


  • Anonymous, 2008-08-28 21:45:34

    According to the comments posted to one of the articles you wrote for this paper Dr. Baker http://www.edgedallas.com/index.php?ch=health_fitness&sc=health&sc2=&sc3=&id=79005 a transperson was threatened because she disagreed with the leaders of this group ??? What’s up with that ??? Perhaps the person above was right since the above article would validate his / her claims. So is like GEAR some sort of underground trans mafia or something ???


  • babyglock9mm, 2008-08-28 22:48:59

    Get a life Bonnie


  • Anonymous, 2008-08-29 00:07:38

    babyglock9mm, I would highly encourage you to refrain from speculation of identities with little basis of fact. It is my understanding that you are the Ft. Worth forensic scientist referenced in this article by your friend. As a person employed by the Ft. Worth Police Dept. certainly you are aware that any attempt to coerce an individual by displaying the name of a weapon in conjunction with written correspondence to a specifically named individual, in writing, verbally, or otherwise implied constitutes a THREAT and defamation of character both of which you and any entities involved in such conspiracy, possibly including Dallas Gear, Dallas Resource Center and the Edge Paper could be held liable for damages. Again, I would highly encourage you to reconsider further such references of above said individual. Thank You for your time. cc RWiley ESQ. MMkay, CCox


  • babyglock9mm, 2008-08-29 05:19:47

    First...I use my nickname because it references my email addy. Secondly, my employer is well aware of it and has no problems with it that I am aware of it. Thirdly...defamation of character? Have you been reading YOUR posts? You are lucky that I didn’t post your full legal name and your email address so people can contact you directly! Bring it on!


  • Chris Sandlin, 2008-08-29 13:38:51

    "Anonymous"/Bonnie, whatever your name may be. Please contact me if you think any of the content on EDGE is biased, untruthful or one-sided. I know you like stirring up trouble on here and reading your rantings, but it won’t accomplish anything if you refuse to talk to us about it. As I’ve said, I welcome all opinions and if you think we’re not telling all sides of a story, tell me why.-- Chris Sandlincsandlin@edgepublications.com


  • Anonymous, 2010-03-15 04:22:42

    Hi, my name is Gavin. I worked with a therapist in Dallas for several months .. eventually she got me in touch with the folks at GEAR. I’m going to be honest here: I had a hellaciously hard time getting shit done with this group. I would call to make an appointment for lab work, and be told that a certain Mr. Scott was the only one who could make the appointment .. they’d give me his number. I must have called him twenty times over the course of a month. I even had to check and make sure nothing was wrong with my phones. He never contacted me. Finally, a nice lady made the appointments for me. Recently a new doctor - Dr. Lee I believe his name is, has started working at the Trans Health Night. This actually caused my appointment (which I had been waiting for eagerly as the one bright spot on my horizon) to be pushed back another whole month. But I persisted. Finally, I have had my lab work done. My actual meeting with Dr. Lee will be in one week exactly, and I can only hope that it will go off without a hitch. It may be that the actual doctors are fantastic and only the people that handle appointments are the ones with problems. I must also note that the lab tech who did my blood work was very skilled and knew what he was doing. I am deeply grateful that we have this service - I was completely lost before I discovered them. They could use a lot of improvement but hopefully, with more doctors coming in, things will improve. (With the addition of Dr. Lee, the waiting list has now been reduced in half. So even though my own appointment got pushed back, this did make it so others didn’t have to wait forever anymore.)


  • Anonymous, 2010-04-12 17:25:28

    interesting that you say the waiting list has been cut in half. i was the "mistake" somewhere in there that everyone at the resource center denies. my appointment was "pushed back" because they filled up. i had my appointment for probably 6 months before that. when i arrived, they told me i had been pushed back, and that they had left me a message. - i did NOT receive a message or phone call from them at any time. i drove over an hour to show up for an appointment, when they sent me on my way. and at this time, they were well aware of issues i was having with my testosterone. they set me up with a new appointment 5 months later because it was the "earliest" appointment they had. i have yet to meet dr lee, i was unaware they brought anyone else in, nor was i aware that they had upped the cost of the lab. i would have gone in $20 short had i not called. i love dr vasquez, and am considering seeing him in his own office, paying the outrageous office prices that i cant afford, to be taken care of the way i should. hopefully they get stuff figured out shortly.


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