Transgender Housing Network: The Autostraddle Interview

One of the most rewarding things about sharing my story online is that I’ve had the chance to see how my writing has directly impacted others. My inbox was flooded with messages of love and support after my first Autostraddle piece was posted in April 2011, but one email in particular caught my eye:

Subject: I know this is incredibly random

Hi Annika,
Not exactly sure how to start such an email, but I guess I’ll just kind of jump in.  I read your post on Autostraddle and your story absolutely amazed me.  I’m a current USC freshman in a sorority, and although I’ve always struggled with my identity, only recently came out to some very close friends (none of them girls in my house) about being transgender.  My pre-college narrative is similar to yours; I’ve been fascinated by the idea of transgenderism but grew up in a conservative neighborhood. When I got to USC, I joined a sorority out of a panicked, last-ditch effort to try and be the girl everyone expected me to be.  But, clearly, I’m not. Coming out to even a few people has been incredibly liberating, but I’m still painfully struggling with this realization, especially since I’m in a sorority. How did you survive the USC Greek System?  I’m currently active in the Queer and Ally Student Assembly and facilitate monthly anonymous meetings for LGBT members of the Greek community, and as much as I try to encourage group members to not stereotype the Greek community as homophobic or transphobic, I know that for much of the community the stereotype is completely true.  Any words of wisdom for a closeted trans person on the row?

I know these questions are kind of out of nowhere, but I want to thank you, even if you don’t answer them.  Knowing that there is someone out there who has gone through something similar (especially at the same school) and come out happy is extremely comforting.  Thank you for being an awesome example for those of us discovering ourselves in what can be a very hostile and unwelcoming environment.

Fight On,

[Dylan]

This was the first in a number of emails that Dylan and I exchanged in the following months, and during that time they escaped the sorority, came out to their parents, and began socially transitioning at school. I’m really impressed by how much they’ve accomplished, and it’s been a pleasure to watch them become strong and empowered. They are now a leader in their campus trans* community and an outspoken activist for LGBTQ equality. Dylan and I recently sat down to discuss their latest project, the Transgender Housing Network.

Transgender Housing Network

Let’s start with the basics. What is THN?

It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like! A temporary housing network specifically for trans*-identified people, where they can go and post submissions if they need a place to stay, or find submissions from people willing to host homeless or displaced trans* people in their area.

That is so cool! Where and how did you get the idea to start this project?

So I was supposed to be working on some term papers and other projects during finals week and I had already kind of committed to an all-nighter. Obviously instead of working at 3am I was on tumblr and I was reading all of these posts from trans* people talking about getting kicked out of their houses and needing places to stay, and it made me think “there has to be a more convenient way to get the word out for these people than just reblogging every individual post. So I set up a tumblr and I originally called it the Trans* CouchSurfing Network, but I ended up changing the name because CouchSurfing is already an established site. And I basically just made one post saying something like “hey, this is the Trans* Housing Network, this is what we’re doing and you should reblog this and get the word out.” And it just exploded. I had no idea so many people were in need of a resource like this, but we had something like 500 followers in the first twenty-four hours and now we have well over 2,000.

That is so amazing! And this is such important work that you are doing. There is so much need out there for resources like this. Many of the patients at the queer/trans* youth clinic that I go to don’t have permanent housing. It’s a really sobering experience every time I go there.

Yeah, it’s a ridiculously huge problem in the trans* community. And at first it was really depressing because I would see all of these submissions from people who needed a place to stay and just think “holy shit, this is horrible.” But it’s also been really, really heartwarming to see how many people are willing to take people into their homes.

Definitely. Have you personally heard from people who have used THN, either as surfers or hosts? I’d be curious to hear some feedback about it.

I actually have! A handful of people have send me tumblr messages telling me that they hosted someone, or that they found a place to stay because of THN. I even got a text from one of my friends who lives up in Santa Cruz saying that they had contacted someone who needed a couch to crash on and that person had already gotten like a million offers because so many people had seen their listing on THN.

Sometimes all you need is a safe place to crash

I’m really glad to hear that people have had positive experiences so far! So, is THN only for trans* people? Or can others use the service as well?

I know! It’s one thing to have all these followers on tumblr, and I love seeing the listings get reblogged, but knowing that THN actually helped someone find a place to stay is just awesome. And to answer your question, THN is for trans*-identified people only. I got a few complaints when I first started the network from people who thought I should open it up to cisgender queer people, but I really firmly believe that this resource should be run strictly for and by trans*-identified people. I absolutely let cis people post listings offering to host, but I plan to keep THN a very exclusively trans resource in every other respect. I know not everyone agrees with that, but it’s something that’s really important to me. I think there’s something really special and necessary about having a resource that is really made by and for the trans* community.

I can understand why you’d want to do that, especially because I’ve heard countless stories of trans* people being turned away from traditional homeless shelters because of their gender identities.

Exactly! I mean, I understand that homelessness is not an exclusively trans* issue. But there are so many more options for cis people out there, and I really wanted THN to cater specifically to trans* people.

So, what are your plans for the future of THN? And more generally, are trans* housing issues something you’d like to focus on career-wise?

I’m really interested in incorporating it as a nonprofit at some point, but I definitely need to do more research about that. I’m still a full-time student so I have to be reasonable about what I can accomplish on my own, and having a board of people working on making THN a really fantastic, accessible resource would be incredible. Right now as far as THN is concerned, I’m focusing on finding other trans people interested in helping me run things, especially anyone who can help me out with web design and things like that. Career-wise, I think this has really sparked my interest in this kind of work, and if I could turn this into a career I’d do it in a heartbeat. Ultimately, I want to do everything I can to make THN as useful a resource as possible.

Well I just think this is so great! I remember when you first wrote to me last year, and it’s really inspiring to see how much you’ve progressed since then and how passionate you are about helping fellow trans* people who are less privileged. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to be about THN! Just one more question: how can Autostraddle readers help out or get involved?

I really recommend everyone checking out the website and spreading the word if you can. The more people who know about THN, the more people we can help, and that’s really the main goal. You don’t have to have a tumblr to send submissions, whether you need a place to stay or you have a place to offer. But even if you don’t or can’t submit a listing, please just spread the word! And if any trans* Autostraddle readers want to help directly with THN, please get in touch! I read every submission that gets sent in so if you’re interested in helping with web design or anything at all, please please send a submission and let me know!

Want to learn more about the Transgender Housing Network? Be sure to check out and follow the main website and “like” THN on Facebook!

 

Avatar of annika

I'm a 23 year old femme lesbian living in SF. Once upon a time, I was a USC frat boy ;) I ♥ music so please recommend your favorite artists to me!

annika has written 21 articles for us.

50 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    I am totally game to help with something like this, I have a giant denim couch in my living room and a futon in the spare bedroom. Thanks so much for sharing!

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      I am a male 55 that looks 45. I have tried to come to terms with trying to live out my life as a male. It’s just not working. So I am reaching out to see if someone can help me out with housing while I transition and kook for a new job. I live in CA. but would be more than willing to relocate.
      Kevin

  2. Thumb up 7

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    this is so great! i’ve used couchsurfing a lot as a traveler and a host and unfortunately have to choose the option ‘several people’ on my profile instead of ‘male’ or ‘female’, and when i’ve shown up at people’s houses they’re like “you’re not several people..”
    anyway, great resource, i’ll help how i can : )

    • Thumb up 9

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      As a non-profit, it can receive donations that are tax writeoffs for donors, and can generally act as an organization instead of an individual. Also, any purchases on the part of the organization (web hosting space, etc.) are dealt with differently in terms of taxes. Other organizations are much more likely to partner with you and work with you if you are an incorporated non-profit, because you have had to establish a board and officers and all that – it makes you more ‘official’ (again, not just an individual.)

  3. Pingback: Autostraddle — Transgender Housing Network: The Autostraddle Interview | Transgender Education and Help

    • Thumb up 0

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      I’M SMALL AND COULD FIT IN A SHOEBOX. I really need to start my transition from male to female as I can barely live with it anymore. I used to think if only i met the right girl it would go away. Boy was i wrong. Let me know if you can help. Kevin

  4. Thumb up 1

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    This is the coolest! Annika, you rock for posting this. And Dylan, you rock extra fucking hard for doing this. I hope this blows up even more. It’s so valuable.

  5. Thumb up 0

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    [TW: misgendering]

    Hi ! Don’t get me wrong I am glad that people are helped getting off the streets and/or dangerous homeless situations. This is not the point. I’m glad.
    The thing is, what is this doing on Autostraddle ? Can we have this debate ?
    Where is the lesbian housing network ? Where is the lesbian organisation here ? Where the fuck is it ?
    Why is a lesbian site supporting frontpage the story of a girl, lesbian or not (apparently it’s not relevant ? it is for lesbians to be lesbians), who is so fed up and pressured as a result of just being female as WE ALL ARE, and i quote “conservative neighborhood”, “sorority”, “the USC Greek System”, that she is now thinking she has to be trans ? We need to look at the root cause. Do you see the pattern ? I see it. It’s erasure of female experience in favor of male experience.

    “I got a few complaints when I first started the network from people who thought I should open it up to cisgender queer people, but I really firmly believe that this resource should be run strictly for and by trans*-identified people. I absolutely let cis people post listings offering to host, but I plan to keep THN a very exclusively trans resource in every other respect. I know not everyone agrees with that, but it’s something that’s really important to me. I think there’s something really special and necessary about having a resource that is really made by and for the trans* community.”
    RE-PLACE THIS BY “LESBIAN” MAYBE ? KTHXBYE

    • Thumb up 8

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      Maybe because trans* people can be lesbians too, and also because Autostraddle likes to post about a range of topics not strictly related to lesbian issues only? I really hope you’re just trolling with your transphobia and transmisogyny. But even so, your comment is rather upsetting, and potentially triggering.

    • Thumb up 7

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      Autostraddle is a safe space for more than just lesbian-identified cis women. Many of the issues affecting trans* people (discrimination, harassment, misogyny, etc.) are also of concern to cis lesbians as well. Oh and also, trans* people can be lesbians too!

      And it’s really not cool to misgender Dylan the way you did. Just because they were in a sorority at some point doesn’t give you permission to speculate on their true gender or motivations for transitioning. I was in a frat, and I am just as much of a woman as you are :)

      • Thumb up 0

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        [TW: cissexism]

        I agree that misogyny affects transwomen when people treat them like women. Yes ! So it’s not specific to trans.
        “I was in a frat, and I am just as much of a woman as you are :)”
        I don’t see any way that could be possible sorry. Fraternity is the opposite of the female experience, is it not.

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          You changed it from “transphobia and general radfem nonsense” to “cissexism”. I love it ! “Cissexism”, sounds academic ! Well, thank you for seeing that I don’t hate (or fear for no reason) trans people.
          Why would radicalesbian be taboo ? It’s beautiful ! End of.

    • Thumb up 5

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      I don’t see the pattern you’re pointing out. Yes it’s important to look at the environment and society that us queers live in and critically analyze it, so we are not complacent with oppression, but it’s also important to acknowledge that people have gender identities that do not align with what they were assigned with at birth. I don’t see how living a more genuine life for a particular individual is considered “erasure of female experience in favor of male experience”.

      And what this is doing on Autostraddle is exposure. There are trans* readers here and I’m sure there are plenty who could benefit from this resource. Like C said, they can be lesbians too, and are far more likely to be the kind I keep company with than someone who espouses such rhetoric as you.

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        The pattern only makes sense if you aknoledge that women have common oppresion that trenscends other… Not that other are not real ! First, Dylan is trans so going from female experience (and pains) to male experience, then this experience is taken to a lesbian space.
        I love women and I don’t want them to disappear, feel free to think about my “nonsense”.
        Please, what is triggering here ? If I can’t say it here, where can I talk about it with other young lesbians in numbers ?

        • Thumb up 6

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          I didn’t say anything regarding your comment as triggering; that was the comment above me. But I find your statement of “The pattern only makes sense if you aknoledge that women have common oppresion that trenscends other… Not that other are not real !” troubling and essentialist. In my opinion, there is no “common female experience” because there are so many different nuances that can affect someone’s lived experience – be it race, class, nationality, education, wealth, ability…I could go on. Even among cis women, the way one person feels about their genitalia can be completely different to another. Some women appreciate being “reminded that they’re attractive” when they get hollered at on the street, other women don’t. Some were taught that masturbation is sinful, others not even mentioned in their households. A trans* woman’s experience that is different than yours does not negate her experience as a woman, lesbian, whatever they wish to identify as. My point is that there are so many different variables at play here that claiming there is a “common oppression” against ALL women, with no account for intersectionality and kyiarchal forces does not make sense to me. No thanks, I’m not buying that.

          Also, we don’t know if Dylan identifies as a man, just that they’re transitioning in some form from their previous female presentation. If the mere mention of that upsets you and strikes you as “women disappearing” I think there are some other things at work here, and it’s not fair to fixate solely on that. This is an interview for the creator of an amazing resource for homeless trans* people and a signal boost for a worthy cause. End of.

          Seacrest out.

        • Thumb up 2

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          “I love women and I don’t want them to disappear”

          It’s not “a woman disappearing,” because trans men were never women. The fact that society may have perceived them as such at one point doesn’t change their inner identities.

          Society often perceives us as things we’re not actually. I’m 22 but frequently mistaken for a teenager. No one would say that the age society perceives me as invalidates my actual age. Why should it be any different with trans* people’s genders?

        • Thumb up 2

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          “women have common oppresion that trenscends other”

          Also, are you actually saying that sexism is somehow more powerful than oppression based on any other variable, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, class, disability, etc.? Because I think a lot of people who have personal experience with other oppressions would disagree with that. Oppression Olympics arguments are frowned upon in social justice circles for a reason.

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          All of your responses are great, Rose! But this person turned out to be a transphobic troll who has since been banned- I just don’t want you to waste your time :)

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          Ah, ok. Thanks for letting me know!

          I was also kind of putting it out there in case someone else comes by with similar crap…. :(

    • Thumb up 2

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      One of my close friends is a trans guy, and I can tell you that it’s not just about being uncomfortable with gender roles. It’s about a much deeper level of dysphoria than any cis person can imagine. My friend feels like he can’t even be physically intimate with anyone until he gets surgery to have a more male body. That kind of body dysphoria goes a lot deeper than simply being stomped on by the patriarchy.

      Your comment is not only insulting to transgender people but also actual masculine-of-center women and feminine-of-center men, by conflating their struggles. Do some actual research before you start spewing misconceptions.

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        note: apologies for the use of “male body” as though suggesting that pre-op trans men’s bodies are not male! I couldn’t think of how to put it until after I posted it and now I can’t edit my post.

  6. Thumb up 2

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    This is such a great article, Annika, I’m so happy to see this on AS! I took a look at their website and it looks like such a great resource. But I was wondering if non-binary identified/genderqueer people are welcome to post in this context as well as trans* folks? I understand Dylan’s desire to keep it as a primarily trans* only space, but in some circles I feel that genderqueer and other non-binary id are not included under the trans* ‘umbrella’ (not saying that this is the case everywhere, just something I’ve encountered myself).

  7. Thumb up 2

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    Ohhh… kay…

    Here’s the thing… every time we’ve hosted people in the past, it’s ended up lasting lots longer than we wanted it to (or agreed upon at the beginning), and we’ve ended up gasping “WHEW they’re FINALLY gone” when they leave. Which doesn’t mean we’ll never do it again, but we’d jump at it a lot faster if we could take this aspect out of the experience somehow.

    Maybe we’re just softies who need to learn to say, “You need to go now like you agreed beforehand, the fact that you haven’t found anyplace else in the meantime does not become our problem simply because you’re living here” – I mean, logically that’s true, right? But it’s hard to say that. But then, because that’s so hard, we end up not hosting anybody when, in principle, we could.

    Ugh, this stuff is hard.

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      Yeah I’ve wondered about this – what if you only want to host people temporarily? When I move into my bigger apartment I could host people temporarily but it isn’t the sort of place where I could have a permanent roommate. However if someone is homeless they would probably need a more permanent place to stay, so I would feel like kind of a jerk kicking them out/posting a listing if it meant I could take someone for a short period of time.

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        We usually try to have people specify in their listings to specify whether they are looking for/providing short or long term housing. I really encourage both parties to make their needs and abilities for housing clear from the get-go, although I know in many cases that can get tricky. I am also trying to compile long-term housing resources that are location-specific for those whose need for housing may extend beyond the original agreement or comfort of those providing their couch or floor.

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          I just saw on the site a couple who is in NYC and needs a sofa for a week, while they move/start a new job. This I can do. I’m emailing now.

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      Dude, I had the exact same feelings, thank you for saying that so well. This is an amazing organization, I love the idea, but it would be really tough right now to commit to another person in our place. We’re not the most super outgoing couple and when I come home from work, I want to see my boo and no other. Selfish, yes, but we’re poor, we don’t get to see each other much because of her job, and living in NYC people already think your apartment is a hotel. I have had too many shitty houseguests/ex roommates! I could handle a week, 2 weeks maybe, if someone was truly in a terrible spot, but it would be really have to be only that. I would hate to have someone relying on me for anything more. :(

  8. Thumb up 6

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    I am grateful for Transgender Housing Network and I think this article is awesome!! I saw TGN on my tumblr during the first 6 hours that it started. I had been homeless since early April and was in the middle of my semester. I was jumping around between 3 friend’s places and was about to drop out of school due to the stress of it all. I got lucky and within 3 days I was contacted by someone offering me a couch to stay on until the day before my semester ended. The person was nice to host me. Trusted me with a key and listened when I needed to talk some things out. Because I had a stable, supportive living environment I was able to finish out the semester. I had 5 classes and ended up with a 4.0. The person who hosted me is now a friend of mine.

    One day I hope to be able to pay it forward and provide shelter and a safe space for another.

  9. Pingback: Worth Sharing: Transgender Housing Network | queerphc

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