The words “safe zone” still frame the windows of the empty Out Alliance building on College Avenue, but Bianca Castro wouldn’t describe her experience there as safe.
“We went to one of the trans groups and it literally was divided," Castro said. "There were white folks on one side and brown folks on the other, and it didn’t feel safe.”
Castro briefly attended programs at the organization, which was then called the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, but she said she never found a community there.
The abrupt closing of the Out Alliance last year has been received differently by a divided LGBTQ community. For years, the organization was criticized for centering its mission around white gay men. Its absence has allowed smaller organizations to step in and fill the needs of the Black and brown LGBTQ community who say they never felt included by the organization.
Rochester Black Pride may be best known for organizing the annual Black Pride weekend, but its reach goes far beyond that.
Founder and community activist Adrian Elim would often locate resources for LGBTQ youths in poverty. And it was Rochester Black Pride that helped Castro with a housing emergency in 2019.
“They were connecting me to resources, crowdfunding, and were able to get me an apartment for me and my family,” Castro said.
But a lack of funds limited what organizations like Rochester Black Pride could do. With the Out Alliance now out of the picture, though, smaller groups can expand their reach and get a bigger piece of the resource pie.
Castro is now a director for Rochester Black Pride and has seen this shift.
“It gives a lot more room to acquire those grants or funding that they received and put it where folks actually need it,” said Castro.
A lot of the money the organizations receive goes to housing assistance, helping people find jobs, and paying for groceries for people who can’t afford it. A grant from the Trans Justice Funding Project will help the Rochester Black Pride secure a building to be used as an emergency shelter.
Brittan Hardgers provides some of these same resources through his work with Next Generation Men of Transition. Hardgers founded the group in 2018 as a way to connect with other trans men.
Hardgers supported the Out Alliance, but he said he’s noticed less division in the community in its absence.
“With the departure of Out Alliance, I truly believe it definitely bridged a gap as far as the Black LGBTQ+ community and just white folks in the LGBTQ+ world,” Hardgers said.
He praised the former Out Alliance staff members, who are still very active in the community.
“Out Alliance got millions and thousands and dollars that never really touched our streets,” Hardgers said. “It was the folks that worked at the Out Alliance. So now that they’re not working at the Out Alliance, we’re expanding outside in these streets.”
Javannah Davis never attended any Out Alliance programming. The medical technician, identifies as a woman of trans experience said she found her community -- and career -- at Trillium’s MOCHA Center.
“The MOCHA Center is a very vital part of the community at this point, especially since the Out Alliance has been disbanded,” Davis said.
Davis said her 17 years as a health care worker has taught her to take a holistic approach in helping women in the community. In October 2020, she founded Women Appropriating Visibility & Empowerment, or W.A.V.E. The nonprofit is geared to build unity among all women of color. She specifically helps women out of domestic violence situations, an issue that often plagues trans women of color.
“No matter whether you have the 'cis' or 'trans' in front of that word 'woman,' you’re still a woman," Davis said. “And as a Black and brown woman, we are always gonna have that target on our back.”
Hardgers said he’s proud of the expanded network of resources for trans people living in Rochester.
“Now when you are doing the research and you’re looking up 'trans support, Rochester, New York,' you’ll find WAVE, you're going to find Next Generations Men of Transition.”