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- UW and SHA tap Bellwether Housing to build mixed-income development in U District
The University of Washington and the Seattle Housing Authority today announced that Bellwether Housing has been selected to develop a mixed-income high-rise of about 240 units in the University District, pending approval by the UW Board of Regents. Once completed, the 16-story project will provide a childcare space and much-needed housing for faculty and staff, as well as others who want to take advantage of the central location, in the 4200 block of Roosevelt Way Northeast, near the UW campus and multiple transit options. “Our university is dedicated to helping the communities we serve become more diverse, equitable and livable, and that begins right here in our own U District neighborhood, where we urgently need affordable, quality housing,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “We are especially excited about the opportunities this will create for university faculty and staff and their families to live and have access to childcare in close proximity to our Seattle campus.” Bellwether plans to use a mix of public and private funding to create this mixed-income community. Both funding sources support each other to make the project feasible, allowing Bellwether to maximize the development capacity of the site without straining existing public financing sources. “We are thrilled that the UW shares our vision for this site — to provide about 240 low- and moderate-income families with affordable, high-quality, transit-oriented homes in the heart of a vibrant neighborhood. Our mixed-income model allows us to leverage this opportunity to create as many new homes as possible in this city that needs as much affordable housing as we can build,” said Bellwether Housing CEO Susan Boyd. Initial plans are to serve households earning between 60% to 100% of Area Median Income, or AMI. A majority of the units, 163, are earmarked for families at around 60% of AMI, with the remainder reserved for the so-called “missing middle” at between 80% and 100% of AMI. Having a range of incomes in one building best serves UW employees and the community by increasing diversity and housing options, Cauce said. There are limited housing choices available to those whose income disqualifies them from special programs for low-income households, but still isn’t enough to be competitive in Seattle’s booming housing market. By creating the “missing middle” housing, more of the UW workforce will be able to live near their jobs, reducing the time, expense and environmental costs of long commutes. In 2017, UW approached the Seattle Housing Authority about partnering on development of the property, given SHA’s extensive experience in developing affordable housing. “We are excited to be working collaboratively with the University of Washington on this project,” said Rod Brandon, SHA’s executive director. “We have had great success in developing mixed-income communities and think this approach will best meet the needs of the neighborhood, and people who need to live there but are otherwise priced out. Bellwether is exactly the right partner to help bring this vision to life.” The building will include 65 two- and three-bedroom apartments for larger families, an outdoor space, shared play area, common room and other residential amenities. Plans also are in place for a 7,318-square-foot childcare facility on the ground floor with a separate drop-off zone and its own outdoor play area. The half-acre property is owned by the UW, and the UW will ground lease the land to Bellwether. The existing residential and commercial structures will be demolished to make space for the new construction. If approved, construction is scheduled to begin by December 2024. ### Caption: The UW and the Seattle Housing Authority selected Bellwether Housing to develop a 16-story, mixed-income building at the corner of Northeast 42nd Street and Roosevelt Way Northeast. A conceptual rendering of the proposed building is shown here. Credit: Anita Lehmann
- Bellwether Housing and Mercy Housing Northwest Celebrate the Opening of Cedar Crossing
SEATTLE — Bellwether Housing and Mercy Housing Northwest will celebrate the opening of Cedar Crossing, their new 254-apartment affordable housing development at 6600 Roosevelt Way NE, this Wednesday, September 14, 2022, from 9:30 to 11:00 AM. Cedar Crossing will be home to an estimated 600 adults and children and is adjacent to the Roosevelt Link light rail station, offering unparalleled access to transit. The development also includes 13,449 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial space. Cedar Crossing features innovative community partnerships with the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, Sound Transit, El Centro de la Raza, Mary’s Place, and Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This development is a beautiful example of what I call profound collaboration – a committed group of neighbors, public agencies, and housing providers listening to one another, developing a shared vision, and dedicating their time, energy and money to something transformative,” said Susan Boyd, CEO of Bellwether Housing. Cedar Crossing creates affordable homes for families who struggle to find housing options in the current market. The building includes 91 two- and three-bedroom apartments. Three-bedroom apartments were pre-leased quickly, highlighting the intense demand for larger, affordable apartments. A public plaza creates a sense of place in the neighborhood and provides pedestrian access to the light rail station. The building features a playground, social service offices, ground floor retail, and a large community room for celebrations and gatherings. Mercy Housing Northwest will provide robust resident services at Cedar Crossing. Their staff will collaborate with families to identify areas of strength and create programs that support them in their housing stability. “Mercy Housing is truly excited to be part of Cedar Crossing and helping to support the Roosevelt neighborhood. The glow we see on people’s faces when we are giving them tours of their new homes and amenities is truly priceless,” said Cole Kiser, Resident Services Manager. “The sense of joy and hope is further amplified when hearing residents talk about activities they wish to see at our event programs and how they imagine using the pavilion and community room. We foresee a powerful and purposeful future and are truly happy to be involved in building stronger neighborhoods through connection and engagement.” El Centro de La Raza operates a 6,443 sf. multi-cultural, bilingual affordable childcare on site, with capacity to serve 68 children. The childcare was made possible through the generous support of the City of Seattle Human Services Department, the State of Washington Department of Commerce, and the Washington Community Reinvestment Association. In a partnership with Seattle Children’s Hospital, Mary’s Place and Ronald McDonald House, 20 apartments are set aside for families experiencing housing instability whose children have received or continue to receive care at Seattle Children’s Hospital. FamilyWorks will open a Family Resource Center, bringing complimentary services on-site and ensuring additional services vital to the health and stability of residents are available right outside families' front doors. Cedar Crossing was made possible by Sound Transit and the Seattle Office of Housing, who partnered by offering the property at a discounted land price and committed $15 million in funds from the Seattle Office of Housing including Seattle Housing Levy dollars. Cedar Crossing is also financed by The City of Seattle Office of Housing and Human Services Department, King County, the Seattle Housing Authority, the Washington State Department of Commerce, Umpqua Bank, Washington Community Reinvestment Association, federal low-income housing tax credits purchased by U.S. Bank CDC and a tax-exempt loan provided by U.S. Bank and Citibank. About Bellwether Housing: Bellwether Housing is a Seattle’s largest nonprofit affordable housing provider. Bellwether has developed, owned, and operated housing for low-income individuals, families, seniors and households transitioning out of homelessness since 19802400 households in 35 buildings in King County. About Mercy Housing Northwest: Since 1991, Mercy Housing Northwest (MHNW) has provided affordable homes to people with low incomes, including families, seniors, people who have experienced homelessness, and people with disabilities. With 54 properties in Washington and Idaho, MHNW serves more than 5,600 people every day. MHNW supplements much of its housing with Resident Services, programs that help residents build stable lives. MHNW is a regional branch of Mercy Housing, Inc. (MHI), a leading national affordable housing nonprofit headquartered in Denver, CO. Quotes From Project Collaborators and Partners: City of Seattle, Office of Housing “Projects like Cedar Crossing help make us an inclusive and connected City that prioritizes community development, and ensures that public investments create opportunities for low-income households,” said Maiko Winkler-Chin Director of the Office of Housing, “Thanks to our partners Bellwether Housing, Mercy Housing Northwest and Sound Transit, Cedar Crossing delivers new affordable homes with on-site childcare and ground-floor retail space, with easy access to transit at the Roosevelt Light Rail Station.” The Roosevelt Neighborhood Association (RNA) “The RNA is very proud of all those in the community who took part in our workshops, through which we created the Community Principles that were the basis for Sound Transit’s Request fir Proposal for this site,” says Jay Lazerwitz, Land Use Chair of the RNA. “These principles included strong advocacy for 100% affordable housing, a daycare facility, and other community benefits. Seeing how these have been manifested in the Cedar Crossing development is an amazing sight; a sign of how the community came together to support low-income residents within our larger community, and in support of the regional investment in public transportation." El Centro de la Raza “El Centro de la Raza’s Jose Marti Child development Center is thrilled to be given the honor to engage in a partnership with Mercy Housing Northwest and Bellwether Housing,” said Estela Ortega, Executive Director. “We have a reputation of providing high-quality child-development learning in large part due to our caring and experienced staff. We promote unconditional love for all children, respect for diversity, social justice, and family involvement.” Seattle Children’s Hospital “With housing stability, the relief children and parents feel is palpable and greatly impacts their involvement in the medical journey,” said Kathryn Thurber-Smith, LICSW, Social Work Clinical Supervisor at Seattle Children’s. “I believe breaking down barriers to housing will result in more equitable access to healthcare and to other resources that come with being a part of a stable community.” Mary’s Place "Families who have lost so much, including their homes, while caring for a medically fragile child need a safe, healthy, stable place to call home,” said Marty Hartman, Executive Director of Mary’s Place, a family homelessness service and shelter provider. We are grateful and honored to be a part of this project that provides much needed affordable housing and critical supportive services for families in our community.”
- Putting the Pieces Together
There’s nothing quite like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It can be challenging, detailed, and yet rewarding as pieces get slotted into place and a larger picture emerges. As we share in our 2021 Annual Report, Putting the Pieces Together, 2021 was a lot like building a complicated puzzle. We continued to recover from the pandemic, launched a resident scholarship fund, acquired several buildings and broke ground on several more, and supported our residents with a growing resident services program. It was a busy year, and each piece of the puzzle gets us closer to our goal to double the number of families we serve by 2025. We couldn’t have done it all without your support – thank you for being essential pieces in our puzzle!
- Seniors Visit Van Gogh Immersive
A group of seniors living at Meridian Manor recently had a delightful afternoon outing to the Vincent Van Gogh Immersive Experience. The group enjoyed soaking in the work of Van Gogh, learning about the artist's life, and experiencing immersive and virtual reality displays of his art. Residents posed for photos with each other and their Resident Services Coordinator, who was leading the trip. The outing was made possible by a grant from Horizon House, supporting artistic and cultural programming at our building serving seniors.
- Black History Month 2022 - William Grose
For #BlackHistoryMonth20222, we're highlighting how intentionally discriminatory housing policies segregated Seattle and the lasting impact they have had on Seattle’s communities of color today. We also highlighting the activism and advocacy of the Black community to make housing in Seattle fair and equitable for everyone. Today, for #BlackHistoryMonth2022, we are celebrating William Grose. In 1882, Grose became the first Black landowner in Seattle and is known as the founder of the Central District. A successful entrepreneur, he bought 12 acres of land in Madison Valley. He lived there with his wife, Sarah; son, George; and daughter, Rebecca. Sarah and Rebecca were the first Black female residents of Seattle. The Grose’s house still stands today at 24th and Howell. Here's a selection of news clips about William Grose's impact on Seattle: “Grose let other black folks build homes on his property as racist housing practices took hold and kept minority settlers from living in many other areas. William’s land, which couldn’t be restricted because it was his private property, became a spot where Seattle’s growing black community could flourish, says University of Washington professor James Gregory, who directed the school’s Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.” - The Evergrey ‘In addition to building his own house, Grose subdivided the rest of his 12 acres, giving lots to family and friends, selling others. There was much opposition to the influx of Black neighbors on the part of the white residents of the Madison area. Finally, they decided to sell, but not to rent to the newcomers.” - The Seattle Times “When the Madison Street Cable Car began service in 1889, it made the area accessible to other citizens and more Black families began to move into the area and started a community. For the next 50 years, Madison Valley and the hill up to 23rd would continue to be the geographic heart of the city’s African American community. Discrimination helped make sure it stayed that way, even as thousands of new black families moved to the area during World War II. That discrimination, most of it informal but strictly enforced, made the Central Area the city’s only major African American community because it was the only place where Black folks were allowed to live up until very recent times.” - Central District News After years of community activism, Africatown Land Trust is turning historic Fire Station Six into the William Grose Center for Enterprise and Cultural Innovation, to continue Grose’s legacy and celebrate his contributions to Seattle the CD. More about William Grose: This Pioneer Worked the Underground Railroad and Settle the Central District All Over The Map: The story of William Grose, one of Seattle’s earliest black entrepreneurs CityStream: William Grose Center - Fire Station 6
- Black History Month 2022: Seattle Open Housing Campaign
For #BlackHistoryMonth20222, we're highlighting how intentionally discriminatory housing policies segregated Seattle and the lasting impact they have had on Seattle’s communities of color today. We also highlighting the activism and advocacy of the Black community to make housing in Seattle fair and equitable for everyone. The Seattle Open Housing Campaign The Seattle Open Housing Campaign made fair housing a right in Seattle. Until 1968 it was legal for white landlords and homeowners to discriminate against people of color when renting or selling real estate in Seattle. Black leaders and community groups organized the Seattle Open Housing Campaign in 1959, to make housing open and fair in Seattle. Their work dovetailed with the broader national Civil Rights movement. The Campaign faced incredible resistance by Seattle's white political, business, media and real estate establishments. It took a decade to get a fair housing law on the books in Seattle. In April 1968, shortly after the assassination of Dr. MLK Jr., the Seattle City Council passed a fair housing ordinance. The ordinance was largely designed by Sam Smith, the first African American Councilmember and tireless advocate for fair housing. Later, the ordinance was updated to include other protected classes.
- Welcoming Our New 2022 Board Members
We're happy to welcome four new Directors to our Board in 2022: Kateesha Atterberry, Michelle Chen, Jilma Jimenez, and Nav Kesher! Each new board member brings a wealth of experience and expertise to Bellwether, as well as a passion for equitable communities and affordable housing. Kateesha Atterberry Kateesha is the Founder & Managing Director of Urban Black LLC. She oversees all real estate development activities including land acquisition, feasibility, financial strategy, and design & construction management. Kateesha has 16 years of unique real estate development, management, and public policy experience. Kateesha acted as Commercial Property Manager for Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority, a nonprofit government agency responsible for the ownership, management, and development of downtown Seattle’s beloved Pike Place Market. In that role, she oversaw a portfolio of 225+ unique commercial businesses within the 9-acre historic district.and guided those businesses through the $68.2 million redevelopment of Pike Place Market from 2009 – 2012. Kateesha is a graduate of the University of Washington, holding a degree in International Business and Commercial Real Estate. She is also certified in Construction Management and Sales & Marketing. Kateesha is currently pursuing an International Law Juris Doctor at Seattle University, and enjoys sports activities, traveling, local eateries, photography, and playing with her two small children. Michelle Chen Michelle Chen has 20 years of professional work experience in the public sector in a variety of roles. She most recently served as General Counsel to the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office, practicing municipal law and advising on policy making issues including affordable housing and community development initiatives. Michelle previously worked for the City of Seattle as Deputy City Attorney and as project manager of the Housing Affordability Livability Agenda. She began her professional career as a real estate and land use attorney at Hillis Clark Martin & Petersen law firm and worked for Senator Maria Cantwell as Legal Counsel on the Environment and Natural Resources committee. Michelle holds a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College, a Juris Doctor and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Washington. She is an alumnus of Leadership Tomorrow. Michelle also served as past President of the Korean American Bar Association (KABA) and under her leadership, KABA partnered with Northwest Justice Project to host Home Foreclosure Prevention workshops for the Korean community, providing education and pro bono legal assistance to Korean community members during the height of the home foreclosure crisis. Jilma Jimenez Jilma is the VP and Northwest Operations Manager at Jacobs, a major multinational engineering firm. She has decades of engineering consulting and management experience in the Puget Sound area. Jilma manages business operations for the Northwest geography, which encompasses Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, North and South Dakota, and Montana. She is a valued leader in advancing diversity, equality, and inclusion in Jacobs’ global operations. Jilma earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Walla Walla University, a M.S. in engineering from Wright State Unitersity, and is a graduate of the Executive Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. She is a Civil and Mechanical Licensed Professional Engineer and serves on the WSDOT/American Council of Engineering Companies Executive Liaison Committee. Nav Kesher Nav is the Director of Data Science of Facebook Commerce and has worked at Facebook since 2015. He specializes in the Data Sciences and Analytics fields, bringing ideas to life, from early ideation and planning to development and growth. Nav is an immigrant from India and has called the Seattle area home for the last 11 years. At Facebook, in addition to his regular responsibilities, he also serves as Diversity Business Champion for all of Facebook’s Data Science and Data Engineering teams. Nav has been invited to conferences and top tier universities to speak on topics such as growth hacking, big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data visualization. He is also an active peer reviewer for top machine learning and artificial intelligence conferences and journals. Nav holds a B.S. in Engineering and an M.B.A. in general management.
- Bellwether Housing breaks ground on 200 apartments in Bitter Lake
Bellwether Housing will break ground this week on a new 200 unit affordable housing development at 916 N 143rd St in the Bitter Lake neighborhood of North Seattle. The development is one of the first affordable housing developments to be supported by Seattle Foundation’s Evergreen Impact Housing Fund (EIHF). EIHF provided a catalytic loan for the project. When coupled with more traditional financing sources, EIHF’s patient and low-cost capital allowed Bellwether to build this deeply affordable housing development. “Mission-driven investments from our region’s private sector, like those that created the EIHF, are the biggest transformation in affordable housing finance in decades,” says Susan Boyd, CEO of Bellwether Housing. “Instead of waiting in line for scarce State and local capital subsidies, a process that typically adds 2 years to our development timeline, we were able to get this development underway quickly. This means more families will have access to affordable housing much sooner than they otherwise would have without the EIHF. ” “The Evergreen Impact Housing Fund is excited to support this critical affordable housing development in the Bitter Lake neighborhood. Too many working-class people are being priced out of King County because there is simply not an adequate supply of affordable housing—especially units that are big enough for families and close to public transit. EIHF’s goal is to provide the social impact financing that makes these large-scale developments possible and increases the supply of apartments that working families can afford,” said Kris Hermanns, Chief Impact Officer at Seattle Foundation, which manages EIHF. Bellwether’s new development will provide housing affordable to individuals and families making between $46,500 for one person and $66,420 for a family of four. Bellwether has incorporated a large number of 2- and 3- bedrooms units to serve larger families who are underserved by the rental market. The location is ideal for people who use transit on Aurora or bike commute to downtown. The development will also be near the future Sound Transit Light Rail at station at 130th NE, opening in 2025. Neighborhood amenities include the Bitter Lake Reservoir and Park, P-Patch Community Garden, playfields, a community center, and the Interurban Bike Trail. This development is part of Bellwether’s plans to create or acquire 2500 new affordable homes by 2025 to meet the intense need in King County for housing options for lower income households. It is scheduled to open in 2023.
- The Confluence Opens for New Residents Today
Today, The Confluence, Bellwether Housing's 101-home new development in Tukwila, received final sign off that residents can start moving into their new homes! The Confluence is in the Foster neighborhood in the heart of Tukwila, near where the The Duwamish and Black rivers come together. Hence the name The Confluence—meaning two rivers coming together. And it all comes together at The Confluence - great location, strong community, fantastic amenities. The Confluence is just steps from the Tukwila Light Rail Station, making it easy for residents to reach community resources, jobs, and educational opportunities. Residents also have easy access to the Tukwila Library, Abu-Bakr Islamic Center, Thorndyke Elementary, Foster High School, Tukwila Pool, and Crystal Springs Park. Apartments range from studios to 3 bedrooms apartments for larger families. The spacious, modern apartments are built with sustainable materials and thoughtful touches like quartz countertops, vinyl plank flooring, and large windows for natural light. Residents will enjoy fantastic amenities as well, including a large community room for hosting celebrations and gatherings; a computer lab; free onsite parking; a private gated courtyard with BBQ, life-size chess game, and a mini soccer field; and stunning views of Mount Rainier from the top floor lounge. These amenity spaces foster community and companionship. All residents have access to our on-site Resident Services Program as well, which connects families to the resources and support they need to thrive. The Confluence is the first building in our Building Opportunity campaign to open. This campaign - supported by generous individuals, foundations, and businesses - funded over 800 new affordable homes. Many thanks to our partners who made The Confluence possible, including: The City of Tukwila, Johnson Braund Architecture, Rafn Construction, and Building Opportunity supporters. Stay tuned for our official grand opening later this fall.
- Bellwether Housing and Amazon Team Up to Preserve Affordable Housing
SEATTLE --- Bellwether Housing, King County, Washington’s largest nonprofit affordable housing provider, has acquired 213 affordable homes at two locations: The BLVD, a 136-unit apartment complex in Kent and The Marina Club, a 77-unit in Des Moines. This acquisition is part of Bellwether’s strategy to preserve existing affordability levels in lower-cost rental housing in locations highly vulnerable to steep rent increases. These acquisitions were made possible by the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, a $2 billion commitment to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable housing units by offering low-rate loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations. The low-cost financing allows Bellwether to compete with commercial-rate buyers who would acquire these units with the goal of significantly increasing existing rents. Bellwether’s CEO, Susan Boyd, explained, “the Amazon Housing Equity Fund could not have come at a better time. Our goal has been to preserve as much affordability in King County as we can before it’s too late. Public funding sources are severely constrained and have not prioritized this kind of strategy. As we were preparing our hunt for low-cost capital, Amazon announced its Fund. We anticipate this tool will allow us to bring hundreds more units into permanent affordability and prevent hundreds of lower income families from being displaced from their homes.” “We are so pleased to be a part of the solution by addressing housing shortages in our region,” said Catherine Buell, Director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “By teaming up with organizations such as Bellwether Housing, we are able to help grow the housing stock for households making moderate- to low-incomes. These households may include teachers, transit workers and firefighters -- people whose jobs may pay a modest income, but whose contributions are invaluable.” The Amazon Housing Equity Fund has made prior investments in Puget Sound including funding $185.5 million in low-rate loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve affordability for 1,000 apartment homes and committing $100 million in low-rate funding to developers to help create and expedite the development of Sound Transit property offered for affordable housing. These latest commitments bring that figure to more than $310 million in loans and grants in the region to date.
- We're Doing Pride All Wrong
Editorial Note: This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. In the 29 years I’ve been around, I have witnessed a seismic shift in attitudes toward gay people. Where I’m from, there were no rainbow flags or Pride parades. Just 30 miles north of New York City, my suburb felt isolated. When I was growing up, it was still exciting to see gay television characters receive even just one minute of airtime. I didn’t learn about gay culture from the people around me – but I’m young enough that I did have the internet. The internet taught me to be gay the only way that it was possible to be gay at the time. When I was 13, I memorized the catalogues of classic divas like Janet Jackson. I studied (questionable) shows like Queer as Folk and learned about the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. I wore rainbow chokers and tight pink shirts. I didn’t necessarily connect with the queer culture I read about, but it was all I knew. My high school years were hard. I lost every one of my friends when I came out. My high school psychologist falsely accused me of sexually assaulting her son and called my parents to tell them so. I had a strained relationship with my parents until I was about 23. When I would walk around town holding hands with my high school boyfriend, people would yell homophobic insults at us. Sometimes objects were thrown. Some drivers would intentionally swerve their cars toward us as they passed by, steering away at the last second so as not to strike us dead. It was just enough to provoke a reaction. To instill fear in us. The police refused to help us, so I sometimes took it upon myself to ambush the drivers when they got caught at red lights. These drivers were not just peers at school but also their parents. The hate was a value parents taught. My high school boyfriend’s father would sometimes beat him and then call me in the middle of the night to tell me that I was ruining his son’s life. A few times, his dad would find me walking alone at night, make an abrupt U-turn, and follow me slowly. I would hide behind trees and wait until the headlights disappeared, afraid he would get out of the car. This was growing up gay in the ‘00s. There were probably 3 other “out” gay men in my high school at the time and we all had our stories. But I pushed hard. I wanted to challenge others to accept me. I started my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. I finagled my way into being the “guest speaker” at Senior Senate on the days that same-sex marriage was being debated. I filed police reports constantly, even if some police suggested that I was being targeted because my clothes were “too flamboyant”. So I wore the loudest, weirdest outfits I could find. If people were going to stare, I’d give them something to look at. I let my boyfriend take shelter at my house so he’d be safe. I infiltrated enough friend groups at school to eventually make my bullies the losers. What I couldn’t have known was that life would soon become a walk in the park for gay men like me, at least living in big cities like New York and Seattle. I don’t fear for my livelihood anymore. I feel supported and even encouraged by my peers (and even my family). Today, being “queer” is trendy and sought after in many social circles. I revel in the complaints by my gay friends that believe that queerness is being coopted and gentrified by straight people… 😊 What a problem to have! From where I stand, this country has come a long way. Gay men that are white and cisgender like me are increasingly embraced, adored, and confirmed to presidential cabinets. I share my story this month to direct attention elsewhere; however, where stories like this persist and are far worse. It has become abundantly clear to me what a comfortable ride I’ve had compared to less coddled and protected queer folks. The problem with the “LGBT” initialism is that it misleads you to believe that all lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and Trans people are 1) a big happy family that are united by our queerness, and 2) equal in the eye of society and the law. When same-sex marriage was made the law of the land in 2015 – here is a fantastic podcast episode to remind you of how that happened - was this a meaningful triumph for Trans people? For Trans people, marriage is a frivolous legal right that means very little when you are a teenager living on the street. Or a sex worker because you can’t find safer work. Or developing a substance addiction to cope with it all. Trans people, especially Trans people of color, are misunderstood at best, often made into a punchline, and more often vilified. There is a huge disparity in how members of the “LGBT” community are treated. This is why the focus of Pride needs to advance. Trans people continue to experience social isolation, exclusion, homelessness, barriers to employment, workplace discrimination, inadequate healthcare, and violence. Anti-Trans violence comes from both the general public as well as police officers, which is one reason why uniformed police have been banned from some Pride marches this year. I wish that the focus of my passage could only be to recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements of Trans people. I want to remind you all about how unbelievable it was when Danica Roem became the first transgender person to be elected and serve openly in any U.S. state legislature in 2017. But it’s important to share the harrowing truths about the mental health and status of Trans people today. Some notable figures mostly copied from a recent Trevor Project survey of 40,000 queer youth: 1 in 3 queer youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their queer identity. 29% of queer youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away. 61% of Trans youth reported being prevented or discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. 60% of Trans and nonbinary young Americans engaged in self-harm in the last year. Half of Trans youth reported having seriously considered attempting suicide during the last year. Appearing authentically matters: Trans youth with access to binders, shapewear, and gender-affirming clothing reported lower rates of attempting suicide. Almost half said they did not receive the mental health care they wanted because their providers weren’t experienced or familiar with the needs of Trans patients. It is time to usher in the movement to protect and celebrate Trans family members, friends, coworkers, entertainers, and leaders. I hardly need to inform you that there is also abundant racism within the queer community and, of course, our culture at large. It is essential that Pride puts Trans people first this year, and every year. Please dedicate some time to learning about Trans people. Learn about their history and their struggles. Extend compassion to Trans individuals. For those of you that organize or participate in Pride events, open your hearts to Trans people and make room for them at events and gatherings. Trans people are often barred from employment opportunities. Thus, many Trans people are poor, and Pride parties are becoming increasingly expensive to attend – so we ought to discount any entry fees or, better yet, make entry free for Trans individuals. It is also time to think about making a home for Trans people, especially those of color, as employees on the Bellwether Housing staff as well as in our buildings. Decisions as small as including Gender Neutral Bathrooms in our buildings and respecting everyone’s Gender Pronouns can make meaningful differences. Here is a list of recommended resources centered on Trans culture, history, and issues. Below is a limited list of recommended Trans-focused media that I invite you to learn from, enjoy, and share: TELEVISION SERIES Veneno (HBO)is a 2020 Spanish biographical television limited series, which tells the life and death of Spanish transgender singer and television personality Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, better known by the nickname "La Veneno". Pose (Netflix) is an American drama television series about New York City's African-American and Latino LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming drag ball culture scene in the 1980s, early 1990s in the second season, and the mid-to-late 1990s in the third season. Featured characters are dancers and models who compete for trophies and recognition in this underground culture, and who support one another in a network of “chosen families” known as Houses. Euphoria (HBO) is an American teen drama television series. It follows a group of high school students through their experiences of sex, drugs, friendships, love, identity, and trauma. MOVIES Disclosure (Netflix) is a 2020 American documentary film. The film follows an in-depth look at Hollywood's depiction of transgender people and the impact of their stories on transgender lives and American culture. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (YouTube) is a 1994 Australian road comedy film. The plot follows two drag queens and a transgender woman as they journey across the Australian Outback in a tour bus that they have named "Priscilla", along the way encountering various groups and individuals. The film's title references the slang term "queen" for a drag queen or female impersonator. Transhood (HBO) is a 2020 American documentary film. The film follows 4 children, beginning at ages four, seven, twelve, and fifteen, as they "redefine coming-of-age". The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (Netflix) is a 2017 American documentary film. It chronicles Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, prominent figures in gay liberation and transgender rights movement in New York City from the 1960s to the 1990s and co-founders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. The film centers on activist Victoria Cruz's investigation into Johnson's death in 1992, which was initially ruled a suicide by police, despite suspicious circumstances. Tangerine (YouTube) is a 2015 American comedy-drama film. The story follows a transgender sex worker who discovers her boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her. The film was shot with three iPhone 5S smartphones. Paris is Burning (Amazon) is a 1990 American documentary film. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. Critics consider the film to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the "Golden Age" of New York City drag balls, and a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America PODCASTS Trans Questioning Podcast ORGANIZATIONS Queer the Land is a collaborative project grounded in the self-determination of queer, Trans, etc. WA Black Trans Task Force(part of the Lavender Rights Project) is an intersectional, multi-generational project of community building, research, and political action addressing the crisis of violence against Black Trans people. Center for Transgender Equality advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people. In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, NCTE works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice. The Trevor Project Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. Human Rights Campaign strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community. INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS ContraPoints (Natalie Wynn) @contrapoints Danny Wakefield @danythetransdad MUSICIANS OF NOTE Ezra Furman (alt pop) SOPHIE (electronic hyperpop) Mykki Blanco (rap) Kim Petras (pop) Anohni(chamber pop) 100 Gecs (hyperpop) Arca (experimental) Dorian Electra (pop) Honey Dijon (dj) YOUTUBE ACCOUNTS ContraPoints (Natalie Wynn) youtube account Jammidodger youtube account Kat Blaque youtube account BOOKS We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 13 Books to Better Understand Trans and Nonbinary Lives, Recommended by Activists and Authors 10 Books by Trans Authors That Will Change Your Life Heartspark Press: Literature by and for Transgender Women
- Immigrant Heritage Month!
June is a #PrideMonth. We’re celebrating LGBTQ+ community’s social and self-acceptance, achievements, legal rights, and pride. June is when we’re celebrating #Juneteenth – we’re commemorating the end of legalized slavery in the US and celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the US. June is when we’re celebrating #WorldRefugeeDay – we’re celebrating the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees from around the world. June is also #ImmigrantHeritageMonth – we’re celebrating the nation’s vibrant diversity, immigrants' heritage, and their contributions to the nation. It is important to take the time to celebrate each of these events and continue educating ourselves about the groups they recognize. It is also important to honor and respect each of these events equally. Immigration is an intersectional matter. People immigrated here might have several different reasons: · For a better life for their family · For the “American Dream” · To express their true identity · For the freedom to love who they choose · For safety and liberation · For religious and political freedom · And many other reasons that don’t need to be explained, because no one needs to explain it. One of the remarkable things about America is that nearly all of our families originally came from someplace else. Immigration is part of the DNA of this nation. It’s a source of our strength and something that we should be proud of. Knowing about our family's immigration history or ancestral stories can be a privilege that many people don't have. Enslaved people were not counted as people, and therefore birth and death records were not kept at all – read more details here; and many Native Americans children were deliberately taken from their parents and adopted out to white families – read more details here. That’s why during #ImmigrantHeritageMonth, Bellwether staff are sharing their immigrant stories with each other. What is your family's American story? How did you or your family make it to America, whether you’re an immigrant yourself or your great-great-grandparents were. What are you most proud of about your heritage? How are you and others keeping it alive?