Our director, Tali Abernathy Jones, started her journey working as a sous-chef in Kentucky. She had always struggled with her identity and place in the world, but everything clicked into place after seeing a therapist. "Transgender". Finally, she had a word for herself, a doctor's note she could show to her family, and validation to live as the person she was always meant to be. The next day, she burned her entire wardrobe and it was years before she touched another pair of pants.
Unfortunately, employment protections for trans folk are scarce, and Tali lost her career. In search of a better life, she began her journey west. First, she lived in Wyoming, working multiple jobs in order to support herself. She started connecting with other trans people for the first time at the Trans Youth Channel, where she acted as Data Analyst and Head of Research, allowing her to make contact with community that was not accessible in Kentucky. However, while she was very fulfilled and accepted in her work, the enormous burden of paying for HRT out of pocket made her housing insecure, and even staying fed was a struggle. In addition, the local environment did not have much support for LGBT+ individuals, and she was subjected to violence time and time again.
A fellow TYC employee and friend encouraged her to move to Washington. Inspired by the promise of health insurance, and a more liberal and less violent demographic, Tali packed up her things and made way to Olympia. She has been living here ever since!
The Work Begins
February 15th, 2016
Barely a month after moving to Olympia local hate groups started organizing in order to dismantle decade old anti-discrimination protections for trans people in Washington State. After traveling across the entire country in order to find a place to call home, Tali was not about to sit back as hate tore her community apart. She co-founded Organizing Trans Olympia with the intent of banding together the scattered and segmented community, culminating in the Transmisogyny Counter-Protest.
After leading an amazing event with hundreds of protesters, Tali kept up momentum. She helped found the Thurston County Chapter of the Washington SAFE Alliance, traveling across the state to attend Senate hearings, speak with the Human Rights Commission, and do educational workshops on the anti-trans legislation. She got involved with local organizations, helping young queer and trans folk at Stonewall Youth and connecting with her fellow queer and trans people of color with the Queer Black Alliance of the South Sound and Full Circle United.
June 12, 2016
During the summer, Tali pulled our community together in the wake of the Orlando Massacre, coordinating with OlyAct, Capital City Pride, Unity in the Community, and Interfaith Works to hold a vigil centering our latinx queer and trans family. Organizing Trans Olympia worked to signal boost the GLBT Center of Orlando's fundraiser for the Pulse Nightclub victims, sent people to local blood banks to help with shortages, and held space for a community in mourning.
November 20, 2016
Tali was a speaker at OlyPride 2016 during the summer, and organized a wildly successful Transgender Day of Resilience event in the following November. For years, Olympia TDoR events had been heavily criticized for erasing and outright excluding trans people of color, who make up the vast majority of LGBT+ murder and assault victims. In previous years, only white trans speakers were included in events, and cisgender police officers were asked to speak on their behalf. There were incidents where white organizers harassed local trans activists of color who tried to suggest a more intersectional and welcoming approach to the event.
It was clear that the community was in pain, and that direct action needed to be taken so that trans people of color, who had been excluded from activist spaces consistently for years due to microaggressions, harassment, and outright violence, would feel safe at the event. Tali organized for months, arranging a panel of black, Asian, and indigenous speakers who had years of experience working in the community, as well as acquiring an appropriate space for the event, assigning a team of volunteers to accommodate disabled participants, gathering food to feed everyone, and ensuring that proper security was present to keep people safe.
Over the past two years, Tali has become intimately acquainted with the unique qualities of our community here in Olympia-- what organizations and resources are available, medical professionals, support groups, and other resources. When first moving here, she was shocked to learn that a city with such a large LGBT+ population had no community resource center to serve them. Nearby colleges had diversity centers or clubs for queer and trans individuals, but these were often inaccessible to non-students. Additionally, many of the resources that did exist had an age cap-- making them inaccessible to huge swaths of our community. Time and time again, feedback she would hear from fellow LGBT+ community members was "There is no space directly serving queer, trans, and intersex adults."