- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Sheila Alexander-Reid says she knows the everyday pain, loss and violence endured by LGBTQ people in the District and across the country. She taps that knowledge as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to create opportunities to uplift the community.

“And so that’s why I worked really hard to make sure we have the housing programs and the employment programs and the mental health programs, because we want to make sure that we limit this sort of violence,” Ms. Alexander-Reid said. “And I think if we can have more people in programs, then they’re less likely to be on the street and less likely to be harmed.”

Ms. Alexander-Reid has a photograph of Zoe Spears hanging in her office — and before that a picture of Ashanti Carmon and another of Dee Dee Dodds — transgender women who were killed in District during the 4 years she has been director.

She said the hardest part of her job is attending celebration of life ceremonies (otherwise known as funerals) and visiting hospitalized patients — who suffered violence for expressing their gender identity.

Her office, with its $445,000 budget, works with city police and the community to develop strategies and programs to prevent such violence.

A priority for Ms. Alexander-Reid is reducing the number of hate crimes in the District, and one way her office aims to achieve that goal is the #RespectMeDC campaign, which launched on social media this week.

Along entertainment corridors such as U Street NW, H Street NE, Anacostia and downtown, where the District is seeing an uptick in violence, posters on buses and in Metro stops display images of transgender women and other members of the of the LGBTQ community to emphasize that “no one should be harassed for who you are.”

The office also organizes a variety of events to celebrate the city’s LGBTQ community. Last weekend, it helped organize the District’s first National Trans Visibility March, and Ms. Alexander-Reid read a proclamation from Mayor Muriel Bowser declaring Sept. 28 as Trans Visibility Day

Her office also organized District of Pride, a talent show for LGBTQ artists; and an event honoring 40 inspiring queer women under 40 in the city.

“Those types of events that bring that bring the LGBTQ and the mainstream community together to show that we have more in common than we have issues that separate us,” Ms. Alexander-Reid said of the High Heel Race, which her office took over organizing from local activists. “I think those are things that are the intangibles that you can’t really measure but those are the sort of things that reduce hate crimes that build lasting relationships and create partnerships for the future.”

On a daily basis, Ms. Alexander-Reid meets with activist groups and residents to hear their concerns, collaborate and connect them with services and grants offered by D.C. agencies. She also facilitates training with city employees and agencies on LGBTQ topics such as the importance of pronouns, attends Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings and helps plan an LGBTQ youth summit with the U.S. attorney’s office.

One of the office’s three full-time staff members is dedicated to helping homeless LGBTQ youth find permanent housing. The office also has a part-time staffer from the Department of Health to focus on health issues specific to the LGBTQ community, like HIV and AIDS.

Created by a mayor’s order in 2006, the office has had a significant impact on the District, Ms. Alexander-Reid said, noting the city’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2009, the Department of Corrections now considering a person’s gender identity in housing detainees, an update of the D.C. Human Rights Act to include protections for gender expression and identity, and motorists now being able to change their gender identity on driver’s licenses.

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