is the president/founder of HANDS ON ADVOCACY GROUP, a 24hr agency assisting people with disability issues, homelessness, domestic violence, hate crimes, police interactions, discrimination, intervening in any situation where the law as been violated, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. Erik canvasses Los Angeles neighborhoods to observe police interactions with the community, as well as build his caseload for those in need.
Can you tell me a bit about the work you do with the LAPD and how that got started?
There are times when I’ve witnessed something that was inappropriately done. I actually witnessed a group of cops slam a transgender girl on the trunk of her car. I approached one of the cops who arrived after the fact and was told that did not happen and that I was the only one who saw that. I detailed the officers’ car numbers to the captain and now there’s an ongoing investigation about it.
It started because I hear so many stories about the LAPD and I wanted to get involved as much as I could and I wanted to show that we do have some good officers, while continuing to work with those officers who are problematic. Because I have noticed things out here. I’m out here every morning. I’ve seen people getting beaten up. I’ve taken pictures. I’ve seen the blood. I’ve called the police and not gotten anyone to come...or they come an hour later.
I bring the Hollywood vice into organizations to speak about their protocols with the trans community. We got the very first trans training with central division downtown in August of this year, and we’ve done the Hollywood division, and later on this month we’re going to El Monte.
What kind of things do you cover?
The training consists of pronoun usage, identity, gender questions, basically an overview about classifications and how to actually deal with trans men and trans women. It encompasses identity, sexual orientation, names, how they like to be identified. I don’t do the actual training. I’m the liaison. I get the trainers to come in from the Gay and Lesbian Center.
Tell me about your nonprofit - HANDS ON ADVOCACY GROUP
I started out as an independent advocate. I started out in neighborhoods just talking to people and trying to make things better. I created my own non-profit, Hands on Advocacy Group and we’re hands on. We do a lot of things that people don’t want to do. We go out in the community and ask people if they’re in the need of services. I find a lot of people who can’t read or write, so I help them navigate through the bureaucratic channels to get them the services they need.
I’ve been teaming up with a lot of people who own homes [and are] willing to open their homes to the LGBT community, so we’re housing people now.
The non-profit started in May. I got the final paper work. I’m legit (laughs) I’m legal now. I’m just looking for office space, grants, stuff like that.
What do you feel are the most pressing concerns for the trans and gender nonconforming community?
We have employers that don’t want to hire transgender people. We have transgender people who are immigrants, who are sex workers, who cannot access services. We have gang members who prey on the trans community, who have them doing crimes to get money.
My job is a lot different because I’m out here. I’m seeing things happen. I’m literally in the crossfire. There are times when I have to run just like everybody else has to run. It’s a lot different than a victim going to speak to someone behind a desk who only sees the streets on their way home from work.
I had a transgender girl come up to me and hug me and say ‘help me’ because this particular service provider would not help her because she had the flu. I have a problem with service providers who say ‘We’re here to help the gay and transgender community’ and they turn around and do the opposite.
Today I’m dealing with a bisexual 22-year-old man. He has a leg that’s amputated. He called me last night and told me he needs housing. I don’t want to wait weeks to help him. I got him a place to stay today.
How will you be spending this year’s TDOR?
We’ll start at the Matthew Shepard Triangle, march to Plummer Park and that’s where we’ll have the speakers and the reading of the names. Chaz Bono will be a speaker at the triangle for the dedication of the very first transgender plaque to be stationed at the triangle to memorialize all of those that have been murdered from hate crimes.
I will be bringing the food for everybody. I will celebrate. I requested to have “I Look to You” by Whitney Houston be played after we read the names. I know I will be crying. I see beauty in everybody, so I will celebrate with the living as well as the deceased.
[From http://www.transgenderdor.org/ ]
West Hollywood, California
Friday, November 20, 2009
The event begins at Matthew Shepard Human Rights Triangle
(Santa Monica Blvd. at Crescent Heights)
where there will be an unveiling of the first Transgender Memorial Plaque,
commemorating those who have been murdered due to anti-transgender
violence and hatred.
For more information, please contact Karina Samala at 213-999-0456.