Transparency: Strength in vulnerability within the DAPS

Chairperson, Oliver Webb speaks about the DAPS and their support of trans and gender diverse individuals in the Puget Sound.

Chairperson of the Diversity Alliance of the Puget Sound, Oliver Webb, spoke about the non-profit’s goal to support trans and gender diverse people in Washington state. 

“The board consists of me, Secretary Skyler Locke and Member-at-Large board members, Ollie Fjor’Skera and Astro Pittman,” Webb said “We originally were founded in 2004 and became a non-profit in 2008. We switched names because we switched service areas.”

Although previously the Gender Alliance of the Southsound, the recent name change was a result of expanding their reach to assist people further than the bounds of the Southsound and to rebrand as a whole.

The non-profit began more than a decade ago because community members outside of King County wanted accessibility to a supportive trans and gender diverse organization.

“In Washington, we only have a handful of transgender organizations. Back then, Ingersoll was the major group in Seattle. So, King County was covered, but there was nothing in Pierce County. It was inaccessible to many outside of Seattle,” Webb said.

Webb spoke about what he saw needed to come from this organization. His lengthy experience within the LGBTQ+ community has motivated the work he does in leading the DAPS today. 

“I have volunteered in the community for several decades. I have seen people get either passed around from organization to organization or there’s falling through the cracks. Because of this, we really wanted to be a landing pad for people,” he said. 

Because of what he’s witnessed, Webb and the board strive to create an environment for trans and gender diverse individuals that is both welcoming and accepting of who they are.

“We wanted to be a home for people. A safe space for someone to be their authentic self. And we really take people as they are. We want to be a true safe space that has resources and understands the necessities that are needed,” Webb said.

He also spoke about the ways that the DAPS fills the need to have a good support system for trans and gender diverse individuals in Washington state. 

This goal to provide support and social groups to fill a hole in the community has manifested itself into groups currently held online, five times a week. They are different in each of these days and provide different types of activities for those who join.

“Monday mornings are Trans Tea, which is a social group. Tuesday nights are Plugged In, which is our activity night. Wednesday mornings are Trans-cend, which is mindfulness and yoga. Thursday nights are Trans-101. And Fridays switch between two groups,” Webb said. 

Fridays are eventful for DAPS in that they differ in the activities they do. Although previously centered around one activity, their popularity has caused them to adjust their schedule.

“The first and third Fridays of the month are Friday evening tea, so that’s a social group. It used to be one hour but it takes about one hour to get through all the introductions. So, we have extended it to two hours, due to popular demand,” he said. 

Their new Friday segment involves having a once-per-month guest speaker. The DAPS found that this interaction helps foster more connections locally.

“On the other Fridays, we have Trans-Mission. At least once a month, we have community guest speakers come in and focus on intersectionality and major trans issues in the community. On the 23rd, Joshua Fike from Stonewall Democrats will be our first speaker,” Webb said.

Equally of importance to the DAPS is their Artist in Residency Program. This program was built on the foundation of wanting to support and uplift trans artists by incorporating them into their monthly calendars.

“We could have hired a graphic artist to do a one time graphic set. But we decided early on that we wanted to hire local artists to do this. So we give a stipend and each artist does a two month rotation with us,” he said. 

Other programs they hold have to do with aid. Whether this be monetary or supplying trans and gender diverse individuals with needed resources, the DAPS states that it works in delivering for these communities. 

“We have an HRT program where we give two months of HRT supplies. One is Name-Aid, where we pay for people to change your names because we believe that financial issues should not stop you from changing your name. And we have a microgrant program,” Webb said. 

However, like many organizations, the DAPS has faced difficulties with the pandemic at large. Webb discussed how the pandemic really pushed them to see whether they would sink or swim.

“I think the biggest obstacle was losing an entire board because of COVID. We were all feeling that isolation. People lost jobs or moved. It was really hard. And then there’s also a learning curb. We had to come back from a really hard place to get to where we are,” Webb said. 

Even with these obstacles, Webb, the board members and the community at large were still able to persist. They learned that the online environment was key to making groups more accessible to all.

With all the work Webb and his board members do, there’s a lot of fruit they enjoy from their labor. However, a specific accomplishment that Webb is proud of is an online venture he has worked on.

“I built an entire discord of resources of every type of resource you would ever want. We do have resources of surgeons or doctors that are trans inclusive. However, we went further than that. If you need a haircut, it’s there. If you need a tattoo, it’s there,” he said. 

With all these resources Webb and others have collected and put into discord, they have aspirations of sharing this beyond Washington state. 

“We’re making these resources into a searchable Wiki Page. That has been something we have been working on. But for now, it’s just an in depth discord that’s available to any trans, gender diverse person that would like to join,” he said. 

Furthermore, with prospects for the future in mind, Webb looks to the near future in excitement about events the DAPS will be taking on that all members of the community are welcomed to.

“We will be co-hosting Alki Beach Pride this year. We are doing it safely and socially distanced. That will be on the 14th and 15th of August,” he said. 

The DAPS has aspirations to create more groups than the ones they currently have. These groups are related to important aspects of a trans or gender diverse person’s experiences. 

“We have a couple of groups we would love to add on. We would love a trans-parent group. So, parents that are trans or parents of trans kids. We would love a significant other group. These are the other groups we have ideas for,” Webb said. 

How students, staff and faculty can help support these prospects differ, but are all equally valuable to the DAPS. Webb and the board want to continue working with the community and equally, want their support and guidance. 

“Supporting us in general. Coming out to pride, following us on social media. Telling people about us. If you know people that are trans in your life or gender diverse, supporting them, helping them find resources or sending them to us,” he said. 

To students, staff, and faculty at UW Tacoma inquiring about being better allies to trans and gender diverse people, Webb speaks about themes of respect.

“Know that we exist and give us space to exist. We need space to exist, we need to be loved, we need to be cared about and we need friends. Respect our pronouns, names and respect us as human beings. People are bound to mess up, but correct yourself and move on,” Webb said. 

Webb also stressed the importance of not outing trans and gender diverse people that one may know. To trans and gender diverse students, staff and faculty at UW Tacoma, Webb spoke about the validity of their existence and the support the DAPS has for them, as individuals. 

“You’re valid and you don’t owe anyone anything. There is no right way to be trans. You deserve to be who you are. Transition starts the day that you speak it into the world. If you only go as far as ‘I am trans,’ you are trans,” he said. 

Webb and the DAPS board members know of its importance to Tacoma and at large, Washington state. Because of this, Webb spoke about aspiring to see the work the DAPS does, continue on.

“I hope that we are building a foundation that is solid enough to continue on long after we are gone,” Webb said. “This organization is very important to those that are a part of it. We hope that it continues to grow and change. We hope that it’s here for many years to come.”

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