Ezra Bowen, the new transgender program coordinator for the Diversity Center, addresses the crowd at a recent open mic. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER
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Diversity Center Unveils Additional Support for Trans Youth

New staffer at the center says LGBT community needs more support

Ezra Bowen, the new transgender program coordinator for the Diversity Center, addresses the crowd at a recent open mic. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER

Juniper Arthur is open about the difficulties she’s faced as a transgender woman. How she was told to take antipsychotics as a cure, and that she ought to wear makeup and dresses to look more feminine. Why she felt pressured to pitch her voice up.

“The struggle isn’t about being trans. It’s being confident in being seen, and being happy with who you’re being seen as,” she said.

Arthur spoke at an open mic event that marked the kickoff of a new series of transgender support programs at Diversity Center Santa Cruz County. Though the nonprofit features a series of support programs geared toward the trans community, those groups meet just once a week or twice a month. With the new programs, the center is hosting a monthly event focused on the community’s needs.

The slate of events includes clothing swaps and educational workshops for the community at large. With funding coming from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, one of the biggest additions is a dedicated staffer to meet the needs of people who need support in the transgender community.

That support could be as simple as being available to listen or as complex as wading through the paperwork necessary for a gender transition, according to Sharon Papo, executive director of the Diversity Center.

“We have someone who can be a navigator in the community,” she said.

Ezra Bowen, the new coordinator for the program, said it’s hard to quantify how many transgender people live in the county. But one thing that is certain is that the community needs more support.

“I know that we like to tell ourselves that Santa Cruz is this liberal little hub,” Bowen said. “But I guarantee you if I were to go down to that Safeway down the street, I’d get three old white guys in pickups just glaring at me. Is it because I’m queer? Is it because I’m black? The truth is people don’t like to accept things they don’t know about and are different from them.” 

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