By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Oklahoma City’s first nonprofit agency to provide Gender Diverse/LGBTQ health services opened its doors on Feb. 12. About 60 people attended an open house event at the Diversity Center of Oklahoma’s new location at 2242 N.W. 39th Street. Visitors toured the facility, enjoyed refreshments, and heard comments from a number of the Diversity Center staff, support personnel and patrons.
Attendees included friends and supporters of the Center as well as the many organizational members that are occupying neighboring office space in the 5,400 square foot facility.
The Diversity Center is made up of LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) professionals and their supporters.
The Center’s board members include: Jordan Haygood, acting President: Ruth Seaman M.D., Vice President Nathan Watson, Treasurer; Cori Taber; Sue C. Jacobs PhD; Andrew Moore LPC; Philip Rightout; Dezea De’Alessandro; and Russell Rooms.
Kelley Blair, the Diversity Center’s CEO and executive director said that prior to the Center’s opening, individuals frequently dropped by and offered to help with various duties from putting in floors to painting walls.
“The community has really supported us in every effort,” said Blair. “We want this to be a real community center. We want people to feel safe and comfortable coming here and know that they have ownership here.”
A special ribbon cutting ceremony was held that evening to honor Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson, a Black transgender woman who was found brutally murdered last November in Oklahoma City. She was the 25th known transgender person killed in the U.S. in 2017, the most on record.
The Center’s multipurpose room was dedicated in Brooklyn’s remembrance as the ribbon was cut by her mother, Vivian Gaffney Stevenson.
According to a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Trans People of Color Coalition report 84 percent of the victims were people of color and 80 percent were women.
Blair pointed out that Transgender women of color have the highest rate of murder in the world. In addition, due to stigma and other related issues “People of color access less resources or services related to sexual orientation or gender identity, related to cultural barriers,” she said.
“It is the Diversity Center of Oklahoma’s hope along with the Stevenson family through the ‘Brooklyn Room’ that more people of color will seek gender diverse/LGBTQ services,” Blair said.
In a statement exclusive to The City Sentinel, Vivian Stevenson said, “We are incredibly honored and humbled by the Diversity Center’s recognition of Brooklyn and her life. When you lose a child or sister or someone you love, you worry that they will be forgotten. The room and plaque dedicated at the center in honor of Brooklyn will ensure that she and her contribution are remembered.”
The Diversity Center’s additional office space is now home to a number of agencies that provide wrap around services to the LGBTQ community: Diversity Behavioral Health; Diversity Family Health (primary healthcare, including transgender healthcare; Guiding Right (HIV/Aids Testing Services), Mosaic Midwifery; Perfect Pitch (voice specialist to assist with voice modulation- especially helpful with our transgender clients); OKC Pride; and Be the Change, a program for LGBTQ homeless youth.
“We have begun to initiate some of the special services for our transgender expansive community.” Blair said. “We are very excited to have Chad Henson with Perfect Pitch who is going to provide some voice training services for our transgender community,” Blair said.
A graduate of Belmont University in Nashville, Henson has performed in Paris, worked on cruise ships, and at Disney World. “As a vocal guide, I want to bring what I’ve done my whole life and give our transgender community confidence,” Henson said. “My schooling will allow them to be comfortable with their voice and be confident in who they are and who they want to be.”
Blair added, “We are expanding our services to include primary health care, which will also be a first to our community.
“We are the first and only non-profit agency in the state to provide direct behavioral health services to Gender Diverse/LGBTQ communities and their families, as well as other disenfranchised and marginalized people of color,” Blair said.
“It is our goal to have educational workshops and training for the community, as well as a safe communal place for people to gather for celebrations and other local events.”
The Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., evening and weekends by appointment only. For more information, call 405-252-0372 or visit diversitycenterofoklahoma.org