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A Woman of Colour

December 31, 2018

Evana Ortigoza comes in every Tuesday to participate in the Trans People of Colour (TPOC) project at The 519 as a peer leader. But her relationship with us spans two decades.

Evana was a sex worker and precariously homeless 20 years ago. With no access to services or shelter as a young trans woman of colour, she experienced a lot of violence, harassment and loss on the streets. She remembers coming to The 519 to hang out. She also met her partner, now husband, at the time. He was homeless as well.

“ Trans people of colour are extremely marginalized. People don’t realize the struggle we go through every single day. It is important for me to say loudly and proudly that I am a woman; I am a woman of colour – and I am here! ”

With the support of staff and community, she was able to get rehabilitation for her chronic drug use. She decided to become involved in community work and received relevant training at The 519.

“ I started coming here every day – to learn and observe and adapt. I knew I needed to change or I would die – like so many of my friends. ”

Evana got involved with Trans Access, a trans awareness training program for service providers. She also started working for the Meal Trans program at The 519.

“ Just when my life was turning around, I found out that I was HIV positive. It felt like my dreams shattered once again. ”

Her community and partner supported her through this time, and Evana was able to educate herself more and more about the stigma and barriers HIV positive women face. Since then, she has dedicated her life to advocating for the cause. She is currently on the steering committee, Circle of Care, at PWA. She is also very active in the Latinx communities and is engaged with Trans PULSE as a community researcher.

Now, as part of the Trans People of Colour project, she mentors other trans women of colour. They call her Mama and get inspiration from her life, her confidence and positive energy.

Evana still comes to Meal Trans every Monday and never misses it. She doesn’t come for the food anymore. She comes for her community.

Trans Women are Real Women poster

Evana featured in The 519’s Trans Inclusion campaign, 2006