By Greg Hernandez
Held the day before Thanksgiving, the 18thannual TransGiving celebration helps members of the community connect at a time when many miss their families the most.
“Many of us are dealing with a lot and walking in our trauma. So when we gather for TransGiving, it’s all about love,” says TransGiving founder Chela Demuir, longtime president of Unique Woman’s Coalition (UWC).
Organizers expect more than 200 people for the elegant, four-course meal at LA Celebrations Banquet Halls on Wednesday, Nov. 21. This year’s dinner is sponsored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Trans Wellness Center (TWC), the community-based partnership between the Center and five other local community organizations. Additional sponsors include FLUX and the Center for HIV Identification, Prevention, and Treatment Services (CHIPTS).
“It’s good to remind the community that we need to say thank you to each other and love each other,” says Mariana Marroquin, TWC program manager. “We need to keep the gratitude going and always remember that no matter what, there’s always been someone who has believed in us and helped us accomplish what we want and what we need. We don’t always see it because we deal with horrible things daily, but there’s always someone who asks, ‘How are you doing?’ or says, ‘Keep going’ or has a smile. And that’s beautiful.”
TransGiving was launched in 1999 when Demuir realized how emotionally difficult the upcoming holiday would be for her and many of her friends and decided to do something about it.
“I called a few of my girlfriends and said, ‘Let’s cook a Thanksgiving dinner but not eat it. Let’s pack it up and let’s go out,’” recalls Demuir, whose LA-based organization is the first trans group and nonprofit in Southern California to be founded by black trans women.
She and three friends made a meal of turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and candied yams. They put the food out on card tables set up near Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue, where members of the community typically gathered.
“We served dinner right there in public as our community passed by,” Demuir remembers. “Before you knew it, people were sitting down and it was just a beautiful thing. Our community really surrounded us and said, ‘Wow, this is fantastic.’”
They served about 30 people that year and a tradition was born. The next year, the dinner was officially named TransGiving.
“It’s really grown since we gave it a name,” Demuir explains. “The second year we fed about 50 and this year we are prepared to feed 200. Some of the faces have changed over the years in terms of who helps us out, but our commitment and our intention has always been the same.”
This year’s dinner will take place during a year when transgender rights are under assault by President Donald Trump and his administration.
“It creates even more of a sense of urgency for us to bond and unite,” Demuir says. “We have to use every opportunity that we’re together to mobilize our community and prepare. It is time for us to be more involved.”