We live in the day and age where equal rights are being demanded beyond racial barriers. LGBTQ rights have been a highlight of 2019. A few years ago the law passed Nationwide where people could marry the same sex.

In addition to our every day lives, transgender people also want more equality when it comes to the workplace and leadership positions. The Elevate Fellowship Program advances transgender women of color in the South by effectively increasing their leadership capacity to navigate and improve public health systems.

I recently interviewed the director of the program, J. Maurice, where he chatted more on the program.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the Elevate Program is and what the inspiration behind starting it was?

The Elevate Fellowship advances transgender women and non-binary people of color in the South by effectively increasing their leadership capacity to navigate and improve public health systems. This program, rooted in skills building and professional and leadership. The program was inspired by and developed for trans women and non-binary people of color. There are few programs that exist with the support of a national organization like HRC.

What are the goals for the program for the upcoming cohort?

The goal is to provide the cohort the resources and tools they need to elevate the work they’re currently doing in their community while addressing the social and structural determinants of health of marginalized communities.

What have some of the success stories from past cohorts been?

With this being out inaugural cohort, we have already seen success in our ELEVATE fellows. From building initiatives in their local cities to starting the planning conversations with community leaders to provide equitable spaces for Black and LatinX transgender communities starting at home.

LGBT rights and issues have been HUGE this year in the media and in Television and Film, especially with the popular series POSE. Why is a program like ELEVATE needed in the community?

Unlike film and television, ELEVATE speaks to the lived experience of trans women and non-binary people. From stigma to systematic violence and oppression to lack of access to culturally responsive prevention and care.

Where do you see the program going in the next 3 to 5 years?

Currently the program focuses on the lived experience of trans women and non-binary people in the South. In the upcoming program year we will implement a national expansion including all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

What is some advice that you can give to those who may be struggling with their identity?

Be comfortable with who you are. Don’t conform to fit into a heteronormative society.

Where can people follow the program? Is HRC on social media?

You can follow all programmatic highlights on www.hrc.org/resources/elevate. HRC is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as online at hrc.org.

How can people sign up for future cohorts?

Future cohorts will be announced on all HRC social media platforms. We will also be elevating opportunities via cohort fellow and community partners. You can also learn more at  www.hrc.org/resources/elevate