Transinclusive Group held its seventh annual Bishop S.F. Makalani-Mahee Transgender Equality Awards at Hamburger Mary’s Fort Lauderdale / Wilton Manors Nov. 30, the closing day of Transgender Awareness Month.
Presented in association with The Pride Center, The Florida Department of Health in Broward County and other partners, the event each year nominates and awards members of the community representing transgender, nonbinary and ally individuals, along with businesses and medical providers who have advanced Transgender Equality in the community. Awards are presented to an individual or business receiving the highest number of nominations in each category.
Among this year’s honorees were Kishi Martin, a health promotion peer navigator at Care Resource and a current board member at Unity Coalition | Coalicíon Unida, who received the Best Ally Award; Landon “LJ” Woolston, a Culture of Health leader at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who was honored with the Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee Trans Equality Award; Ashley Mayfaire, co-founder and director of operations at TransSOCIAL; Lindsay Drake, N.P., a family nurse practitioner at AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF); and Broward House, which was honored with the Best Organization Award.
Broward House is a not-for-profit social services organization with more than 30 years of providing services for the community impacted by HIV and other chronic health challenges. The nonprofit provides wrap-around social services comprising of Case Management, Substance Abuse Treatment, Mental Health Therapy, as well as ensuring access to medical care and housing.
Broward House provides a broad spectrum of housing to families and individuals impacted by HIV and socio-economic challenges, which includes Assisted Living, Transitional Housing and Independent Apartments with support to ensure stability. The organization strives daily to spread the message and supply the tools for education and prevention of the HIV/AIDS virus.
“We were so honored to recognize the important contributions [of this year’s honorees],” said a Transinclusive Group representative in a social media post on Facebook. “Their dedication and hard work in our community are vital to advancing equality, and we are grateful to work with leaders like these.”
Martin, in a social media post on Facebook, thanked Transinclusive Group, The Pride Center and the Florida Department Of Health for hosting the Bishop S.F. Makalani-Mahee Transgender Equality Awards, named after Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee, a leader in the local LGBT community, who worked as a minister, motivational speaker, activist and spoken-word artist. He passed away in 2017.
“The transgender community has supported me throughout my career in public health and I will always defend and protect them,” Martin said. “Much love to all who nominated and voted for me. I accept this honor in Bishop’s memory.”
Added Woolston: “Thank you to the folks who have kept this award alive, even though Bishop himself cannot. Truly surreal and humbling. I miss him dearly.”
Woolston is a queer and trans social worker, advocate and artist born and raised in South Florida, where he has spent over half of a decade working specifically with LGBT youth experiencing homelessness; increasing the resources available for this population; and creating broader community awareness of the complex challenges and inequities faced by these young people.
When asked what led him to do this work, Woolston answered “there was almost nothing around when I started transitioning in 2009. So we began to create it. I was having a very hard time, but I knew I wasn’t alone.”
“Through creating a resource in a space where none had previously existed, I learned quickly that there were indeed ‘many’ of us having a hard time here. And there still are,” Woolston continues. “Despite the strides we’ve made, over a decade later, trans/non-binary people are still struggling to find truly affirming resources down here, are still dying by suicide and are still being murdered. The reason I did ‘the work’ then is the reason I do it now — trans folks should have the same access to resources, jobs, health, housing and hope as everyone else.”
Woolston thanked on Facebook all of his trans/enby siblings and allies who “continue to fight for us even while we are continuing to lose one another, even when it’s hard and exhausting and even when it sometimes seems futile. It’s not. Every act of resistance, support and/or solidarity matters, even when there’s no ‘award’ attached,” Woolston said.