In 2012, clinical psychologist Francesco Duberli met a transgender woman who was a victim of physical abuse, someone who was mistreated and also afraid of the court system and police.
The two established a good friendship and through their relationship Duberli established a project to combat transphobia and be a catalyst to help other transgender Hispanic women.
“I grew up seeing how trans people were abused. And Hispanic trans women have even more battles to face,” said Duberli, who holds two master’s degrees in health from Florida International University.
About three years ago, Duberli founded the TransLatinaProject, an initiative by Survivor’s Pathway, a nonprofit organization he created to promote equality, inclusiveness and social action through counseling and advocacy services for the LGBT and Hispanic communities, as well as survivors of domestic abuse and other victims.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Since then, about 450 Hispanic transgender women have registered with the initiative.
“I want to make a difference in Miami,” said Duberli, who serves as the TransLatinaProject’s executive officer. “There is progress in trans issues, but not enough in terms of long-term change, and I want to change that.”
He said the initiative is an opportunity for reflection by Hispanic transgender women in Miami-Dade County and for discussion about models of intervention, such as better health services, economic development and education.
TransLatinaProject offers individual psychological counseling and hosts support and empowerment groups in Spanish, among others.
Duberli said TransLatinaProject aims to fill the void of other initiatives in Miami.
South Florida’s ethnic diversity allows Hispanic transgender women of different backgrounds to come together and bring new ideas and methods of change, he said.
“There is a lot this initiative has to offer,” Duberli said. “Miami needs more organizations standing up for the transgender community.”
Anastasia Hernandez, 18, is a transgender woman who joined the initiative as a way to help a friend who is a victim of violence.
“I kind of got mixed into the pool there,” Hernandez said. “I learned a lot about other people’s experiences and struggles, and I felt like this organization was something special.”
Victoria Rose, 18, another transgender woman, has been involved with the TransLatinaProject since January. The initiative is a “haven” for trans Hispanic women who need a space to learn and act on transgender issues, Rose said.
“[TransLatinaProject] helped me with my issues and allowed me to get my hormones,” she said. “I felt accepted as a trans woman.”
The TransLatinaProject also offers legal assistance.
Duberli said that many women who seek help at the initiative find jobs as sex workers. Many are afraid to go to authorities when violence occurs because of their immigration status.
“The immigration issue is huge. Trans people in the United States and Latin America have different experiences,” Duberli said. “People take a journey to come from their country and were victims of trafficking, rape, being undocumented, language and acculturation barriers, trauma from violence and ostracism. They bring fear with them.”
Duberli said his organization and initiative receive funding from local resources including the Florida Department of Health. Services are free.
TransLatinaProject has a staff of about 30, including interns, social workers, immigration attorneys, administrators and mental health specialists.
Hernandez and Rose are in the project’s mentoring program, where they learn about leadership and work with participants.
“I get to advocate for the trans youth community, and my voice matters,” Rose said. “We all matter. That is the message this project is putting out there. Difference is more than welcome, it’s encouraged.”
If you go
▪ What: TransLatinaProject
▪ Address: 1801 Coral Way, Miami; second floor
▪ Phone: 786-275 4364
▪ Cost: Free