Our Hopes for 2023

YWCA Cambridge is excited to kick off another year of working towards a mission to eliminate racism and empower women. We asked staff: What are your goals for your program or department in 2023? What are you striving for?

Trudy Bartlett, Director of Renae’s Place: I would like all programs to keep growing and excel with NEW collaborations and partnerships.

Michelle Howe, Case Manager, Renae’s Place: In 2023 my hopes are to equip our clients with tools to become the voice of their families by achieving safe, realistic, and reasonable goals that lead them to advocate their needs to succeed in continued permanent housing…. goals to enhance their self-worth and push them to higher levels of financial security.  

Puja Kranz Howe, Advocacy and Youth Leadership Manager: For 2023, I look forward to continuing to grow our Advocacy Department and center the needs of our residents, families, and youth through our legislative advocacy, community events, and local and state coalitions. 

For our youth leadership programs, I am excited to continue to build the world we want to see by questioning inequality and centering love and connection. There is an incredible need for more spaces for transgender and queer youth to connect, laugh, and celebrate each other’s identities. (Learn more about youth leadership programs here. 

Shamara Morris, Housing Stabilization Case Manager, Renae’s Place:  In 2023, I would like to see as many families as possible become stably housed and financially stable. In doing so they will be able to maintain their housing and gain financial freedom.  
Jessica Saravia, Resident Services Coordinator, Tanner Residence: What I am looking forward to accomplishing is to continue to create and lead community engagement efforts that will build a sense of community for the residents. Through activities such as providing support groups and social celebrations, we will continue to support a safe environment with an open dialogue providing inclusion and diversity for all women at the YWCA.

What does Pride mean to you?

Puja Kranz-Howe, (he/him) YWCA Cambridge Advocacy and Youth Leadership Manager

Growing up, I remember going to Pride Marches every year with my parents. They always were fun and filled with rainbow flags and joyful people. We would walk past the State House and wave our pride flags. I felt safe and happy. I was surrounded by my two white lesbian parents and held by their able-bodied, cis, white privilege. I had no idea that the first Pride Marches were an act of defiance and a cry for survival. 

Puja walking in Boston Pride 2000 holding a sign saying “FIGHT THE RADICAL RIGHT”.

Last year, I went to my first Pride March that explicitly centered Black Trans Women, which was organized by Trans Resistance MA. It was the first time I was surrounded by so many Black and Brown trans folks. I had no idea how validating it would feel. Over the next few months, I started to think more about who I was and what my gender meant to me. Quarantine allowed me to stop my daily gender expression. Being at home gave me the chance to question if I enjoyed wearing dresses or if I wore them because that is what our society tells girls to wear. Throughout my life, I always felt as though there was a part of myself that was missing. Much of my work with youth and anti-oppression is grounded in self-authenticity. Before I came out as trans, I never felt as though I was able to be my authentic self. 

When I was young, I loved swimming shirtless and playing sports. I always thought of it as a tomboy phase. But looking back, I wanted to be a boy. I was a boy, but I was born with XX chromosomes and assigned female at birth. And the world’s societal norms declared that my sex and gender must match. 

Over the past year, I have had the honor and privilege to launch a new youth leadership program called Gender Expansive Youth (GEY) with Georgia Wyman (they/them). GEY welcomes and validates the experiences of trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming youth while having weekly discussions about queer history, representation, activism, racism, identity, intersectionality, and more. We have been meeting every week since October. We have had so many incredible conversations about our lives and experiences, coming out, supporting each other, and learning about history and the world. I have learned so much from the group and have had space to discover who I want to be. Do I want to be a man? A feminist man? A queer Indian transmasculine person? Is wearing makeup and blasting pop music too feminine? I realized that I don’t have to conform to society’s definition of masculinity or femininity. I can be both, either, or a mishmash of everything. 

I remember the first time someone used he/him pronouns for me, and I got so excited. It was like the tingly feeling of butterflies. I was so nervous about coming out to my parents. They always supported loving who you love and got married when same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts in 2004. I knew they would be supportive, but I was so scared. Raised in a family of all girls, I had no idea what everyone’s reaction would be. I had never met any trans men and had never seen any trans-Indian men or non-binary people that I could relate to. I am so blessed and thankful to have a supportive family. I am committed to growing and holding space for trans, non-binary, and queer youth of color. I know many adults also need more spaces to be held and celebrated. We will continue to shine and thrive.

There is a lot of transphobia and racism within the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual communities, and we must undo the hate that we have learned. Dividing ourselves only fuels the power of capitalism, hatred, and violence. This does not mean that we should forgive each other, but hold each other accountable and grow together. There are so many spaces for women that exclude trans women, and spaces for queer folks that should include Brown and Black folks, etc. I want to encourage us to lean into our discomfort and acknowledge our privilege. There is so much work to be done, and we can all start by listening to our inner voices and leading with kindness. 

Upcoming Pride Events:
Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts will be hosting the TRANS PRIDE Celebration of Liberation on June 4th at 11am at Boston City Hall. Learn more here.
Rebel, Rebel & Wild Child will be hosting the Wild Child Wedding Extravaganza 2022 on June 11th. Learn more and register here.