Dena Stanley is a woman whose life is dedicated to aiding and uplifting trans folk in the Pittsburgh area.
“I’m a hard worker.” Stanley said. “I’m about community. I’m about family, and we’re going to make a change here in Pittsburgh, a very whitewashed city.”
Stanley is the founder of TransYOUniting, a non-profit organization in Pittsburgh focusing on aiding Pittsburgh’s trans population.
“It’s a non-profit organization. We do mentorships. Our main objective is to place trans folk into the workplace; help them get ready for the workplace; and mentor them, in any way, in any facet. All aspects of trans: Housing, healthcare, you name it. When it comes to trans, we’ve been there. Our main role and our mission is to really help with the workplace and mentoring them. I have a business as well; a catering company, so I hire within my company to work for me, but also help them build resumes and help them get that opportunity they need to succeed,” she said.
Stanley was motivated to start TransYOUniting in part due to her experiences as a black, trans entrepreneur in Atlanta.
“Just coming back and forth and seeing the lack of support and the lack of engagement with my community. I was in Atlanta for about 12 or 13 years, and it had a plethora of entrepreneur trans women, black trans women, and I came to Pittsburgh where I was the only person. That was one of the reasons why I started my organization–to uplift my community, but show them that I’m an average person just like you; and they know that, and if I made it, you can make it as well.”
Stanley highlighted some of the accomplishments of her organization in the past year.
“This year alone, we’ve been really fortunate enough to get a lot of donations. We’ve gotten about $40,000 in donations, and I would say about $30,000 of that went back into the community helping with transportation, healthcare, housing, food, and clothing. So when there are trans workers in need, we try to help,” Stanley said.
While TransYOUniting is a multifaceted organization, according to Stanley, a large part of their activism involves being in the streets to advocate for trans folk. One example of this was Trans Visibility Thursdays, which took place in late 2020.
“Every thursday for about six or seven weeks, we went out into the streets and we were advocating about policy: the need to be put in Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination bill, about rulings that were happening then on trans folk in the military, about elections and election suppression, and about racism and how that works,” Stanley said. “Just advocating folks about Trans and letting people know, see, and understand that we are human just like everyone else, and we should be able to live and thrive just like everyone else.”
While her dedication is unquestionable, Stanley’s job is not without hardship. She explained in an interview the ways in which her job required understanding and compassion.
“With that a lot of time, trans folk–and some LGBT folks period–they push people away. So instead of just letting them push you away, and letting them think that thing, you still come back, show them that people do love them. A lot of times they push you away because they’re scared that if they get close or care about anything at all whatsoever, that’s when they’ll get hurt the most,”she said.
Stanley’s compassion and desire to help others is rivaled only by her drive to do her job.
“I make it happen. Somehow, some way, every day I get up and I make it happen. So I thank god for that,” she said. “Even when I travel, I’m still working.”
In her spare time, Stanley notes that her favorite thing to do is travel, as it is her way of living in the moment.
“For me, I’ve beat the statistics of living over 35. Most trans women of color don’t even make it to see 30, and I’m still here. So whenever I get a chance, I travel,” she said.
In the upcoming year, TransYOUniting will be on the lookout for a physical building to call home, as well as setting up 2021 Pride. “We are one of the organizations helping put on pride this year. We’re still figuring out whether Pride is going to be virtual or not,” she said.