On Saturday, May 20, six individuals completed the required 2-day training to become counselors for the Transgender Peer Counseling Hotline. The hotline, a service of the Transgender Health Action Coalition (THAC), provides a listening ear and needed resources, referrals, and information for callers seeking help for dealing with gender-related issues.
The previous Saturday, May 13, was the day the trainees first gathered at the Washington West Building, located at 1201 Locust in Philadelphia, to hear a wide variety of transgendered and transsexual people tell their stories. Dr. Mary V. Cochran, the clinical psychologist who has supervised the hotline since its inception, made sure that the peer counselors dropped their stereotypes and prepared to listen individually to their callers. Each participant received a training manual and a resource guide.
With that exposure, the trainees returned on the 20th. This time representatives of support groups and service providers outlined their services. Hotline staff both new and old sat back-to-back pretending they were caller and counselor, while Dr. Cochran and the rest of the group made helpful suggestions. A special treat between these role-playing sessions was a talk by a mother of two transsexual children—a son who changed to a daughter and a daughter who changed to a son.
By 5:00 pm, the new counselors had set a staffing schedule for the next month, and one of them, Alex Gino, had volunteered to be Scheduling Coordinator. Each month the hotline staff will meet with Dr. Cochran for continued training and to set the schedule, discuss the handling of calls, and update the resource guide.
Six members of the Police Advisory Commission underwent trans-related sensitivity training on June 7. The training session was conducted by members of the Transgender Health Action Coalition [T-HAC], said Bill Johnson, chief investigator for the commission.
The commission investigates citizens' complaints of police abuse and negligence.
"The training session went very well," Johnson said. "It lasted for about 120 minutes, and we're hoping that members of T-HAC will return again, and provide the same sensitivity training for the 18 commission members and alternates."
Joanne Berg of T-HAC said the training session was productive.
"It was productive, and opened up channels of communication, but the actual commission members, and their legal counsel, have not yet had the training," Berg said. "We hope to schedule that training session soon."