HAMPTON, Va. — Where do you turn if you are transgender and need help? A Hampton woman is gearing up to provide the resources the LGBTQ and transgender community may need.
Although doors open on December 4, clients are already signing up.
Nyonna Byers, founder/CEO of Empowering Transgender Services, said, "The transgender community, we're underserved all away around the board."
Empowering Transgender Services has been helping those in need since 2019, but Byers, a transgender woman, said opening this center is personal for her.
"Me and my sister came out in 1994. We didn't have any services or resources to help us; we had to do stuff out of sex work. We didn't have a role model to tell us, 'Hey, you shouldn't do this,' or, 'Hey, you shouldn't go in that direction,'" said Byers.
After the murder of Byers' sister in 2001, she said she wanted to create a safe haven for the transgender community that will provide services for them.
Dr. Matthew Rosario, assistant director of Empowering Transgender Services, said, "One of the things that we went ahead and did was partner up with the LGBT Life Centerin Norfolk. There's a lot of things that there going to be helping us out with, such as housing assistance. Also, we're partnering with them to help with hormone therapy."
ETS leaders said they will also be partnering with the Virginia Department of Health to provide free HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing to the entire community.
"A lot of these individuals don't have family support. They don't have that community support from where they're at, and we definitely want this center to be a community support center," said Rosario.
Leaders said although they're doing their part to protect the transgender community, they also have reached out to the Newport News Police Department for a helping hand.
"We've had conversations with Chief Drew in Newport News about how can we combine our services to reduce the hate crime rate here in Hampton Roads, but throughout the Peninsula and one of the things that we decided to do was to create a hate crime prevention support here at ETS," said Rosario.
"I just want the community to take advantage of the services, and I want the community to support the services because that's how we're going to have longevity within our agency," said Byers.
ETS plans to work with Hampton delegates to develop laws that can protect the transgender community, along with reaching out to Hampton Police about ways to prevent hate crimes.
Related: Local nonprofit launches free online clothing store to support transgender community in Virginia