NORFOLK, Va. - A transgender woman has turned trauma into triumph.
After Tarena Williams was shot three years ago, she started a support group to empower the transgender community in Hampton Roads.
When she shared her story with News 3 more than two years ago, she said her dream was to open a resource center. Now, her dream has come true after a lot of hard work.
Williams, a beauty queen, suffered the traumatic experience back in 2017. She said she tries to forget how a man she met online for a date showed up drunk and violent, pulled out a gun and started making sexual demands, then shot her after attempting to steal her purse.
She was shot inches from her heart and still suffers from the impacts of the shooting. The man was arrested a few days later and is currently serving his sentence.
“Blood was flying everywhere, and the scary part was that no one was there,” Williams said.
Williams said she applied for a grant through the Racial Immigration Family Foundation and was able to get the funds to open a support center, the Southeastern Transgender Resource Center.
She worked to paint and redecorate the inside of the building.
“Driving down the street, I saw tons of buildings. They wanted so much money,” Williams said. “I happened to ride down Colley Avenue and saw the 'For Rent' sign.”
The center has food, clothing and resources for anyone, but the goal is to help Hampton Roads' transgender community. All kinds of donations are accepted.
“This is the first organization like it in our area. My goals is to open a transitioning house, that’s my next step,” Williams said.
She said the center will also work to educate the public about transgender people, so the community has more understanding about trans people.
Williams said jobs are hard to come by for the transgender community, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. She said for years she worked as a prostitute as a way to earn a living.
She also said anything is possible if you are determined enough.
“Anybody can do it. Just put your mind to it and keep focused,” Williams said.
The STRC will hold its grand opening this Sunday, August 30, at 5 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. You need to wear a mask. It is also in combination with Williams' birthday.