Lauren Stokeling, program director of Beautiful Me Sorority, explained that the sorority evolved out of need. Beautiful Me is a service offered by Women Accepting Responsibility (WAR), a nonprofit community-based organization for women in crisis and transition. Stokeling was working with WAR when a transgender woman came in search of services. At the time, WAR was unable to provide her with services. There were not many options available to transgender women in Baltimore, so she was referred to the health department Men’s Clinic. As a transgender woman herself, Stokeling felt strongly that WAR should offer a program to transgender women, so she worked with Executive Director Bernice Tucker to develop a plan.
Last year the CDC finally offered W WAR funding for a transgender program. After years of searching for funding, Beautiful Me Sorority was born, and it has been growing ever since.
Beautiful Me Sorority focuses on developing young transgender African-American women into successful women. Each of the women involved in the sorority acts as a mentor. Every mentor is an example of a successful transgender woman; they each possess a bachelor’s degree, and they are all pursuing a master’s degree. These dynamic women lead by example as they provide support to the young women who come to Beautiful Me in search of services.
Aside from helping young African-American transgender women navigate the ups and downs of life through the sisterhood of a supportive sorority, Beautiful Me provides these young women with a myriad of services. Beautiful Me offers health services, counseling, help with name changes, education, and various interventions. The sorority uses a holistic approach to teach young women healthy ways of living.
Beautiful Me reaches out to the Baltimore community in a variety of ways. One such way is through the use of a mobile van. Much like a gang of superheroes aboard a magical craft, members of Beautiful Me travel through the city at night in search of African-American transgender women (and almost anyone else) in need of rescue. They offer food, STD testing, and genuine kindness to people in need.
Beautiful Me also works to help families learn how to cope with the changes that transitions bring about. They provide counseling and solutions to families in an effort to prevent crisis situations. Parents do not always know how to help when their child is transitioning. Sometimes they do not know how to understand or process the dramatic changes that take place.
“When you know better you’ll do better,” said Stokeling, so Beautiful Me works to provide education and support to families working through transitions.
Young transgender women often struggle with social acceptance, but they also struggle with self-acceptance. Stokeling explained that Beautiful Me Sorority works to help young women develop a sense of self-worth.
“When they tell me stories of discrimination I ask, ‘But how did it make you feel?’ It brings about a lot of emotion because it is often the first time anyone asked,” she explained.
Beautiful Me Sorority is a place where young African-American transgender women can let their guard down. The sisterhood provides an environment in which members can support one another on the road to success. In joining the sisterhood, members pledge to succeed. Each sorority member believes “Success is who we are; it is in our blood.”
Beautiful Me has served between 40 and 50 young African-American transgender women so far, but the sorority is expanding. By August, Stokeling would like to reach at least 100 transgender women.
Stokeling is dedicated to Beautiful Me; she works tireless hours and helps countless young women. Her labor of love enables Beautiful Me Sorority to blossom.
“When you work in a field that you love and with a population that you love, it’s less like work,” she said.
Beautiful Me Sorority is a program of WAR (Women Accepting Responsibility)
2300 Garrison Blvd. Ste. 150