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Georgia Transgender Oral History Project: C

Chamblee, Dee Dee

Interviewee: Dee Dee Chamblee
Interviewer: Rachel Garbus
Date of interview:

This interview was conducted by the Atlanta LGBTQ History Project

Dee Dee Chamblee (she/her), often called "Ms. Dee Dee," is an activist and leader in the trans community in Atlanta. After running away from home in the 1970s, Dee Dee found solidarity in rooming with other young women and learning about local club performers with trans experiences, such as The Lady Chablis. Dee Dee has talked about how the discrimination that she experienced as a Black trans woman in survival sex work at a young age galvanized her activism.

In the 1980s, Dee Dee advocated for her own respectful treatment from the public health clinic at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Through these efforts, she started a job with Grady Memorial Hospital as a peer counselor in the infectious diseases clinic, and became active in trans cultural competency training. This work turned into ongoing activism, and in 2001, Dee Dee founded LaGender, Inc., a non-profit organization advocating for the rights and needs of trans communities, and especially trans women of color. Under Dee Dee's leadership, LaGender worked to resist systemic issues such as wrongful incarceration, long-term housing insecurity, and violent discrimination while providing trans-centered housing, healthcare, and HIV/AIDS resources. 

In 2011, Dee Dee was honored as a "Champion of Change" by the Obama administration for her activism on behalf of trans women of color, those living with HIV and AIDS, and sex workers. In the same year, she was chosen as a grand marshal of Atlanta Pride. Over the years, Dee Dee has served on many boards, including the Atlanta LGBT Task Force, the Positively Trans National Advisory Board, and the Center for Excellence in Transgender Health. She has also been instrumental in launching projects such as Solutions Not Punishments Collaborative (SNap Co), an organization that worked to block a 2013 ordinance that sought to increase surveillance and criminalization of sex work in Midtown. 

Dee Dee discusses her early life in Atlanta, describing her experiences as a young Black trans woman involved in survival sex work. She talks about her wrongful incarceration and the violence and neglect trans people experienced at the hands of the criminal justice system and public health programs during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Finding solidarity in rooming with other young women, Dee Dee sought community at the Marquette, a space where Black trans women could congregate and be celebrated. Dee Dee describes how, in the 1980s, she advocated for her own respectful treatment at the public health clinic, and how, from there, she got a job with the clinic and started speaking out for trans cultural competence. Along the way, she met activists Erin Swanson and Jamie Roberts and became active in advocating for the rights and needs of trans people, especially trans people of color. Throughout the interview, Dee Dee describes her relationship with the Holy Spirit. In recounting her activism, she recalls challenging the Human Rights Campaign to include trans people in their legal efforts and working with the Centers for Disease Control to gather the first data on trans people in Georgia. Dee Dee later talks about establishing LaGender, a nonprofit organization aimed at providing housing, healthcare, and HIV/AIDS resources to trans communities, as well as being recognized as a "Champion for Change" by the Obama administration. 

Claiborne, Gabrielle

Interviewee: Gabrielle Claiborne
Interviewer: Tracee McDaniel
Date of interview: April 29, 2022

From Transfomation Journeys Worldwide website:

Gabrielle Claiborne (she/her) has been an out and active trans woman since 2010. Prior to her transition, she owned and operated successful businesses in the construction industry, overseeing multi-million dollar projects nationwide. Today, she is a highly respected trans business owner who was honored by the Atlanta Business Chronicle with their 2019 Outstanding Voice for Diversity and Inclusion Award. In 2015, Gabrielle was recognized as Atlanta’s Best Trans Activist. In 2018, she received Emory University’s Alum of the Year Pride Award, and was chosen by the Georgia Division of the U.S. Small Business Administration as their LGBT Small Business Champion of the Year. Gabrielle’s work has also been recognized in Forbes

Along with being a successful entrepreneur, Gabrielle is a TEDx and keynote speaker, a dynamic trainer and the author of Embrace Your Truth: A Journey of Authenticity. In this “memoir meets self-help” book Gabrielle shares the life lessons she has learned about living authentically and shows readers how they can apply these same insights in order to live their highest and best lives. 

A recognized community leader, Gabrielle served on the Atlanta PRIDE Board of Directors for five years. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s TGNC Inclusion Task Force, as Co-Chair of the Trans Affairs Committee on the City of Atlanta’s LGBTQ Mayoral Advisory Council, as Inclusion Chair and Secretary on the Board of the Out Georgia Business Alliance, as Chair of the OUT Georgia Business Alliance’s TGNC360 Workplace Initiative and as an Advisory Board Member of Out Front Theater Group. She was elected to the Executive Board at City of Light Atlanta, directed their choir, and founded and led the church’s trans support group.

Gabrielle earned a BA in Mathematics from Emory University and pursued a degree in Civil Engineering at Georgia Tech. She is an Atlanta native and the proud parent of three adult children and grandparent of one grandchild.

Gabrielle Claiborne introduces herself as the co-founder and CEO of Transformation Journeys Worldwide, an inclusion training and consulting firm with a transgender focus. She mentions her tenure serving on the LGBT Chamber of Commerce's TGNC Taskforce, the board of Atlanta Pride, and Atlanta's LGBTQ Mayoral Advisory Council. In describing her early life, Gabriele recalls growing up in Atlanta in a conservative faith tradition with a father who was a Pentecostal preacher. She discusses her relationship with her parents, her thoughts on spirituality broadly, and how she came to find an affirming faith community. Gabrielle also talks about her early career in construction, explaining that she studied math at Emory University before pursuing civil engineering at Georgia Tech. She recounts managing multiple construction companies for over thirty years before starting Transformation Journeys Worldwide in 2015. Throughout the interview, Gabrielle touches on experiences of parenting, growing as a trans activist, and the process of cultivating self-love. She speaks of her admiration for authors like Brene Brown and the positive figures in her life, including her youngest daughter and her best friend. Finally, Gabrielle discusses her focus on "authentic leadership" and how this perspective drives her activism. 

Combahee, Ashby

Interviewee: Ashby Combahee
Interviewer: A.C. Panella
Date of interview: March 12, 2022

Biography:Ashby Combahee (he/him and she/her) is a memory worker based in Atlanta, GA. In addition to being an interviewer and advisor for the Georgia State Transgender Oral History Project, Ashby holds a full-time position as a librarian/archivist at the Highlander Research and Education Center. Ashby is also the co-founder of Georgia Dusk, a southern liberation oral history project connecting the intersections of Black movement and cultural work in Atlanta, GA across generations. Ashby holds a B.A. from Bennington College and is completing an M.A. in Education at Goddard College.

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