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Georgia Transgender Oral History Project: C

Chamblee, Dee Dee

Interviewee: Dee Dee Chamblee
Interviewer: Rachel Garbus
Date of interview: October 28, 2021
This interview was conducted by the Atlanta LGBTQ History Project.

Dee Dee Chamblee (she/her), referred to by many as "Ms. Dee Dee," is a trans activist in Atlanta. After running away from home in the 1970s, Dee Dee found solidarity in rooming with other young women at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.  

In the 1980s, Dee Dee started a job with Grady Memorial Hospital as a peer counselor in the infectious diseases clinic and became active in trans cultural competency training. Dee Dee has talked about how the historic and ongoing discrimination of trans women of color and sex workers galvanized her activism. Her work at Grady turned into ongoing advocacy, and in 2001, Dee Dee founded LaGender, Inc., a nonprofit devoted to supporting trans people. LaGender went on to address systemic issues, such as wrongful incarceration, housing insecurity, and discrimination, while providing trans-centered housing, healthcare, and HIV/AIDS resources.

In 2011, Dee Dee was recognized as a "Champion of Change" by the Obama administration for her activism. Over the years, Dee Dee has served on various boards, including the Atlanta LGBT Task Force, the Positively Trans National Advisory Board, and the Center for Excellence in Transgender Health. She also helped launch projects like Solutions Not Punishments Collaborative (SNap Co), an organization that worked to block the 2013 ordinance that sought to increase surveillance and criminalization of sex work in Midtown. 

Dee Dee Chamblee discusses her early life in Atlanta, describing a sense of solidarity alongside other young women in a time of increased hardship at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. The interview touches on topics of wrongful incarceration and violence at the hands of police while describing the exclusion that trans communities experienced from public health programs. Dee Dee also reflects on her experience seeking community at the Marquette, a space known for celebrating Black trans expression. In the 1980s, Dee Dee began advocating for trans cultural competence at her job in a public health clinic, eventually connecting with activists Erin Swenson and Jamie Roberts. In recounting her activism for the rights and needs of trans communities, especially trans women of color, she recalls challenging the Human Rights Campaign to include trans people in their legal efforts and working with the Center for Disease Control to gather the first data on trans people in Georgia. Dee Dee later talks about establishing LaGender, a nonprofit 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, Gabrielle recalls growing up in Atlanta in a conservative faith tradition. 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 before starting Transformation Journeys Worldwide in 2015. Throughout the interview, Gabrielle touches on experiences of parenting and cultivating self-love. 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

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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