HIGHBRIDGE — Vivica Williams has been living in The Bronx for about a month and a half, and as a transgender makeup artist, she describes her situation as "not necessarily the easiest thing."
"Transphobia, discrimination, ignorance," she said, listing off the different types of challenges she has had to face. "I've had to actually personally educate people on what transgender is."
Williams, 26, is hopeful that her life will now get at least slightly easier, as the city's first major transgender center officially opened its doors on Friday afternoon in the South Bronx.
"The convenience is amazing," she said.
The center, called the Bronx Trans Collective, is located at 937 Summit Ave. in Highbridge and billed as a "one-stop center" for serving the needs of the transgender community.
It will provide visitors with services including job readiness programs, health care, housing referrals, immigration assistance and legal services, specifically regarding name changes.
Councilman Ritchie Torres also helped spearhead the effort, although he could not make the grand opening because of an emergency, according to his staff.
"This will transform everything, I believe," said Luisa Benedetto, Torres' chief of staff. "No longer will The Bronx transgender community have to travel to Manhattan to receive services."
Mister Cris, executive director of Community Kinship Life, acknowledged that the space was small but stressed that every group needs to start somewhere and that the building was donated, meaning they will not have to pay for rent and utilities.
Aneesha Andrews, a transgender hairstylist who lives in The Bronx and also volunteers with Community Kinship Life, said she was particularly excited to take advantage of the center's job readiness programs and maintained that it would help lead to several opportunities for the borough's transgender community.
"Everything is always in Manhattan, and it's a good feeling that it's finally in The Bronx," she said, "and we finally have a voice."