Advocacy Profile: Grace Detrevarah Calls It as She Sees It

Grace Detrevarah is a prominent figure in LGBTQIA+ advocacy currently serving as the Senior Health Educator and LGBTQ Liaison at Osborne Association.

Osborne Association

May 23, 2024

Grace Detrevarah is a prominent figure in LGBTQ advocacy currently serving as the Senior Health Educator and LGBTQ Liaison at Osborne Association. Her journey as an advocate began during her incarceration at Rikers and in New York State prison, where she spoke out against inhumane treatment, particularly of those who identify as TGNBGNC. In 2018, she began hosting Osborne’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance event, and in 2023, she helped to launch our LGBTQIA+ Case Management Program.

Each year, Grace is invited to speak at colleges, universities, and LGBT centers around the country. She has received many awards and recognitions for her impact, including the Harlem Pride Award, Gay City News Impact Award and the Equality NY: Pride and Power Award. She makes regular appearances in diverse national and local media, including in FX’s 2021 PRIDE docuseries, USA Today, Bronxnet, and A&U Magazine.

Read on for Grace’s insights about her advocacy work at Osborne and beyond from a recent conversation.

Grace and other advocates were honored by Gov. Hochul at a 2023 Pride luncheon at the Executive Mansion
Grace and other advocates were honored by Gov. Hochul at a 2023 Pride luncheon at the Executive Mansion.

How did your work at Osborne begin?

Grace: When I first started at Osborne, I was a peer with the Wellness and Prevention program. Initially, my advocacy work was somewhat separate from my role here, but it quickly grew and intertwined organically. I recall a pivotal moment when I met Liz Gaynes, Osborne’s president at the time, by chance on the stairs. She recognized me and invited me to discuss my advocacy work. At that time, I was writing an article for USA Today about my experience with rape as a prisoner, which caught her attention. This led to my current role, where I blend issues impacting justice-involved LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly around health disparities. Since then, my advocacy efforts have only become more prominent and impactful.

What does your current role as Osborne’s LGBTQ Senior Health Educator and LGBTQ Liaison entail?

Grace: My work involves addressing health disparities, advocating for reentry services for those returning from the criminal justice system, and providing critical health education and resources. I am the primary contact and resource for health advocacy, particularly for the LGBTQIA+ community. City agencies and other organizations reach out to me for insights on critical health topics. Becoming a go-to resource hasn’t happened because I speak out politely. I loudly call it out like I see it!

What are some of the health disparities you observe in the community?

Grace: A significant issue is the changing perception of HIV. Today, it’s treatable, which is of course a good thing. But it also means there is less urgency for testing and education. This complacency leads to reduced awareness and protection efforts. There’s also a need to continue addressing the stigma around HIV. It isn’t whispered about as much, but the fallout from the intense stigma around HIV from the earliest days can still be felt.

Participants also often face feelings of hopelessness due to health disparities and systemic challenges. You can come home, but if you’re not healthy and aware of your status, you’re going to have a harder time succeeding as you reenter the community. By integrating health education and support into all our programs, we’ve reduced the stigma and secrecy around seeking help. This holistic approach ensures that participants receive the necessary support without feeling isolated or embarrassed.

Grace and partners sitting at a table in City Hall offering testimony.

What has been the impact of the LGBTQIA+ Case Management Program?
Grace: The program has been transformative. There were some growing pains, but we’ve exceeded our goals, supporting more participants than we expected. This success reflects the program’s impact and the strong network of health professionals and agencies that support us. I’m proud that our participants can receive comprehensive support tailored to their unique needs.

What would you say to someone considering joining the case management program?

Grace: Our program offers a comprehensive support system, addressing health, housing, employment, and more. We provide a safe space for LGBTQIA+ individuals, ensuring they receive the necessary resources and support. Osborne’s commitment to health and well-being makes it an ideal place for anyone seeking assistance.

Can you describe the evolution of health services at Osborne?

Grace: Initially, Osborne’s health services were more reactive rather than proactive. People sought help only when there was an urgent need, which was inefficient. Over time, we’ve integrated health education into many programs so that participants are aware of available resources from the start. I am proud that we’re also setting an example for other agencies that have been doing reentry work for many years, to show others how to effectively integrate health services into their work. The commitment from Osborne’s leadership to prioritize this programming has made a significant difference in the lives of our participants and the community.

Grace and a provider partner at last year's health fair
Grace and a provider partner at last year's health fair.

Awards and Honors
Gay City News Impact Award, 2023
Harlem Pride Award, 2023
CRIS Award, 2022
NYC Black Pride Image Award, 2022
Equality NY - Pride and Power Award, 2019

Presentations, Panels and Proclamations
AIDS Walk New York
Lavender Law Conference, “Fighting for the Rights of TGNCNBI People in Prisons and Jails: A Legislative Perspective
NYS Department of Health
Office of the New York City Public Advocate
Task Force on Issues Faced by TGNCNBI People in Custody

Select Media Appearances and Profiles
BlaqueOut Magazine

Both Sides of the Bars | Housing Discrimination, 2022Office of the Bronx Borough President 2023 Transgender Day of Visibility Event
Bronx Net - Open Tuesday, 2023
Connections: A Free Guide for Formerly Incarcerated People
Gay City News
IMB Club Magazine
Logo: In the Know
News 12 the Bronx
Public Health America: Grace DeTrevarah
SWERV magazine
Trans New York
TUV Magazine
USA Today