Local Activism   |   Tucson, AZ

Interview with Monica Jones
The Outlaw Project: a tiny home project for trans women

November 2021​  |  Interview by: Raye Winch | Photos by: Rachel Castillo

Front of the Outlaw project house.

Entrance to the main house of the Outlaw Project, a housing community for transwomen currently being constructed in Tucson, AZ.

Monica Jones is a powerful organizer and advocate for trans women of color. She is the founder and CEO of the Outlaw Project, a trans-BIPOC led and centered organization that works on the following priority areas: emergency housing, economic justice for self-sufficiency; harm reduction and health promotion; community-led solutions to violence, mitigating the impact of oppression because of criminalization, decriminalization of sex work, and the removal of other repressive laws and policies.

The Outlaw Project is currently focused on getting Trans Women of Color into stable, secure housing through building tiny homes.


Links:

GoFundMe: link here

Website (under construction): link here

Instagram: link here

Twitter: link here

Twitter (Monica Jones): link here

Original music produced by Jaime J. Soto

Monica Jones standing on a ladder smiling.

Monica Jones, leans against a ladder in the yard where tiny homes are being constructed.

Left: Monica Jones and Natalie Nguyen (Splinter Collective) speak with a contractor in the Outlaw Project home.

Right: Monica contemplating building decisions in the midst of renovations at the Outlaw Project.

Transcripts English

Intro:

Welcome to Amplifying Voices, where we share the stories of people sparking change in our communities. We center the voices of people who are LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Today we're joined by Monica Jones, a fierce organizer and advocate for trans women of color. Monica is the founder and CEO of the Outlaw Project, and is the recipient of the Spark Authentic Life Award. She was honored as one of the Trans 100 in 2015. Monica, could you explain what the Outlaw Project is and how you got started?

 

Monica Jones:

So, the Outlaw Project is an organization I started that deals with the intersectionality of being trans, being a sex worker, being Black. We started off just doing policy work, and then we worked our way up during COVID to do direct services. It's been a long time dream of mine to do tiny homes for trans women to have their own space and live in their, their own environment, safe environment. And so we're starting off hopefully next year with four tiny homes in Tucson, Arizona. I wanna say like this is Site A, like the tester. Site B I picture as a bigger lot with 20 tiny homes on it with a community garden, swimming pool, fitness center, maybe two acres of land where we can put these tiny homes on and have a community and have resources.

 

Raye Winch:

Why did you choose the name The Outlaw Project?

 

Monica:

The Outlaw Project is named after Sharmus Outlaw, who was a dear friend of mine and colleague who did amazing HIV policy work, sex worker rights advocate, was on the board of Desiree, one of the national sex worker conference here in the United States. She passed away in 2016 due to a lapse in their healthcare, right, where the gender marker didn't match up. And so there was a two month lapse and they ended up dying because of this two month lapse.

 

Raye:

How did you get started in community organizing?

 

Monica:

As a black trans woman, especially in my family, you were always an organizer, a revolutionary because just walking outside was an act of revolution. I started organizing right when I got into ASU, protesting this program that was funded by ASU School of Social Work and the Phoenix police to go out and arrest sex workers. I protested that. I was like, no, you cannot do this. I was walking to a bar from my house that's like a mile away and was arrested for manifestation. And that's basically just looking like a sex worker. And I fought. And everyone was like, you are so brave, but like, they have to understand, like sometimes you have no choice but to fight.

 

Raye:

What sustains you in this work?

 

Monica:

Arizona sustains me. This beautiful state replenishes all the things I give out. Because I can come to Tucson and relax, or I can go up to Flagstaff and see the beauty in Flagstaff for a couple of days and come back home and be renewed and ready to fight the fight.

 

Monica:

This is also my love letter to Arizona <laugh>. So I've lived in Arizona my whole life, all my family's here. My great-grandfather came here after World War I to work on the railroads. This was on my mother's side. And so we have roots here.

 

Raye:

Do you have other dreams for things you're pursuing in life?

 

Monica:

You know, I do actually. Going back to school and getting my master's in social work and throwing in some queer studies, some trans studies in there and some African American studies and combine those things, because what is very important here, especially from the black trans woman experience and lens is our stories and how those are wrapped up and our culture and everything else.

 

Raye:

How can people support you in your work?

 

Monica:

These are all visions, right. And how do we turn these visions into reality is by sharing our vision and people thinking like, wow, this is really great. Here's some resources. We have a Twitter, Instagram, and we also have a GoFund Me. And right now we are working on building our website. And so hopefully we should have that up.

 

Rachel Castillo:

Thanks for listening to Amplifying Voices. For the full interview, photos, and more visit www.peoplesparkingchange.org

 

Outro:

Music by Jaime J Soto.

Photo_14130_edited.jpg

Above: Monica and Natalie wave from the front porch of the Outlaw Project home.

Below: (left) Monica leans against the Outlaw Project porch, looking out onto the front yard. (right) Monica smiles standing on the open space where the first Outlaw Project tiny homes will stand.

Monica standing outside her front door.
Monica standing in her backyard.

Transcripciones Español

Introducción:

Bienvenides a Amplificando Voces: Personas Impulsando Cambio. Hoy nos acompaña Monica Jones, una potente organizadora y defensora de las mujeres trans de color. Monica es la fundadora y directora ejecutiva de Outlaw Project, y recibió el premio Spark Authentic Life. Fue honrada como una de las “Trans 100” en 2015. Mónica, ¿podrías explicarnos qué es Outlaw Project y cómo empezó ?

 

Mónica Jones:

El Outlaw Project es una organización que trabaja en la interseccionalidad de ser trans, ser trabajadora sexual, ser negra. Comenzamos haciendo activismo, y luego nos expandimos durante COVID para hacer servicios directos también. 

 

Ha sido un sueño mío desde hace mucho tiempo hacer casitas para que las mujeres trans tengan su propio espacio y vivan en su propia casita, una casita segura. Y entonces estamos empezando a construir casas pequeñas en Tucson, Arizona. Quiero decir que este es el Sitio A, como el sitio probador. El sitio B lo imagino como un lote más grande con 20 casas diminutas con un jardín comunitario, piscina, gimnasio, tal vez dos acres de tierra donde podamos poner estas casas diminutas y tener una comunidad y recursos.

 

Raye Winch:

¿Por qué elegiste el nombre The Outlaw Project?

 

Mónica:

The Outlaw Project lleva el nombre de Sharmus Outlaw, una querida amiga mía y colega que hizo un trabajo increíble en políticas sobre el VIH, defensora de los derechos de las trabajadoras sexuales. Ella estaba en la junta directiva de Desiree, una de las conferencias nacionales de trabajadoras sexuales aquí en los Estados Unidos. Ella falleció en 2016 debido a un lapso en su atención médica donde el marcador de género no coincidía. Entonces hubo un lapso de dos meses y murió debido a este lapso de dos meses.

 

Raye:

¿Cómo te involucraste en la organización comunitaria?

 

Mónica:

Como mujer trans negra, especialmente en mi familia, siempre fui una organizadora, una revolucionaria porque simplemente caminar por la calle era un acto de revolución. Comencé a organizarme más públicamente cuando ingresé a la Universidad del estado de Arizona, protestando contra este programa que fue financiado por la Escuela de Trabajo Social de la universidad y la policía de Phoenix para salir y arrestar a las trabajadoras sexuales. Protesté por eso. Yo estaba como, no, no puedes hacer esto. 

 

Un día yo estaba caminando hacia un bar desde mi casa y me arrestaron por “manifestación,” que básicamente es parecer una trabajadora sexual. Y luché. Y todxs decían, eres tan valiente, pero tienen que entender, que a veces no tienes otra opción más que luchar.

 

Raye:

¿Qué te sostiene en este trabajo?

 

Mónica:

Arizona me sostiene. Este hermoso estado repone todas las cosas que doy. Porque puedo ir a Tucson y relajarme, o puedo ir a Flagstaff y ver la belleza durante un par de días y volver a casa y estar renovada y lista para luchar.

 

Esta es también mi carta de amor a Arizona <risas>. Así que he vivido en Arizona toda mi vida, toda mi familia está aquí. Mi bisabuelo por parte de mi madre vino aquí después de la Primera Guerra Mundial para trabajar en los ferrocarriles. Tenemos raíces aquí.

 

Raye:

¿Tienes otros sueños para las cosas que buscas en la vida?

 

Mónica:

Claro que sí. Quiero regresar a la escuela y obtener mi maestría en trabajo social y agregar algunos estudios queer, algunos estudios trans y algunos estudios afroamericanos y combinar esas cosas, porque lo que es muy importante aquí, especialmente desde la experiencia y el lente de la mujer trans negra son nuestras historias y cómo se envuelven y nuestra cultura y todo lo demás.

 

Raye:

¿Cómo puede la gente apoyarte en tu trabajo?

 

Mónica:

Todas estas ideas son sueños, cierto. Y cómo convertimos estos sueños en realidad es compartirlos con otras personas y la gente pensando, wow, esto es realmente genial. Aquí hay algunos recursos. Tenemos Twitter, Instagram y también tenemos GoFundMe. Y ahora mismo estamos trabajando en la construcción de nuestro sitio web. Y entonces, con suerte, luego lo vamos a tener.

 

Raquel Castillo:

Gracias por escuchar Amplificando Voces. Para la entrevista completa, fotos y enlaces a más información, visite www.peoplesparkingchange.org

 

Esta entrevista se grabó originalmente en inglés. Traducción de Raye Winch y Linus Arruda. Música por Jaime J Soto.

Natalie and Raye in living room under construction.

Top: Raye and Natalie talk inside the Outlaw Project house

Bottom left: Monica stands in the Outlaw Project house as she talks of dreams for the future of the community of homes for trans women.

Bottom right: Monica and Natalie discuss paint options for the outside color of the Outlaw Project home.

Image Left: Behind the scenes image of Rachel Castillo photographing Monica and Natalie on the Outlaw Project porch

Image Center: Behind the scenes image of Raye and Monica during interview recording.

Image Right: Behind the scenes image of Monica laughing during interview recording while Raye listens.