Dee Dee Chamblee — known to most as Mrs. Dee Dee — has been a pillar in the Atlanta trans community for decades, working with trans women of color who engage in sex work and who live with HIV/AIDS. Her formidable organizing and storytelling skills have galvanized and inspired young activists for years. Originally from Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta, Chamblee ran away from home as a teenager in the early 1970s and found affirmation from local drag legends like The Lady Chablis and Tina Devore.
Chamblee’s early experience as a sex worker, as well as her time spent navigating the criminal justice system while being wrongly incarcerated, has informed her work and advocacy. She founded LaGender Inc. in 2001 to provide local transgender people with education and resources on HIV prevention and intervention, homelessness, mental health, and wrongful incarceration. In the nearly 20 years of its existence, LaGender Inc. has served as a safe haven for trans people interested in social justice and learning the skills necessary for survival in a world that tells them they shouldn’t exist.
In June 2011, Chamblee earned the title “Champion of Change” by the Obama Administration for her decades-long work in advocating for transgender women of color living with HIV and AIDS. Currently, she serves on the Transgender Law Center’s Positively Trans National Advisory Board. She continues to carry on the legacy of Southern Black trans resistance through La Gender, Inc. and care for her movement children with each passing day. We caught up with Chamblee to discuss her activism, childhood, spirituality, and her thoughts on the current iteration of the trans movement.