There is a genocide against Black transgender women happening. In a world in which transgender people are more visible than ever — gracing red carpets, starring in movies, breaking records in policy and government — Black and brown transgender women are being murdered at alarming rates across the globe.
According to the Transgender Murder Monitoring November 2021 Report, more than 375 murders of transgender people have been reported globally. And in the United States, more than 45 transgender people have been murdered in 2021 alone, the “deadliest year for transgender people on record." The overwhelming majority of transgender people who have been murdered this year and in years past are Black transgender women under the age of 30 years old.
Every year I struggle with these realities as a Black transgender woman. I struggle because as a transgender advocate myself, I witness how so much of the population normalise these murders every year, and because we hear so often about violence against us as being synonymous with our experience as transgender people; it makes it that much harder to breathe, exist and thrive as a Black transgender woman in America.
Dave Chappelle’s toxic banter about transgender people during his latest standup special only illuminated what I believe so many people believe subconsciously: that transgender people are not who we say we are, that we are somehow the guardians of “cancel culture” with a robust LGBT agenda, seeking to ride the coattails and surpass the civil rights and liberation of Black people in America. It’s clear that we, as a culture, create and perpetuate the dehumanisation of transgender people — especially Black transgender women.
Whether one believes truly in the authenticity of transgender people and our identities is not my job to hold. But I urge the broader Black community to see with clarity the realities we share: There is a war against Black women. Civil rights activist Pauli Murray created the framework for desegregation and Black liberation and women’s liberation in 1940 and referred to it as “Jane Crow,” the double consciousness of being both Black and a woman. Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw created the framework of “Intersectionality” in 1989 to highlight how race, gender, and class intersect. And for Black transgender women, we have a “triple consciousness” in which our oppression comes to us from every side.
We are Black women being murdered at high rates by Black men. And yet, people justify it and victim blame us, normalising and endorsing violence against us. “If she wasn’t out here tricking people,” is the immediate reaction. We are often ostracised and “othered” by our Black community and families, and the rapid response is “Well, you chose to live this lifestyle.” People who have to dust the roaches off of the family Bible on their grandmother’s mantle will instantly quote scriptures without context, as a way to endorse some "natural law" or "natural order" of humanity of which they claim we are in violation. They then suddenly become experts on the human condition, and God of course, weaponising their split-second spiritual awakenings to disempower the very people Jesus would’ve kicked it with. It’s a sin and a shame, as they say.
In order to eradicate the violence and transphobia that disempowers (and murders) transgender people, especially transgender women, we are all responsible for shifting the culture to trans liberation. The culture, for all it's worth, can in fact evolve to empower transgender people and allow us to live our lives authentically and freely, without consequence. With the commitment of our cis accomplices, we can end violence against us.
This Transgender Awareness Week, I want to also highlight transgender resilience and how we continue to fight to thrive, fight to breathe and fight to live our lives as our authentic selves. I am so fortunate and lucky to lead The Transgender District, the first legally recognised district of its kind in the world, in which we are actively building political, economic and cultural power for and by transgender people. Through my work, I get to work with incredible transgender advocates and emerging leaders who are young, brilliant, and see the world so differently than when I was a young trans teen in the mid 2000s. We have created incredible programmes, such as the Transgender District’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator that supports Black and brown aspiring entrepreneurs from ideation to the launch of their very own businesses. We have led numerous public policy and legislation pieces centering protections for sex workers in California, and gender justice public policy that will serve cisgender and transgender women and nonbinary people who are survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. In August 2021, Mayor London Breed signed into Proclamation the month of August in San Francisco as “Transgender History Month," an incredible acknowledgement for our community and the nation’s first of its kind. You know, transgender people didn’t just fall out of the sky in 2007, we have always been here, silenced, but here.
Today, more transgender people hold elected office in the United States than ever before, with many Black and brown transgender people running campaigns for their local and state government. More people have an awareness of the widespread advocacy for social issues that impact us, such as transgender women continuing to be housed in men’s prison facilities, making us vulnerable to excessive solitary confinement, and egregious physical, emotional and sexual assault. Through social media, we have been able to build our own platforms, amplify our own stories and advocate for ourselves in a world that constantly aims to silence and erase us.
My award-winning podcast Being Seen is on its third season of amplifying Black women and femmes. Hosted by Anika Noni Rose and featuring incredible guests like Ledisi, Roxane Gay, Taraji P. Henson and Raquel Willis, we tackle topics like power, self care, health and motherhood. Still, we know that trans visibility does not equal safety, equity or justice for trans people. These strides, though necessary, are just the beginning of what trans liberation must look like.
This Transgender Awareness Week, we honour the lives of our transgender siblings around the globe who have lost their lives due to senseless violence and transphobia. On November 20, International Transgender Day of Remembrance, people around the world will gather to hold vigils to commemorate those lives lost. Our cis accomplices know that they must be intentional in their solidarity in eradicating genocide against Black and brown transgender people, and it doesn’t stop on Saturday.
Cis accomplices: continue signal boosting the work of transgender advocates; continue supporting businesses owned by trans people of colour. Continue to show up at the marches and rallies and vigils, even when it hurts. Continue to spotlight the social issues transgender people are facing on your IG grids and stories. Continue to educate your cis boyfriends, husbands, friends, and the men in your lives on transgender issues, even if that means losing relationships and access. Our lives are at stake. We need accomplices who are committed to ending the violence against us for good. The more people become aware, the more everyone can move to the right side of history, and help stop the widespread violence and culture of transphobia that we are still struggling to survive in.
To my trans siblings: I hope you’re practising self-care this week and are being loved on in community. We mourn, we struggle, we fight, because liberation is our birthright. And we won’t stop until we have the world we deserve.