The voices of LGBTQ+ people of color continue to be marginalized in most social movements, specifically conversation that correlate to the Black Lives Matter movement. From social justice leaders like DeRay Mckesson being asked to not lead the movement because of his queer identity or media outlets omitting the queer black women founders, the voice of queer Black individuals continue to be ignored in the larger context of social change agency.
Like Black men, the lives of Black transgender women continue to be under attack and both media and the Black Lives Matter movement continuing to be silent about it. Since January 2016, there have been 22 transgender Black women murdered in the United States, with one being murdered on October 7 in Alabama. And let us not forget the 21 that were killed in 2015. While the media has spent the last few days talking about whose pussy one of our presidential candidates might be grabbing and ways to protect-cis women from sexism, violence and fragile masculinity continues to collect the lives of Black Trans women like super Mario coins.
Thought it seems that “trans-visibility” is becoming more of a buzzword these days due to prominent public figures including Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, it seems that no media outlet wants to address the historical repetition of Black transgender women and their untimely deaths. Even back to the to the “suicide” that surrounded the death of Marsha P. Johnson in 1992, it seems that the words “death” or “violence” are synonymous with the life of a transgender Black women, and no one ever stops to ask why.
What could be the bigger problem that’s not being addressed both within society and the Black community, specifically Black social justice movements?
In most of these stories, many of the attackers have been identified as Black cisgender men. When asking some of these men why they might have killed their transgender counterpart, it is usually stated that they felt as if they were “misled” into believing that the person of interest was a “real” woman, only later to find out that they identified themselves as transgender.
Aren’t transgender women real women? What structurally defines a “real” woman? The binary?
Fuck outta here.
Further, the most problematic rhetoric found in these stories is that the assailant’s gender and sexuality is often held so precious that in order to protect it, a transgender woman “deserves” to die.
Discussions around toxic & fragile masculinity is often left out of these stories, further victimizing transgender women of color and leading others to believe that somehow, someway, these women bring/brought the violence upon themselves. The gotcha-gotcha is that even straight cis-gender women are being killed for telling men that that aren’t interested. So what makes anyone believe that a transgender woman disclosing her identity is going to keep her alive?
The lack of sexual exploration of even the fear that straight-cis men have of trans women is alarming. From the idea that fear can evoke rage that leads to the death of another individual is concerning. What’s even more problematic is that movements like Black Lives Matter has began to categorize the Black lives they are fighting for, often allowing Black cisgender men to take the forefront of an issue that effects EVERY Black individual.
We must begin the conversation around the fear and rage that Black men have in relation to their own sexual exploration, and the lack of room that is provided by the media, to examine why Trans Black women aren’t being fought for with the same priority.
The layers of issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community will never be solved in one single stroke, but the lack of room that is given to explore what larger organizations are doing to combat and educate around these issues are also concerning. Organizations like HRC and GLADD spend countless dollars advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, but where are these companies when it is time to advocate for the rights of transgender women to live?
What does it take for Black transgender women to get a bit of light shined on the disparity they face both inside and outside of the movement? And why does it seem that society only mentions transgender women when their story correlates to pain or murder?
If Black transgender women are being killed at the same rate of Black men, shouldn’t we be fighting for the same level of justice?
As the great Audre Lourde once wrote, “silence will not protect us.” It is time for all of us to work collectively to use our voice to lift the names of the Black & brown sisters who came before us, and those that now who depend on us for accountability, safety, validation and visibility.