Over the past few months, the Black Lives Matter movement has experienced an unprecedented wave of support as people around the world, flooded the streets to protest against police brutality and systemic racism. As countless of unharmed Black lives were being taken day after day, it seemed almost surreal that thousands had to risk their health to fight against what can rightfully be characterized as an epidemic within a pandemic. And while the outcry was more than justified, it also revealed that unfortunately not all Black lives seemed to matter. Black women and particularly Black trans women and gender non-conforming folks are among the most vulnerable segments of the population when it comes to police brutality. However, they receive very little to no support or media coverage.
Transgender and gender non-conforming people continue to face significant levels of discrimination in almost every sphere of life, whether it be employment, health care, housing or public accommodation. Sadly, without access to those, they are at greater risks of poverty, homelessness, and involvement in sex work, which in turn exposes them to higher risks of violence and danger. According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 38% of Black trans people reported living in poverty with 51% of Black trans women reporting having experienced homelessness. Additionally, 42% of Black trans women reported having participated in sex work. The stigma surrounding Black LGBTQ+ individuals stems from ignorance, bigotry and hostile policies. This truly prevents them from attaining equal opportunities that are necessary for them to succeed and be accepted.
As they have to navigate a system that was not made to protect them but rather to some extent erase them, Black trans women and gender non-conforming people are disproportionately more likely to face police brutality and other forms of violence. In fact, Black trans women are 3.7x more likely to experience police violence and according to the Human Rights Campaign, they are 4.3x more likely to become homicide victims. Sadly, 2020 has been a particularly devastating and deadly year. In 2019, Human Rights Watch reported the death of at least 27 transgender or gender non-conforming people. So far this year, this number has already been tragically surpassed. In June alone, 6 Black trans women (Brayla Stone, Merci Mack, Shakiie Peters, Draya McCarthy, Tationa Hall, Bree Black) were killed in the span of 9 days, and 2 others (Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton) were found dead within 24 hours. This surge of hatred and violence is more than alarming and requires immediate action and attention.
The Need for Intersectional Movements
Coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality refers to the way in which different social identities (gender, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, disability, etc.) intersect and create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination and disadvantage. For example, Black trans women experience multiple intersections of oppression as they can face anti-blackness racism, transphobia, misogyny, and much more. It has become evident that in order to fight systems of oppression and discrimination, an intersectional-based approach is needed. Indeed, not only this kind of approach recognizes that people have more than one identity as well as unique experiences, it also takes into consideration the political, social, historical, and economic context of those experiences. Intersectionality is fundamental in order to achieve true equality, inclusion, and justice for any movement.
We must always ensure that any movement fighting oppression and discrimination does not leave anybody behind. Black trans lives must be part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement. Not only that, we should not forget that even in the face of all the adversities, Black trans women and gender non-conforming individuals were among the first to lead liberation movements. As the great civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, once said: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”.
At a personal level, you can help affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter by being transformative loudly and mindfully in your everyday life. This means:
- Transforming your ways of thinking about blackness and gender
- Being loud by taking the risks to confront false assumptions and others’ fears and biases
- Being mindful by paying attention and believing what transgender people have to say about their lives
To support Black Trans Lives: https://blacktranslivesmatter.carrd.co/