Black women, girls, gender non conforming people and femme folk need options beyond the police when dealing with gender-based violence. This essay contains discussions of sexual violence. On April 8, the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) launched “She Safe,
LGBT organizations and the white LGBT community only center, honor, and see Black and Brown Trans people when we are dead.by Kay Martinez It's Transgender Awareness Week and I’ve been feeling erased by the Trans community and LGBT organizations as whiteness continues to be centered. This week, individuals and organizations will participate in Trans Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces. Yet how do these LGBT organizations internally treat their Trans employees, particularly their few Trans staff of color? Are Trans Black or Brown people in leadership positions? Are we tokenized? I can’t help but side-eye these organizations’ performative allyship this week knowing how many climate reports I’ve read about the racism and transphobia within these organizations and my own personal experiences with them. I’m currently in Boston where folks expect me to celebrate the recent win on Ballot Question 3 during the midterm elections. Massachusetts voters faced the first-ever statewide popular vote on protections for transgender people from discrimination. The referendum would have repealed our current state law that protects trans people from discrimination in public places, including restaurants, stores, and doctors’ offices. A “yes” vote on Question 3 kept the current law as it is. I’ve found myself asking, how did we get this win? I can’t fully celebrate because the visual marketing campaign led by Freedom for all Massachusetts did not prominently feature any Black or Brown Trans people in their videos and it has left me feeling erased, invisible, and degraded by my hometown. As election day neared, the face of the campaign I saw everywhere was Ian, a white transgender teen. In the commercials, I saw close-ups of Ian and his family having dinner in their beautiful home, playing on their yard and enjoying their Rockwellian upper middle-class life. I looked at all eight videos on Freedom for all Massachusetts’ website and I failed to see any Trans Black or Brown people prominently featured. In the video entitled, “This November, Massachusetts Will Vote YES for Dignity & Respect,” news footage of one Black Trans Woman, Chastity Bowick, speaking is used for a few seconds which made me feel like they Google searched for some diversity to tack on rather than affording a Trans person of color a featured speaking role like the other white trans folks and allies they included. How ironic that a campaign fighting to protect Trans people from discrimination in Massachusetts excluded Black and Brown Trans people from full participation in the visual campaigning. Seems discriminatory to me. But why? Who were these advertisements for? [caption id="attachment_50231" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Kay Martinez by Rai McKinley[/caption] Massachusetts is 81% white.These ads were designed for white people to see the plight of Transgender people reflected in the upper-middle class struggles of Ian and his family so they would see themselves—and how could anyone vote to keep another white family down? Is an appeal to whiteness going to lead to Trans liberation for all of us? What Freedom for all Massachusetts’ ad campaigns showed me was that the voters of Massachusetts could never see me or my Trans Black and Brown siblings and deem us as worthy of humanity. Yes, the legal protections for Trans folks in MA are intact, so perhaps we won, but would the results have been the same with a diverse and inclusive ad campaign including people who looked like me? Had I seen myself in these ads, I would have felt like I had a Trans community in Massachusetts that was truly fighting for my freedom. I feel like this organization did what white LGBT people and white cis-led LGBT organizations are currently doing and have always done to Black and Brown people, which is further pushing us and shushing us out of sight and out of mind to the margins because they think they know what’s best for us. Transgender Awareness Week is followed by Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), an annual observance on Nov. 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. At TDOR ceremonies I’ve organized and participated in, Black and Brown death take center stage and are focused on because of the sheer volume of atrocities my communities disproportionately face, particularly Black Trans Women. I’ve also been to ceremonies where my dead siblings’ names were mispronounced by well-intentioned allies amid chants of "Black trans lives matter". LGBT organizations and the white LGBT community only center, honor, and see Black and Brown Trans people when we are dead. Ever since the news of this administration’s plans to write Transgender people out of existence, my whole body has been tight. I’ve been breathing shallow breaths and experiencing whiplash every time I looked at my newsfeed. Every bit of legislative progress we’ve made on Trans rights is being knocked back and it takes a piece of my resolve with it. How can we chant, “won’t be erased” in the streets together as a community, when white Trans people and LGBT organizations erase us from within? That’s not freedom for all.
SUPPORT WEAR YOUR VOICE: DONATE HERE
“That moment is indicative to a lot of the street harassment that I have had to endure, and that street harassment started, first because these men found me attractive, because I’m a woman. And then they realized that I was trans and it became something else.” - Laverne CoxWhenever transgender women are discussed in cisgender male circles, the topic always seems to focus on sex. The message being conveyed is that transgender women engage in a form of trickery to coerce unassuming cishet men into sleeping with us. But if you look deeper, you will find that the facts do not line up. In reality, it is not trans women who are looking to trick or even have sex with men, but men themselves, and their insecurities for being attracted to us. I am a transgender woman who is often awarded the advantage of being cis-passing and also being conventionally pretty. I am the type of transgender woman, cishet men use as the poster child for trans women who “trick” them. When I am out in public, I catch the attention of men more than I actually care for — and I never disclose. It is not up to me to disclose when I am the one being approached, when my personal space is the one that is being encroached upon. Despite what cisgender societal expectations may be, trans women are not obligated to wear their trans status like a scarlet letter for a man’s own sexual comfort. And despite what men may think, women — whether cis or trans — do not exist to make them comfortable. Often, it is not even safe to disclose in these situations anyway.
As a Black American I am marginalized, my experiences have been tainted by racism. However, when I began my gender transition, those experiences shifted.Caitlyn Jenner is known as the most famous openly transgender woman in the world. However, to what extent does Jenner's visibility help the transgender community? It can be said that she has helped shine a spotlight on a community that is often left out of our own narratives. But unlike Jenner, most of us trans folks do not have the same agency as her, because Jenner benefits from white, upper class privilege, and in that sense, Jenner's visibility is unparalleled to the poverty that ravages my community and the discrimination that we face in the workforce. As a Black American I am marginalized, my experiences have been tainted by racism. However, when I began my gender transition, those experiences shifted. I recognized it as I was preparing for my first job interview, being openly femme and trans, I found myself worrying about how passable and how polite I would appear to the employer before I even thought about the interview questions. I should note that I am a transgender woman who has the benefit of being cis passing, meaning that I have more access to safe spaces than someone who is visibly trans, and it would be a lie if I said that I do not rely heavily on my privilege as much as I can.