Thursday, October 8, 2015

Existence as Rebellion: Black Trans Lives Matter!

[Image Description: Jennicet Guitiérrez waves a transgender
flag (pink, blue, and white stripes), wearing a shirt that reads:
"Mi existir es resistir," with people waving trans and rainbow
flags in the background.]
Black trans women are facing a daily threat of violence in the U.S.  If you don't already know that by now, please realize you need some new news sources (a good place to start will be some of the articles I link to in this post!). The number of trans people (mostly trans women of color) murdered in the U.S. this year has reached 22. That's only the murders we know about. It doesn't include the cases where the victim was not reported as being transgender and it doesn't include the many other tragic deaths from suicides, overdoses, homelessness, etc. This doesn't take into account what trans women face in immigration centers and in deportation.

[Image description: Actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez stands
in the forground with her hand on her hip, and actress Mya
Taylor stands behind her, against a brightly painted wall] from
Magnolia Pictures' Tangerine.
I recently watched the film Tangerine. It is an amazing film, shot on an iphone, but more impressively (because sadly this is unusual) the characters were played by actors who are trans women of color. It is a film about trans women of color who are sex workers, their (mis)adventures, the way society interacts with them, and most of all their friendship. The acting was fantastic and the characters felt really real to me. The film does not focus on violence this population faces, but it does show some of the harsh realities. These characters (as often happens from really good movies or books, and sometimes TV shows--ehem--Sense8) stayed with me for the next several days, during which I read the news of Kiesha Jenkins being beaten and then shot to death. I thought about the strength of the characters in the film Tangerine and I thought about the strength of all the trans women of color I have come into contact with, both in real life and through online trans support communities; the strength necessary to face such a violent world everyday. I thought about the lives lost, the constant threat of violence, and my heart broke to pieces, again. The visibility in movies like Tangerine is wonderful, the dialogue through hashtags such as #BlackTransLivesMatter and #SayHerName is important, but the hate crimes and violence are still more prevalent than ever.
[Image Description: A selfie photo of Kiesha Jenkins, wearing
a black shirt and a black hat, smiling with her hand next to her
face, with black and blonde hair under a black brim of a hat]

This is a CRISIS. We all need to take action to stop this from happening. Here is a really great article written by a latina trans woman, Lexi Adsit: "24 Actions You NEED to Take to Help Trans Women of Color Survive." This is something I think everyone must read. There ARE things you can do to make a difference. Don't just say, "That's sad," and move on. Be an ally. Talk to your kids about gender diversity, trans issues, and racism. Speak out against oppression, transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, and bigotry. As it says on the TransWomen of Color Collective website, "Every breath a trans person of color takes is an act of revolution." It is up to all of us to actively work for the safety of trans people, especially trans women of color. It is important to recognize the intersections of oppression and discrimination. Trans people of color face more violence, incarceration, joblessness, homelessness, and murders than white trans people. It is important to recognize this and work to be better allies and more inclusive in trans spaces, as well as everywhere else. We must always lift up the voices and fight for the rights of the most oppressed.

1 comment: