The Conclusion:There are young unnamed black trans women in pockets across the country who are doing serious work and quite literally putting their lives on the line and those women go unseen and unacknowledged and more importantly referring to Janet Mock and Laverne Cox as activists is dangerous; two women who now have class privilege that allots them the choice of staying silent or speaking up when it’s convenient while for their wallets or career advancements.
No one challenges or critiques these women because the visibility in the trans community is small and visibility is important, also because people are reasonably cautious to critique trans folks on their relationship with other black trans folks. In fact if we looked at the pro black and and antiracist movements in comparison we don’t refer to Kerry Washington or shonda Rhimes or Tracee Ellis Ross as activists at best we consider them advocates because these women do at least use their platforms to speak out for other black women.
I don’t want to demonize or turn against other black women, but I take their lack of action so personally because I am a black trans woman, they are black trans women and all three of us know there are black trans girls out there dying month after month, starving, impoverished, forced into sex work, homeless and forced to live on the streets, mistreated in the workplace or even worse not even welcomed into the workplace because in some places it’s legal to deny trans folks jobs, and even housing and other services. How are Laverne and Janet not outraged to the point of action, to the point of creating an actual physical space and community for trans women? Those thoughts ideas and the fiery fierce passion they has gets buried under their celebrity and the checks that role in from remaining silent. I take their lack of action so personally because they will not be the women harassed physically assault or arrested for enter bathrooms that do not align with their birth sex, because their class buys them out of those experiences. These women won’t likely be the one to feel unsafe walking through their own neighborhoods in the middle of the night to get home after working all day. And for so long as I looked for people to agree with me or give me permission to be outraged at their lack of action, but I realized I don’t need permission. We have to do better as a community of people. Girls who like and identify like us are dying in varying ways. The black trans woman is endangered and writing books or posing for magazine covers will not change that. Laverne and Janet who use the titles of “advocate and activist” on their resume havingbeen active in providing a space and solice for black trans women. They have the agency and following to directly impact the lives of black trans women. But these girls need jobs, healthcare, Visibility, stable and consistent housing and the right to choose when they do and not not want to engage in sex. These are common things I see black trans women grabbing with on a day to day basis across the country. This lends to a greater conversation about what does activism truly look like while remaining authentic to ourselves and taking care of ourselves? How do we truly shift our activism and advocacy to being selfless? How do we empathise and balance the burden they have of being hyper visible and representative but also hold them accountable and welcoming of critique. I remember when these were girls for the people by the people and now they’ve faded into these distant ungrounded figures. I recognize my opinions of these women will likely be divisive, but also I feel like my words are tame in comparison to bell hooks (woman that I as well as Janet and Laverne admire) referring to Beyonce as a domestic terrorist. At what point do these women become complicit in the oppression of transgender women of color which is the exact thing bell hooks was asking of Beyonce as it relates to black women and black beauty standards?
The single major issue with both women is they both use the trans community and narratives of the trans community to advance their careers and finances. They want to list “activist” and or “advocate” of trans folks on their resume, but not put in the work to actually help trans people beyonding existing as themselves. Their celebrity was built off of the backs of trans folks. Trans people are the ones who watched them giving their shows ratings, purchased their books, subscribed to their social media and shared their stories and literally even protest and advocate for their rights and defend them through social media and other outlets when they are wronged. These are amongst some of the reasons Janet Mock and Laverne Cox owe the trans community so much more.