Preface: In this process I have been asked by a number of people, friends, and colleagues, why the focus on trans women of color? Why not all trans women? Why not all trans people? The answer is complex and perhaps can be adequately and completely flushed out in a future writing but for now I will do my best to simplify the answer. Trans women of color need space. Trans women of color need fellowship with other trans women of color. In fact specifically black people and black women as well as black trans women need a space separate even from those who identify as women of color due to the ever looming cast of anti-blackness wherein those who are not black or of fairer skin have historically separated themselves from blackness in attempt to preserve their own privileges.
White people are able to hold space for themselves without the explicit language of “white” because other coded and exclusionary language is used in its place. For example “gated community” as opposed to “sketchy neighborhood”, using words like elite or sophisticated almost always refers to white people or whiteness, “our Executive Team” which in nearly any organization and corporation in America is all or mostly white, and a final example: higher pay, “benefits”, and power are allotted “Those with this [insert degree] level of education or higher”, because as many of us know there is a huge racial disparity within race that dates back centuries. Or a far more common example gender. “Men need time to freely talk with other men”, which presents itself in the form of men’s only clubs such as the Los Angeles Adventurer’s Club that still exist excluding women in 2019. However when it comes to trans of color women. We are expected to set aside a layer of identity, race, and experiences and consistently make space for white trans women within our poc space in order for them not to feel excluded or singled out.
According to a 2018 report by the Human Rights Campaign, since 2013, at least 128 transgender people were victims of fatal violence; at least 110 of those victims were people of color.
According to Taskforce.org, 41% of Black trans people have experienced homelessness – more than five times the rate of the general population. 26% of Black trans people reported unemployment – that two times the rate of other transgender people and four times that of the general population. 31% of black transgender people have an income of less than $10,000 annually, and 20% of Black trans people are living with HIV.
To you, these statistics may be astounding and possibly even shocking, but for those who live with the compounded identity of being both a person of color and transgender, these are everyday facts we have no other option but to accept and silence ourselves in doing so.
In essence, intersectionality is the reason it is necessary for us told hold space and unpack the ways in which our oppressions occur – from race to gender, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and position in the hierarchy.
Black Lives Matter has been a known (and mostly widely affirmed) proclamation in America since it’s inaugural beginning in 2013. Today we still fight to explain that black lives [and brown lives] still matter regardless of race, gender, socio-economic, sexual orientation and ability status. My black body is not disposable, my feelings and words are not disposable. My life is not disposable. This year TDOV means to me recognizing and honoring the substantial differences and experiences in survival of black and brown trans women in comparison to the trans community as a whole.
I am a trans woman of color whose only goal in this writing is to express her joy, gratitude and words of encouragement for other trans women of color.
For Us By Us; A Word to Trans Women of Color:
The feeling happens every time I pass her on the street…….A Black woman, a woman of color. A rush of wonder and curiosity, admiration and joy fills my spirit. I wonder who she is, what her story is. Who or what is responsible for the expression on her face. Trans women of color are an entirely new wonder to me. Because I am her, I look for those signs – the insights that show me the realities of her day to day life. I understand this woman because I am this woman. Formerly I didn’t recognize these moments, and finally, when did, I used to take these moments for granted. How foolish of me. I now recognize these candid moments as a way to connect, empathize with and understand every woman of color I knew intimately or not at all. This could be and eventually would be my way of connecting with other trans women of color and feeling less alone.
You are a legend who despite odds beats extinction. You are an alchemist who despite what the world tells you transform and create yourself beyond conventional boundaries. You are the greatest of all time because you are a chameleon who is able to adapt in order to preserve your survival. You are a phantom whose existence is hard to fathom given the way the world treats you. For as long as we have existed, our lives have been up for commentary, speculation, surveillance and debate. Please always remember you are and forever will be my world. I live my life in honor of you and in gratitude of the magnitude of your greatness. Thank you for everything you are and have given me without even fully recognizing the nature of what you do and who you are. If I could give my life to ensure the greatness of yours I would without hesitation. Please never apologize for the melanin that uniquely pigments your skin and creates the hue that some use as a weapon and others, like myself, honor. You are invaluable.
For me, the true meaning of Transgender Day of Visibility is every trans person – specifically trans women of color – to be seen as their full selves. On this day, Transgender Day of Visibility, I pray every desire you have is fulfilled; everything you wish for, you receive. I hope you are seen and esteemed for every intersection that makes up who you are. I wish for you to emerge from your home feeling reborn as the smell of crisp air fills the streets and the airiness in your steps allow you to glide through the day. Ponytails swing in the wind tightly coiled curls bouncing with every movement, earrings glistening in the sunlight, high heels crunching against the pavement, dresses floating in the air as you sing, my smile is beaming my skin is gleaming, the way it shiiinnne I know you seen it.
I See You.