Over the past few years, violence against the trans community has been rising. Last year at least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed in the U.S., most Black and Latinx transgender women. And since the beginning of 2021, at least 28 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means (Human Rights Campaign). Because so many deaths aren’t reported – or reported with the victims misnamed or misgendered – advocates worry this number is much higher. Last fall, the American Medical Association declared the killings of transgender women of color an “epidemic” (NYTimes).
Trans people, particularly trans people of color, also face disproportionate violence by the police. Trans people are 3.7x more likely to experience police violence – and 7x more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with police – than cisgender victims and survivors (Vox). Over the past year, the tragic stories of Roxanne Moore, Tony McDade, and Layleen Polanco only emphasize the need for reimagining public safety. However, calls for justice were often overlooked in the broader push for Black lives. In reality, the exacerbated violence that trans people experience should be central to how we rally for our collective liberation.
And as this all unfolds, there’s a clear and coordinated attack on trans rights, led by national far-right organizations trying to gain political power by sowing fear and hate. Since January 2021, over 100 anti-transgender bills have been introduced in state legislation, surpassing the record amount from all of 2020 (HRC). These bills are designed to ban transgender youth from participating in sports or receiving gender-affirming healthcare, or expand the ability of individuals and businesses to turn people away from services (PBS). And as a result, they elevate hateful rhetoric that places the LGBTQ+ community in more danger. Learn more in a previous newsletter.
This Pride Month, it’s all the more critical to center the needs of the trans community of color. The movement for racial equity and LGBTQ+ rights are closely intertwined. No one defines that more distinctly than Marsha P. Johnson, a Black, transgender leader who paved the way for Black and LGBTQ+ rights in America. Known as a self-identified drag queen, performer, and survivor, she was a prominent figure in the Stonewall Uprising of June 1969, one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement. She, alongside her friend Sylvia Rivera, a legendary transgender activist of Venezuelan and Puerto Rican descent, centered the lives of Black and brown transgender lives throughout their work for decades. Now, as the Black Lives Matter movement forges on, we must too.“
What happens is that Black trans people are erased and made invisible in society, but then we actually disappear in our deaths.
Kei Williams, a founding member of the Black Lives Matter global network and a national organizer at the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, in an interview with The Lily.
Last summer, the “Brooklyn Liberation” march for Black trans lives rallied over 15,000 people in the streets of New York City to celebrate Black trans lives, commemorate those who have been lost, and rally for trans liberation – an unprecedented turnout (NYTimes). The second march was held again yesterday. Thanks to the tireless efforts of community organizers and activists, the fight for trans liberation will not be ignored. Together, we can all ensure that their liberation is center in our efforts for racial and LGBTQ+ rights.