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Protect Black Trans Women

Rallying in Washington Square Park in May 2019, transgender rights activists protest the recent killings of three transgender women: Muhlaysia Booker, Claire Legato, and Michelle Washington. (Reuters / Demetrius Freeman/

If there was ever an equally true yet devastating fact about Trans women of color, it is that their lives are the most vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment out of us all. Leading to countless deaths that have silently gone unheard for some time now. From the second that any of them choose to live as authentically as the rest of us, “transgender people are in danger [of] doing everyday activities like walking down the street, going to work, or having a cup of coffee”. In today’s forever-changing social climate, black Trans women are making sure they have their seat at the table for social justice now more than ever. Demanding, to be heard, respected, understood, and most importantly made to feel safe by the world. Particularly, by their very own people. Within the black community itself, “violence against and the murdering of Black transgender women at the hands of Black men who are not transgender goes unchecked by everyone. Our communities have begun to address violence against Black women who are not transgender, but this has not been extended to Black transgender women, and we should be asking ourselves why”(TGIJP).

How can we feel satisfied in the fight for black lives when there is still an alarming presence of our own prejudice within the black community that leads to losing lives? According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, in “just seven months, the number of transgender people murdered in 2020 has surpassed the total for all of 2019” and this doesn’t even cover the number of lives lost that went unreported. To be ostracized by your own community in addition to the layered marginalized experiences of being a woman and Black, can lead to serious mental strain and exhaustion.

Bethany Ao of the Philadelphia Inquirer says Black transgender [women] often already are at higher risk for mental-health issues. Their problems are only made worse by the violence that they experience, a lack of acceptance within their families and communities, and a shortage of mental-health care specific to their needs”.The banes of ostracization, violence, harassment and little familial and social support is mentally detrimental to say the least. “The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) found that 81.7% of the 27,715 respondents had seriously considered suicide; [and] 40.4% had actually attempted it.” The combination of being a minority by both race and gender expression sprouts such a strong sense of disconnect from family and every day circumstance.

Philadelphian clinical director of Attic Youth Center, Shana Williams, tells that this all just “leads to another way to be discarded, shunned, and not supported” while already juggling the ancestral misogynistic conditioning black males have been known to express towards black women then not only are their minds at risk but their very lives as well. While we are using what we have left of 2020 to protest and advocate for the forgotten and victimized, it is exceedingly important that we take the time to remember that black lives matter in all facets. We cannot personally take care of others and ourselves mind, body and soul if we are not conscious of the immense and varied turmoil our people face. With so much already against us, why add to others within the community. Once we open our front door, why not make sure we’ve taken the time and care inside to be fully prepared to conquer what lies outside?

by Jakim L.


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