Black trans communities, especially Black trans women, are threatened daily by an epidemic of violence. Housing, medical care, employment and interpersonal relationships are more dangerous due to the intersections of transphobia and white supremacy. Transmisogynoir, a type of violence rooted in sexism and anti-blackness, is why so many of our loved ones lose their lives.
A 2020 survey by the Center for American Progress found that one in three LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. report having experienced discrimination in the year prior to being surveyed. The survey also revealed what we already know: LGBTQ+ people of color are more likely to experience discrimination of any kind when compared to our white counterparts. The situation becomes even more dire for transgender and gender diverse people specifically. From January 2013 to mid-2022, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and other advocates recorded at least 304 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who were victims of fatal violence in the U.S. Two-thirds (63%) of those murdered were Black transgender women, and 85% were people of color.
The crisis is real, and it is not just a trans issue when it comes to Black trans women and femmes. It is also a Black issue. As Audre Lorde said in “Sister Outside,” “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives,” and Black trans women deeply embody this reality. Every time a Black trans woman is fighting against the oppression she experiences, she is also fighting against the same violent systems that impact and target every member of the Black community.
Through the “We are family, too.” PSA, we are calling the Black community into a kinship that acknowledges and holds our shared struggle against misogyny, patriarchy, anti-Blackness and white supremacy. Gender-based violence universally harms all Black women, cis and trans, and denies us our right to thrive. Our freedom is deeply tied to one another and by building power together. We can bring about liberation for the entire Black community.
As said poignantly by the Combahee River Collective in 1977, “If Black [trans] women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all systems of oppression.” As a collective, we have the opportunity and responsibility to build a safer and more joyous society for everyone — including ALL Black people.
Black and gender diverse communities have always had an expansive understanding of who and what is our family. In our collective family, we aren’t demanding perfection. In fact, Black trans community expects imperfection as we navigate injustices in a profoundly imperfect society. All we are asking for right now is your support by simply showing up, even if you don’t understand. Blackness is beautiful, no matter what form it comes in. Everyone brings an inherent value to our shared world, and none of us lives in a silo. Even if we think one person’s issues don’t impact our separate lives, they will impact our collective futures.
Mahkyra Gaines and nikkita oliver are staff of Lavender Rights Project.
Read more of the Oct. 18-24, 2023 issue.