Transgender women of color are being murdered. Transgender women of color like us are being murdered across these United States. There have been at least seventeen murders of transgender of women of color in 2015. Last week alone, we lost five sisters, with three bodies discovered in one day on August 14, 2015. We call the names of Shade Schuler, Amber Monroe, Ashton O’Hara, Kandi Capri, Elisha Walker, Tamara Dominguez, and so many others who were stolen from us. Transgender women of color are being targeted and executed across this country and nobody seems to give a damn about any of our lives.
This is PROBLEMATIC.
It is important to discuss race when we talk about the systematic oppression of Transgender women of color. There is a huge media discrepancy between the narratives of White transgender women and transgender women of color.
Leelah Alcorn, a young White transgender woman from Kings Mill, OH, committed suicide due to lack of acceptance for her gender identity. When news of her death broke media handled the coverage with respect and dignity. Mainstream America was able to sympathize with Leelah’s story to the point where fundraisers in her honor instantly met their goals and laws are being created and named in her memory. Leelah has now become the face of Transgender Suffering that is palatable for mainstream America.
However, transgender women of color, Black and Latina, have been suffering in silence for decades long before Leelah Alcorn and long before the edited and whitewashed narrative of the Stonewall Rebellion.
The seventeen transgender women of color who were murdered in 2015 did not receive adequate coverage or the proper sensitivity when their murders were reported to the public. Most, if not all, of the victims were misgendered, misnamed, ridiculed, and blamed for their murders.
When transgender women of color are killed, our narratives do not receive the same level of respect as White transgender women because of the systems of oppression that works to diminish and erase the humanity of anyone who is of color.
We also have to hold LGBT, or "Gay, Inc." organizations accountable for their complicity in promoting ideals that benefited White gay maleness at the cost of silencing and excluding the presence of Ttansgender women of color. So many times leaders of these organizations made it clear that issues affecting these women are not a priority and they do not exist. Instead of fighting for liberation along side of transgender women of color, these organizations used their position of White and cisgender privilege to oppress us inside of their organizations while appropriating our struggles to create the illusion of diversity for those outside the LGBT communities.
For decades these organizations watched as transgender women of color have been unemployed, uneducated, homeless, disproportionately affected by STIs, and disproportionately affected by incessant harassment and violence. For decades they have benefited off our suffering while issues affecting transgender women of color have gotten drastically worse. For decades when we said that our sisters were being murdered in the streets, we were met with nothing but silencing and shaming.
Transgender women of color have strategically been left out of this newly reinvigorated national conversation over police brutality. Yet, it's TWOC who are often the silent victims of police harassment and police killings. Promises have been made by Black cisgender-based movement organizations that transgender voices would be included and not forgotten in their narratives. You can see statistics about Black transgender women and hashtags about us plastered on their pages creating the illusion of inclusion and diversity.
The deaths of five transgender women of color have been declared in the last week and our community has not seen an appropriate action from these organizations that initially claimed to include and uplift our narrative. Instead what we experienced was silence and inaction. That is not solidarity and that is not acceptable to us anymore.
We transgender women of color say enough is enough. The MURDERS of seventeen transgender women of color in the United States is egregious, unacceptable and we will not sit by any more in silence.
We reject the oppression from media that is controlled by a system of White supremacy that intentionally promotes a narrative of shaming, slandering, and degrading transgender women of color. We demand that stories reported about transgender women of color are done so with sensitivity and humanity. Any deviation from this is an act of violence against transgender women of color.
We reject the tokenization of transgender women of color in “Gay, Inc” organizations that do not genuinely care about the needs and the upward mobility of Transgender women of color in this country. It is absolutely unacceptable to use your cisgender and White privilege to oppress the voices and experiences of TWOC. If your organization is not built around genuinely including transgender women of color, valuing our voices, collaborating with us, making sure we are credited and benefit from our contributions, then we will not continue to provide our services at the expense of further damaging the transgender community of color and putting our sisters at risk.
We reject cisgender-centered Black movements who appropriate the real and visceral struggles of transgender women of color for mass appeal, while failing to deliver on their promises of inclusion and intentionality of our issues. We find that your failure to publicly address the incessant violence against transgender women of color shows that you are not truly invested in liberation for all Black people.
When a transgender woman of color is murdered, it is not only an injustice for transgender people. It is an injustice for all people of color. It is an injustice for women. It is an injustice for any marginalized group that is oppressed and experiences erasure.
Transgender women of color from across this country are tired and have had enough of the MURDERS, the ABUSE, the VIOLENCE, the EXCUSES, and the NEGLECT. We give ourselves permission scream and yell in anger for the treatment of our community. We give ourselves permission dismantle the system of White supremacy that says that people of color should have a pleasant disposition when dealing with injustice and to wait when it comes to the real liberation of our community.
We give ourselves permission to love and forgive each other in the face of same oppression that caused us to betray one another, when we believed there was not room for all of us to be free. We give ourselves permission to disregard what other people have told us was not possible and create what we believe the liberation of Transgender women of color should be.
We feel it is necessary to collectively voice our frustration because if we don't, transgender women of color will continue to be SLAUGHTERED in SILENCE and SHAMED in PUBLIC. In order to truly create a new narrative where the lives of transgender women of color are treated with dignity and respect it will start with movements created by transgender women of color. We will demand accountability and action for the poor treatment of transgender women of color in this country. We will own our movements and own our narratives.
We will only align with trans-attracted men who choose to stand with us and fearlessly love us, rather than being the ones to always harm us.
We will only align with allies who actively work to interrupt the ignorance and oppression by calling it out and intentionally including transgender women of color in movements that challenge White supremacy and patriarchy.
Transgender women of color who we have lost we have not forgotten about you and we will not let another day go by where won’t lift all of your names up in dignity and honor.
November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a day where we give honor to and remember the lives of transgender people who are no longer with us. However, this year we transgender women of color and transgender men of color are choosing to own and create a new narrative to celebrate those who are no longer with us while giving ourselves permission to vocalize our outrage. On November 20th 2015 cities across the United States will be participating in the Transgender March of Resilience, a movement birthed from Black and Latin transgender experience and one that will model what this movement will look like for transgender people of color in the United States. We invite all to participate with us in solidarity and proclaim, “transgender women of color matter!”
Deja Lynn Alvarez
Bré Campbell: Trans Sista of Color Project-Detroit, Executive Director
Cheryl C. Courtney-Evans: TILTT, Inc., Executive Director
Renae Gray: Indigenous TransWoman from Albuquerque, NM
Lourdes Ashley Hunter, MPA: Casa Ruby LGBT Center, Comptroller; TWOCC, National Director
Bryanna A. Jenkins, B.S., M.A.: The Baltimore Transgender Alliance, Founder & Director
Samantha Jo Dato
Octavia Y. Lewis, MPA
Tela La’Raine Love: New Legacy Ministries, Founder
Tiommi Jenae Luckett: Blogger & HIV Advocate
Milan Nicole-Sherry: Youth Organizer
Dariel Peay: R&D Tech Authority, CEO
Londyn Colette Smith Richelieu: Claudette Mason Foundation, Director
Elizabeth Marie Rivera: #StopTheShade Campaign
LaSaia Wade, BBA:TNTJ Project, Executive Director
Kim Watson: CK Life, Co-Founder