Black Trans Lives Matter, Too

On Sunday, June 14, thousands of protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum in New York City in a powerful demonstration supporting the Black trans community, demanding justice for recent lives lost, as well as the disproportionate violence Black trans people face in this country. As people across the country and around the world participate in Black Lives Matter protests fighting for racial justice, it’s important to actively include and speak up for the LGBTQ+ community as part of the conversation.

On May 3, Black trans woman Nina Pop was stabbed to death in a possible hate crime, and a few weeks later, on May 27, Tony McDade, a Black trans man, was fatally shot by police. Just last week, on June 8 and 9, two Black trans women, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton, were tragically killed within a 24-hour period. Fells’s disturbing death was ruled a homicide, while Milton was killed in an attempted robbery. These four deaths are part of the reported total of 14 trans or gender nonconforming people violently killed in 2020, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign.

Following the horrific deaths of Fells and Milton, policy shifts further impacted the conversation around trans rights amidst the Black Lives Matter protests. On June 12, which was also the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Trump administration reversed Obama-era health protections for LGBTQ+ people, which would allow health professionals and insurance companies to discriminate against trans people and refuse care based on gender identities. These recent disturbing events are just a small piece of the violence and inequality Black trans people have faced for years, in various institutions like healthcare, prisons, and sex work and have reignited people to advocate for justice for the Black trans community. On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to prohibit sex discrimination in the workplace and protect LGBTQ+ employees in a historical win for the community. However, there is still much work to be done in the fight to end discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and trans people, specifically.

If you’ve been supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s important to include LGBTQ+ people in your fight and actively fight for all Black lives to matter. Understand the intersectionality of Black and LGBTQ+ communities and the way Pride correlates to the Black Lives Matter movement. Over 50 years ago, the Stonewall uprising served as a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ+ community. Activists resisted against homophobia and transphobia in response to police raiding the famous Stonewall Inn, a club frequented by members of the community. Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson was one of the people at the forefront of that movement and cofounded the Gay Liberation Front, the first inclusive queer activist organization formed after Stonewall. As Johnson has made way for both Black and LGBTQ+ communities alike, your activism must also be intersectional, and you must aim to fight for all marginalized communities. If you’re looking for ways to support Black trans people, read ahead to find out what you can you do to help.

Show up for the Black trans community

Show your support for the Black trans community at the Black Lives Matter protests taking place across the country. The next large demonstration is the Queer Liberation March in NYC on June 28, but know that local demonstrations in your city can be just as powerful. If you choose to protest, make sure to do so safely by wearing a mask and protecting yourself.

If you’re unable to join in physically, consider attending a virtual event to show solidarity. NYC Pride is hosting several virtual gatherings that you can easily register for online, including The Rally, which honors the very first Pride Rally after the Stonewall Riots and will protest against police brutality, as well as the Black Queer Town Hall, which will raise money for Black queer organizations and center Black queer voices.

Learn the names, leaders, and history tied to Black trans lives

Educate yourself on the LGBTQ+ community’s history and its connection to the Black community. Start with ensuring you’re aware of gender pronouns and the role language plays in affecting gender-based violence. Learn about the activists who have paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community, the disproportionate adversities Black trans people face in America, and the names of the lives lost. Read articles about how trans activists like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson democratized the trans rights movement, like this one from Out. Listen to The Takeaway’s podcast episode about the way violence against Black trans people is often left out of the national conversation. Watch films and TV shows like Pose and Orange Is the New Black that spotlight the stories of black LGBTQ+ faces and voices.

Check out this comprehensive actions and resources guide compiled by trans rights activists, which includes helpful lists like articles and books to read, films, TV series, and videos to watch, podcasts to listen to, as well as creators to follow on Instagram, in addition to specific actions you can take to support Black trans lives. If you come from a place of privilege, have conversations with others about your learnings, and speak up about the injustices the Black trans community faces.

Donate to relevant organizations and funds

If you’re able to spare cash, there are plenty of local and national organizations that aid Black LGBTQ+ people and trans people specifically that you can donate to. Consider setting up monthly donations to support the community beyond this week or this month. Check out the list of funds and organizations ahead to get started.

  • The Marsha P. Johnson Institute has always been committed to protecting Black trans people and providing direct relief for members of the community.
  • G.L.I.T.S., which stand for Gays and Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society, works to provide various resources and safety for the trans community but is currently using funds to provide housing for Black trans people.
  • The Okra Project provides resources and meals for Black trans people and has also set up mental health funds in honor of Tony McDade and Nina Pop, to raise money for mental health therapy for trans people.
  • A member of the National Bail Fund Network, the Emergency Release Fund raises money to pay bail for trans people.
  • The Homeless Black Trans Women Fund directly supports Black trans women in Atlanta who are homeless and/or sex workers with necessities like temporary housing, food, and phones.
  • The Sylvia Rivera Law Project provides free legal services for trans people who are of low-income backgrounds, immigrants, or people of color.

Or, you can also donate directly to the families of those affected. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton, and Tony McDade’s families have all set up GoFundMes to help cover funeral costs.

Continue to speak up for Black trans lives

As Black trans people are often forgotten or ignored in the fight for justice and equality, it’s important to continue to use your voice to speak up and raise awareness for the community, particularly if you represent a less vulnerable group and benefit from privilege. Amplify and voice your support for Black trans lives on your social media, regardless of the size of your platform. Be sure to also share your learnings and resources with your family and friends, and be open to engaging in tough conversations. Do your part in elevating and pushing forth these discussions to help demand justice for the Black trans community.

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