Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Are Black Transwomen's Lives Less Valuable Than Others?

Let's start this off with a hypothetical question.

If 70% of the Remembering Our Dead List was made up of people sharing your ethnic heritage, out of the 31 killed in the previous year 3/4 shared your ethnic heritage, your transwomen were called 'ugly', automatically associated with prostitution and criminal behavior despite positive accomplishments to the contrary, and your attempts to call attention to this ongoing genocide were questioned, dismissed, or called 'alarmist', you were greeted with silence by the organizations inside and outside your community that are supposed to help and represent you, and you just watched two more of your sisters get shot (one fatally) to close out the holidays, how would you feel?

Well peeps, you just got to try on the pumps Black transwomen have been struggling to walk in lately.

Don't feel too good now do they?

This assault on Black transwomen reminds me of an old comment that I often heard growing up within the African-American family, but is surely apropos here to paraphrase.

Black transwomen's lives are less valuable than others.

That comment would play out like a mantra when I witnessed from a distance the lousy sentence that was given our in Boston to the killer of Chanelle Pickett. When I heard about an EMT in our nation's capital denying lifesaving medical treatment to Tyra Hunter, or when I heard about Tiffany Berry's killer in Memphis being set free on a ridiculously low bail.

One of the reasons I went nuclear over transpeople being cut out of ENDA in September 2007 was because I feared that it would result in what we're seeing now, a spike in hate violence and killings of transgender people. I also feared that many of those transwomen who died would share my ethnic heritage.

Fourteen months later my fears have come agonizingly true. We have seen a major spike in hate crimes directed at transpeople, and unfortunately Black transwomen are taking the brunt of those fatal hits.

And what's the reaction of the organizations that are alleged to represent me either as an African-American or a African-American transperson?

Deafening silence.

Black transwomen's lives are less valuable than others.

And to add insult to our injuries comes elements of the Black church joining with white fundamentalists and the Roman Catholic Church attacking us as well.

Black transwomen's lives are less valuable than others.

The media disrespecting our dead with incorrect pronouns and names that didn't reflect the people they are now.

Black transwomen's lives are less valuable than others.

Even though society is sending us this overwhelmingly negative message and it would be easy to sigh in frustration and say, "We can't fight this overwhelming negativity', I look back at our history and realize that our ancestors dealt with far worse circumstances than we mere African descended transwomen are a mere eight years and a few days into the twenty first century.

We African descended transwomen know deep down that we are worthy, beautiful human beings. Instead of being turned away from the American family table we are demanding our place setting at it by having our constitutional rights respected and protected. And we will not be turned around from this by faith based haters, the ignorant, or politicians looking to do the expedient thing and not the morally correct thing.

We are struggling to maintain our humanity under this tsunami of negativity. Even though the wave threatens to crush us, we hold on to something solid, wait for it to crest, subside and head back out to the ocean, then we'll go from there.

That something solid is our faith. Just like our ancestors, despite the brutality that was occurring around them, what drove them was the hope that one day things would be different for their children.

While I and others are trying to work on a shorter timetable than the ancestors had to deal with, my faith that what I have visualized and written about on this blog will one day happen is just as strong as the faith my ancestors had in their hopes and dreams coming true for my generation.

Even though this situation as of January 2009 can be depressing as hell sometimes, I take comfort from perusing our history in knowing that through concerted action with allies and ourselves, we can turn this around by doing the hard work to make the necessary legislative victory happen.

In the meantime, we African descended transwomen do our part by continuing to excel individually and as a group. We bond with our biosisters so that we'll stop hearing the noisy negative mantra in the background and replace it with one that says, 'Black transwomen's lives are just as valuable as any other'.

I hope and pray that as the 110th Congress begins its session today, they, our allies and others who need to hear that message will hear that positive mantra as well.

I also pray that the people who hear that mantra the loudest are Black transwomen.


Renee said...

Honestly when I learned that so many deaths occuring in the trans community were people of color I was in shock. It makes sense considering the rampant racism in society.
When we look at these statistics how is it possible that the NAACP not see this as an issue the black community needs to address, also shame on NOW for ignoring that women are being killed. Every time I think of the lives that have been lost I feel such sadness and such anger. I am with you my sister and somehow may we come across a way to help bring this violence to an end.

e^10 said...

If you ever get on this topic again, feel free to add the fact that the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center didn't even bother to issue a press release about Leeneshia Edwards' shooting after being specifically asked to do so more than once. Yet they claim to be trans-inclusive and give a damn about trans people. Had it been a white gay man from the 'burbs or the gentrified part of Midtown, they'd have been all over that.

Monica Roberts said...

For the folks who have already died, we must

Sin Nombre
Why does it not surprise me?

Black transpeople's lives are less valuable than others

Dori said...

Hey Monica. I have been trying to write something like this for a while now and have had the hardest time doing so. May I repost this over at my place?