Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Black Trans Visibility Conundrum

At this August 2015 date in Black trans history we are in the best of times and also the worst of times.  We have had unprecedented visibility in thanks to Janet Mock,  Laverne Cox and other veteran and emerging African American trans masculine and transfeminine leaders.  

There is Isis King and Arisce Wanzer following in the trailblazing footsteps of Tracy Africa Norman and repping us in the modeling world..Laverne Cox continues her Sophia Burset role on Orange Is The New Black while adding to an impressive list of magazine covers, getting attention and buzz about playing other roles and possible network show pilots and having groundbreaking things happen for her like becoming the first ever trans person to have a wax figure of themselves at Madame Tussaud's

Speaking of movies, we have documentary films in production profiling the lives of Miss major and Marsha P. Johnson.   Fallon Fox is in the women's MMA ranks kicking butt with a 5-1 record while also being featured in the Game Face documentary and a voice for trans inclusion inside and outside the sporting world as Black trans feminine trailblazers do their thing in other fields like Angelica Ross, Breanna Sinclaire and Tona Brown

The unprecedented visibility of Black trans women even extends in the entertainment world, with a groundbreaking Bold and the Beautiful soap opera storyline that features Maya Avant, a major character on the long running CBS soap played by cis actress Karla Mosley, being revealed as a trans woman in March.  .We have gotten to see since then the issues of that revelation not only affect Forrester Creations and her relationship with Rick, but for the first time see how this plays out in a Black family. 

Even our trans brothers are finally getting their long overdue time in the spotlight, with people like BTAC founder Carter Brown, Jevon Martin, Rev Lawrence T. Richardson, Kylar Broadus, Dr. Kai Greene, Dr. Van Bailey, and entrepreneurs like Dr Kortney Ziegler representing us in the tech world.

But the increased visibility has come with a price.   Last week we had an historically unprecedented situation in which five Black trans women across the country under age 35 lost their lives, three of them were announced on the same heartbreaking day.   Far too often and the people doing the killing are in many cases other cis African-Americans as our legacy organizations are cricket chirping silent about it..

And that needs to stop. Hey NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus and the Urban League,   #BlackTransLivesMatter, too.. 

We have ministers preaching anti-trans hate from their pulpits at the behest of white right wing fundamentalists and anti-LGBT activists that is deleteriously affecting us and translating into far too many of us drying so these sellouts can build conservative street cred.

That  sets up a conundrum for Black trans people and our cis allies to ponder.  While the increased visibility for Black trans people has been a mixed bag, it's also necessary to advance our trans human rights struggle.

We must have people willing to be visible and busting stereotypes while others continuously agitate for the systemic change we need.   We can't do that while hiding or suffering in silence.  Because the trans narrative has been framed from a vanillacentric perspective, we Black trans people need to be visible in order to break down the lies and stereotypes about us that have been spread in far too many quarters of the Black community.   Those lies and stereotypes have the deleterious effect of feeding the transphobia that leads to the anti-trans violence that kills us.

We've gone through tough times before, and we will get through them again.  We Black trans people have always been visionary leaders at the forefront of change for our people, and that pattern is no different in the second decade of the 21st century.  We have much to contribute to the Black community if just given the opportunity to do so.

The question is how soon will our people give us that chance to prove it/

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