by Andy Jean

How can Black people heal?  How will Black minds be liberated? Are Black artists/storytellers able to cultivate artistic homes where they can create without reservations? What role do we play in this movement? Is there real diversity and inclusivity at these institutional tables? 

These questions have been circulating in our community since March. We are left to reckon with the social unrest of 2020. To be clear, this is not a new crisis: Black communities have always navigated turbulence and been continuously failed by the law (systems). 

All the while, the Black trans community has been neglected. There is little advocacy, representation or compassion when it comes to our trans family. They are continuously fighting racial tension, transphobia and senseless murders. 

At the end of day, we Black trans folx are just trying to hold space and live in our fullness! Something as simple as pronoun acknowledgment allows people to feel seen! We are no longer asking to be included; we are demanding it! 

As of this writing, 32 trans individuals (on record) have been killed this year alone. Unfortunately, we know there will be more lives taken before Dec. 31. Black trans people will be in a state of emergency beyond Election Day, Nov. 3. These inhumane acts of violence feel systemic.  

How will Black trans folx be protected? We inevitably face violence on all fronts, from kinfolk and white folk. We’re fighting for our existence. You should not have to be attracted to me to fight for me. We shouldn’t have to be cis-gendered to be called your “sis.” 

We exist on a multitude of spectrums. There is a duality when it comes to feeling “othered.” We fight — and defend — Black men! However, it’s the same community of brothers that inflicts the violence and trauma onto trans people. We find ourselves at a difficult intersection. As my sister expressed, “I love black men, yet I’m afraid of them!” 

We give them so much; we give our bodies, our time and resources. Yet, they don’t even see us. They are scared to acknowledge or accept a trans womxn as a womxn. Even if a trans person is privileged as a cis-assuming person, they still face the painful retaliation of Black men’s fear and stigma. 

Black men are ashamed to say they love Black trans womxn. As a result, my sisters become collateral damage; their lives are extinguished because of shame. Indeed, what a shame!

We have seen the unfortunate rise in the number of trans people killed since March. We have not seen the Black community galvanize with the same fervor as it did on behalf of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade was shot and killed by the state, two days after Floyd’s death. How many more trans lives will be taken before we awaken?

"Black people won the right to vote in 1965, but we are still fighting for the right to live!"

I want to believe that ALL Black lives matter, but when we remain ghostly silent, that advocacy is not felt.  We can no longer sit quietly. How long have our ancestors marched, fought for and championed equal rights?  George Floyd cried out for his mother as he uttered his final breath. There are many others with knees on their necks! 

We must answer their calls for help. It is our duty to fight for one another. We have to be accountable and open our hearts in order to uplift one another. 

This movement has been birthed out of the atrocities we face. Our communities ran into the streets and screamed for justice; ultimately risking their health during a global pandemic to act on the growing epidemic that is taking Black lives in this country. 

Do we have to endure another 55 years of civil unrest? Black people won the right to vote in 1965, but we are still fighting for the right to live! The people can’t wait until 2075 for liberation. We are taking it NOW!

Assata Shakur reminds us: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” White supremacy has kept our minds enchained for hundreds of years. 

Historically we have seen the trans community attacked, skipped over and silenced. Most often the root of trauma starts during childhood. Queer and trans adolescents are bullied, beaten and isolated! They are forced to navigate binary standards of sexuality and gender identity. It’s astounding when we think about how many of us were called the F-word, before we were called the N-word. 

Homophobia, transphobia and effeminophobia are all byproducts of white supremacy.  These consequences of anti-Blackness must be dismantled and made obsolete.

We can no longer labor in silence and watch another member of our community taken away from us. We need them; we must love them and protect them. That is the only way Black people will get liberation. There is no Black Liberation without Black Trans Liberation. Our ancestors preached this philosophy. White supremacy is engineered to make us question and reject the Black lives that we are fighting for. 

"We assume folx on the streets are crazy and ignore them. Their enraged feelings are valid. They have lost hope in humanity. When they cried out for help, no one came."

I want people to understand that we can’t expect allies to fight for and protect us if we don’t protect our own Black trans siblings. There should not be division under the umbrella of Black life. We are all worthy, valuable and beautifully made in all hues. The goal of white supremacy is to push our marginalized people further into the margins. 

There are so many of us suffering from housing discrimination, food insecurity, institutional debt, unemployment and lack of access to mental-health care. We assume folx on the streets are crazy and ignore them. Their enraged feelings are valid. They have lost hope in humanity. When they cried out for help, no one came.

When I reflect on the magnitude of our matriarchs, I think of their teachings, their healing remedies and their divine power. The stories they wrote. The songs they sang. The love they poured into our communities. I think of my own grandmother who would cook all day so she could feed the people in her village at sunset. 

Toni Morrison once blessed us with a powerful offering: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” 

Since June 1, our community at Stonewall gathers each week to hold space and acknowledge Black queer and trans lives. We rally and teach the vast history of our ancestors. That includes celebrating our iconic trailblazers who were radically holding space; Marsha P. Johnson, James Baldwin and Audre Lorde are imprinted on our hearts. 

They have inspired me to lead with love and unwavering strength. Despite the opposition, negativity, and a fragile New York Police Department, we honor the ancestors and Black angels through chants, demonstrations and ceremonial rituals in the streets. Our streets! 

I often close out the healing circle with a chant: “The people united can never be defeated!” I firmly believe that we will win. Black trans individuals will be centered and prioritized moving forward. Our trans family will be holding space at every tier in society. We’ll be occupying the privileged institutions that left us out, from the schools, to corporate entities, to the arts and sciences and even the White House. 

It’s our reigning season!

Black Trans Lives Matter.

Black Trans Lives Are Beautiful.

Black Trans Lives Are Worthy.

Black Trans Lives Are Valuable.

Black Trans Lives Are Magic!

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