feature image art by Wriply M. Bennet
I am L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith. I am Lourdes Ashley Hunter. I am Janet Mock. I am Laverne Cox. I am Isis King. I am CeCe McDonald. I am Islan Nettles. I am Mia Henderson. I am Shelley Hilliard. I am Brittany Stergis. I am Tiffany Edwards. I am Gizzy Fowler. I am Marsha P. Johnson. I am every black trans woman that has had to live her life fighting the systems and people around her that seek to eradicate her existence. I am the woman that you have beaten, taunted, harassed, fired, and shamed. I live authentically in my truth, blazing a fiery path behind me that actively melts away the icy, exclusionary aura of the world that I must navigate. My hands are outstretched and am grasping every single one of my sisters that the TDOR lists are trying to engulf. I am them. They are us. We stand in solidarity to redefine our own realities and to rebuild our community that was broken apart at the hands of white supremacy and colonialism. We stand against the entrapment of the boxes of gender normativity and rebuke those who seek to place invisible cloaks across our claimed identities and articulated narratives. We refuse to operate in ways to fit systems and institutions that are inherently built to keep us out or seek to subjugate us. We are the revolution. We are stronger than the commodified victim narrative that has been forced onto our lived experiences. We are greater than the pity and sensationalization of all the TDOR events around the nation.
I want to take a moment to honor all of my sisters who have been murdered for living in their truths. If it weren’t for them dying for what they believe in and dying for each and every other sister that walks this Earth, I wouldn’t be here owning my voice. I wouldn’t be able to stand strong and unwavering proclaiming and owning my transness, blackness, queerness – hell, my penis! – if it weren’t for those Goddesses who owned those things and never let go. I wouldn’t have been inspired to love this skin I’m in if it weren’t for their legacies. But I also uplift the sisters by my side who live and love and teach me each and every day to never apologize for my authenticity. While we are all at our TDOR events or celebrating trans lives throughout the week, let’s begin to push our analyses a bit further. Let’s begin to engage in dialogue that acknowledges intersectional identities.
I implore you to sit back and ask yourself how you contribute to the violence and injustice against trans women of color. How do you reinforce the marginalization and ostracism of myself and my sisters? It’s all fine that we become aware of our lives but we need more than for you to finally see that we are walking this Earth. We need you to hear us. We need you to sit quietly, take notes, and begin to conceptualize what a restructured system that is void of misogynist, racist, ableist, etc oppression would look like. It’s not enough to read the names of my sisters killed off by the normative nature of this capitalistic system. Moments of silence are not enough. Calling us courageous is not enough. Having one or two trans friends is not enough. We need to begin to develop more complex analysis of the world in which we live. We need to rebuke assimilationism. It is an imperative to eradicate the prison industrial complex and the criminalization of sex work in all forms. I implore you to begin to question what has been engrained in you since birth. Own yourself and you can begin to see the truth.
I envision a period where being a black trans woman in all her glory is not deemed “courageous” or “revolutionary.” It is a ridiculous notion to think that one being themselves is revolutionary. I want to be able to walk to McDonald’s at 9:00 at night and not have to worry about being killed by transphobic bystanders, sexually molested by misogynistic jerks, or both of those things being perpetuated by police officers. I want to see my sisters out of jail cells. I want to see my sisters with jobs. I want to see them happy. I want to see black trans brilliance everywhere and until that day comes, we will not stop. The movement will always continue. Our voices will forever be the loudest. We will always walk with the fervor and passion that our fore sisters embodied. We are the revolution. We are Goddesses. Our lives matter. I am the Trans Women of Color Collective. Our voices slay.
November 14th-20th is Trans Awareness Week, leading up to Trans Day of Remembrance on the 20th. This is a week where we raise visibility for trans people and address issues that affect the trans community. For Trans Awareness Week this year, we’ve asked several of our favorite TWoC writers to come in and share their thoughts and experiences with us. TWoC started the entire LGBTQ movement in the U.S. And they continue to be the victims of most of the anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination. If we aren’t centering things on them, we are failing.