It is no secret that black trans people are stigmatized and abused in the Black community to the point of silence. The violence that is done towards the black trans community is not only under documented by the media, but is discredit and made fun of by the Black community. Black trans people deal with discrimination from the public but also from the community that they are apart of. Such a discrimination is odd since the Black community knows too well what it feels like to experience violence, discrimination, and disadvantages in life and have the majority frame it as problems we created. The lack of gender education, empathy, and the need to maintain black masculinity is what has caused Black trans people to feel detached from the people whose culture they share.
In an attempt to provide some context as to what challenges bombard the black trans community everyday, we must first discuss definitions. Before we get into that, always remember that Google is your friend. If you do not understand anything, you should google it, read about, absorb the new knowledge, and become a better person.
Transgender is a term used to refer to a person who does not identify with the gender associated with the sex they were born with. Transitioning refers to the medical process that people go through to obtain the physical appearance of the sex they wish to identify with. Now, transitioning is personal to the individual who is going through it; therefore, it is completely rude to pressure someone who is transitioning to explain every aspect of how their bodies are changing (i.e. someone’s genital situation is none of your business). Transgender people should be free to express or stay completely private about their transition. Cis-gendered is a term that refers to people who identify with the gender they were born with.
Transgender, transvestite, and transsexual are not the same. These titles also have nothing to do with sexuality. A transvestite is a person, typically identified as a man, who enjoys dressing up as the opposite sex. Majority of the time, transvestites do not want to change the sex they were born with. Transsexual is a term that we do not hear as much as transgender. To understand the difference of the two you have to realize that gender and sex are different. In this article, I do not have time to completely explain the difference between the two. An easy way to explain it is that gender is cultural and sex is biological. Transsexual is a term that refers to a person who physically transitions to the opposite sex either with hormones or through surgery.
Now all of the information above is overwhelming, especially since there are way more terms to learn. Gender is something that is very complicated, and when you add race to gender it is an entirely different creature to handle. Due to the public’s lack of desire to learn about the lives and pressures trans people of color face, the Black trans community ends up experiencing violence from people who share their same skin.
In 2016, at least 22 transgender people were murdered. The majority of the victims were trans people of color. The murders where committed by strangers, partners, and acquaintances. This sub-population that intersects race and gender experiences the most disadvantages in terms of proper healthcare, employment, justice, and housing.
This year alone, at least 16 transgender people have been murdered and at least 6 of those deaths were trans women of color.
The violence alone, and also the lack of reporting of the violence, done towards trans women of color should be enough to invoke citizens and the government to do something to protect the lives of transgender Americans. But it has not.
Transgender black women have marched for women rights, marriage equality, Black Lives Matter, and stood against police brutality. So where is everyone when it is time to stand up transgender rights? Especially as black people, why are our voices not supporting and uplifting this community?
I realize that in the black community there are fixed positions on sex and gender, that are rooted in protecting masculinity, but I challenge you to educate yourself on the trans community. Learn what problems they are facing, read their stories, and learn ways you can help amplify their voices. At the very least, the kindest thing you can do for a trans person is to simply and compassionately ask what pronoun they prefer people to address them by.
To learn more about Trans Women of Color you can go to Trans Women of Color Collective website at www.twocc.us.