Statement: National Day of Action for Trans Women of Color

Since taking office, Donald Trump and his administration have taken extreme steps to make his campaign promises rooted in racism, sexual violence and xenophobia the law of the land. Since he has taken office, we have been grieving and resisting with our communities around the country. His administration’s latest attacks targeting transgender students and immigrants is an attempt to oppress our identities, control our lives, and intimidate us into compliance. But we have seen this before.

State-based violence is not new to our Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Two Spirit and Queer communities, especially queer and trans Black, and Indigenous people. Our ancestors for centuries have been disrespected, ignored, caged, abused, and subject to deadly violence since the formation of the American national identity. Stories of family members disappearing in police custody, violent backlash and attacks to silence and suppress us, and twisted politicians using our bodies for political gain are all too familiar.

And while the new political realities in the US and the rise of fascism around the world have many of us calling for unity, bold action and even revolution, we continue to see the transphobia, misogyny, xenophobia, anti blackness and racism that is at the root of Trump’s power reflected back to us in our own community and in the growing movement to resist Trump’s agenda. This year is on track to be the most dangerous year yet for trans women of color — even more violent than 2016, and 2015 before that.

So far in 2017, seven of our sisters have lost their lives to horrific acts of violence. These Black and native trans women’s lives were in jeopardy on multiple levels before November 8th and threats have only increased since. However, despite the hyper-visible outrage against anti-woman and anti-LGBT policies led and inspired by the Trump administration, the loss of Mesha Caldwell, Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Doll Depree, JoJo Striker, Ciara McElveen, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Tiara Richmond, and the calls for action from trans women in our community have been met with telling silence.

Today, we are making a collective call to action. Any resistance movement that is dynamic and powerful enough to overcome white supremacists and religious extremists who hold power in our government must also be bold enough to stand up and fight back against transphobic, racist, anti-woman, anti-femme forces in our ranks and in our neighborhoods. We must demand more of ourselves and of each other. Join us on March 15th, for a National Day of Action to Celebrate the Lives of Black Trans Women and Protect All Trans Women and Femmes. We must rise with urgency and conviction to support the resistance led by those most on the margins and protect trans women and femmes of color by any means necessary.

This year, Women’s History Month began with a historic number of reported deaths for trans women — and history tells us that without intentional intervention and action, this violence will escalate and these women’s stories will continue to be erased. We have the chance to change the herstory of this moment by taking action to show up for trans women of color. The statement “None of us are Free until we all are Free” must become a mantra for how this mass resistance movement. Participating in this day of action is just one step toward living this valueClick here to sign up for an action or find information about an action in your area.

International Women’s Day

We are observing International Women’s Day by reflecting on the state of trans women’s lives across the world, starting with our own backyard.

Raquel Willis is a writer, activist and media maven from Augusta, GA, whose work champions social justice issues and continues to uplift marginalized voices across identities. She recently spoke at the Women’s March on Washington and although her full speech was cut off, you can read it in full here.

In the first two months of this year, seven trans women were murdered in the United States. Queer & trans activists have launched a robust campaign to bring attention to these tragedies but the names of these women still remain unknown to many people across the nation. The current administration has been silent on these heinous crimes and even went a step further by withdrawing Obama-era guidelines on how schools should accommodate transgender students. The move was widely criticized and is especially jarring in light of a recent study showing that as many as 73% of transgender youth have experienced mistreatment because of their gender identity, some of whom have been forced to skip eating and drinking in public in an attempt to avoid needing the bathroom.

Image c/o instagram.com/its997

The US is not alone in this alarming phenomenon. Dandara dos Santos, a trans woman who was filmed begging for her life before being beaten to death on Feb. 15, became the fifth trans person to be murdered in Brazil that month. Asked to describe Dandara, her sister Sonia Maria spoke of Dandara’s selflessness, saying that she was always helpful and spirited. Dandara’s death, however tragic, is not unique. Brazil has just 2.8 percent of the world’s population, but 46.7 percent of the world’s transgender murders.

These figures only keep piling up as we look across the globe. At its last count, the TVT Project had tallied 295 reports of murdered trans and gender-diverse people in 33 countries in 2016, with the majority happening in Brazil (123), Mexico (52), the United States (23), Colombia (14), and Venezuela (14). In Asia, most reported cases were in India (6) and Pakistan (5) and, in Europe, in Italy (5) and Turkey (5).

Image c/o www.pearlofafrica.tv

Cleopatra Kambugu fled to Kenya after having been “outed” on the front page of Red Paper, one of Uganda’s major tabloids. Forced to live behind a closed gate for over a month, she lost her job and her relationship with several family members. The people who had been “outed” were attacked by mobs and illegally evicted, leaving her no other option than to get out of Uganda. Today Cleopatra and her boyfriend live in Nairobi, but she still has to be careful and remains vigilant of her surroundings. Cleopatra has since shared her story with various media outlets and has developed a web series and a documentary, The Pearl Of Africa, to further this end. “I want to give the Ugandan people human picture of a transgender person, which I hope The Pearl Of Africa will help me to do,” said Cleo.

We at SPARK stand with our communities during these devastating times and vow to keep shining a light on the activists and advocates who have tirelessly worked to illuminate the struggles and triumphs of trans women across the world. We call on you to support the work of these activists and invite you to learn more about how you can get involved in the movement to protect trans lives here.

Black Trans History

We’re winding down another spectacular Black History Month with a salute to a revolutionary figure in the trans liberation movement, Carlett A. Brown. Hers is an extraordinary story that speaks to the health inequity that still plagues our communities today and the immeasurable strength it takes to affirm our existence.

Carlett Brown appeared on the cover of JET, the only remaining public record of her journey, and is featured in a number of articles in the magazine during the time she was seeking medical attention.

According to a feature in JET magazine (t/w) that was published on June 18 1953, Carlett, who had been coercively assigned male at birth, joined the Navy in her 20s hoping to receive medical attention for what was later determined to be menstrual bleeding. Due to the stigma surrounding intersex bodies, doctors misdiagnosed her with a mental illness that they claimed was caused by what was described as the “abnormal existence of female glands” in her reproductive system and advised that she undergo surgery to remove these glands.

Carlett rejected this ignorant dismissal and decided instead to seek gender affirmation surgery in Europe after which she could legally marry the man she loved. This would require she renounce her American citizenship and travel to Europe where her contemporary, Christine Jorgensen, had her surgery done and subsequently made headlines with her own transition.

Christine Jorgensen headlines

Just months before she could leave the US though, Carlett was arrested for cross-dressing, followed by an order to pay back tax money she owed the government to the tune of $1200 which forced her to take odd jobs, first as a “shake-dancer” and then as a cook at an Iowa State frat house, to pay off the debt. Subsequent reports (t/w) show that Carlett had made contact with a European surgeon but soon fell back into anonymity and does not appear in any further news stories beyond this point.

Carlett’s struggle is all too common and we will not let her legacy go uncelebrated so we’re inviting all you history buffs out there to reach out to us with any more information you can find on our very own #HiddenFigure.

 

Black Queer History – Miss Major

COURTESY OF MISS MAJOR via SF Weekly – Miss Major at the Ark of Refuge in the 1990s

It is impossible to sum up Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, BKA Miss Major, and her importance not just to the trans-liberation movement but to human progress as a whole. She has been a vocal and revolutionary leader of prison reform, even at the risk of her own safety, and in what can only be described as a miracle, survived the systematic and unrelenting violence of living in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy for a fierce 76 years!

And yet, here we are 48 years after the Stonewall riots (in which she participated), 17 years after the formation of TGI Justice (where she was amongst the earliest employees), and $118,000 dollars short of her retirement fund.

What will you do to help honor this bastion of human civilization?

Happy Black History Month!

We are celebrating our queer and trans leaders for Black History Month starting with the incomparable Marsha P. Johnson, a trans liberation trailblazer and fashion it-girl who not only repeatedly risked her life to stand up for what was right but looked spectacular while doing it.

We call upon her courage to guide us through the 10th Annual Legislate THIS! and beyond in the fight to ensure that individuals and communities have the resources and power to make sustainable and liberatory decisions about our bodies, gender, sexualities, and lives.

Tell us what Marsha’s legacy means to you via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and share your queer and trans heroes with us for our month-long series, #BlackQueerHistory.

Illustration by Micah Bizant.