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.

Celebrating Queer & Trans Women for Women’s History Month

Tracing its origins to 1911, Women’s History Month has steadily become the most visible public show of solidarity within the feminist movement. The occasion is all the more visible this year following Trump’s attacks on women’s reproductive freedoms. However, the conversations around the month often neglect to acknowledge the lives of queer and trans women which is an all too familiar reflection of feminism’s long-standing history of ostracizing the LGBTQ movement. Over a century later, women’s history month marches and rallies still focus only on the experiences of cis-gendered women while queer and trans lives are pushed to the margins.

c/o bitchmedia.org

 

This kind of exclusion is not limited to the feminist movement and has had catastrophic repercussions in all facets of society. This year, seven trans women of color have been murdered, with four of those seven homicides taking place right here in the South. In Louisiana alone, Jaquarrius Holland was shot on February 18; Chyna Gibson was gunned down in a parking lot on February 25; and Ciara McElveen was stabbed to death two days later, while Mesha Caldwell, a black trans woman, was killed January 4 in Canton, Mississippi. The south is not unique in this tragic phenomenon and trans women have been targeted across the country. Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, a two-spirit trans woman, was killed on January 6 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Keke Collier, another black trans woman, was shot in Chicago on February 22 as was Jojo Striker, who was killed on February 8 in Toledo, Ohio. Though their deaths and lives have been circulating around small corners on the web, these women’s names are still unfamiliar to a significant number of Americans and have yet to cross the headlines of any major publication.

This year, SPARK wishes to commemorate the lives of these women as well as highlight the queer and trans leaders whose contributions continue to push the often tragic limits placed on femininity.

We’re starting off with Jaquarrius Holland, the 18-year old black trans woman who was shot in Louisiana following a verbal altercation.

c/o MIC.com

From MIC:

In a phone interview with Mic, Chesna Littleberry, a friend of Holland’s, said Holland identified as transgender and used “she” and “her” pronouns. She and Holland met about seven months ago and quickly became friends. Holland, who was unemployed and housing insecure, often stayed at Littleberry’s home, though she often moved around a lot.

“She didn’t want to feel like she was intruding, but she didn’t live with her parents or anything like that,” Littleberry said. Littleberry said Holland also went by the name Jaquarrius Brown and often used the hashtag #PrettyBrown to describe herself.

Littleberry said Holland loved R&B singer K. Michelle. When they first met, Holland told Littleberry that she reminded Holland of the R&B songstress. Littleberry had promised to one day bring Holland to a K. Michelle concert.

Tweet us or tag us on Instagram and Facebook and tell us what you are doing to protect trans lives.

 

What Does RJ Mean To You?

The SPARK Organizing Intensive (SOI) engages an intergenerational cohort of reproductive justice and sexual health advocates through collaborative intensive political skill development for comprehensive and sound reproductive justice policies in the Southeast.

As a lead up to Legislate This!, the SOI is geared towards supporting and empowering people of color, while centering the experiences of Black Women and queer & trans youth of color. The training is an opportunity for both new and experienced organizers and activists to dig deep on pressing issues that affect our communities across identities, gain concrete organizing and campaign building skills, and directly organize and support community events and projects throughout 2017.

This year, the training was held at the Troy Moore Library at GSU and we were joined by Devin Barrington-Ward, a long-time supporter and lobbyist for SPARK as well as Sable Nelson, Esq., the Policy and Advocacy Program Manager at SisterLove, Inc.

SPARK thanks you all for your attendance and encourages you all to make your voices heard as advocates and allies in the fight for reproductive justice.

Tweet us or tag us on Instagram and Facebook and tell us what RJ means to you!

HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES HEARING: MODERNIZING GEORGIA’S HIV LAWS

Join us this afternoon, for a Health & Human Services Committee hearing on HB454, a bill originated by SPARK to curb harmful HIV laws TODAY, Tuesday, FEB. 28, at 2:00PM at the State Capitol in room 606 of Paul Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

The bill will be introduced by House Representative Park Cannon and follows a prior hearing SPARK hosted in conjunction with the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus earlier this month.

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.

 

Meet Our Keynote Speaker, Jennifer Barnes!

LegislateTHIS! is our annual statewide day of action and advocacy where you can expect to hear from key leaders about pertinent public policy issues and educate our policymakers at the GA Capitol about the reproductive justice agenda.

We are just a mere hours away from the 10th Annual LegislateTHIS! taking place tomorrow, THURSDAY FEB 23, from 9:00am – 2:00pm, at Trinity United Methodist Church, and are doubly honored to have Jennifer Barnes as the Keynote Speaker who, among many things, recently delivered an unflinching indictment on the state’s negligent housing practices at SPARK’s hearing with the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus on the HIV epidemic in Georgia.

For the 2017 legislative session, SPARK invokes Kimberlee Crenshaw’s work on #Intersectionality, and calls on YOU to carry on in the tradition of grassroots community leaders, like Jennifer, who believe that we can speak truth to power and hold our elected representatives accountable through the collective power of #ReproductiveJustice.

Register for the 10th Annual Legislate THIS! today.

Thank You!

SOI 2017 is a wrap!

SPARK Organizing Intensive (SOI) February 19, 2017 at the Troy Moore Library at Georgia State University

Posted by Spark Reproductive Justice Now on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

 

The SPARK Organizing Intensive (SOI) engages an intergenerational cohort of reproductive justice and sexual health advocates through collaborative intensive political skill development for comprehensive and sound reproductive justice policies in the Southeast. As a lead up to Legislate This!, the SOI is geared towards supporting and empowering people of color, while centering the experiences of Black Women and queer & trans youth of color. The training is an opportunity for both new and experienced organizers and activists to dig deep on pressing issues that affect our communities across identities, gain concrete organizing and campaign building skills, and directly organize and support community events and projects throughout 2017.

This year, the training was held at the Troy Moore Library at GSU and we were joined by Devin Barrington-Ward, a long-time supporter and lobbyist for SPARK as well as Sable Nelson, Esq., the Policy and Advocacy Program Manager at SisterLove, Inc.

SPARK thanks you all for your attendance and encourage you all to make your voices heard as advocated and allies in the fight for reproductive justice!