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.
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.
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.