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.

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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).

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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.

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