Celebrating our sisters

Trans women of color on Wikipedia

Janetta Johnson of the TGI Justice Project appears on stage with El/La Para TransLatinas at the 2016 San Francisco Trans March. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Trans women are women. To me, that sentence is truthful and obvious. Some others — particularly certain religious conservatives and TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) — don’t see it that way. But I’m not here to debate with them; anyone who needs convincing (or talking points) can read this article by Julia Serano, for starters:

Instead, I’m here to highlight the lives and amplify the voices of trans women, particularly trans women of color. Facing the triple whammy of sexism, racism, and cissexism, these women have been subjected to incredible rates of discrimination and violence. On the Transgender Day of Remembrance each November, when we read the names of those murdered in trans-antagonistic attacks, the overwhelming majority are trans women of color. But we need to celebrate the lives of these women, not only mourn their deaths.

To that end, here are three new biographies of notable trans women of color I started on Wikipedia this week. I learned about each of these women from posts by trans and non-binary people and organizations on Facebook. As with the women’s biographies I started last month, these have all been added to the Women in Red WikiProject. This month’s WiR editathons focus on Women and Disability, Women in Healthcare, and Nordic Women, but I submitted these articles to the ongoing #1day1woman initiative.

Leyna Bloom

Leyna Bloom is an Afro-Filipina fashion model, dancer, and activist. She has danced with the Joffrey Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. In 2014 she appeared in a memorable cover feature for C☆NDY Magazine, alongside 13 other trans women. Leyna was noted for walking the runway at this year’s New York Fashion Week, modeling for the Chromat label, which also featured other trans women in the show.

Elle Hearns

Elle Hearns is an African American organizer, speaker, writer, and activist. She co-founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network, and worked as a strategic partner and organizing coordinator for BLM. Elle founded and serves as executive director for the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, opening in Spring 2018 with a mission to train and support black trans women and gender non-conforming femmes. Elle is included in this year’s Essence magazine “Woke 100 Women” list, as well as The Root list of the 100 most influential African Americans.

Victoria Cruz

Victoria Cruz is an LGBT rights activist and retired domestic violence counselor. Born in Puerto Rico*, she moved to New York City as a child, and was a part of the club scene at the time of the Stonewall Riots. She worked as a counselor for the Anti-Violence Project, dedicating her life to helping LGBT victims of violence and rape. A contemporary of activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, Victoria is featured in the documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, which will be released worldwide on Netflix tomorrow (October 6).

Let’s celebrate and support the lives of our trans sisters, online and off. Don’t wait until trans women end up on a death list to “say their names”; amplify their voices, ask what they need, listen respectfully, and follow through.