Trans women of color speak on the politics of visibility

Trans activists and performers Lexi Adsit, Star Amerasu, and Nava Mau pose for a photo. All photos by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Yesterday in San Francisco I attended a discussion on the politics of transgender visibility. Produced by Aria Sa’id and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission as part of Aria’s Kween Culture Initiative, the event featured a panel of three trans women of color: Lexi Adsit, Star Amerasu (who performs as Ah-Mer-Ah-Su), and Nava Mau. I was familiar with most of these women, having photographed them at events including the Trans Day of Visibility, the Trans March, Black Queer Voices Rising, and Trans Writing as Activism.

Aria Sa’id and Nava Mau

With Aria moderating and fielding questions from the audience, the panelists shared their experiences of activism and of navigating the performing arts world as Latina and black trans women. Topics included tokenism, the challenges of fundraising, the troubling reactions of potential dating partners to being openly trans, and the meaning of allyship.

Lexi Adsit and Star Amerasu

The audience participation was mostly respectful, with the exception of one woman who asked a medical question that was clearly off-topic. As her question likely came from a place of ignorance rather than trans-antagonism, it was patiently explained to her why the question was inappropriate. When she persisted, she was politely but firmly shut down. Trans folks are too often expected to reveal intimate details to satisfy the curiosity of cisgender people, and it was good to be in a space where such entitlement was not tolerated.

Nava, Lexi, and Star

My thoughts: As a black trans person myself, I am glad to see events created by and for trans people of color. Even here in San Francisco, black and brown trans women face disproportionate amounts of discrimination and violence, so it is important to center their experiences and needs. With the annual Trans Day of Visibility coming up next weekend, this was a perfect time for a discussion about the joys as well as struggles of living an authentic life while being active and visible in the community.

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

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