How to Help Black Trans Women Find Their Voices
by Judy Bokao
Over the past few weeks, the world has come together to fight against racial bias and police brutality following the harrowing death of a 46-year-old black man while in police custody. These recent protests have given many people hope that change is bound to come and it has personally given me hope in humanity that such incidents will no longer be tolerated and people will raise their voices up for the minority communities and demand accountability. As part of the minority, Black trans women have seen their share of violent attacks and are heavily discriminated against. For a long time, the world has failed to realize the high level of injustices the transgender community goes through everyday.
The national LGBTQ Task Force with conjunction with the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) released a report “Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Black Respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” The study revealed different utterly devastating levels of discrimination that the Black transgender community goes through, particularly Black trans women . They are targeted everyday because of their race and gender identity, but are overlooked when it is time to champion their cause.
At least a dozen trans people have been murdered this year in America alone. Just over a week ago, a Black transgender woman was beaten by an angry mob at a gas station in Minneapolis and even though the video went viral, the mainstream media continued to overlook such incidents. Black trans women have continuously experienced life-threatening violence, trauma and deep losses. The world has made it very hard for them to survive, leave alone to thrive. This can no longer go on, and everyone deserves a chance to live their best lives and pursue their dreams and ambitions. No one deserves to have their lives so violently snatched from them. It’s unacceptable.
As a community, we need to invest in solutions to this worrying epidemic and find resources that will help curb these incidents. How do we go about giving trans women the support to help them use their voices? First off, we must address the pain, grief and loss that trans women have suffered at the hands of both systemic and interpersonal violence. To be able to move forward, there needs to be healing. Healing makes it easier to put away the anger and work on real solutions that will bear fruit. You can’t come to the table of change with so much anger that it is blinding and diverts attention from the real issues at hand.
Secondly, trans women need safety. There is need to redefine what safety looks like for all Black women, but more so for Black transgender women. Toxic masculinity and transphobia and white supremacy need to be addressed for trans women to feel safe. No one can live and function properly if they are constantly looking over their shoulder. As much as police are a big challenge when it comes to safety and the fight for justice, it is up to everyone to work towards the liberation of trans women and ensure that justice is pursued to all the trans women who have lost their lives because of their gender identity. We all need to participate in this movement because it is the only way we can shine enough light on these issues.
Lastly, we need to call out organizations that exploit Black trans women especially for the benefit of their companies, which in turn fund white cis-gender communities. We have seen companies hiring Black trans people sometimes only for the perception and to try and act as if they value diversity. The trans women have no say and are treated poorly in these organizations because they are simply there to be seen and not be heard. If you truly want to help the Black transgender community, then invest in it. If you are not truly invested then be honest about it. Black trans women need a seat at the table; they need to be part of the power structure and decision making process. It is time for companies to put their money where their mouths are. Let them offer funds to rebuild and empower the community, so that we can all find ways to fund different organizations that help these trans women .
The truth is change starts with us — we need to support the Black trans women as LGBTQ+ community, too.
About the Author:
Judy Bokao is 20 years old and was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.