Sup­port Black and In­dige­nous trans women

The McGill Daily - - Contents - —The Mcgill Daily edi­to­rial board

Con­tent Warn­ing: Men­tions of vi­o­lence, mur­der and dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race, gen­der and sex­u­al­ity

Six Black trans women – Me­sha Caldwell, Ciara Mcelveen, Chyna Gib­son, Jac­quar­ius Hol­land, Keke Col­lier, and Jojo Striker – and one In­dige­nous trans woman – Jamie Lee Wounded Ar­row – were mur­dered in the United States within the first two months of 2017. This sparked out­rage from trans com­mu­ni­ties, fol­lowed by con­ver­sa­tions on Black Twit­ter and un­der the hash­tag #Black­translives­mat­ter. How­ever, these mur­ders have been un­der-re­ported in main­stream me­dia; in ad­di­tion to fac­ing phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, Black and In­dige­nous trans women’s ex­pe­ri­ences are made invisible, and they are dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected by home­less­ness and poverty. As queer­ness and LGBTQ rights have be­come in­creas­ingly trendy and main­stream in North Amer­ica, it’s clear that Black and In­dige­nous trans women are be­ing ex­cluded from the pro­tec­tion af­forded to other queer peo­ple. Queer sol­i­dar­ity means pro­tect­ing the com­mu­nity’s most vul­ner­a­ble, by sup­port­ing Black trans women.

Rel­a­tively priv­i­leged queer groups – mainly gay white cis men – con­trol the dis­course around queer­ness and shape its main­stream im­age. This mech­a­nism lim­its the in­clu­sion of those who face other op­pres­sions that in­ter­sect with queer­ness: those who are poor, racial­ized, dis­abled, and gen­der non­con­form­ing. The il­lu­sion of trans in­clu­siv­ity within the broader main­stream LGBTQ pride nar­ra­tive is often disin­gen­u­ous. The to­kenis­tic, cur­sory in­clu­sion of Black and trans peo­ple in oth­er­wise white and cis- led ac­tivism fails to sub­stan­tially chal­lenge sys­tems of power within queer com­mu­ni­ties.

It is im­por­tant to be crit­i­cal of queer move­ments and to ques­tion the ways in which they are com­mu­ni­cated, rep­re­sented, and per­ceived. Those al­lowed space in main­stream dis­course must rec­og­nize that they are com­plicit in de­ter­min­ing which bod­ies are valu­able, which deaths must be mourned, and which deaths are ig­nored. In­dif­fer­ence to­ward vi­o­lence against Black trans women is en­demic within move­ments that cen­tre white cis women.

Rel­a­tively priv­i­leged queer peo­ple, as well as nonBlack and cis peo­ple, must make a con­scious ef­fort to sup­port Black and In­dige­nous trans women. This means pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port to trans artists and peo­ple, show­ing up for protests, vig­ils, and strikes, and de­mand­ing me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tion for Black trans women. Trans Tren­derz is a New York-based non-profit record la­bel for trans peo­ple – prof­its from their show last week in Mon­treal went to­wards fi­nanc­ing the ca­reers of trans hip hop artists. The Pris­oner Cor­re­spon­dence Project, based in Mon­treal, con­nects queer and trans peo­ple in pris­ons with pen-pals out­side pris­ons. Here on cam­pus, we can sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion like the Union for Gen­der Em­pow­er­ment, which leads cam­pus-based ini­tia­tives, and pro­vides sup­port and re­sources to trans and non­bi­nary stu­dents. It’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to con­trib­ute to, show up for, and am­plify these ini­tia­tives while re­spect­ing and cen­ter­ing the voices and ex­pe­ri­ences of trans or­ga­niz­ers.

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