We Can Stop The Murders Of Transgender Women Of Color
Women's History Month has been super eventful.
From the "A Day Without A Woman" strike held in celebration of International Women's Day to appreciation posts on social media, women everywhere are going hard to ensure their triumphs and concerns are recognized: "pussy hats," all-red outfits and signs included.
But there is an elephant in such a cheery room... and she looks like a trans woman of color.
Women's History Month opened with a count of seven transgender women already murdered in 2017: six black and one native.
Women's History Month opened with a count of seven transgender women already murdered in 2017.
While perusing through the many posts about the contributions of women in history, it's easy to notice representation for transgender women is scarce. Still, they exist, and they have contributed to our society in so many ways.
Think Carmen Carerra, the first transgender supermodel.
And Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the first transgender White House staffer.
Fallon Fox, the first trans MMA fighter.
Tracey Norman, the first black trans female model.
And there are so many more who deserve to be lifted up.
And we are as guilty of overlooking the violence trans women routinely experience as we are of omitting them from history.
We are as guilty of ignoring violence that trans women endure as we are of omitting them from history.
The following transgender women were killed this year, according to GLAAD:
- Ciara McElveen was killed on February 27 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was 21 years old.
- Chyna Gibson was killed on February 25 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was 31 years old.
- Keke Collier was killed on February 21 in Englewood, Chicago. She was 24 years old.
- Jaquarrius Holland was killed on February 19 in Monroe, Louisiana (and identified as trans on February 28). She was 18 years old.
- JoJo Striker was killed on February 8 in Toledo, Ohio. She was 23 years old.
- Mesha Caldwell was killed on January 4 in Canton, Mississippi. She was 41 years old.
- Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow was killed on January 1 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She was 28 years old.
Some were not even gendered properly in original reports. Organizations like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) — a program in New York that provides social, health and legal services for people in the transgender community — often deal with news outlets printing the wrong gender when reporting on trans women who have been victims of violence.
Sasha Alexander, director of membership at SRLP, tells Elite Daily,
We don't necessarily know how many people we've lost because the media decided to misgender and misname people. In life, we are misgendered and misnamed. In death, they still don't honor our identities and our worth.
In life, we are misgendered and misnamed. In death, they still don't honor our identities and our worth.
The issue is also bigger than violence against trans people.
When they aren't being physically assaulted and murdered, they are also constantly worried about basic civil rights. The transgender community could hardly pull the wine out fast enough to celebrate their bathroom liberties set in place by the Obama administration in 2016... before the Trump administration rolled the law back within the president's 120 days this year.
Talk about two steps forward, and too many steps back.
Sasha also challenges the media to do more than just talk about bathrooms and report on transgender women when they are victims of violent crimes:
We're not looking to simply be included more in stories, but to really ask folks to look at what kind of stories they're telling. When trans women are killed, they don't want to talk to the people in the communities that were impacted by them. They don't want to celebrate who this person was. In some ways, the reporting that comes out doesn't help reflect that this person had value.
Seven murdered transgender women is seven too many, and we need to publicly shame this violence as often as possible.
Still, how we really show allyship to trans people is by loving them every day, to change the culture that constantly "others" them and leaves them susceptible to oppression.
Transgender women are more than clicky subjects to write about in order to look "woke" and "inclusive." They are human beings who live, love, create, think and contribute. We are not supposed to try to define, control or mistreat them.
We are NOT supposed to parade photos and videos of them dying all over the web for shock value, which was the case for 42-year-old transgender woman Dandara dos Santos in Brazil.
What we are required to do is acknowledge their identities, respect their resistance and protect them using every tool we have.
Transgender women are more than clicky subjects to write about to look 'woke' and 'inclusive.'
Women's History Month is Trans Women's History Month. Let's celebrate, march, fight and speak up for them.
#SayHerName too. And make sure it's the right one.
It's not going to kill you... but it is proven your nonchalant attitude toward it all could certainly kill them.