From 2010 to 2016, at least 111 transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans were murdered because of their gender identity. No group under the LGBTQ umbrella faces more violence than transgender people, who accounted for 67% of the hate-related homicides against queer people in 2015, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. 72% of these were committed against Black trans womxn and gender-nonconforming femmes. If in 2015 all Americans had the same risk of murder as young Black trans womxn, there would have been 120,087 murders instead of 15,696.
Let that Sink in. Read it Again.
72% of trans people killed in the U.S. are Black trans womxn.
If every American was murdered at the same rate as Black trans womxn, 104,121 more people would be killed every year.
The scariest part is, these numbers are almost definitely incorrect because of how many murders we don’t know about. Experts believe the murder rates are much higher. It’s impossible to tell the true rates because the United States Census does not track transgender people. Even though the FBI added gender identity as a category in its annual self-reported hate crimes report in 2014, the agency does not track gender identity along with its homicide statistics. Our community is left suffering because it becomes the job of the “decentralized and largely informal network of LGBTQ organizations and activists to account for trans murder in America.”
This is Unacceptable.
As a queer person, I fear for myself and for my friends as our siblings are killed in cold blood. There are so many straight, cisgender people who do not respect or understand who we are, and they are part of the reason for these murders.
Yet another factor not talked about enough is white privilege in the LGBTQ+ community. Yes, I am queer, but one of the most important parts of my identity is the label white. I can live in fear every day as hate crimes against queer folks in the U.S. double, but I will never be afraid of death because of the color of my skin.
My queer identity does not absolve me of racism.
My whiteness has been felt by the LGBTQ+ community since the beginning of time. Racism has pushed our Black and other POC siblings into silence.
My white privilege does not disappear in queer spaces.
Liberation Must Always Be Intersectional.
Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” How can we expect to fight for the liberation of the queer community without examining the disproportionate murder of Black trans womxn? Black feminist scholar of law and race Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” which was originally intended to help people in the courtroom, but eventually became the standard for activism. Being Black and being queer do not exist separately for queer Black people because, simply by existing, they feel the effects of both racism and homophobia. I feel the effects of homophobia, but I will never be a victim of racism.
We must use our white privilege to fight for Black trans womxn today because of the layered, intersectional oppressions they face. Black cis and trans women have led the fight toward liberation. They deserve to be recognized, celebrated, and protected. Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Marsha P. Johnson, Barbara Smith, Josephine Baker… countless others. Are we really going to forget about them and allow white privilege to control our community? Queer people understand the feeling of being outsiders, so why would we allow the same “othering” that has controlled our lives to control the lives of our Black siblings within a place they thought was safe? The truth is, we need to work harder, specifically us white folks, to make the queer community an anti-racist space.
Take Action Today and Everyday.
There are so many resources being shared around social media right now. Take advantage of that and show up for your Black trans siblings! They are being murdered for being who they are and white queer folx owe them everything; they are the reason we have gotten this far in our fight for liberation. I am going to link some resources below, including where to donate and support and what to read. Activist Varsha adapted this quote, originally taken from the Black Feminist Statement by the Combahee River Collective (1977), to center Black trans womxn: “If Black trans women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since their freedom would necessitate the destruction of all systems of oppression.” If queer people want liberation, Black trans womxn cannot be left behind, and their labor cannot be forgotten.
Article by Chloe Willison (they/them) — @unlikablestrawberry on all platforms