Ten Black trans people gather in an office setting. Most of them hold up signs that read 'Transphobia is a Sin.'

Resisting State-Sanctioned Violence by Uplifting Black Trans Movements

What Trans Visibility Means to Lavender Rights Project

by Lavender Rights Project

On this Trans Day of Visibility, we are in the midst of a rapidly changing political environment that is growing more and more terrifying for trans and non-binary Communities of Color across Washington State. Every week, gender-diverse loved ones throughout the country are strategically being stripped of their civil rights, primarily by radical white supremacist fascists who believe that we should not exist. While much of the legislation is targeted squarely at children (and mostly transgender girls), the policies being implemented are designed to prevent trans communities across the board from accessing lifesaving gender-affirming care, any kind of safety in public spaces, and the right to be — and live as — our authentic selves. Even in the Pacific Northwest, which people believe is a safe haven for trans people, we are seeing a significant increase in violence aimed primarily at trans femmes. Our heightened visibility in this hostile climate is becoming more dangerous by the day, and it is directly affecting our lives in alarming tangible ways.

Over the past year, we have noticed that the primary motivation of the extreme right is relatively straightforward: to get neo-fascism into the mainstream and to gain sympathy from cisgender voters through fearmongering and terror. They know that trans rights are a wedge issue that will get far-right politicians elected. Their strategy itself is extremely effective and deliberately designed to put us on the defensive while they build alliances that will ultimately destroy the lives of trans Communities of Color, and especially Black trans girls, women, and femmes. 

The recent successes of the extreme right in state legislatures across the country are no surprise to those who have been tracking their movements for years. It is, however, shocking to witness how quickly they are moving anti-trans policies and fascism into the halls of government. Their hate for queer and trans people is recalcitrant and deep, despite years of work by Black trans leaders to activate communities into action. Unfortunately, the time has come for our communities — the Black cisgender community, people with birthing bodies (including cisgender women), non-Black gay and queer people, and others — to realize that none of us are safe and that we must unite behind Black trans leadership as we combat this current threat.

Of course, this is much easier to say and harder to do. However, our organization believes that we need to resist being put on the defensive. It makes perfect sense to react to what is happening, and many will, with justified anger, rage, fear, and fierce resistance. After all, we are queer and trans people; fighting back through the spirit of rioting is the inheritance we have received from a lineage of strong Black trans femme leadership. But political urgency is often a mechanism by whiteness to exclude Black voices and needs. Yes, each of us has the right to experience our fear and rage and respond in ways that feel in alignment with our own need to resist and fight back. And we must find ways to lift what is already happening — and has always happened — in our community to protect gender-affirming care and reproductive justice for all.

LRP staff taking a selfie when visiting the Transgender District in San Francisco, California. While an astounding number of anti-trans legislation has been introduced across the country, LRP affirms that trans people have always existed, find a way to thrive, and build community, no matter the circumstance. (Photo courtesy of Lavender Rights Project)

A dear friend and Black trans leader/attorney, Bryanna Jenkins, reminded us recently that whatever the extreme right attempts to take from us and our beloveds, we will always exist. We will always find ways to transition, and they cannot strip away our community’s commitment to one another. Black trans people have always found alternative community-based solutions for transitioning, building families, and staying alive. Even today, so many of us have yet to experience gender-affirming care, let alone access to decent health care in general. Yes, these draconian laws will seriously and severely impact Black queer and trans people, but we have systems of community care that can buttress the impact.

Right now, we need to strategically strengthen community support networks who are experts in resourcing access to gender-affirming care and mutual aid to Black trans communities. We also need to be thinking beyond state borders. These laws impact trans and non-binary people wherever they are located in the U.S., including our beloved Pacific Northwest.

Let’s follow Ms. Bryanna’s lead and show actionable, tangible support to Black trans leaders. Today is a great day to start regularly donating to Black-led reproductive rights organizations, trans justice work, and mutual aid networks. Join the fight and get activated now. It is never too late to protect our communities and those we love.

Members of LRP’s leadership council in mid-2022. The organization calls upon non-Black LGBTQIA+ people to provide tangible support to Black trans-led groups and mutual aid networks. (Photo courtesy of Lavender Rights Project)

Editors’ Note: Check out the Emerald’s guide to Black- and POC-led organizations that advocate for transgender rights.

Lavender Rights Project (LRP) elevates the power, autonomy, and leadership of the Black trans and gender diverse community through intersectional legal and social services. We provide Washington State with client-centered policy advocacy that is by-and-for Black gender diverse people, and led by Black trans women & femmes. To learn more about our work, visit LavenderRightsProject.org or follow us on Instagram @LavenderRightsProject.

📸 Featured Image: Staff at Lavender Rights Project (LRP) gather for a photo as part of the #TransphobiaIsASin campaign by the Black Trans Prayer Book. (Photo courtesy of Lavender Rights Project)

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