by Mahkyra Gaines and nikkita oliver
Today marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors the memory of those whose lives were lost to anti-transgender violence. The tradition of honoring the lives of transgender loved ones murdered by anti-transgender violence was established by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999. The first Transgender Day of Remembrance was in honor of Rita Hester — a Black transgender woman who was murdered in 1998.
According to the Human Rights Commission, since Jan. 1, 2023, there have been 26 confirmed accounts of fatal violence against transgender and gender-diverse community members in the United States; 54% of victims are Black transgender women, 88% are People of Color, 50% were misgendered or deadnamed by authorities or the press, 73% were killed with a gun, and 47% of victims were killed by a romantic or sexual partner, friend, or family member.
In the past few years, we have seen a concerted and growing effort by conservatives in the United States to malign, oppress, and erase the existence of transgender people. These efforts are contributing to heightened violence against transgender communities, especially transgender children and youth, and for Black, Indigenous, and Brown transgender people, this violence is further exacerbated by other forms of oppression. For this reason, it is important we expose the ways in which Black, Indigenous, and transgender Women of Color are uniquely targeted by oppression and the insidious ways in which racism, classism, cis-sexism, ableism, colonialism, and transphobia intersect to oppress and inflict extreme violence on Black transgender women.
This fall, the Lavender Rights Project launched the “We Are Family, Too” public service announcement. Through the PSA, we are calling Black community into a kinship that acknowledges and holds our shared struggle against misogyny, patriarchy, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy. Gender-based violence universally harms all Black women, cis and trans, and denies us our right to thrive. Our freedom is deeply tied to one another — and by building power together, we can bring about liberation for the entire Black community.
Grieving and honoring the lives lost is important and necessary. In that same breath, we must also commit ourselves to doing the work that prevents gender-based violence and creates an environment in which our transgender siblings can live and thrive. As stated by Combahee River Collective in 1977, we believe that if “Black [trans] women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all systems of oppression.” As a collective, as a community, we have the opportunity and responsibility to build a safer and more joyous society for everyone — including our Black transgender communities.
It is our shared responsibility to do what is right for all. In this, we must come to see and understand trans issues as human rights issues and the needs of our Black transgender siblings as inextricably interconnected with the needs of the greater Black community. We cannot shout “Black Lives Matter” in the streets and then fail to show up for our Black trans siblings. Too often are Black transgender loved ones’ names not included in the litany of monikers we cry out in the streets when we decry the murders and systemic targeting of Black people in the United States. This Transgender Day of Remembrance, let this be an invitation to include our names in the list of those whom we grieve and honor. Let this be an invocation to do the work necessary to ensure that Black transgender lives are protected, loved, and celebrated so that all transgender lives are protected, loved, and celebrated.
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