Post submitted by Hope Giselle, a national author, artist and activist.
When we think of Black trans women today, we think of the infinite safe spaces created by trailblazers and matriarchs who never got their flowers. We think about the contributions to our cultures and the education we received, free of charge, while standing on their shoulders. We think of The Stonewall Inn and Star House and how the young queens of our lineage were able to gather there in peace while forgetting the work that trans women of color were doing to keep the community safe — all without proper recognition or pay.
Today, Black trans women continue to face that same erasure and lack of recognition. Some of these experiences happen in spaces that are Black and for Black people, but our trans identity allows room for the rules of respect to be bent in order to devalue our existence. Black, cisgender folks shout in the streets for equality while passing dirty looks at Black trans and queer protesters who are also there demanding the same justice in exchange for the same peace. We stand together as the Black community, except when it comes to the injustice being done to Black LGBTQIA+ folks.
Yet trans women like Raquel Willis, Tonie Michele and myself have stood at the forefront of many Black movements, from Trayvon Martin to George Floyd and, still, we are seen as a distraction to the movement. Black trans women have been at the helm of ensuring the rights of our communities to no avail. Saddest of all, many cisgender Black folk still refuse to stand in solidarity with us for the betterment of the community as a whole and mentally that places a strain on the ways we practice the work.
As women of trans experience who are also Black, dealing with the constant killings of both Black folks and our trans sisters has placed us at a crossroads for liberation with little-to-no support system outside trans women to share our experience. This makes doing the work more of a mental funnel that drains into the seas of depression most Black trans women already face for simply existing. We make it our jobs to create space, only to be denied entry, and the best solutions are to create empathetic conversations around the duality of Black trans women and “the culture” to help shift the narrative and continue the work started before us. The question is: Are we ready for the change or will mental warfare make us too tired for battle?