Since my last blog post, so much change has happened that at first I wasn’t even sure what I would say to you today. But there’s something I noticed besides the widespread protests around the world that has gone unaddressed time and time again. Even within the movement of Black Lives Matter that should have everything to do with this one thing, everyone who speaks up about this issue gets drowned out.
So today, I want to add to the voices and well, I’m asking for your help to add to it too.
There’s a difference between the names that we know, like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Ahmaud Arbery. We know these black men’s names for a reason, and we know how they were killed. We know them the way we will know George Floyd. Because these are the names we have known for years… but there are too many more that we don’t—there’s a reason for that.
In knowing these names and these people, I’ve started listening more to the fact that a lot of the time, Breonna Taylor’s name would not fit into the list above simply because she is a woman. She is often forgotten, as she has been by so much of the world recently, even though she was shot and killed just like two of the four men on that list. We fail to remember her even though she was also a black life that mattered. She would have turned 27 today.
That’s when you see it; within one large group of people, there is always a divide between one side or another. Even within one minority—black people in this case—there are still some who are offered more humanity or more visibility than others. Here, we see the men more than we see the women.
At least that’s what a lot of people think they are seeing.
Welcome to pride month everyone. Because the black trans* and queer community is the group you most likely also forgot to remember. Today, we’re getting intersectional.
In the midst of everything going on, many people have either forgotten Breonna Taylor or barely knew her name. Yet some of us did know her name at some point and I know she made the news in my hometown. The news I didn’t see was that of Tony McDade. As a trans* black man, he was shot two days after George Floyd was and while some people were out that night protesting McDade’s death, many of these protests were drowned out by the Floyd protests.
When it comes to the protests, they are not a competition. That’s not the point. The point is that too many people had no idea there were two different kinds of protests going on at all.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, his death was recorded as—at least—“the 12th killing of a trans* or gender-non-conforming person in 2020.” If you follow the link above, however, you might not recognize any of the names; I’m not proud to admit that I don’t recognize them because that means I am also part of the problem. Though I have seen the protests this past week and I have participated in a few, these protests and action is how we make change. It is how we get our voices heard and acknowledge the losses of these communities.
My last undergraduate class was yesterday evening and I left an hour and a half early to attend a rally and a march downtown instead; I know the names we have been saying for the past week. Unfortunately, none of the names I said were those of trans* people and that is where the problem begging. Here are some of the people I was missing:
Iyanna Dior, Muhlaysia Booker, Daniela Calderon Rivera, Chynal Lindsey, Brittany White, Michelle “Tamika” Washington… The list goes on with more information here and I will say that not all of these people are dead. That’s not the main point. The issue is that they were injured or also killed yet, we don’t know their names or really anything about most of these people because if you’re not a part of the community, their lives often don’t impact you. That’s how privilege works.
If that’s the case, do their lives still matter?
It’s up to us to prove that they do. After all, so many people have been claiming that black lives matter this week and if they truly believe in that, black trans* lives also matter. We need to start acting like it, and not just when it’s convenient for us.
Some of the heavy lifting has to come from all of us—with these rallies and protests, many of them are started and led by black people just like the LGBTQ+ rallies are led by those in the community. Sometimes, doing the leading and the educating gets exhausting. As someone who does not know enough about the trans* community, the least I can do is educate myself through people like Indya Moore and others willing to use their voices on Twitter. But I’ve still got more work to do.
The way I see it, it’s like what George Lee Jr. said on Twitter: what we are or aren’t aware of when it comes to our own privileges is like “picking and choosing based off of what you think is a legitimate notion of [insert identity here] is.” In the black community as a whole, there has been a periodic erasure of the LGBT+ community and especially trans* folx including the violence we rarely acknowledge, despite it still resulting in the death of black people. The question is why.
Somehow for each of us, no matter our identities, there are entire areas of education we fail to recognize as necessary. Until black lives matter, all lives cannot matter. But until black trans* lives matter, black lives as a whole can’t matter either.
There’s a reason this is important, not just so we know it for ourselves but because it makes a difference in the bigger picture. When we look at black history, what we are seeing boil over into protests and hope for change right now has piled up so high because of how often these are the stories and names that were ignored for centuries. The history was never told, so enough never became enough.
The same can be said for the LGBTQ+ community. Now, combine that blackness with an added minority status and well, here we are at the intersection of the black lives matter movement and pride month.
Welcome back. Let’s come full circle with some education if you’re interested.
There are books like White Fragility and Chokehold: Policing Black Men that are almost sold out right now, but there are options beyond books like looking into the Say Her Name Report and the African American Poly Forum to understand the disparities of the names we may not know. Stay up to date on more information because things change quickly, and well… It can be hard to keep up. There are lists of information already made about additional donation options and virtual events so I will let you follow them here and here.
Most importantly though, you need to know that even within one group of people who are considered a minority, there might be voices within the group we do not hear or people we do not see. Yes, the movement right now is about black lives and the major turning point was the death of George Floyd.
But the loss of his life was only the tipping point for what has been centuries of violence and dehumanization of darker skinned people that should no longer be tolerated. The LGBTQ+ community is fighting this fight alongside everyone else and that means we need to recognize that trans* folx are not being seen or heard the way they deserve to be either.
We need to say their names. Because their names and their lives matter too.
I hope you remember them as you head into the weekend. Welcome to Friday and welcome to Pride month everyone. Stay safe.