I mourn the loss of Black Trans lives. Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Dominique Fells, Layleen Polanco, Nina Pop. The hate-fueled beating of Iyanna Dior. All since May. This is not new. Black Trans women make up the majority of victims of violence against the Trans community.
Pride Month, a time of celebration, rolled in during worldwide protests over the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, on the heels of GBI’s inaction over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing. All in the midst of a global pandemic.
This is as bad as it gets, right?
Wrong. On June 12, 2020, the anniversary of the Pulse massacre, HHS reversed protections against gender discrimination in healthcare by narrowly defining gender as male and female, based on “biology.” This means that healthcare providers can legally deny care based on a person’s gender identity, or even their appearance.
Regardless of whether this has teeth in the courts, the intent is clear. “HHS respects the dignity of every human being,” they say. The generous way to interpret this is that HHS is lying. The other interpretation is so demeaning that I will not write it here.
HHS rollbacks in protection will cost lives and have before. Stories of both subtle and overt discrimination against Transgender, nonbinary, queer, genderfluid, and all gender minorities in getting access to health care are ubiquitous in the community. This discrimination intersects with systemic racism in health care for Black Trans people, who are disproportionately impacted.
By the way, there is no scientific basis for constructing gender in biology. I recommend the entire Gonads podcast series, but the X & Y episode will challenge your assumptions about the relationship between genetics, anatomy and gender. The dangerous and bogus “biological sex” interpretation is also seeping into HUD’s policies for “single-sex” shelters, which, (guess what?) disproportionately affect Black Trans folk.
Many cisgender people respond with fear and hate when the subject of Transgender rights comes up. They have a false and dangerous belief that promoting basic human rights for gender minorities is a zero-sum game, and somehow a threat to the rights of others.
They fixate on anatomical differences and medical procedures as if these are the only interesting things about Trans folks. They fret over bathroom use and participation in sports as justifications for denying basic protections while ignoring the onslaught of discrimination and abuse faced by Trans people daily.
If you’re in this category, I urge you to examine what your exposure has been to folks who are Trans, queer, nonbinary, genderfluid, etc. Is it filtered through the media? On movies & TV? Through other cis people? Do you know any real-life stories? Have you listened? Have you educated yourself?
Trans people are people. Agender people are people. Queer people are people. And so on.
They want to have jobs, own homes, go to restaurants, start businesses, have kids, retire, fall in love, hang with friends. And so much more.
The Trans and queer community have opened my mind to possibilities that I hadn’t considered because my thinking was so limited by the entrenched gender binary construct. You might be totally unaware of how much beauty and depth that Transgender and all the gender identities add to the world because you just don’t hear their stories. Transgender people want to exist and be who they are. This is a basic human right. Don’t let your lack of understanding fuel fear and dehumanizing hate. Instead, be curious and open to unfamiliar forms of beauty.
If we had dismantled systemic racism and restored and advanced Trans rights, then we’d still have Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Dominique Fells, Layleen Polanco, Nina Pop and so many others today. We can save so many from similar fates by taking action now.
To support Black Trans lives, you can start by donating to the Okra project, which brings home-cooked, healthy meals to Black Trans people everywhere, Trans Justice Funding Project, grassroots funding for Trans Justice groups led by Trans people, Transgender Law Center, which supports both racial and Transgender justice, or Trans lifeline, to connect trans people to the community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive.
Donations aren’t the only way to help. There are so many more actions you can take to support the Black Trans community.