When we say Black Lives Matter, it has to mean that ALL Black Lives Matter. In real terms, it means holding one another accountable, including the Movement for Black Lives, to a higher, more loving standard of what it means to be human and what it will take for all of us to be free.
As the recent murders of Black trans people is showing us, we have a lot more work to do to ensure that our movement is fighting for all Black lives, particularly Black people pushed to the margins of society but also to the margins of our communities by transphobia, patriarchy, and homophobia.
Dominique Fells, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, TeTe Gulley, and Nina Pop’s lives mattered along with countless other Black trans people whose lives have been lost due to fatal transphobic and homophobic violence. So far this year, the Human Rights Commission estimates 14 transgender and gender nonconforming people, many of whom were Black trans women, have been killed. In 2019, at least 30 trans women of color were murdered and in 2017 the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported 52 cases of fatal violence motivated by homophobia. Again, the overwhelming number of these victims have been Black.
Given these statistics and because we know our vision for Black lives must include all of us, our movement will take on the fight for Black transgender, gender nonconforming, and intersex people with greater intention and love.
Dominique Fells, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, TeTe Gulley, and Nina Pop’s lives mattered along with countless other Black trans people whose lives have been lost due to fatal transphobic and homophobic violence.
Ceyenne Doroshow, who helped organize the historic #BlackTransLivesMatter march on June 15 that drew over 15,000 people to Brooklyn, reflected afterward: “If you believe that Black trans lives matter, show us that you believe that. Show us with your support. Show us by sharing your resources. We need ownership, equity, funding, and power. Hire us. Get to know us. Welcome us into your hearts and every other place we should have been in from the beginning.”
When one Black trans person says they don’t feel seen or heard by our movement then that means we are nowhere near our vision of radically transforming the world to one that values Black people and where all forms of violence against Black lives is abolished. But the hard truth is that there are many Black trans people who feel that the Movement for Black Lives is not adequately fighting for their lives.
How could they not feel this way when we saw the brutal beating of Iyanna Dior against the backdrop of sustained violence on Black trans women at the hands of cis Black men? Loving Black men and fighting for us means we must help to create different pathways for learning, growth, and accountability.
It means healing the generational trauma of living in our Black bodies so our hurt does not hurt others or exclude our queer, trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming Black family who have already been shattered by a society that has not made room for us to flourish just how we are.
It also means recognizing all the ways that we can grow as a people when we center and listen to trans people. As Black trans writer and advocate Raquel Willis reminds us in a recent Instagram video, “We [trans people are] windows of what is possible when we break down all of these restrictive ideas about who we are supposed to be and lean into authenticity and vulnerability.”
We must fight for all Black lives equally. This will mean making visible the struggles of Black trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming people and not fall into any attempts, internal or external, that seek to divide us. It means growing together as Black people. It also means critically examining the roots of transphobia, misogyny, and homophobia and seeing how they are entangled in the roots of slavery and ongoing state sanctioned violence agaist Black people.
This month as part of the Movement for Black Lives celebration of Juneteenth, we are launching Vision for Black Lives policy briefs and demands on key issues important to Black people. One of these briefs entitled “End the War on Black Trans, Queer, Gender Nonconforming, and Intersex People” looks at criminalization, inadequate healthcare, poverty, and violence confronting our community and presents solutions we will hold ourselves accountable to winning.
We are calling for the end of profiling and criminalization of Black trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming people and equitable access to safe and affirming housing, healthcare, employment, education, and social services. And we affirm gender self-determination in all aspects of life including freedom from non-consensual medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex infants and children.
We saw a big win on June 16 when the Supreme Court ruled existing civil rights law protects LGBTQ+ workers, which followed a major setback last week when Trump reversed trans health protections, going against federal law and two decades of court rulings, according to Transgender Law Center.
We need to ensure that our entire community will flourish and experience belonging in this country amongst our people as well as in our Movement for Black Lives. The great writer Audre Lorde left us these wise and instructive words: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We must also remember to not use the master’s tools to create division and hierarchies of worth and value based on our different and beautiful Black identities.
Loving us has to mean all of us or else we won’t get free and win the fight for our lives.
M. Adams is a community organizer and co-executive director of Freedom, Inc. in Madison, WI and Janetta Johnson is the Executive Director at Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) in San Francisco, CA. They along with other movement leaders co-authored the Vision for Black Lives policy brief, “End the War on Black Trans, Queer, Gender Nonconforming, and Intersex People,” for The Movement for Black Lives.