In the wake of President Donald Trump’s tweets vowing to ban transgender people from serving in the military, Black queer transgender activist and media maven Raquel Willis told The FADER, “I’m not shocked that he is espousing this anti-transgender rhetoric. I expected it. […] At this point we need to be developing strategies for our survival […].”
But what shocked some last week were the violently transphobic comments made by Lil Duval on The Breakfast Club, where he suggested he would kill a transgender woman if he unknowingly had sex with her. In a disturbing example of how hyper-masculinity can translate to assault and brutality, Duval’s remarks went largely unchecked by hosts Charlemagne tha God, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee.
The morning radio crew, often under fire for their problematic views and brash interview style, also used transgender writer and advocate Janet Mock‘s latest book as a prop in the conversation, although they had hosted Mock just days earlier on their program.
Even if Trump’s tweeted policy is never made law, there is valid fear that his attack of trans people will embolden more perpetrators of the kind of violence The Breakfast Club condoned. In 2016, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like the Anti-Violence Project and GLAAD tracked at least 21 to 27 murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the US. These estimates are the highest on record, but 2017 is on pace to claim that gruesome title, with 15 trans lives taken thus far.
These victims are overwhelmingly women of color, and often Black, having lived at the dangerous intersections of transphobia, racism, and misogyny.
A quick peak at Black Twitter will reveal that cisgender allies are up in arms about Trump’s tweets and The Breakfast Club’s compliance in promoting violence against transgender women. But this can’t be about us, cis folks.
As transphobia runs rampant at the White House, now is not the time to center the anxieties of allies. Rather, this is the time to look to the varied lives and leadership of transgender and gender non-conforming activists that have fought for liberation long before President Trump took office.
Here are 10 Black trans women and non-binary activists you need to follow on Twitter right now.
NOTE: Of course, not every activist chooses to be in these tweets as much as they’re in these streets. You can familiarize yourself with more Black trans and non-binary activists, here.
Angelica Ross (@angelicaross) knows that trans people of color experience unemployment at a rate four times the national average. So, in 2014, she launched TransTech Social Enterprises, the first trans-led nonprofit dedicated to training trans people for jobs in the technology industry. Does she look familiar? She’s an actor on TNT’s new show Claws.
Elle Hearns (@soulfreedreams) has been #BoutThisLife since she was a youth organizer in Columbus, Ohio. After the death of Trayvon Martin, Hearns helped lay the groundwork of the Black Lives Matter network. Currently based in both Washington, DC and Harlem, she’s launching The Marsha P. Johnson Institute to train and support Black trans women and gender non-conforming femmes to fight transphobic violence.
Janet Mock (@JanetMock) is building a media empire and is using it to amplify the stories and concerns of trans women and gender nonconforming folks of color. The writer-producer-host-advocate extraordinaire was named one of “the most influential people on the Internet” and one of “12 new faces of black leadership,” by TIME.
Ash Williams (@Ash_Bash23) is a gender nonconforming and femme organizer in North Carolina. Remember the activist that confronted Hillary Clinton about insinuating that many Black kids were “super-predators” in 1996? That was Williams. Then, in September 2016, they helped coordinate the massive protests that took place in Charlotte after the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott.
Lourdes Ashley Hunter (@HunterLourdes) has been in the game for over twenty years, and currently channels her experience as a Black, trans, and disabled woman into her leadership of the Trans Women of Color Collective. She recently talked about her experiences on ESSENCE Live’s ‘Kitchen Table Talk.’
Reina Gossett (@ReinaGossett) has played key roles in major civil rights organizations that defend LGBTQ+ well-being, including the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Queers for Economic Justice. She co-wrote, directed and produced a short film about iconic trans activist Marsha P. Johnson. It’s currently in post-production.
Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) is a National Organizer for the largest trans and gender-non conforming advocacy collective in the country. When she’s not working with the Transgender Law Center, she may be co-managing the media organizing and training arm of the Movement for Black Lives, working with the liberatory women’s writing collective, Echoing Ida, or doing one of a handful of things to get us free.