If CNN thought that they could silence the voices of Black, trans women during last night’s LGBTQ Town Hall forum, it didn’t take them long to realize that they were mistaken. During the evening’s live broadcast, the Black trans community in attendance, along with supporters, raised their voices and made their presence known.

The event which spanned several hours was a partnership between the cable news network and civil rights organization, Human Rights Campaign. While the main focus of the evening was centered on how the crowded pool of 2020 Democratic candidates would take on issues that pertain to the LGBTQ community, protestors took the opportunity to remind the hopefuls — and the world, really— of urgently pressing issues affecting the Black trans community. Mainly, the epidemic of trans women of color being killed regularly.

In 2019, at least 19 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed, according to HRC. That doesn’t include Elisha Chanel Stanley’s death, on Sept. 16, which friends say they believe involved foul play.

Prior to the kick-off of the town hall, prominent trans activist, Ashlee Marie Preston tweeted that CNN had walked back their invitation for her to answer a question live, on-air. She said, “I’m pulling out of the LGBTQ presidential town hall tonight. I was part of the program & CNN scrapped my participation last minute. I was going to bring attention to the terror TSA inflicts on trans and non-binary bodies while traveling. I’d rather be absent than present & silent.”

Though Preston was not present, others took up the torch in her absence. One being Blossom C. Brown who told the crowd “Black trans women are dying, our lives matter!” Projecting into the mic she added. “I am an extraordinary black trans woman, and I deserve to be here.” Brown also pointed out that not a single Black trans person was given the opportunity to take the mic.

During moments of eruption, forum hosts Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper acknowledged protestors’ complaints while also validating their reason to be angered. 

Senator Cory Booker, former VP Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Businessman Tom Steyer were all participants in the CNN x Human Rights Campaign Town Hall.   

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