In 2017 alone, seven transgender women have been killed. Activists Raquel Willis and LaSaia Wade speak to ESSENCE about policy, access and the power of protest to protect our most vulnerable.
Jaquarrius Holland’s nickname for herself was Pretty Brown.
Seemingly confident in all her photos, she had an infectious smile. The 18-year-old was said to love makeup, never leaving the house without a strip of false eyelashes on. And despite being homeless and jobless at times, she somehow lifted the spirit of those around her.
“I’ve struggled with accepting myself and being who I am and she always helped me with that,” Holland’s friend Chesna Littleberry told Mic.
On Feb. 19, Holland was shot dead in Monroe, LA.
There was a verbal altercation with the suspect who shot her, who then fled the scene. She would be the seventh transgender women to die of a homicide this year alone.
Believe it or not, bathrooms are not at the forefront of what’s on many transgender women and men’s minds. Obviously, the right to use a bathroom is important. But when Black and brown transgender people are being murdered on a regular basis, there are more pertinent things to address.
The experience of this segmented group is quite unique. Often grouped into the LGBTQ community, the obstacles and disadvantages faced by Black and brown trans people are more harsh.
“Particularly with the conversation of trans students [going on right] now, a lot of that conversation revolves around white trans students— a part of our community that has the access and the privilege to speak their truths earlier and have access to the justice system,” said Raquel Willis, trans activist and Communications Associate for Transgender Law Center.
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“We have to be very particularly about this subject, because a lot of times people will generalize this as Black people being homophobic or transphobic. That is not necessarily true. A lot of the people putting policy together that incites violence on trans people are white. It’s a misapplied conversation, the issue is proximity.”
In 2017 alone, seven transgender women have been killed by homicide. The number for trans men is unknown. And both, quite frankly, are unsubstantiated as trans people are often “spirit murdered,” which is the process of being identified by their birth gender versus the gender they identified.
And while there is legislation to address hate crimes, the classification becomes ambiguous once under the decision of cis white law enforcement officials.
“In the trans community what we consistently see are people who are murdered because they are trans —through the nature of the relationship with the attacker, you can tell— and law enforcement say, ‘Oh, well. That’s not enough to say it was a hate crime’,” Willis adds.
“And we have a general public that doesn’t put pressure on the justice system for trans people in the same way they do other communities.”
To address the very specific concerns, create national awareness, educate and build community for transgender people of color, there will be a “The Trans Liberation Protest Chicago” on March 3.
Director of Brave Space Alliance, LaSaia Wade, talked to ESSENCE about the event she put together in opposition to another Chicago march that had no trans people of color involved.
“There’s an overwhelming need for this,” said Wade. “The back-take of protections as well as the number of trans murders to happen in one week are why we’re doing this. We’re not taking anti-blackness, we’re not taking anti-trans-ness, we’re not taking anything. We’re starting to create our own table.”
And while marching and creating public awareness if important, Wade doesn’t mince words on the importance of money to truly make trans women and men safe.
“It’s all about economics for me,” she said.
“If we’re going to talk about violence, then we need to talk about economics. If we have the money to fund work in our communities, they [politicians] will have to come to our table. We don’t have to come to their table talking about ‘Save me!’ No, I can save myself. Because I have the money to be able to maneuver and do the things that I want to do in my community.
“That’s what I’m working on right now. How to get the language to have the ability to access these spaces and break down organizations that aren’t doing what they need to be doing— if you’re working on liberation, liberation is for all and you’re not doing the work.”
In terms of the movement growing, there are already plans to have marches in other cities.
“Our wheels are turning, people are asking, people are reaching out. We’re trying to figure out how we can move this trans liberation forward with the understanding of we can do this ourselves.”
“The Trans Liberation Protest Chicago” will be held on March 3, 6 p.m. ET at the corner of Wacker Drive and Wabash Avenue, near the Trump Tower. For those the would like to donate to Brave Space Alliance, go here.
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