Is it my Black-ness or my Trans-ness?
Transgender women have been in existence for decades and Black transgender women the same. The number of deaths this year (7) at the cause of being senseless (or very much awake) resonates an alarming awareness because all these victims are women of color. The racial counterparts of Caucasian ethnicity face self-inflicted harm and in most cases according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), suicide (5% vs 76%). Questions arise, are these women of color facing this type of injustice because they are trans? Are they being discriminated against because of the shade of brown they are? What about the community? Why is it that there are many opportunities for Caucasian transgender women to have representation in the public eye so effortless yet women of color who identify as transgender have such a tumultuous journey just to live authentically?
It is without question that if you can “pass” (A term which means you can be in public and no one would think twice to question your womanhood) you are more likely to have more “credit” to survive, but there are a few who are not traditional and embody a bit more flavor as to where they don't feel the passion to dress, present, and “pass” to the public as a woman; in their eyes they are all the woman they can be. These individuals have biologically been someone’s son, nephew, grandchild or brother but in the end hunty, you best call them by their chosen vanity name. Being “clocked” (A term in which someone is called out as being not the norm either with verbal or nonverbal cues) has been one major obstacle for trans women of color because, in that moment, all eyes are on you and with everyone staring awaiting a response that will either solidify your identity or cause you to be side eyed and nonchalantly moved away from or worse chased down and killed which can be a pressing story to share with the girls over dinner.
You would imagine an oppressed group of people would be more compassionate towards changing adversity, by banding together to reverse the internal hatred that not only is prevalent in society but somehow the same theme seems to plague the LGBT community. Cisgender women have issues with transgender women quipping “They will never be a woman that is only a man dressed up in women’s clothing” or the classic “They are trying to fool these poor men into thinking they are women”. In contrast black gay males tend to have lackluster relations with transgender women as if it's a competition as to whose more feminine and can bag the best looking man. Both have negative results and clearly are toxic intentions with no sign of support but to live life according to the sex you were assigned at birth.
If we take a look at the role models who identify dually as a woman of color living a trans experience who do we have? Janet Mock, a biracial trans woman who has claimed her success with 2 books (“Redefining Realness” & “Surpassing Certainty”) as well as her Internet based segmented show (MSNBC’s “So Popular”) and her strong & articulate advocacy to unite all trans women with her clever hashtag #GirlsLikeUs. Mock didn't have riches to boost her transition or to make things easier she progressed with hard work and determination. Another role model “Orange is the New Black” (OITNB) veteran Laverne Cox who also claimed her fame with many not understanding the concept of a transgender woman in the public eye let alone on television. Cox has also joined ranks with Mock to educate and dispel inconsistent information and facts about transgender women. Isis King and Dominique Jackson both runway and print models received a little boost to their platform last year when Whoopi Goldberg and Oxygen debuted “STRUT” a new fresh series about the modeling industry now inclusive to transgender identified individuals, King was deemed the first openly transgender model for “American Apparel” in 2012 and Jackson has become an honorary member of KIΣ Sorority, Incorporated (The first of its kind) in 2015.
On the other hand, without a fight, you just may not know what could come into your favor. Marsha P. Johnson one of the influential people of the Stonewall riots era had a struggle with police which paved the way for more like-minded individuals to advocate for transgender rights. CeCe McDonald was sentenced to 41 months in prison due to stabbing and killing a man who viciously attacked her and her friends but was released after serving 19. Carlette A. Brown was born intersex and served in the Navy during the 1950’s, sought out an illegal procedure (In the United States) for gender affirmation but needed to travel to Denmark to receive it, therefore, to maintain and eventually live in her truth, Brown worked as a shake dancer.
So much resistance towards this group of people! Partially by another targeted minority group and partially by what would seem the closest allies, but why? The racially counterparts (Caucasians) don't face these trials and denied opportunities, some have come from already public platforms. Stigma so great it's halting to the “Up and coming” and discouraging to anyone who've wanted to take part in building the transgender community stronger with visible and equal righted members who are able to excel and flourish cultivating more positivity and encouragement to further mobilize the community. Acknowledgement, support, education and focus are ways everyone can utilize best practices that can change how transgender women are seen in society.