Let’s Push Solidarity Beyond the Safety Pin This TDOR

Since the election last week, many people have begun wearing symbolic safety pins in order to demonstrate solidarity and allyship with marginalized people. But, as Demetria Lucas D’Oyley writes for The Root, it’s “an empty gesture.”

The problem with the safety pin is that being an ally is more than just declaring yourself one. It means actively working to dismantle systems of oppression while also recognizing your privilege within those systems. It’s easy to put on a pin and say that you stand with people of color, when you’re not likely to experience racism or Islamophobia. It’s not so easy to challenge your own and others’ internalized anti-Blackness, racism, and Islamophobia. Being an ally is not an identity you can pin onto your clothing; rather, it is a praxis, and if you aren’t doing the work, the word is meaningless.

This nuanced understanding of allyship applies as much as ever to cisgender people looking to support trans and gender non-conforming folks. Coming up this week is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual day that memorializes the lives of people lost to transphobic violence. And like the empty gesture of the safety pin, this day brings out tons of posts from cis people verbalizing their solidarity — and little else. While it’s of course important we observe the day, it’s not nearly enough to acknowledge trans people’s traumas on one day, one week or one month out of the year. We must be committed to showing up for trans and gender non-conforming folks every single day. If we aren’t willing to dismantle transphobia and transmisogyny, recognize our own privileges that come at the expense of trans people’s lives and livelihoods, or be critiqued and called in for failing trans folks, then frankly we aren’t allies: we’re complicit in transphobia and its violence.

bishakhAnd let’s move beyond the notion of only mourning trans folks’ deaths to celebrating and honoring their resilience and power in life. Transgender Day of Resilience, a project of Forward Together, does this by bringing together trans and non-binary artists with transgender justice organizations “to create shareable art highlighting stories of trans power, vision and leadership.” The artwork, like the piece shown by Bishakh Som at Echoing Ida, highlights the work done by and about the lives of trans people in a powerful way.

Allyship has got to go beyond the individual. The problem with individualized gestures, such as the safety pin or performative posts on TDOR, is that they center the personal gratification of the “good privileged persons” who seek to distinguish themselves from the “bad privileged people.” Standing in solidarity means acknowledging the systemic oppression that impact people and working to support those people, not centering our own guilt. When it comes to being an ally to trans people we must invest in their liberation by making sacrifices that are not always, or primarily, visible.

Photo Courtesy of Fenway Focus.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Sociology from Georgia State University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from her alma mater. She is a member on the board of directors of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, and is a former content creator for the The Body Is Not An Apology. As a femme, feminist, and queer Black woman, it is through her lived experiences and complex identities that Quita has come to believe in the power of storytelling and the validation of lived experiences.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South.

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