We Must Act Now in the Face of Transphobia

We’re only days into 2017 and three trans people have already been murdered.

During the first week of the year, Mesha Caldwell, a Black trans woman, was found shot to death in Mississippi. Three days later, two-spirit woman Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow was murdered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And Sean Hake, a transgender man living in Pennsylvania, was killed by police responding to a domestic violence call – the third reported trans person murdered in 2017. 

Every year, we, cisgender folks, talk about the ever-increasing numbers of trans people murdered across the nation. In the first six months of 2015, more trans people were killed than in the entire year before,  and 2016 proved to be an even more deadly than 2015, with 27 murders of trans people, versus 21 in 2015. We speak out against high profile bills like HB2 like they are solely the problems of backwards states. We do all of this without implicating ourselves in the continued systemic violence – whether physically or politically – of trans and gender non-conforming folks.

As we mourn the losses of Hake, Caldwell, and Wounded Arrow, cis folks, we must also ask ourselves what it means that two trans women of color have been already murdered in the first seven days of this year. It cannot be a passing thought that a trans man was killed by police. We have to stop giving ourselves self-congratulatory pats on the back for finally understanding the importance of gender pronouns when trans people – particularly trans people of color – are being murdered. For those of us who feel unsure how to support trans people – why not just listen to what they are telling us.

We must follow the words and leadership of trans and gender nonconforming folks. We can’t evoke the names of ancestors like Marsha P. Johnson, yet silence trans activists like Jennicet Eva Gutiérrez. Remember when a room full of LGBTQ activists clapped in approval as President Obama had Gutiérrez escorted out when she called for him to release detained queer and trans folks? Whether we are fighting for immigration justice, reproductive rights, or other issues, our politics have to center trans people, and our allyship is worthless if we refuse to be held accountable to that commitment. The time for action was yesterday, but as we move into the Trump administration it is even more imperative to act in solidarity and fully commit to dismantling transphobia and transmisogyny.

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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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