We cannot forget that while people chant “Justice for George Floyd,” they refuse to chant justice for trans communities. Despite it being Pride month, people still erase Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Chynal Lindsey, Dominque Fells, Riah Milton and Muhlaysia Booker and many more Black trans lives instead of saying their names.
If someone claims to be pro-Black, they cannot be transphobic, homophobic and prisoners to bigotry, as Black people exist in all expressions, genders, sexualities and non-binaries. Black activists and allies must be ready to support trans folks, or admit that their conditional activism perpetuates anti-black and gendered violence.
To demolish anti-Blackness, society must embrace and support all of the intersectional identities of Black people. True liberation isn’t possible until we stop only chanting the straight cis Black lives and finally start promoting all Black Lives.
Many Black people raised in the church were told that love that isn’t straight or cis is wrong. However, the same bible that preaches heterosexuality was also used to justify the enslavement of Black people. After slavery, Black people reread and contextualized the scripture and knew that Black people weren’t meant to be subordinate to white people.
If Black people reconfigured their belief systems after centuries of brainwashing and manipulation, there’s no reason that our community can’t come together and see that Black trans communities are just as worthy and beautiful as the rest of the Black community.
When the Black community picks and chooses which Black life is “worthy” enough to mourn, they are no better than the white people that define which Black people are “worth” valuing. Black selectivity perpetuates the white structural ideals that Black people with lighter skin, Black people who are Republicans, Black people that can “pass,” Black people that speak “properly” and so on, can be the preferred over Black people that are too “hood,” Black people that are too “dark,” too “weird” and too “ghetto.”
White civil society’s already inflicted enough trauma for Black people to heal from, the last thing we need is to actually believe their rhetoric. We need to fight colorism, tokenism, assimilation and other forms of selectivity including transphobia and homophobia.
We need to thank our trans communities, especially our Black trans folks for being brave enough to keep fighting for equality and love, as they are the most susceptible to both racialized and gendered violence. Trans folks are steering Black people in the right direction to heal from the binary systems that taught us to believe that straight hair is ideal and kinky curls are ugly. They illustrate that “Blackness” isn’t inherently evil and whiteness isn’t always “good.” Black trans folks show us that there is beauty in being any and all combinations and intersections of who you are regardless of what the world has told you to be.
It’s like Angela Davis said, “Trans people can pave the way for abolition as we abolish the gender binary.” If Black people can understand that the stereotypes used to diminish their value are corrupt and built on a system of bigotry, why can’t they see the same for discrimination against LGBTQ folks?
In the same city of Minneapolis where George Floyd was murdered, Iyanna Dior, a Black trans woman, was attacked by a group of Black men. Although Dior wasn’t killed, her story represents one of the largest roadblocks to achieving Black liberation, the patriarchy. Toxic masculinity is embedded in Eurocentric societies and has configured very prominently in the Black community.
If cis straight Black men can’t see Black trans, gay, queer and non-conforming folks as worthy in both their Blackness and their bodies, they’re part of a toxic masculinity that’s feeding anti-blackness, queer-phobia and transphobia. They ignore the fact that hurting Black LGBTQ communities hurts themselves.
Muhlaysia Booker, a Black trans woman in Dallas, Texas, was beaten in April 2019 by a mob that was led by a Black man, almost killing her. The mob screamed trans slurs and was egged on by an audience of onlookers that did nothing to help her. Following that attack, she was murdered in May 2019, just one month after her assault. The man who murdered Booker was Kendrell Lyles, a Black man. Lyles is suspected of also killing Chynal Lindsey and another transgender woman.
Lyles was apparently soliciting Booker for sex work, which makes another haunting reality clear. Black cis men and supposed non-Black allies have no problem with fetishizing, commodifying and sexualizing trans folks but have no interest in valuing their lives. Lyles is just one of many Black men that don’t see Trans folks as people, let alone on par with their own Blackness. For toxic people, Black Trans folks are desired for consumption, but not for preservation.
Black people are wrongfully treated like monsters for our Blackness. Yet, there are still so many in our community that can’t see that the parallel of demonizing LGBTQ+ folks is just as wrong. The Black community must understand that the only Black normativity that exists is an intersectional and dynamic one in which Black people can be any combination of LGBTQ, disabled, woman, mentally ill, non-binary, fluid, special needs, neuro-typical, able-bodied, cis, straight, etc. — and also none of your damn business. How is it that we can embrace all the different flavors in the gumbo pot, but not in all the Black people in the world?
Milan Nicole Sherry, trans activist and outreach specialist at the Trans Equity Project, expressed, “Black trans people are tired. We're tired of having to pick sides. We're tired of having to understand everyone and yet nobody understands us.” Sherry’s words echo that of many Black trans folks that are tired of bearing the weight of defending other Black lives that wouldn’t do the same for them.
The Black community must see that Black people can be an endless array of powerful, phenomenal and breathtaking art and expression. We’re a magnificent blend of shades, shapes, flavors and fantastic that no one deserves to define or restrict. All Black is beautiful.